Five Questions That Kill Bible Study Discussion

Five Questions That Kill Bible Study Discussion
By: Terry Powell

Fostering Conversation Vital for Every Home Bible Study Group

Good questions are a staple of any worthwhile small-group Bible discussion. They should be clear, using words that are easy to understand and that do not produce ambiguity. They should accurately uncover what God intended for the biblical text. They should be sensitive to the needs and life situations of your home Bible study student. And they should motivate the student to think a little more deeply than they’re used to thinking.

Of course, asking constructive questions is only the first step in building and maintaining discussion. The second step is avoiding the destructive questions that can tear any good conversation apart.

Below are five types of questions that can kill small-group Bible discussions. (All of the example questions refer to Matthew 4:1-11.) These examples can help as you train home Bible study teachers to foster transformative conversations in the studies they teach.

Subjective Questions
Some home Bible study teachers unintentionally transfer authority from the Bible to group members by instructing them to look inward for meaning rather than investigating the text.
Poor question: What does the flood mean to you?
Better question: How does the flood show God’s judgment and mercy?

Long-Winded Questions
Questions get long when a group leader attempts to stuff several facts into a question so that group members will give the appropriate answer. But that kind of information is more easily assimilated by group members when it is put in the form of introductory statements.
Poor question: Looking at how the devil tempts Jesus in the wilderness, what specific qualities and strategies of spiritual warfare does he demonstrate that could also be used against us?
Better question: The tactics Satan used against Jesus will also be used against us. What strategies did Satan demonstrate in this episode?

Leading Questions
Rather than inciting curiosity, these questions may insult the intelligence of your group members. A leading question sags under the weight of your own opinion or predetermined notion, and the way you ask such a question actually reveals the answer that you want to hear. They usually call for a yes or no response that kills conversation. “Don’t you think…” or “Isn’t…” are typical ways of beginning a leading question.
Poor question: Don’t you think the timing of Satan’s attack on Jesus was significant?
Better question: This episode occurs immediately following Jesus’ baptism and right before the launch of his public ministry. What can we learn about our enemy from the timing of his attacks on Jesus?

Compound questions
Resist the impulse to fling back-to-back questions at your group without waiting for a reply to the first one. Either they will be confused about which question to answer first, or they will forget the first question by the time you finish the second. One question at a time!
Poor question: What did Jesus experience right before the first temptation, and what does this timing tell us about Satan?
Better question: What did Jesus experience right before the first temptation? [Pause for replies.] What does the timing of this first temptation tell us about Satan?

Compulsory personal questions
We want small-group participants to reinforce biblical truths with anecdotes from their lives. We want them to reveal needs exposed by God’s Word so the group can pray specifically for them. Yes, transparency is a vital sign of small-group health. But it’s a bad idea to drop a question that requires transparency in the lap of an unsuspecting person.

Poor question: Marge, can you tell us how you’ve experienced Satan’s warfare against you?
Better question: Can anyone illustrate the persistence of Satan’s attacks from your walk as a Christian?

Terry Powell is author of Now That’s a Good Question! (Standard, 2007).
From: May 2009