The best Bible teachers aren’t just those who tell students great truths. They’re also those who challenge them with great questions.
Questions that make kids think about a Bible passage are an excellent way to get them engaged—and learning insights that will stick. Here are five kinds of questions to ask and five ways to ask them. They’re principles I try to follow when teaching a Bible lesson.
What to ask…
1. Ask challenging questions. Make students think, not recite. Pose questions that cause them to examine the Bible text and wonder why it says what it does. At least once in every lesson, toss out a question that feels to you just a tad too hard for your students—and see if those kids don’t surprise you with some good answers anyway.
2. Ask open-ended questions. Rather than those with right-or-wrong answers, aim for questions that can have (1) some bad answers, (2) many good answers, and (3) a few best answers. “Why do you think…” questions are essential for older kids. “Why might it matter to you that…” questions are important for teens. For example, instead of “How many of each kind of animal went on the ark?” ask, “Why do you think God wanted to save animals along with Noah?”
3. Ask purposeful questions that are central to the main point you want to teach. That way students think about (and remember!) your main point. Try not to give out your main point without first giving students a chance, through a question, to come up with it on their own.
4. Ask God-centered questions. Those that delve into Bible characters can be good too, but often the best questions are “What is God doing in this story?” or “What does this teach us about God?” Never let your focus stray too far from God and the gospel of Jesus.
5. Ask heart-centered questions. Encourage students to share how the Bible passage you’re teaching makes them feel—especially where there might be negative feelings to address! Remember that gospel teaching is not about coercing outward behavior or even primarily about learning right answers, but about directing hearts to Jesus.
How to ask…
1. Plan your questions in advance. Strong questions are the key moments in your lesson. Compose them carefully and know them by heart. You may even want to write them out for your students to read when you ask them. Think of your lesson as moving from one key question to another. The story or teaching in between the questions is the filler.
2. Listen carefully to answers. Kids can always tell whether you’re really listening to their answers and trying to understand them—or mentally moving on before they finish talking. Learn to stop and truly listen, and to respond when necessary by asking students to explain what they mean or why they gave a particular answer.
3. Anticipate answers as part of your lesson prep. Along with planning your questions, think about several answers (both good and bad) your students are most likely to give. Know ahead of time how you’ll gently correct the bad answers or encourage kids to think more about the good ones. This lets you address those answers when they come up, without getting lost.
4. Celebrate best answers. Take time to discuss why those answers are so good. When a student gives a great answer, it is your best teaching moment of the whole lesson! Students will remember it because, even if you led them to it with a great question, to them it will feel like they came up with the answer.
5. Be patient. Some silence after you ask a question is okay if it means kids are thinking. And after you get one good answer, the best follow-up is often, “Good! What more can you think of?” Kids need to know that you really believe they might have good insights, and that you’re willing to give them time to come up with those answers—and interested in hearing them.
Thoughts? Please share or comment below. I love feedback and discussion—it’s how we learn from each other! (Pick any name you like, and no one but me will see your email address—and I won’t spam you, I promise)