Jesus Asked – Open Ended Questions & Ministry With Children

The ‘open-ended’ question is used to prompt a longer thinking process in the listener/responder. A closed question requires a yes, no, or a straightforward factual answer. An open-ended question may be rhetorical, but is more likely to be asking the listener to search for an answer in themselves that they have not considered before (thus giving them time and room to think and search), or it may be one that a listener needs to search other resources before forming a theory/answer/opinion.

There are a number of ways to ask open-ended questions that will prompt children to think and help the lesson progress in a fruitful direction.

Engaging Questions

These questions can be asked early in the lesson by a leader without expectation of individual children answering the question immediately. In many circumstances, leaders can ask questions that children may not want to answer before the whole group, BUT they do know what their answer to the question would be. A question like that could be a ‘confessional’ type, in which the leader asks a series of questions that they’re not expecting an answer to yet.

  • Have you ever had an argument with someone, or a fight that has wrecked the friendship?
  • What was that like?
  • If you had that time again, what would you do differently?

A series of questions like the ones above, are ones that many children may be able to answer for themselves, but would be uncomfortable to answer on the spot. It is helpful to re-ask these questions in small groups, or allow children to casually talk with leaders during the program about them. Questions like this do get children’s attention and help them to focus on the theme for the day.

Searching Questions

An open-ended question asked to a group, allows private and specific reflection to occur in individual listeners. In a large group time may not allow for the very personal responses to be shared by each person in the group to all the others. Return to the questions in your small group, mentoring relationships or discipleship group time.

Different Results for Different Children

Children will process these questions in different ways. A quiet child may be thinking deeply about the question, or thinking of very little at all. In the same way, a noisy child may be processing their response to the question through physical and social interaction, while others may be exuberantly unaffected by the question. No question will reach every child every time, but each different style of question will hit the mark with some children.

Take time to think about how Jesus often asked questions when he had told parables. Can you think of some?

You can download this article at the resource site