Six questions to ask in a Bible study
When you’re exploring a Bible story with young people, sometimes the silence can be deadly. You ask a question, no one answers, you sit in a moment’s silence, before you break and fill the gap with your own voice. So here are a few suggestions which might help stimulate thought and response!
I’m going to use the story of the Good Samaritan as an example, so it would be good to read it and make yourself familiar with it again.
Ask: ‘What did the priest think when he saw the injured man?’ or wonder what he was thinking before he saw the man, and after he had left him. This kind of question will help young people put themselves in the position of a particular character and help them to explore some of the back story or cultural background that is assumed in the Bible text, but that young people may not know.
Ask: ‘Why did the priest leave the man without helping?’ Like questions around what characters might be thinking, these motivational questions give young people the chance to get under the skin of a passage. In this case, the priest might have been scared – if he lingered he might be next to be attacked, or the man in the road might be a trap. He also might not have wanted to become unclean by touching a dead body. Both of these ideas show that the priest put himself ahead of the man.
Ask: ‘How did the man feel when he found out he was helped by a Samaritan – a man he wouldn’t have liked?’ These questions are very open-ended and encourage conversation and speculation about what might be going on. In the case of the Good Samaritan, what is it like to be helped by someone you don’t like? This question also helps the young people to see what the crowd listening to Jesus might have thought.
Ask: ‘What might the priest and Levite have said to each other when they reached the synagogue in Jericho?’ Questions about what is being said can set the scene or help with interpretation of the text. Other such questions might be, ‘What did Mary and Martha talk about when Jesus left their house?’ or ‘What were the women saying when they were on the way to Jesus’ tomb?’
Ask: ‘If you were in the crowd listening to Jesus’ story, what would your reaction have been?’ Imagining yourself in the Bible passage can be a powerful thing. Here, we don’t know how the crowd reacted, so the young people will have to consider all the things they know about the story and put that in the minds of Jesus’ audience.
Ask: ‘Which is the more difficult to follow of the two commandments that the man quoted? Love God or love your neighbour?’ This kind of question can fulfil a range of objectives, but here, you’re pushing young people to think of these commandments in terms of their own lives. What would their lives look like if they followed both of these commandments?
There are lots of other kinds of questions you could ask and you don’t need to ask them all at the same time! Not every question is suitable for every Bible passage. You’ll get to know what style of questioning helps your group to engage with a Bible passage. Just give them a try and see how they go!
Alex Taylor leads a lively youth group at his church and is part of the Diocese of London’s Children and Youth Team.