I came to a realization that I don’t know how to ask a good question! I mean that’s not fully accurate. If I know the subject well or know that I don’t know something I can usually ask a decent question, but when it comes to asking someone else a good question where I want to draw them to a conclusion I’m out of practice. I have, on occasion come up with some good ones in conversations but that’s a little different.
What I’m faced with in the Church this week is writing some questions to help the congregation go deeper in study during the next series of sermons. In the series we will be covering John, and we are in the midst of developing the booklet that will accompany the study. I’ve been given John 1:14-18…not the easiest verses but also some very profound verses. So yesterday I attacked the task with vigour and tried to develop some really good questions.
What I found was that it is very difficult to develop a good question. Sure I came up with some question but really they were rather weak.
Since yesterday’s failure I’ve been thinking about a better way of doing things and I’ve been running some thoughts through my mind about how to ask a good question and so I’m going to flesh out those ideas here.
1. Develop the main points being taught in the content.
Take the time to understand what the content I’m trying teaching is saying and summarize its main points for my own knowledge. It’s from these main points then that I can develop the questions. This step is when I can look at commentaries and other sources to support or shed some light on my own study of the subject. Here I can also develop questions from the content based on questions I had about the topic.
2. What are you trying to teach from those points?
My goal is to teach the main points therefore I need to have a clear understanding of those key points. I then have to ask myself what points would make the best questions, which one’s will lend themselves to being taught in question format.
3. Who is your target audience and what is their education level on the topic?
I can write questions earlier than this step but now I really need to consider who my hearer is and word the question in a manner that they can understand. For children it will obviously be different than adults. When dealing with a Church congregation I also have to consider that there are going to be some who went to Bible school, some who have studied the Bible on their own and some who have very little knowledge about the scriptures.
4. Is your question grammatically correct? Will the reader be able to understand what you are asking?
This is probably the hardest part of the process for me. Grammar and spelling are not my best strengths but they are so important when you are trying to ask a good question.
5. Does your question lead the reader to a conclusion?
Does my question lead the reader to the answers I want them to reach? If I ask a question and they are simply left perplexed than I have failed. It needs to challenge them somewhat but a study question needs to lead back to the main points of the content so they learn.
6. Can your question be answered to simply, for example is it only a yes/no question?
A yes no question does no good unless you are testing someone’s knowledge about facts. “Did A cause B? Yes or no.” Better to ask “What are some of the causes that contributed to A causing B?”
7. Does the question only ask their opinion or does it teach them something?
In the case of questions related to Church ministry what I want to accomplish is draw people back to the Bible rather than their own opinion. It is not that a person’s opinion is not important but simply asking someone their opinion when they haven’t studied the topic is like asking me “how do you feel about quantum physics?” ahh its cool I guess..
Well these are some of my initial thoughts about asking a good question…now I need to get off to actually doing it. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe I’ll post them up here later and people can give me some feedback on them.