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Tuesday Teaching Tips, Episode 169: “That’s a good question”

Just a short one this week because my daughter is getting married this weekend. Exciting and busy!

I want to share with you something I learned from a lesson I taught this last Sunday for the Watford Church of Christ. It’s about the significance of asking good questions. 

I taught from Romans 15 about “Abba, Father”.  It was a sermon with a good proportion of discussion and sharing –  interactive. As part of getting the discussion going I asked a couple of questions. You can have a look at those in the video of the sermon or by listening to the podcast version.

The first question was something along the lines of, “What does ‘abba’ mean to you?”  You will notice in the recording that I had to keep repeating and rephrasing the question many times before I got responses. This happened when I asked a similar question about the word ‘father’. 

On reflection, I realised that I’d been lazy about framing the question. It wasn’t precise enough. It didn’t immediately engage the heart and/or the mind. It was too general, bland and vague. 


Here are three tips for asking good questions which will generate discussion:

  1. Avoid ’yes/no’ questions. Closed questions do not create discussion, they simply give you an answer. Sometimes that’s what you want, but if you are hoping to generate sharing it’s important to avoid such questions.
  2. Engage the imagination. In Sunday’s context it could have looked something like this: “Imagine you’re sitting down with your father. You want to have a deep conversation with him.  You sense he is willing to have this kind of conversation. What would you say to him? What would you ask him? Now, imagine doing the same thing with your father God.  What would that look like? What would you ask him? What are the barriers that prevent this from happening?”
  3. ‘When’ questions.  Ask people to think back to the past and times when they have had particularly meaningful intimate times with God. What was going on then? What prompted that intimacy? How did it feel?  When you ask ‘when’ questions you are helping people to access past experiences which may help them discover the contemporary application of what the Bible is teaching.

There’s much more that can be said about asking good questions, but this is a short tip because of the busy week ahead! However, I would like to know what you think.

What tips do you have?  What questions are you using? What principles do you use for selecting questions? What’s been your experience of asking questions as part of a lesson?

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. 

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

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“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm
PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John