This is part two of a two-part series on creating questions for discussion groups. You can read part one here.
Group leaders have taken a variety of approaches to generating questions sets for Bible study groups. The following two approaches are ways I have found to be helpful in generating, organizing, and refining meaningful question sets.
When using either approach, don’t forget to include a question at the beginning of the set that draws the group into the discussion. That question needs to frame and bring focus to the discussion. It gives the group a clue as to what direction the study will go and helps them block out other potential directions.
Approach 1—The Inductive Set
Step 1. Read the Bible passage and make a list of key people, places, and 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. Synthesize your discoveries. Compare the passage being examined to other passages. Identify theological categories addressed by the passage.
Step 5. Identify principles and personal actions. Use the actions taken or directed as a starting point, seeking to place them into a question. (Example: 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 you identify key principles, look for ways the actions are tied to the principle(s).)
Step 6. Organize question sets. Look for paths from the action questions back to the items in the Bible text that feed into that question. Create questions sets that move people through the discovery process to the action question(s).
Approach 2—The Big Idea
Step 1. Read the Bible text and outline the major points or movements.
Step 2. Using the outline, write your own summary statement of the main truth or principle discovered in each section. (Example: God desires for everyone to come to repentance.)
Step 3. Using your statement, 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? becomes Does a person’s pride keep them from repenting?). Convert the close-ended questions to open-ended questions. (Example: Have I repented? becomes 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.
You may find other ways of generating questions sets. The issue is not so much how you create a question set, but that you do. Using questions that move people through the process of framing the study, examining the Bible text, understanding it, then applying it will add depth, intentionality, and critical thinking to the Bible study group.
G. Dwayne McCrary is the team leader for Adult and Young Adult group resources at Lifeway, leads two weekly Bible study groups (one for empty-nesters and one for 4-year olds), serves as an adjunct professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and carries 20-plus years of church staff experience. He is married to Lisa (both native Texans), and they have two children and one grandson. Find him on Twitter: @gdwayne.