Why are questions so important in leading others?
Where are you?
It is the first question God poses to Adam and Eve when they eat the fruit.
God asks a lot of questions. And none of them are because He doesn’t know the answer.
Who told you that you were naked? - Genesis 3:10
Adam and Eve, do you recognize who has separated you from the simple trust you had? Will you take responsibility for listening to lies?
What is this you have done? (Genesis 3:13)
Do you see it, Eve? Do you perceive this crack in our relationship? Do you recognize your part of the responsibility in this situation?
God doesn’t stop asking questions. He has some questions to ask when two rejected servants run away:
“Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8)
“What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9)
Hagar, what exactly is your plan here? Elijah, have you thought this through? Did you guys think to stop and ask me for a minute for help and for a plan before reacting?
Jesus asks his fair share of questions too:
Why are you so afraid? (Matthew 8:26)
Why did you doubt? (Matthew 14:31)
What is it you want? (Matthew 20:21)
Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)
Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for? (John 20:15)
Do you love me? (John 21:17)
In the last post I mentioned a quote by Paulo Freire. Here is is again:
What better way to engage disciples and children and students in learning than to get them to be active in their learning through questions? We can give them the freedom to choose and take responsibility for their actions by asking them open-ended questions.
There are two ways to ask questions. One is mind-numbingly boring and anxiety-provoking. That is the black and white, only-one-answer question. It means a lot of words for the teacher and only one short response for the controlled, oppressed student.
‘What colour is the sun in the painting?’ ‘Who was the first man on the moon?’ ‘What is the square root of 168989?’ (Did you feel the anxiety of not knowing the answer?!)
Open-ended questions, on the other hand, invite the other person into relationship and engage not just logic but also often emotions, which aid learning.
‘What can you tell me about the colours in the painting?’
‘What do you think it would be like to be the first man on the moon?’
‘What happens when you multiply a number together and then divide by that same number?
Open-ended questions often arrive at the same information, but they engage the learner in learning and motivate them to take responsibility for their learning. They spark curiosity.
That doesn’t mean that the leader / parent / teacher never gives information. It just means that the information is inserted in a way that it is relevant and when the learner's mind is switched on to receive and engage with the information.
So how are questions making a difference in the way I lead others and in the way I parent?
Here are four examples from this week:
1) Sitting down with my boys during homeschool this week I have started asking them open-ended questions. We started yesterday with ‘how do you think the wheel was invented?’. It led us on discussions relating to the Incas and the fact they used logs to move things but not a wheel; and to things in nature that were round that could have inspired pre-wheel civilizations. It led us to youtube videos on other people’s theories on how and when the wheel was invented. We discussed how it perhaps it wasn’t as far back in time as many people suggest simply because the Inca civilizations in Peru and Bolivia didn’t have the wheel but they most likely came over the Bering strait not as long ago as people said the wheel was invented.
2) Teaching on ‘family on mission’ in our school of ministry this week, I decided to teach with questions. I wrote up the word ‘family’ on one board and ‘mission’ on the other and asked them to think of all the things that connected to ‘family’ and ‘mission’. Could they think of Bible passages to back up these points of view? What they suggested led to questions like:
‘Which do you think is more important, evangelism or discipleship and why?’
‘What is the role of parents in a family?' 'What is the role of children in a family?' 'Can you think of an example from the Bible to back up your answer?’
‘How can we as parents and leaders encourage faithfulness in our children / disciples?’ (This question had some great answers that I’ll share in another post!)
There were some fascinating explorations and my role as a teacher was more as a guide than a lecturer. All of the students remained engaged throughout the entire lesson and all of them were challenged in their own ways by the end.
3) Mentoring one of our leaders who was struggling with anxiety and direction in the next steps of her life this week, I didn’t lecture her but asked questions. What are you scared of? Where are you believing lies? What options do you have? Which of those do you not have peace about? How are you finding making time to listen to God this week? She was empowered to take responsibility for seeking God and making steps to trust Him more.
4) When one of my children was caught stealing money this week, it was tempting to quickly issue a lecture and a punishment. But he knew what he had done wrong. Instead of telling him how the situation was going to be dealt with, I asked him: ‘what are you going to do to make this situation right?’ I told him about Zacchaeus and his resolve to make things right by giving back more than he had stolen (Note I did insert information here to help him think!) and then I said we would talk about it later. Ten minutes later he had written me a very apologetic letter with all the money he had stolen inside plus some more. He took responsibility for making things right, thankfully choosing well in the freedom he had been given.
A few questions to ponder:
Do you fall on the side of giving others all the information or do you try and lead in a way that encourages others to think for themselves and take responsibility for their choices?
Do you think children should always obey without thinking? (Are there situations where this could be dangerous?)
How can you cultivate responsibility and ownership of choices in your children?
How does asking questions enable us to serve those we are leading and parenting?
Lord, help us to serve others in our conversations with others, as we parent our children or teach and disciple others. Help us to guide others towards you, the Truth, the Word. Thank you that you are so gracious to us and lead us in such a way that brings freedom of choice because you so value freedom. Help us to choose well. We want to choose You. Amen
Thank you for taking the time to read this blogpost. I pray that it has made you think and desire to continue to lead others with a servant heart. Please do share it with anyone who you think would benefit.
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