4 Kinds of Questions That Kill Discussion

Today’s blog post is taken from a book written by a friend of mine, Sam O’ Neal. Sam currently servesfield-guide as an editor on the Bible Studies for Life team at LifeWay. Bible Studies for Life is the world’s best-selling Bible study curriculum, and Sam is lending his immense talents to the all-adult version used by hundreds of thousands of people each week.

Prior to coming to LifeWay, Sam wrote a book for small group leaders. I highly recommend it, and you can follow this link to it at Amazon. The title of his book is Field Guide for Small Group Leaders, and you need this one in your teacher library!

Sam discusses several kinds of questions that will kill discussion in your group. Don’t use these, please! Here is what Sam has to say:

There are several different kinds of questions that can kill almost any discussion in just about any small group. I’ve listed some of the most common below.

Idiot questions. These are questions that have extremely obvious answers – so obvious that only an idiot could get them wrong. Unfortunately, many small group leaders are fond of these types of questions…the reality is that people aren’t comfortable giving an answer to an obvious question. Here are a couple of examples:

  • What do we put in the mouths of horses to make them obey us?
  • Is it true that no human being can tame the tongue?

Unreasonable questions. These questions fall at the opposite end of the spectrum in that their answers are unreasonably complicated or obscure. These are questions that no one in the group will be able to answer unless they speak Greek or Hebrew or have access to biblical commentary…For example, “How would a first-century interpretation of the word tongue impact our understanding of this passage?”

Long-winded questions. Here’s an example of a long-winded question: “How do verses 11-12, which are rhetorical questions – a common literary device used in James’ day – impact our understanding of the principle outlined in verses 9-10?”

Compound questions. Compound questions are a variation of long-winded questions…group leaders will sometimes stack three or four questions together, rapid fire, when those questions address a similar subject. What usually happens in these situations is that someone will answer the last question in the series, and the preceding questions will largely be ignored.

If Sam has piqued your interest, you might consider picking up a copy of his book. But now you’re warned! There are at least four kinds of questions that will kill discussion in your group – just avoid them!


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