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Why I ask questions

By Sherry Bohn


1. Jesus used questions

In Luke 2:46-47, we see Jesus as a young person in the temple, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” Jesus’ wisdom and understanding were revealed by his questions and answers.

Jesus taught using questions, even if he didn’t always answer them. His questions caused his listeners to step out of pat understandings of their world to consider a higher, godly perspective on life. Jesus used questions to make people think and re-think and to call them to commitment. If Jesus used questions, I want to follow his example.

2. God encourages questions

God allows questions. He delights in our questions and is pleased when we freely choose his ways as he guides us to the answers. I want to take advantage of this God-given privilege.

3. Questions lead to more relevant and deeper learning

In order to facilitate well, we must know our learners. Without knowing our learners and what they think, how can we determine how to facilitate or what needs to be learned? Without asking questions, how can we know our learners?

Asking questions reveals our attitude toward our learners. It shows respect for them and their opinions. It also demonstrates that we do not think we have all the (right) answers.

4. It works

A facilitated learning environment is challenging. Each person must be mentally alert to grapple with the concepts, follow them to proper conclusions, give each member of the group a voice and a chance to learn. Knowledge of the material and flexibility is crucial to allow the group to answer the questions through discussion and come to conclusions that each learner will own — having come to those conclusions themselves.

A friend wanted to confront an organization’s administrators about a policy that seemed misguided, if not flat out wrong. After rehearsing a strong lecture, he decided instead to ask open, thought-provoking questions. The administrators, through the questions, saw for themselves the shallowness of their policy and the need to change it. No confrontation or lecture was needed. Peaceful, self-initiated, powerful, helpful change took place as a result of wise questions.

Here’s an experiment. Try to get to know someone by asking questions with only “yes” or “no” answers. It is extremely limiting. You’ll find yourself wanting to ask more open questions. Open questions help you get past the mundane to truly get to know someone better.

Guiding a discussion with only questions is challenging but rewarding for the facilitator who is confident that the Holy Spirit is, in the end, the ultimate teacher. The Holy Spirit is perfectly able to bring people to his conclusions, whether or not the facilitator declares those conclusions ahead of time. Through questions, facilitator and participant, along with the Great Teacher, can grapple with key issues, come to conclusions and choose to live the truth acquired.

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