Small groups have become a staple in ministry today. They create community, foster identity and build trust that leads to openness to Jesus Christ. Small groups can be a primary vehicle for people to share their faith, question their faith and encounter a community who loves them and journeys with them.

Below are some tips in developing dynamic discussion questions for your small group.

Seek Engagement, not Understanding: Small Groups should not be a time to test for understanding, but rather to process the topic at whatever level of understanding the group members are at. If your question is simply leading to a specific answer, state the answer and then ask a question that prompts the group to apply that answer to their lives.

Make it about them: All questions should be specific to the participant. This leads to a variety of answers and a safe space where no answer can be wrong as it focuses on their journey with the topic.

Start out fun: Using examples or scenarios can help get discussion going early on as the group grows comfortable with itself. If you are using a scenario, toss in something outrageous or ridiculous that will put a smile on their faces. “If you’re brother was leaving for Clown College for a year, how could you say goodbye in a way that shares Jesus and connects with who he is?”

Move deeper: A great list of questions should progressively go deeper. Never start too shallow, but always move to deeper water.

Challenge action: Have at least one question that asks them to examine where they are at and commit to an action of change. “What is one way that you can share your faith with someone this week?”. Do not accept answers that sound like ‘Well, I could…’ Challenge them to be specific, ‘I will forgive my brother this week.’

Rewrite your questions: Once you have finished your list of questions, look at your objectives, the time allowed, and your topic. Then, rewrite or refine your questions. You can always eliminate one, or polish another. Always put more time into the question that it takes for people to discuss them.

Avoid these:

  • Avoid the letter “D” at the start. Do & Did are sure fire ways to make a question a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. A simple fix can be to play ‘how’ or ‘what’ in front of it. How do you pray each day? Or What did you enjoy about the retreat? Open ended questions foster better discussion.
  • Avoid complicated jargon. If an unfamiliar word or concept needs to be present in the question, be sure to explain it before or within the context of the question.
  • Avoid questions that ask too much. A broad question with multiple aspects to it should be multiple questions. “How is Christ working in your life and where do you want to see his presence more active?” Break that up or better yet, just ask the second part.
  • Avoid asking the same thing twice. No one likes redundancies, no one J. Examine the questions and if two reach toward the same destination, drop one of them.
  • Avoid questions that divide. Always assume you have someone in your group that may fall into the category of people you may be discussing. Write your question to accommodate their situation. Instead of ‘How do you respond to atheists who think religion is a waste of time?’ try, ‘If Ben (made up name) told you he though your religion was a waste of time, how would you respond?’

Making questions valuable is an art, not a science. Know your group and how they respond, then build questions that you would love discussing if you were in their situation. May God bless you in your ministry.

You can check out tips my friend Christopher Wesley.

Add your tips in the comments below and share the best starter question you’ve encountered in a small group.

Chris Bartlett