Fact-finding questions become boring when they are closed-ended, asking for a single word or short phrase, or worse, they can stop a discussion cold:
Q: Do you identify with the disciples in this passage?
A: Not really.
“No” and “Yes” are not great conversation starters. A person can answer yes or no without even engaging his brain. By contrast, an open-ended question compels people to be attentive to the facts of a text or situation or to think carefully about the meaning of the facts. There’s nearly always a way to change a yes-or-no question into the question you really mean to ask: “In what ways, if any, do you identify with the disciples here?”
Without assuming that everyone must identify with the disciples, this question asks what we really want to know: not just whether, but how group members identify with the story. Notice that “In what ways” is even more open-ended than “In what way” because the latter assumes people can’t identify in several ways.
Another type of question—”Are there seven key words in this paragraph?”—both leads the witness and asks for merely a yes-or-no answer. What we mean is: “What key words do you notice in this paragraph?”
Good questions will draw your small-group members into deeper interaction with your material and with each other. As you form your questions, keep these key principles in mind, and watch for good things to happen!
Discipleship Journal, Issue 130 (July/August 2002) (NavPress, 2002).
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