In my training and practice as a coach, I have learned the value of good questions as I work with individuals and groups. There are the basic questions that give me facts, information, and stories. Then come the questions that begin to explore more deeply who a person is or who a group is. “We’ve been doing it this way for 40 years,” a client told me. “Who are you today as a result of that longevity?” I asked. And, the follow-up question could be, “How is it helping you use all of your resources to do what you want to do now?” because good questions don’t reach one conclusion. They keep us moving forward in exploration and action. They stimulate deeper exploration of who people are, what their perspective is, what is most important and where they are seeking to go in life and in ministry. I’m still learning how to ask good questions, but I know that if questions are asked well, they don’t interrogate people. Good questions invite people to move forward with new insight into themselves, new ideas, solutions and possibilities and new awareness of the resources they have to take action.
The Bible contains some really great questions.
- Where are you?
- What is this that you have done?
- Am I my brother’s keeper?
- Are you still maintaining your integrity?
- My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
- Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
- What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
- With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?
- Who do people say that I am?
- What do you want me to do for you?
- What good deed must I do to have eternal life?
- For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?
- Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?
- Who will separate us from the love of Christ?
There is so much to explore in any one of these questions that could open up new understandings about God, new awareness of people and their faith and new actions that could be taken. That’s probably why one of the saddest statements to me in the Bible is this: “After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions” (Mark 12:34b).
Questions are a great gift in life and in ministry. As a core competency in coaching, powerful questions reflect active listening and an understanding of the client’s perspective, evoke discovery, insight, commitment or action, create greater clarity, possibility or new learning, move the client towards what they desire…[instead of needing] to justify or look backwards. (http://goo.gl/R6MyBm)
What questions are you asking in your life and in your ministry? How are they inviting personal and group awareness, new ideas, solutions and possibilities, new insight into the resources you have to take action and forward movement?
Chip Low is Co-Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Yorktown, NY and a Leadership/Executive Coach.