Leading discussion about a story
This set of questions can be used in:
- Bible study groups
- youth groups
- groups of not-yet believers under a tree or in a cafe
- with individuals (see below for how this needs to be changed to suit the different context).
Facilitator: Your role is just to ensure that things move forward, don’t actually lead the group. Work out a simple way to have different group members read and lead a question.
Group instructions: say, “We are going to be answering six questions.”
- We will use X method to choose who will ask the question
- The rule is that everyone answers in a sentence or two
- For the first four questions you can’t answer the same as someone else!
- If you can think of several possible answers to a question or have several things to share try and say the thing that you think will be of most benefit to the group. That is, the goal is to encourage and challenge others not just do what is most convenient to yourself.
Possible question methods:
- Simply print out the list of questions on a piece of paper and hand it from one group member to another and each asks one question. If people are slow to answer encourage the question reader to gently repeat the question or ask what do you others think? Try not to put people on the spot. We’ve printed each question and a symbol onto a coloured name card. We turn the cards over and each person takes one and then asks in the numbered order on the card.
- Ask for a first volunteer and then they choose who they want to pass the question paper on to
- Let people choose a number and they read the question that corresponds to that number
- Spin a bottle and whoever it points to reads the question or try something else creative.
Only use methods three or four if you are in a context which is not superstitious. We don’t want them thinking the ‘gods’ are selecting them to lead the question.
- Oral context – say the questions out loud and ask someone to lead. By the second or third week they should remember the questions.
Facilitator: if someone in the group says something that you think is very strange ask gently, where in the story do you get that from? or what do you others think?
Bible study questions
I will explain in italics why each question is asked the way it is.
- What do you like about this story? Why?
- What questions might someone have about this story?
This was initially question 4 back but it works much better as question 2. We found that if they had questions they couldn’t concentrate on anything else until they’d asked them. This also means that they’re talking about God right before application which seems to flow smoothly into question 5.
This is an area I’ve learned so much about recently. The idea is that everyone can raise multiple questions AND YOU DON’T ANSWER ANY OF THEM! This post explains why. This sounds strange but try it. When we answer questions we often close off the learning process. Not answering means that people will often keep thinking about the important ones.
This question also helps people to know that any question is okay. Some of the questions might be, “I wonder how they built the ark?” or “Were people vegetarians before Noah?” but others might be “What does it mean to walk with God?”
- What can we learn about people from the characters in this story? (sometimes I ask, what choices did the person have? What do we learn about them from the choice they made?)
If there are lots of characters in the story you can group them so that you ask, “What do we learn about people from the priests, the crowd, the disciples?”
- What can we learn about God/Jesus from this story?
If the story is about both or even the Holy Spirit as well you can ask each separately, that is, “What do we learn about God? What do we learn about Jesus? What do we learn about the Holy Spirit?” Only ask about the person of the Trinity who is in the story.
- This week, what do you want to change in your life because of this story? State your answer in the form “This week I want to…”
We have found that this question helps people to be concrete and to learn that truth is meant to be applied (not just talked about). This question and the next should be prayed about and next week you should ask, “What was your progress with applying what you said last week and did you share your story?” This increases accountability in the group and makes a natural start to a group.
- Who else needs to hear this story?
We want people to get used to the idea that stories are meant to be passed on and not simply learned. With these last two questions we are saying ‘it is normal to obey God and to pass on his word to others.’
Pray in pairs: first praise God for what you learned in the story, then pray for what you want to apply and who you want to tell.
With those not yet Christians I don’t necessarily pray early on or suggest they do. I make the decision when to do so after praying for God’s guidance and on a case by case basis. Often we’ve found that they tell us when they’re ready because they ask us to teach them to pray.
Next week: ask two accountability questions and how did you go putting what you learned into practice? Did you have an opportunity to tell your story?
Recently with those claiming to be believers I won’t continue to the next lesson until they’ve applied and told someone! That is – I’m not willing to teach them that it is okay NOT to obey! So we just repeat the lesson (usually in a slightly different way) until they’ve obeyed.
I don’t push non-Christians to tell stories but keep gently asking and hope that someone starts and their experiences and enthusiasm encourages the rest.
Some facilitators won’t go on to the next story until everyone has shared the first. Their thinking is that if we imply obedience and sharing is an ‘optional’ extra then that is unhelpful. They use peer pressure to help people start sharing because everyone knows they can’t progress to a new story until they’ve told the previous one and they don’t want to hold up the group. Pray about what is the best approach.