A set of great Bible study questions is an important part to leading any effective small group discussion. Follow these five steps to take your questions to a new level of significance.
1. Pray and Listen
Prayer is always the wise thing to do FIRST when preparing for a Bible study. Seek God’s wisdom and guidance.
But talking to God is not enough. It needs to be two-way. Be sure you leave plenty of time for listening to what God needs to tell you. Maybe we should use the 70/30 rule when we pray (70% listening/30% talking).
2. Draft Questions and Notes
It doesn’t matter what research material you are working from. Your material may include the Bible, other books, articles, speakers (including sermons) and videos. In each case, you need to take notes and create some potential questions as you prepare for your small group Bible study.
The following tips are some that I discovered and use when I take notes and create questions. They work whether you are sitting at a desk with books or sitting in a seat at church listing to a sermon being preached.
Use a journal and pen
Did you know you understand the topic better when you handwrite your notes vs. type them? Studies have demonstrated this is true.
When I learned about the benefits of handwritten notes, I changed from using electronic devices to using a pen and journal. I am glad I changed. You should try it for a few times and see if it provides you a benefit as well.
Get into a “new to church” curiosity mindset
One thing I have learned leading small groups is that you don’t need to ask “deep” questions for the conversation to go deep. The conversation will go deep when needed. However, you can instantly exclude some from the conversation if you ask questions that assume everyone already has a deep and similar understanding about that topic. Just ask what members believe is the definition of a word that is a part of your study. You might be surprised to learn that there are as many definitions stated as the number of participants in the room!
Before you start your research and creating questions, try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who is curious but is new to church or is a new Christian. As you go through the material, write questions that this person might ask. Using this technique will give you a new perspective and some great discussion questions.
Capture potential questions first
Because you want to stay in the above mindset when generating questions, it is best to do the questions before taking notes. Taking notes is likely going to pull you out of this mindset.
If you are reading a book including the Bible), read it once while generating questions and then study it after that while taking your notes. If you are doing this from a sermon, attend two services, if that is offered (the first for questions and the second for note taking).
Keep best practices in mind
There are some best practices that can be applied to questions that help them generate the type of discussion God wants. Keep these in mind as you are writing the questions. You can also check your questions after you wrote them against a list of criteria. Read What Makes a Great Discussion Question? for examples of what to look for.
3. Order and Prioritize Questions
The order and type of questions you use is important.
You want to use broad, easy questions at the beginning. This will encourage participation. As the discussion continues, the questions should get more focused on the specific purpose of that day’s Bible study. The questions should progressively move participants to get more and more vulnerable with a personal application at the end. To learn more about this, read How to Create Small Group Conversations that Change Lives.
You don’t know how much discussion each question is going to generate. Yes, as the leader you have some control over that. But I find it helpful to identify those questions that are going to be more important to ask.
If the conversation to your first questions goes long, you can skip over the less important questions right to the critical ones.
4. Add Supporting Bible Verses
The discussion is a Bible study, not an opinion study. Be sure that you have appropriate verses to read and refer to throughout the small group discussion.
The following are a couple of websites you can use to get verses that relate to specific topics.
Warning: Be sure you investigate the meaning and context of the verses before using them for your Bible study. If you are not careful, you could take a verse out of context and discuss it in a way that God never intended.
5. Add Additional Activities and Questions
Take a look at your prioritized questions. Where are there areas not addressed by questions? Where in the Small Group Conversation Funnel are there more questions needed?
If there are holes, brainstorm and add some other questions you can use.
This would also be a great time to identify one or more activities that could be done to reinforce the topic. Read Shake Things Up with Experiential Learning Activities to learn about the benefits of small group activities.
Question: How do you create your Bible study questions? Would you change anything in these 5 steps? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
What a great article. This would help anyone who is leading a small group or is training to become a leader. Having the right questions is imperative to get full participation and keeping everyone fully engaged. Thanks Roger!!
Thanks Fred. I am glad you found the article useful.
The only Bible reading is integrated with numerous commentaries, condordances, dictionaries, lexicons, encyclophedias and sermon helps to provide excellent online Bible study tools and resources.