You can plan a list of primary questions ahead of your group meeting, but secondary questions have to come to you in the moment, in response to whatever the group does. Doing this effectively doesn’t ultimately depend on your memorizing all the possible kinds of questions. If you relax and really listen to what people are saying, secondary questions will begin occurring to you naturally.

In fact, there may be no more valuable skill for a discussion leader than listening. If you’re nervous about your performance as a leader, it’s easy to focus all of your attention on the questions you want to ask. Jesus was never worried about His performance, never concerned that He have a follow-up question on the tip of His tongue, so He was able to listen closely to the answer someone gave to His question. Listening requires concentration, practice, and a lack of anxiety. It helps if you can become comfortable with a pause between someone’s answer and your follow-up question because then you’ll have time to listen carefully and then reflect on what follow-up would be most helpful to the group. Ask yourself if you’re more concerned with how you look or with what the group needs? Effective listening and questioning requires the latter attitude.

Discipleship Journal, Issue 130 (July/August 2002) (NavPress, 2002).

For discussion-based lessons that have groups talking, see