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Using Questions to Deepen Relationships

The most recent edition of Discipleship Journal includes an article by Lori Roeleveld which suggests three ways questions can "unlock relationships". For those desiring to build stronger relationships in their groups, here's a quick summary:

Questions can be a doorway to healing.
When people come to us for help or advice, we can be so ready to expound our knowledge that we forget to wonder why they are asking... Our well-intentioned answers may not reach people's hearts because they aren't really looking for words or opinions -- they are looking for something deeper. Asking clarifying questions can open doors we didn't even know were there and give us insight into how to frame our responses.

Questions can be confrontation calmers.
People confront us for any number of reasons. They may have legitimate complaints against us or be honestly seeking answers about biblical issues. Or they may be channeling the anger they feel toward God or others in the wrong direction. When others confront us, we too often become defensive and respond before we really understand what the disagreement is about. Asking questions can increase the effectiveness of these conversations better than jumping to defenses, apologetics or sermons.

Questions can be steps to intimacy.
We regularly ask questions to get to know people when we first meet them, but after relationships develop, we often forget to pursue deeper knowledge of each other. Creative questions can bring us new insights into people, even those we are most familiar with.


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20 Questions to Build Group Connections

Here is a great exercise for a new group. The instructions are pretty simple. Go around the group giving each person the opportunity to choose one question and answer it honestly. Anyone can follow-up with an opinion or clarifying question (no critiquing each other's answers, though). Once a question has been answered, no one else may answer that question.

If your group is larger, you may want to alter the rule and allow each question to be answered 2 or 3 times. Ideally, each person should end up answering 3-5 questions.

As the leader, pay attention to the conversation. Let the discussion run its course as this is how people in the group build their relationships with one another. You can use these questions, modify them or create your own.

21 Bible Passages With Which Every Small Group Leader Should Be Familiar

Matthew 5:23-24.
23"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Luke 10:1-11.
1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

5"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' 6If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to hous…