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2 Ways to Craft Great Discussion Questions

Try these tips for effectively moving people through the learning process.

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Developing good question sets may be the hardest action taken on by a Bible study leader. Question sets are designed to move people through the learning process.

Developing good question sets may be the hardest action taken on by a Bible study leader. Question sets are designed to move people through the learning process. For every question included in the set, ten or more should have been left on the table. In the creation of a set of seven questions, one should not be surprised to find that they created one hundred different questions in pursuit of the seven. 

Lots of systems exist for creating sets of questions, but let me share two that I have found helpful and the steps that are needed. 

Approach 1: The Inductive Chart

Step 1. Read the Bible passage, and list people/places/things/words.

Step 2. Use Bible study resources to define and describe the items listed in Step 1. Star key discoveries that speak into the overall understanding of the passage or give deeper insight.

Step 3. Read the passage again, and list the actions taken or directed in the passage. Include actions taken by God in the passage.

Step 4. Identify principles and personal actions. Use the actions taken or directed as a starting point, seeking to place them into a question. Here is an example from Matthew 2, where the angels delivered God’s message to the shepherds: How does God deliver His message today? What role do I (we) have in delivering God’s message? What message do I (we) have to deliver? How can I (we) deliver that message? As principles are identified, look for ways the actions are tied to the principle(s).

Step 5. Organize question sets. Look for paths from the action questions back to the items in the text that feed into that question. Create question sets that move people through the discovery process to the action question(s). For example: What was the message delivered by the angels? moves to What message are we to deliver today? and How do the two compare? 

"In the creation of a set of seven questions, one should not be surprised to find that they created one hundred different questions in pursuit of the seven."

Approach 2: The Big Idea

Step 1. Read the Bible text, identifying the main points. 

Step 2. Using the main point, write your own summary statement of the main truth or principle discovered in that section. (Example: God desires for everyone to come to repentance.) The main points should be subsets of your summary statement. 

Step 3. Generate questions borne from the summary statement. (Example: What is repentance? What other passages support this idea? What does God do about those who refuse to repent? What keeps a person from repenting? From what are we to repent? Have I repented? Have you repented?)

Step 4. Convert the open-ended questions to close-ended questions. (Example: What keeps a person from repenting? might become Does a person’s pride keep them from repenting?) Convert the close-ended questions to open-ended questions. (Example: Have I repented? might become Tell about how you came to understand your need to repent and how you did that.)

Step 5. Organize the questions into logical sets. For example, before a person can determine if he or she has repented, he or she needs to know from what and how.

Step 6. Cull and refine the questions, focusing on the sets that get to the core of the Bible text and that lead to concrete action. Most people find it helpful to work backward, identifying the final question in the set and then taking a step back, looking for the question that moves the group forward. 

Both of these approaches take time and practice. The end result shows. Creating great discussion questions is not easy or quick. It takes time to develop an intentional question set that moves people to purposeful action. 

Dwayne McCrary is a project team leader for ongoing adult Bible study resources at LifeWay, including the adult Explore the Bible resources. He also teaches an adult group and preschool group every Sunday in the church he attends, and serves as an adjunct at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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