The Art of the Follow-Up Question

One of the ways that we miss the fullness of what God may be saying in a discussion is limiting ourselves to the “official” questions on the list. If we limit our discussion to the listed questions we may miss an opportunity to flesh out what the Spirit is trying to say. Learning to listen to what is being said and then asking a good following question that is specific to their answer can take the discussion to a more personal level. For example, suppose the question on your study guide is something like, “Does this passage teach you something new about the character of God?” Someone in your group responds with something like, “This passage reminds that God is faithful to his promises.” That is obviously a theologically correct answer that should be affirmed. But, the person’s answer also gives you an opportunity to ask a follow-up question.

I might ask, “Do you think there is a reason that you need to be reminded of His faithfulness right now?” I might preface the question by asking, “Do you mind if I ask you another question?” or “Feel free to share as little or as much as you are comfortable sharing.” If the person is open to sharing more, then an effective follow-up question can take a good general answer to a deeper personal level.

There are endless possibilities for effective follow-up questions.

Sample Follow-Up Questions
Why is that truth important to you?
Why do you think you feel that way?
Why do you think God is teaching you this lesson?
Can you explain in more detail what you mean by that answer?
How are you seeing that truth work itself out in your life right now?
What do you mean by that?
When was a time when you saw this truth at work in your life?

Pray as you listen. Always ask the Holy Spirit to give you ears to hear what He is trying to say in the moment. Ask Him to help you know if you should ask more questions.
Practice good listening. A good listener has the goal to gain and understanding of the other person.
Be respectful. Respect the persons comfort level in the group before asking for specifics. A person who is new to the group should not be expected to be as transparent as someone who has been there for a while.
Ask permission. Before asking a follow-up question ask, “Do you mind if I ask you another question?”
Involve the group. After asking a follow up question, it can be effective to ask the rest of the group for additional input, encouragement, or if they have had similar/different thoughts or experiences.
Don’t force it. If you do not have a clear follow up question, do not force one.


Lessons I Have Learned the Hard Way While Investing in People – part 2

I have invested in people for my gain and not theirs.

1 Peter 5:2 “…not greedy for money, but eager to serve.”

I hate it that I have had to learn this lesson the hard way. But the truth is, I have, more than once. It has not been so much for money but for attention, “pats on the back”, being thought of as wise, etc.

Coming face to face with our own selfishness is never pretty but it is necessary if we are going to be used by God fully.

Here is the problem. When we invest in people from this perspective it reduces them to an asset to be used rather than person to be loved.  That is unbiblical.

If we invest in someone for our own gain, we will move on to the next person once we have gotten all that we can from them. When we do that we are not loving, but using. This leaves people with a faulty picture of love. It leaves people hurt and confused.

This kind of disciple making is in line with what Paul warned us against in Philippians 2:3 when he said, “do nothing from selfish ambition”. This same theme is seen in Paul’s 2nd letter to the church at Corinth. “So death is at work in us, but life in you…For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God.”

Paul never served for the sake of his own gain but willing chose to forsake his gain so that God would be glorified in the ones he was discipling.

Biblical discipleship always looks to help the other person grow as a follower of Jesus for the sake of the Kingdom. You help them succeed. You help them discover what God is doing in them and then being committed to His movement in their life.

Here are a few qualities of someone who invests for the sake of others.

1. Humble – Proud people are about themselves. Humble people are about others.
2. Secure – Secure people can celebrate success in others without feeling like their own value is being threatened.
3. Listeners – Developing the skill of genuine listening, rather than always being the one talking opens the door to more clearly hear the voice of the Spirit.
4. Teachable – To help others succeed you must be willing to learn as well as embrace the moments when you are wrong.
5. Committed – Those you are investing need someone to be committed to the movement of God in their life. They need you to willing to walk with them as far as you can.

Don’t make the mistake I have made. Invest in people for their gain.

Lessons I Have Learned the Hard Way While Investing In People – Part 1

I have the privilege of being able to walk along side of a lot of people to help them grow as followers of Christ.  I was reminded of this today as met a young man for the first time over a coup of coffee.  I spent well over an hour listening to his story and desires for his life and faith. He drives a tank.  How cool is that? I look forward to seeing what God does in my new tank driving friend.

I have been able to see, first hand,  God change a lot of people’s lives, which is amazing.

One of the lessons I have learned in over 20 years of investing in people is that I am not even close to being perfect at it.  I have given bad advice.  I’ve been selfish.  I have been wrong. Anything that has gone “well” is all because of God and not me.

Here is the first a few ways that I have missed it while investing or discipling others.

I Have Treated People as “Mine” and not “God’s”

1 Peter 5:2 says, “Shepherd the flock of God…”

Those that we invest in (disciple) belong to God. It is easy over time to lose sight of this and slowly begin to view them as “ours” or “mine”. I have several people that I am investing in right now but in reality they are much more than “my guys”, they are heirs, children, beloved in the Kingdom. I am just given the honor to walk with them during this season of life.

When the perspective of “mine” begins to work into the way we view those we are investing, then we are taking steps towards manipulation. When we manipulate we end up stunting their growth in Christ.

Key: This frustrates those we investing because it limits their potential. Those we invest in or disciple should have the vision of their life shaped by Jesus and His potential for them. When I disciple as “mine” I limit their potential to “me”.
Here are some practical thoughts that have helped me overcome the “mine” perspective of people.

1. Disciple in the context of community. This makes investing/disciple making a group or “family” effort, allowing people to have multiple trusted influences.

2. Regularly pray for humility as a disciple. It is easy for my pride and opinion of self to get so high that I think I am all that the person needs. (Rom. 12:3, Phil 2:3-5)

3. Get Help. When the person I am investing in is walking through something that I do not know much about or can’t adequately relate to I try to point them towards someone who is more equipped for that situation.

The key is to always remember that to have the privilege of discipling or investing in others, is a gift of God that should not be taken lightly, but with a great amount of care and gratitude.