Sometimes, though, the key to great questions rests less with what’s asked and more with who does the asking. Whether you serve as a child’s mentor, minister, or mother (fathers too), consider the positive impact that deliberate questioning delivers—with an important twist.
A description will help.
Yesterday I met with the young boy I mentor. We sat in a hallway/lounge area at school and munched on a snack. For ten minutes or so, I asked question after question to kick start a conversation. What did you do over the weekend? What are your summer plans? What’s your favorite thing to do when it’s warm outside? My inquiries stirred little interest, as proven by the brief responses.
Then the breakthrough happened.
The little guy suggested we move on to a book he brought about animals. “Here’s what we’ll do,” he said. “I will read about an animal, and you try to guess the name of the animal.”
Across the next twenty-five minutes, he read several short descriptions. When I struggled with my guesses, he offered clues. For instance, after listing a few characteristics of one particular animal, he said, “Starts with a ‘p’ and ends with ‘y.’” (the answer: Pony)
For another animal, “Has a real thick coat of big brown hair. Eats fish from streams, he’s a _____.”
“Hmmm,” I said.
“Starts with ‘b’ and ends with ‘r,’” he said.
“Do beavers eat fish?” I asked.
“Grrrrrrrrr!” he said.
I then guessed right. (the answer: Bear)
Throughout this back-and-forth exercise, we shared comments about animals; some that he’s seen before, his favorites, interesting physical features, and whether or not each would make a good pet. Each of these discussions started based on his interest. Quite a contrast from the interrogation method I tried earlier.
So what’s the point, you ask? Simple; questions will definitely help conversations—especially when a child does the asking. Here’s why: Children routinely must field questions from adults. But the chance to ask the questions validates and affirms their worth.
Ah, the power that comes from questions!
David Staal serves as a consultant to the nonprofit sector following 11 years as President & CEO of a national organization (Kids Hope USA), 10 years in church staff leadership (Willow Creek Community Church), and a 13-year marketing career (Abbott Laboratories). A senior editor for Christianity Today International for 12 years, he also authored these books: