By Ken Braddy
When you lead a Bible study group, one of the most effective ways to help group members engage in the study is to ask compelling questions. Jesus asked questions when he taught. “Who do people say I am?” was followed up with “Who do you say I am?” (see Matt. 16:13-15). Sometimes Jesus used questions to expose the hypocrisy of the religious leaders; other times He asked questions to help people clarify their thinking.
Most group leaders use questions in their small groups, but most commit a teaching “sin’ when they ask their questions. What kind of sin is usually committed? The teacher answers his or her own question when the group members don’t answer right away. By doing this, a group leader trains his or her group members to wait for him to answer, and the group leader wonders why people don’t respond to his questions! The people have been trained to wait, because experience has taught them their group leader is so uncomfortable with the silence, he’ll answer his own question if they just out-wait him.
20 seconds of silence helps the teaching-learning experience
Research indicates that the quality of student responses improves if the wait time after a teacher’s question extends beyond the normal one to three seconds to twenty seconds according to Basics of Teaching for Christians (Pazmino, p.68). Group members need time to process the question that’s been asked, but all too often teachers jump the gun and answer their own question because they are nervous and uncomfortable with silence.
The next time you teach and ask a question, commit to refrain from answering your own questions, and get comfortable with the 20 seconds of silence. If you do, you’ll find that your group members will begin answering the questions, and you’ll boost the discussion that takes place in the group. Silence is golden…especially when it’s 20 seconds of silence.
Ken Braddy is the Manager of Magazines, Short-Term, and Ongoing Resources at LifeWay Christian Resources. He is a frequent blogger at kenbraddy.com