The Power of an Open-Ended Question

Sunday mornings are busy.  I’m sure this statement resonates with you at least to some degree.  If you’re like me, you feel as if your time at church on Sundays blows in and blows out like a gust of wind, and before you realize it you’re at home changing into your sweat pants.  As a pastor, I often give thought to how I can bless individual people on a Sunday morning in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of getting the circus (that’s what Keri and I call our family) from the van to their classes and then making sure that things are running smoothly from a ministry standpoint.  What can you and I do to effectively engage other believers in the 5 to 7-minute conversations we have in between Sunday school and the worship service or in the parking lot before we got to lunch?

Have you ever stopped to consider the power of an open-ended question?  If you’ve only got a few minutes, a carefully chosen, open-ended question that is specific to the person you are talking to can do wonders for cultivating real Christian community.  As Christians, we are commanded to “count others more significant than [ourselves]” and a question exhibits this kind of love and humility more clearly than we think.  An open ended question says, “I care about you and I am interested in knowing more about your life.”  Many people can go an entire week without someone asking them a question that isn’t work-related or due to a need that must be met, so imagine the ministry you can engage in by simply asking a question.  Here are a few tips to help you make question-asking a vital part of your ministry in the church.

1)      Don’t be overly general (i.e. “What’s going on?” or “How’r ya doing?”).  The more specific the question, the more consideration is communicated.  It shows you gave it some thought.

2)      Before you arrive at church on Sunday, think of who you will engage and what question(s) you will ask him/her.  Don’t fly by the seat of your pants; people can usually pick up on a lack of sincerity.

3)      If it’s possible, be ready with an answer to the same question you are asking.  Remember, you are seeking community with this person, not interrogation.

4)      Be ready with follow-up questions to his/her first answer.  Don’t be afraid to ask more and dig deeper.  Relationships with the family of God are to be our closest relationships.

5)      In the weeks that follow, mention the conversation you had with this person that was initiated by your question.  This will communicate that you are interested in seeking a relationship with this person that is based on more than a few random, isolated conversations.

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About Brent Osterberg

Ransomed sinner, husband to Keri, father to the kiddos three, associate pastor at Calvary Bible Church in Fort Worth, TX, and lover of most things epic. View all posts by Brent Osterberg

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