What do today’s pastors, church leaders and leadership teams need to stop? They need to stop asking questions!
You’re probably surprised to hear me say that, being a coach and coach trainer. After all, questions are the very foundation of coaching. In fact at a recent coach training program, several of the students were struck by the potential value of a well-placed powerful question and were eager to try it out at their own churches. One pastor was excited about how “this is going to transform our church leadership meetings.” Off they went, back to the real world, new skills in hand.
The following week, one by one, these new coaches came back into the class. Yet those bright, hopeful faces from the previous class were gone. Instead, we saw puzzled, bewildered and confused expressions. As we debriefed their experiences from the previous week, several students reported that when they tried out the powerful questioning techniques they had learned, their questions had fallen as flat as lead balloons. One pastor stated that after posing his powerful question, a board member actually responded, “Huh?”
Upon further discussion, what we discovered is that while they believed they were asking powerful questions, some of their questions were too long or in-depth for their listeners to follow. Others had asked what they thought were open-ended questions, but which turned out to be closed questions in disguise.
Another group of pastors, who were all from the same church, had asked very strong powerful questions, yet they weren’t relevant to the leadership team’s agenda. “We were so focused on using powerful questions that we completely forgot to listen to what the team was talking about. No wonder they looked at us like we were from Mars or had two heads or something.”
What these students ran into is the same thing happening in churches everywhere. Limiting, unhelpful questions that bring innovation and collaboration to a screeching halt. Today’s pastors, church leaders and leadership teams need to stop asking these types of questions, and start asking powerful questions instead!
Here’s a story that demonstrates how one church group reframed their unhelpful question into a powerful question and saw remarkable results.
What is God’s invitation for us in this situation today?
“We don’t have any children or youth at our church on Sunday mornings. How can we compete with the other churches in town? What will it take for fill up our Sunday morning classes again?”
The church asking these questions was made up of people primarily 65+ years or older. Their children and grandchildren had grown up in this church and moved on. They desperately wanted to fill their Sunday programs for children and youth.
Their church coach asked them, “What are the unique opportunities for kids at your church right now?” The group couldn’t come up with any answers. “Okay,” the coach finally said, “Never mind Sundays. What are some opportunities for kids to be at your church on the other days of the week?” They agreed to ponder that question on their own.
A few weeks later, the coach returned for a follow-up session. To his surprise, the church members reported: “You know, we need to stop trying to be like other churches on Sunday. That’s just not us – at least not right now. On Sunday, we’re church just like we’ve been for the past 50+ years. That’s not going change in the near future. But we can be different from Monday-Friday. Most of us are retired and the community really needs an after-school program with tutoring. We can offer that.
The question had changed from, “What will it take to fill up our Sunday morning children’s programs?” to, “How can we make a difference from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday?”
Can you see the difference it made in this church when they changed their question? Are you ready to change your questions and change your church? Good news! This blog post was adapted from an excerpt from the newest book by J. Val Hastings, and it’s available now! Click here for more information about Change Your Questions, Change Your Church: How to lead with powerful questions.