Why does asking the right question with purpose matter?

BY JAMES PHILLIPS

I’ve currently got the wonderful privilege of working with our church Leadership team to develop our capacity and capability. In supporting this, we’re reading the Culture of Honour by Danny Silk. The Culture of Honour has provided a valuable tool for supporting individuals in their journey, questioning. The principles discussed, I do not believe are contextual to just church, but the way we interact in our daily lives; our loved ones, those we work with, and those we interact with in the community. Asking good questions, with a purpose, supports those around us, on their journey.

What I’m specifically talking about is when people, including the children we are trusted to educate, come to us with problems, issues and/or situations. It’s natural as humans to want to jump in and play the hero by solving the problem. However, does this support the person who initially came to us? It helps them beyond their current state, but does it prepare them to deal with the problem for themselves in the future, or develop resilience?

By asking the right questions with purpose supports the individual to take ownership and responsibility for the situation they find themselves in, and develops their own sense of identity, purpose, confidence and resilience as part of the process. In a biblical context, consider how many times when Jesus was addressed, He responded with questions or statements to help the person discover who they are, and find the answer from within. For example, consider the first recorded miracle of Jesus, turning water to wine in John 2. When Jesus’ mother told Him there was no wine left, He responded, “dear woman, why do you involve me”? Mary didn’t stop here because she knew who Jesus was, and instructed the servants to do whatever Jesus told them. The miracle happened! Mary could have given up following Jesus’ response, but the response He gave ensured she was convinced of who He was. Or consider the woman caught in adultery in John 8. When the law of Moses was quoted to Jesus and a request to stone her, Jesus response was, “all right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone”! That’s a reflection moment for all present! Later on in the same recount, Jesus says “where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you” (John 8:18)? More than just the woman accused reflected and was set free that day. Identities were revealed, confidence was built, and love was experienced. The woman was honoured, because she in fact, was no worse than her accusers. They all needed to go on the journey.

In the context of the College, I am utilising the questioning technique more regularly. For example, consider a student who is pushing the boundaries in an area. I could tell them the rule, but this wouldn’t support the development of the qualities of being self-aware and self-assessing. So, if I see a student running on the pavers, I ask the question, “what is the rule when we are on paving”? This leads to the student identifying the problem, which they then have ownership in dealing with. Or, consider in the academic sense, a student who comes to me who has lost their work, my response would be along the lines of “how are you going to solve this dilemma”? Finally, perhaps there’s a student who’s not working at their potential, what questions can I ask to help them identify barriers such as having too many commitments, not getting enough sleep, or maybe relationship problems? These questions support the students display their ability to identify the underlying problem, and create solutions to overcome them, in a nurturing and loving community.

Let me encourage you this fortnight to hit the pause button when you’re about to fix someone else’s problem. How can you ask the right questions with purpose to support their growth and development?

Yours in Christ’s service,
James (Senior School Teacher)

Phillips, James

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