The Value of Asking Questions during Family Devotions

I constantly find myself trying to tweak our family devotional routine. With 6 kids ranging from 3 months to 16 we have to make about as many adjustments as an NFL defense. This is good, it keeps you sharp.

One area that I have found repeatedly beneficial is the practice of asking questions. You may be thinking, “That is not very profound there brother.” And you may be right. But, it is also true that we often forget to ask questions, or at least ask them in an intentional manner.

Too often, teachers in general and dads in particular can get caught up in merely giving information. It is obviously very important that we give the information but it is also important that our family get the information.

One way that we can ensure that our family is getting it is to ask them questions as we are reading and teaching the passage.

Here are some helps in asking better questions.

1) Ask contextual questions: if you are teaching through a book of the Bible (and I hope you are) it is very important to set the local story of that book. What is going on? Why is it going on? How does it connect to other books around it? How does it fit into the big story? In various sessions of family devotions these topics should be addressed. The questions then become a tool for reemphasizing that which you have already taught.

I’ll give you an example. We are now in Esther and have been dealing with other books related to the Babylonian captivity. So why are Mordecai and Esther not in Israel? What are they doing there? What are the other people of God doing? Where are they? This helps them connect to what is going on in other books and how they relate.

2) Ask comprehensive questions: After reading a sentence or two I often will ask someone a direct question about what I just read. This helps to prevent dosing off or spacing out. The questions are not always a regurgitation of what I just read but often more designed to see if they are ‘getting’ what I’m reading.

3) Ask theological questions: We are not just teaching Bible facts we are teaching Bible truth or doctrine. We have to draw out the theological truth from the passage. Why is Esther granted this favor before the king? Why did Mordecai get to hear of the plot to kill the king? Because God has them there. What are the theological implications of Haman’s plan to wipe out all of the Jews? Well, the Messiah must come through Israel. All of God’s promises are tethered to his promised deliverer. If there is no Israel then God’s promises and plans seem to be undone. This has far-reaching theological impact. I want them to see things like providence, promises, and redemption. Questions help to draw these things out and provide a platform for me to fill in the holes.

4) Ask applicational questions: What then are the implications of the fact that God keeps his promises and works through people and events to do so? Even today God uses events and circumstances to showcase his goodness and sovereignty in the lives of his people. These events serve his ultimate purpose and plan in history. If we I can inject the events of their lives with the hue of biblical theology then I am helping them. Questions are a good vehicle to drive doctrinal implications into their personal lives.

5) Ask questions without asking questions: One of my favorite things to do is to say something that is not true to see if they are listening. For example, I might say, “As Esther’s brother, Mordacai watches out for her.” Well, he does watch out for her but he is her uncle, not her brother. Instead of saying, “How is Mordacai related to Esther?” I ask the question the other way, by misstating it. This helps me to see if they are listening and it wakes up the others who may have missed it. (they also love to be the one who catches me) You obviously could over do this an become a distraction. However, it has a great benefit as a teaching tool around the kitchen table.

6) Ask them if they have questions: This should go without saying. We do want to have an environment for questions. I have found that asking a lot of questions myself encourages more questions from my kids. It also encourages questions at other times. This is really encouraging as it lets me know that the Bible lessons are rattling around in their heads.

7) Be honest and show that you have questions: When you come to a passage that is particularly difficult to understand it is good to be transparent and acknowledge the difficulty. Acting like you have everything figured out can sometimes be discouraging. Show that you too are human and may need some additional time to study a topic yourself or flatly admit the difficulty of it while giving your understanding. in addition to being honest it will liberate your kids from thinking that they have everything all figured out.

8.) Ask review questions: This is self-explanatory. Just keep resetting what you are teaching. Feel free to do it outside of the normal setting for family devotions. Walking to the park or driving to the store are great times to revisit what you are learning as a family.

I am sure you can think of other ways to ask questions. Feel free to leave them in the comments below or tweet them at me and I’ll include them. My goal here is just to highlight the importance of asking questions and get you started (or reaffirmed) down that road.

You may also find this article helpful on Family Devotions. Written back in 2006, it remains one of the most highly read articles on my blog.