“Now That’s A Good Question” by Terry Powell is a short-power packed book with funny stories, great insight, and easy to use principles for leading a small group discussion. The basis of the book comes from the need to teach small group leaders how to ask the right kind of questions and make an open learning environment for small groups.
Powell shares from his own personal experience that bonds formed in small groups can positively impact a person’s life forever. Therefore, Powell’s desire in writing the book is to facilitate a caring environment for believers and their guests by “asking the right questions.” He gives the following verses for the basis of good Biblical-group discussion: Galatians 6:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 4:2, Ephesians 4:32, Ephesians 6:18, Romans 12:10, Romans 15:7, and 1 Peter 4:10.
The principles Powell gives for creating a climate for discussion can be remembered in the word C.L.I.M.A.T.E (p. 19). Here is short description of each one: Caring: showing the members you love them by calling them when they miss, remembering important things in their lives. Laughter: using humor to open up the meetings to make everyone feel comfortable and more open to share their heart. Intercession: making time in every meeting to pray and lift up the member’s needs to God. Methodology: use solid materials and strategy so the group can grow and be organized. Assimilation: make the visitors feel welcome and have things in place to follow up on them to make it easy to come back. Transparency: help people to take of their “mask” and feel comfortable in their own skin and share their lives in an open and honest way. Environment: keep the meeting place clean, free from clutter, loud noises or distracting elements, and offer free snacks and refreshments.
The climax of the book is when Powell shares the “O.I.L” concept for asking good questions from Bible lessons (p. 37). Observation: questions that come from observing the passage, such as, “How did Nehemiah discover the plight of the Jews?” Interpretation: questions that come from the meaning of the passage itself, such as, “What prerequisite for effective intercession does Nehemiah’s inquiry illustrate?” Life-Related: questions that relate to the reader’s life, such as, “In what ways can we stay informed concerning the needs of people in this group or in our church?”
It Reminds Me of When…
This book took me back to the times when I was in Bible College and the Dean of Student Affairs Rev. Anthony Freeman invited us to his house for food, fellowship, and worship. I had attended small groups in other churches prior to coming to Bible College, but they had never really brought me closer to God. However, the times I had at the Freeman’s house forever changed my life and filled me with many heavenly gifts.
At the start of these times of fellowship with Professor Freeman he would lighten the mood with humor and funny stories about his children. Despite the hard times I was facing in school and the feelings of loneliness from being hundreds of miles away from my hometown, I would soon feel so comfortable that I felt like I was home.
The time of welcoming would lead to sharing a wonderful meal together, which was cooked with love and great skill by his wife Sister Melanie. After the meal he would skillfully play the guitar and sing beautiful worship songs that with we all loved. Afterwards, he would share a portion of Scripture and then begin to teach us a simple, yet powerful lesson. Within the lesson he would give great illustrations and ask interpretive questions. In the end he would ask for our thoughts and prayer requests, he then would council us and make intercession to God on our behalf.
It was because of those times in his home that I was able to feel loved, welcomed, and challenged to grow closer to Christ. Though Professor Freeman had not read this great book by Powell, for it wasn’t even out yet, he showed great skill in asking questions and relating the Word of God to our lives. I am very greatful to God for his family’s kindness, hospitality, and love in those formative years of my life and ministry.
I personally liked this book because it made me laugh and think about how I lead small groups, ask questions, and host discussions. I have always been able to ask good questions naturally, but I have never been able to distinguish what makes a good question “good” and what makes a bad question “bad.” Powell teaches the differences by noting “bad questions” are: (i) long winded, (ii) unclear, (iii) run-together, (iv) speculative, (v) irrelevant, (vi) usurp Biblical authority, (vii) too personal, (viii) unrealistic, (ix) yes/no questions, (x) too obvious, and (xi) leading questions (p. 53).
Therefore, good questions are the opposite of bad ones, they are: (i) short and to the point, (ii) clear and easy to understand, (iii) given one at a time, with proper time to answer, (iv) not based on personal opinion, but obvious to everyone, (v) relevant to the subject, (vi) come from sound doctrine, (vii) not too personal, (viii) real and useful for discussion, (ix) short sentence answers, (x) require an amount of thought, and (xi) probing.
Here is a list of the most important actions I derived from this fun book:
1. Use humor, funny stories, or fun group activities to open up small groups
2. Make a group open for good discussion by following the C.L.I.M.A.T.E principles
3. Learn the difference between good and bad questions
4. Design great questions in each lesson from O.I.L (Observations, Interpretations, and Life-Related)
5. Avoid bad questions and common pitfalls to bad discussions
Therefore, I would recommend the book to all small group leaders and you can get the book here.