Good Question!
Why Asking Questions is the Best Way to Teach
by Josh Hunt

May I confess my sin to you? I am far more interested in what I have to say than what you have to say. I think this is true of most people. We are all interested in ourselves and what we have to say, but we wonder if anyone else is interested in us and our ideas. We wonder if anyone cares. This is one reason why asking questions is one of the best ways to teach.

It is difficult not to pay attention when you are talking. It is easy to dose off when someone else is talking-- even if that person is pretty interesting. This is another reason why asking questions is the best way to teach adults. If you would become a half-way decent teacher, make lavish use of questions as a teaching method.

I believe in questions so much that I write 25- 30 questions for my teachers each week. These are now available on my home page on the World Wide Web. One of my life goals is to have the questions written on the whole Bible. Using questions accomplish at least three things.


1. Questions involve the group.

Where there is no involvement, there is no disciple making. Where there is no involvement, there is no change. Where there is no involvement, there is no education.

Let me be clear, you can involve the group without asking questions. You can involve people in lecture and story telling and various other methods. They might listen. But they are nearly guaranteed to listen to themselves. It is hard to daydream when you are talking. So why take a chance? If people are listening and not talking, they may or may not be involved. If they are talking, it is not likely that they are secretly dozing off. This is why it is a worthy goal to allow each one in your group say something of significance to them every week.


2. Questions build relationships

Small groups have several purposes. One purpose is to make people smarter. People who attend over several years should learn something about the Bible. There is no virtue in ignorance. My personal goal is that anyone who sits under my teaching for two years or more would be able to tell the story of the Bible in a five minute overview. I try to teach content.

A second purpose has to do with ethics. People should be challenged to live better lives. They should be challenged to pursue love, faith, and holiness. This is a second important purpose of groups.

Another equally important purpose is that they should be building relationships. This is the formation of a little platoon. We should form relationships in class that continue all through the week.

If the only purposes were to become smarter and live better, we could get video tapes that would do a far better job of lecturing than you or I could do. We cannot compete with the people who are available on video tape today. But video tapes do not form relationships. In addition, the discussion provided by good questions not only let you know the group better, they let the group know the group better. This is hard to take, but the truth is that most adults do not attend Sunday school because they have a burning desire to know more.(1) They would like to learn; they also want to meet some friends. We live on a lonely planet.

And what better place to meet friends than in a small group? Where would you have them go to meet friends, if not at church?

Groups that double every two years or less tend to be relationally tight. One of the best ways to build relationships is to ask lots of questions.


3. Questions help you to discover what they still need to learn

We don't normally give tests in our groups. But we still need to know what the people know and don't know. If you are presenting half-way decent lessons, your people already know quite a bit. But you won't know what they know without asking questions. Asking questions allows you to discover the level of knowledge and maturity of the group.

I follow several principles that relate to this: "never attend a conference you could have taught," and "never read a book you could have written." In the same way, don't make your people attend a class they could have taught. If you want to double your class every two years or less, you won't do it by going over the same old pool of knowledge. By asking lots of questions, and carefully listening to people's answers, you will soon learn what areas need further emphasis.

One of the best ways to become a halfway decent teacher is to ask lots of questions.

1. Dick Murray, Strengthening the Adult Sunday school Class, p. 26, Creative Leadership Series, Lyle Schaller, Editor, Abingdon.