Have you ever sat down to calculate how many questions a day you need to answer? The number might surprise you. What is probably not a shocker is that it appears as though the highest number of questions get posed to mothers of young children—possibly to the tune of 288 questions a day (and those are only the questions from the kiddos). That would add up to be over 105,000 questions a year!
With that sort of volume of questions, it does raise the awareness that there are a bunch of fluffy questions that will never get a second thought. We will move quickly past questions that do not resonate with us, because we simply do not have the time nor the bandwidth to deeply consider them. This begs the question (just one more for your day), do I ask questions that stick or do I ask questions that quickly land in the mental trash can?
Good questions matter. Books such as The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations by Mary Shaller and John Crilly have a really great focus on the power of asking questions. Using Jesus’ approach of asking questions to generate a spiritual conversation is a tremendous foundation to build from. Along with that foundation, I do think it is worthwhile to consider what questions we are asking.
It is relatively easy to ask the “What’s the matter with you?” sort of questions. These questions get people talking, and in the right circumstances be the right question at the right time to start a spiritual conversation. But not every time, or maybe even not in most circumstances. After all, how many times are we essentially asked a ‘what’s wrong with you’ question? If we are honest, this question can rank right up there with “How are you?” in terms of authenticity and real engagement.
I am compelled to move past “What’s the matter with you” questions to “What matters to you questions”. Notice the difference here. The ‘what’s wrong with you’ question has a posture of me having it together and seeking to fix your problems, while the ‘what matters to you’ question offers a place of true inquisitiveness and place of listening. “What’s the matter with you” should be the question that gets asked on specific occasions to truly express concern, while “What matters to you” is a conversation lead-in that can connect with what people are feeling and living every day. These questions uncover what people are passionate about but rarely have an invitation to share with others.
In a world of a zillion questions, I think it is worthwhile to really think about the questions that we are asking. First, I need to consider if I am asking questions that generate spiritual conversations. Second, I need to examine the type of questions that I am asking. Hopefully you and I will find ways to uncover what matters to people with some really great questions—and invite some great spiritual conversations.
Grace and peace,
Carl Greene, Executive Director, Seventh Day Baptist General Conference of USA and Canada