How to Field Tough Questions with 3 Little Words

Today’s blog post comes from a classic book by “The Prof,” Dr. Howard Hendricks, titled Teaching to Change Lives. In the chapter on The Law of Readiness, Dr. Hendricks addresses a subject that will happen to every group leader from time to time. A member of the group asks a question, and the group leader doesn’t have the answer. While this may cause you to sweat and your heart rate to increase, there’s no need for that! Here is what Dr. Hendricks wants you to do when you’re asked a tough question:

What do you do if you’re asked a question you can’t answer? Your response is important, because the motto for many in the class is “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought dumb than to open it and remove all doubt.” So try saying, “That’s a terrific question, thank you! I don’t have an answer for that but I’ll try to get you one.” Maybe you can recall a teacher, perhaps in college, who responded to a student’s question with a mumbled “Well…whereas…consequently…whereupon…as it were…most scholars would agree…” and so on, and by this time you’re thinking Now I know he doesn’t have the answer.  The greatest professor I ever had was one of the foremost authorities on the New Testament. One day in class a student asked him a question, and he answered, “Young man, that’s the most perceptive question I’ve been asked in thirty-six years of teaching, and I can’t give you an answer to it because my answer would be very superficial. But I’ll study it and come back to you with an answer. Any other good questions like that? So you don’t have to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. Never be embarrassed to say, “I don’t know” (p.168).

Normally I like to make a short comment about the quote and our ministry as teachers of God’s Word, but what more can you add to common sense like this?! In the world of teaching, there is no “fake it ’til you make it.” Just admit you don’t have the answer, and move on.

Practice saying those three little words in the mirror until you get them right. Then, the next time you’re asked a question you don’t have the answer for, simply repeat those words and say, “I don’t know…but I’ll find an answer.”

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