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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.