Have you noticed that Jesus, the Son of God, asked a lot of questions? Here are just a few examples: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51) “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15) “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” (Luke 24:17) “Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” (John 20:15) “Do you love me?” (John 21:17) I doubt that Jesus posed these questions for his own enlightenment. They invited his followers into new chapters of discipleship. I believe Jesus asked questions because Jesus understood their value in shaping people. His followers would be sent out into the world to form new disciples. Good questions helped form them.

The right question is powerful. It can invite another to name their own experience. It can shift perspectives in new directions. It can encourage curiosity. It can open doors toward unexpected solutions. Often in life a single thought-provoking question is more useful than ample advice. I think that is why Jesus so often asked them.

I am currently participating in an online course on coaching through the ELCA Coaching Network. The ELCA partners with CoachNet to offer coaching and to train new leaders. Coaching involves partnering with another in a thought-provoking process that inspires change. For me one of the most poignant insights has been developing the art of asking good questions. Good questions help others grow. They are born from active listening. When leading it is often tempting to be the answer-person. We have spent years training for ministry, and we are eager to share our wisdom. But maybe what the world needs most from us as leaders, are thoughtful questions and enough silence to begin to articulate our answers.

CoachNet would suggest focusing on “what” questions rather than “why” questions. “Why” questions can imply judgement. “What” questions tend to be curious. They invite others to tell us what we need to know in order to best accompany them.

What if we aspired to follow Jesus by developing the art of asking questions that shape people? Bartimaeus’s healing began the moment he answered the question “What do you want me to do for you?” Where would Mary Magdalene be if Jesus had not opened her eyes by asking “Who is it you are looking for?” Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”, and the answer to that question set him free to build the church. Thoughtful questions shape us.

What questions do those you serve need to hear?

In God’s Peace,
Pastor Sarah Schaaf
Director of Community Engagement