Why Questions Are More Powerful Than Answers
I say it all the time. There is no discipleship without relationship. Yet with an often-overwhelming task of preparation of materials, managing volunteers, programming, budgets, retreat planning, and the list goes on and on. There is great intention to spend time learning names and faces, connecting with students, attending games and performances; but far too often those best intentions fall victim to severe constraints in capacity. There just isn’t enough time.
But what if there were just a few things you could do that would help you build stronger relationships, get a better gauge on where your students are spiritually and provide you some much-needed intel on what is most effective in reaching your students and making disciples?
Start with questions.
In any relationship, questions are far more powerful than statements, assertions, or assumptions. Questions drill us down into a person’s soul. They help us to get under the surface to who our students are, not who they are pretending to be. But let’s be clear. I am not suggesting standing in the doorway and asking each student how he or she is doing. If that is all you do, then don’t be surprised when you are trapped in an echo chamber of one “fine” after another. Your questions need to be directed and intentional. These are the kind of questions that should be aimed at discipling your students. Think about what you need to ask to help them take a step forward in their walk with Christ, or a step closer to starting their walk with Christ.
Questions create discussion and conversation. The better the questions, the better the conversation. Great questions force students to think, they help students connect the biblical text to application, they invite all learning styles into the conversation, and they help leaders gauge understanding and spiritual growth.
So what should you ask?
Ask about their story
So simple and yet so unique and impactful. Spend time each week with one student and ask them to share their testimony. A student’s story is such an important part of their walk, yet often overlooked. Think about your students. How many stories do you know? Have you ever adjusted your teaching style or topics based on what you learn? But having a student share their story is not just for you; it is also for them. Some may not appreciate their story; others may not even know they have one. This experience reveals for the both of you where they are spiritually and will help you meet them there. Now you can help them grow into who Jesus wants them to be.
Ask how they have used what they have learned this past week
Evaluation in schools is an essential part of a person’s education. Teachers are constantly evaluating and in a dozen different ways. Yet somehow when it comes to a student’s spiritual growth, we evaluate on a little more than observable behavior in church. This is a dangerous assumption. Instead ask students specifically, how their behavior has changed since last week’s message or group meeting.
Each week you spend time preparing and praying for what you plan to teach. There should be some expectation of learning. Make them verbalize it, not just write it. Spend time in small groups recapping and having students share with each other. This can create positive peer pressure, and over time students will enter their week looking for opportunities to display learning. They hate being caught by surprise.
Ask how you can help?
I have learned over the last few years that this question may be the greatest relationally building question there is. All the time, every chance you get, ask it. How can I help? What can I do for you? Some students may never ask, but the question often means more and your willingness to be a servant speaks louder and clearer than any sermon you will preach.
Questions have power. This is why Jesus used questions as a primary way of teaching. Questions have a way of deepening relationships. They have a way of creating active learning. A question tells a student that you care way too much about them to allow them to sit passively as a stagnant disciple. Questions open hearts so that we can cross relational lines. Jesus used questions and discussion in order to expand the disciples thinking beyond the framework they grew up in. It created conversations that drove them into a deeper understanding of Jesus and his kingdom. The same is true when we focus on questions with our students.
Discipleship is not didactic lectures from the pulpit. Discipleship is not fill in the blank questions and answers and is not passively absorbing information from the pew. Discipleship is active conversation that builds stronger relationships, stronger communities, and stronger disciples.
So what questions are you going to ask this week?
Executive Director of AwanaYMSteve currently serves as the Executive Director of AwanaYM. Previously, Steve spent over a decade teaching high school theology and apologetics from Detroit to LA. Steve holds a Masters degree in Theology from Moody Theological Seminary and a Masters in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Steve is also an adjunct professor at Trinity International University. He speaks and writes on youth ministry, youth culture and apologetics. He resides in Chicago, IL with his wife and four children.
Follow Steve Kozak on Twitter: stevenmkozak
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