( questions? photo by Rajiv Patel)
Telling students information does not work to well. How many of our students remember our amazing youth group talks? Not many. How many will remember a deep conversation they had with an adult volunteer? Probably many more.
Two reasons why telling a student what they need to know does not work: 1) The learner is passive and uninvolved 2) The learner may not be convinced they need the truth, and therefore the talk doesn’t “stick.”
God’s Truth is too important and some times too elaborate to reduce to a teaching.
The one thing youth pastors must convince their small group leaders is to master the art of asking question. It is important in your youth ministry to create a small group culture that encourages questions, which paves the way for deeper understanding of God’s word. On an aside Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, understood the insane importance of asking questions as the primary avenue to learning. He called it the Socratic Method.
Advantages of Asking Great Questions:
– engage learner
– allows the student to talk and for the leader to listen
– great questions lead to self discovery
– faith ownership needs great questions to be asked
– answering a question out loud teaches students how to think for themselves
How To Ask A Student A Great Question:
1. Think through a series of questions ahead of time. Hopefully the youth pastor supplied a list of questions or a talk summary beforehand so you at least know what direction to take the student. Phrase the same thing in a couple different ways. Because teenagers think differently, at times a single truth ought to be expressed in several different ways.
2. Ask questions that are understandable and use everyday language. This is why curriculum is so great. The questions have been already tested. Try to be as clear and simple as possible.
3. Use your imagination. By using your imagination to craft questions allows students to tap into their imagination to generate answers. Using imagination is contagious.
4. Maintain eye contact. It’s more personal and encouraging. Don’t stare at the question sheet, stare at the students.
5. Don’t settle for the correct answers. Attempt to get a lot of feedback about the question. Typically there will be a hand full of students who will always answer the question and others who will never answer the question. When someone gives you a quick answer, press them to make sure they really believe what they just said. Ask them, “Ok, I hear what you’re saying, but what does that really mean?”
6. Tension is good. It is okay if you are dealing with touchy stuff that creates awkward moments. This means you are digging deep and talking about what is really going on. If a student doesn’t feel the need to learn, he or she won’t. Tension challenges students to seek answers.
7. Practice saying “I Don’t Know?”. Say it again: I dont know. Students ask tough questions and they tend to stump us a lot. In my previous church, I had students who were mad smart. They were asking questions, I was just starting to ask. You don’t know everything, so don’t worry about hiding this when you’re confused.
8. Be positive. Demonstrating positivity is magic. Students have way too much negative stuff and situations in their life, so they don’t need negative stuff during small group. Small group should be encouraging. If students are being negative towards other, kill the negativity immediately.
9. Be focused. Being sensitive to the Spirit doesn’t mean wandering around aimlessly as you go on so many rabbit trails. Rather than covering a ton of subjects on a surface level, go deep with just one or two.
10. Repeat long answers with a quick summary. When one student talks for a long time, and is confusing, you’ll loose the rest of your group. To bring them back in, give a quick summary, or gently ask for one.
11. Don’t answer your own questions… or let other leaders answer.
12. When you ask one question, don’t let one student answer it. Get multiple perspectives. Prompt further responses with phrases like “Good, who else…what’s your take?” “Does anyone have something to add?” “Who agrees with what was said? Ok why?” “Who disagrees…why?” Don’t be afraid of the silence. Give time for students to process in their brains. Their brains are fully developed yet, so give them a minute to think.
13. Learn multiple sides of an issue. Understand multiple perspective on different topics. Students are coming from different familial and cultural backgrounds and experiences so be open to learning other takes on the same subjects.
14. Be transparent. Share your inadequacies in understanding different truths. Limit your stories about your “sinful past”.
15. Learn to question your students’ answers. Do not allow a student to state an answer without him/her defending it. Challenge the answers your students give you by applying them in all kinds of situations. Test your students for consistency in their answers. Don’t accept fluff.
16. Have students write down their unanswered questions. Some of their great questions may need some time to process. Suggest for them to journal about it or to go find the answers. This is also great for questions you don’t have a chance to get to…… Plus this allows students to learn how to seek faith based answers.
17. Demonstrate passion. When talking about God, show some excitement. Passionately talk about why you follow Jesus. This never gets old. Share about how Jesus changed your life.