19 February 2013

The Art of Asking the Right Questions


I recently received an article from Sue Nigh, CCCA board member and executive director of Heartland Retreat Conference Center (Ohio). Sue captured so well my own belief in the power of the question that I asked her if I could share her thoughts with you in Kindling, and she graciously agreed. Enjoy!


For over three decades I have had the pleasure (did I really say “pleasure”?) to take part in many meetings—from board meetings to committee meetings to team meetings and everything in between. In these meetings I noticed that a lot of propagating, agenda promoting, and pontificating takes place. More recently, though, I have had the opportunity to serve alongside some very wise men and women who avoid the three “p’s” mentioned above. These leaders have learned the art of asking the right questions. They remind me of Jesus, who was the Master Question Asker! The four Gospels share nearly three hundred questions asked by Jesus! For example:

“Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5)

“Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?” (Luke 5:22)

“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28)

“Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25)

“Who do the crowds say I am … Who do you say I am?” (Luke 9:18, 20)

“What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26)

“What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36)

“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

“John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!” (Mark 11:30)

“Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs?” (Luke 22:52)

“Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” (John 21:15)

Jesus didn’t just teach or preach (or propagate, promote or pontificate). He engaged his listeners, asking questions that revealed, challenged, guided and caused thoughtful introspection.

The temptation for all of us is to try “talking” people into our way of thinking. We do this by sharing the opinions we hold, sometimes speaking loudly in an attempt to ensure we are heard. In reading the Gospels and observing the wisdom and actions of other leaders, I am learning that the art of asking the right questions is one I hope to master—and if I am successful in doing so, I am confident that I will be much more effective as a leader, board or committee member, etc. Would you join me in asking the Spirit to train us and provide us with the right questions?

by Sue Nigh


I’m grateful for Sue’s insightful words. Together we created the following list of questions as replacements for statements that could cause harm or offense.

 Instead of saying this…  Ask this…
 We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work.  Is anyone aware if this has been tried before and, if so, the outcome?
 Let me share this illustration with you.  Has anyone seen the illustration given by…?
 That doesn’t fit in with our mission.  What do we think? Does this fit in with our mission?
 I hate that idea. It makes no sense.  Can you tell me more about how you came to that conclusion?
 You really blew it. Bad move.  What was your desired outcome for that email/comment?
 I have a better idea…  Can I share with you an idea that may also work in this situation?
 Let me tell you what I think…  Are you willing to consider an alternative?
 C’mon; you’re being unreasonable.  Can you think of any way we can make this work?

One thought on “The Art of Asking the Right Questions

Comments are closed.