Asking Better Questions

I don’t know if asking great questions comes naturally to you, but asking great questions is really hard for me. It’s a skill that I’ve had to develop over time. I was in a training years ago with Rick Lawrence, editor of Group Magazine, when he shared something that helped shape how I ask questions. He said something like, “the best discussion questions are always surprising, specific and personal. The more surprising, specific, and personal, the more likely you are to start a really good conversation.”

Let me break this down…

  • Surprising means you want to catch your participants off guard. We all know “yes or no” questions are not great questions, but questions that don’t make us think are also not great questions. I want to include something in the question that is surprising.
  • Specific means get narrow. Not narrow-minded or leading, but stop being so broad. Focus on one distinct target.
  • Personal means get personal. Responses will be better if it means something to the participant. I am not looking for a theoretical response. This helps participants share their heart, not just what they know or think.

I learned that very few questions have all three elements, and that’s why they don’t spark very good discussions. Rick said, “I’m going to take the log out of my own eye first. Here is a discussion question that appeared in a GROUP Magazine Bible study on making Jesus the center of your life…What other things in life do you focus on? To make it more surprising, specific and personal, we could change it to this: What would your friends say is your most important focus in life, and why?”

If asking great questions comes hard, trust me, take some time and work these three elements in. They will make your questions better. Be patient because it is a learning process. Asking better questions didn’t happen for me overnight.

Practice. Find a set of questions your wrote months or even years ago (small group curriculum, breakout questions, something from an old message). Ask yourself if you think those are good questions. See if they are surprising, specific and personal. Even though you might not use those questions ever again, take some time to rewrite them and make them surprising, specific and personal.

Who is in your network or on your team that you could sit down with and practice asking questions?

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