The Starting Question: Asking questions that lead to transformation

By Rick Duncan

When we look at the life and ministry of Jesus, it’s easy to see that He was a master question-asker. Yes, He taught with authority. But perhaps His authority was never more on display than in the way He asked questions. Often, He didn’t tell; He asked.

His questions led His followers into self-discovery that ultimately transformed their lives.

In Send Network Training (as well as in Send Network Coaching), we highly value questions. We want to keep growing in our ability to ask the kinds of questions that lead to lasting transformation. Life-changing-question-asking is a key skill for us to develop leaders who will plant multiplying churches.

So, how can you grow in your ability to ask questions that lead to transformation like Jesus?

Michael Wilkinson, founder of Leadership Strategies, is a Certified Master Facilitator who is a dynamic asker of questions. Michael is author of The Secrets of Facilitation and The Secrets to Masterful Meetings. In the following four-minute video, he teaches how to ask a powerful starting question:

Take a few minutes to watch his short video, then read the review below of the main content points of Wilkinson’s message.

The Starting Question

  1. Begin with an image-building phrase (“Think about,” “Imagine,” “Consider,” “If”)
  2. Extend the image with at least two phrases. (“Think about the problem that occurred, the things that frustrated you about the process.”)
  3. Ask a direct question to get the information you want. (“What are the problems with the current hiring process?”)

Yes, it’s true that Mr. Wilkinson is training people to use this skill in the corporate world. But what might happen if we leveraged this skill in training church planters, in leadership development, and in discipling followers of Christ?

For example, to open a small group lesson on overcoming “disqualifiers” that keep us from taking risks for God, we tried Wilkinson’s starting question skill:

“Think back to a time in your life when someone gave you an invitation or an opportunity and you said ‘yes.’ It might have been in high school or college. It might have been in your career, in your ministry, or with some relational opportunity. Describe the opportunity or the invitation. Why did you say ‘yes’ and how did that decision shape you?”

Now, it’s time for you to practice this skill. Michael Wilkinson says that it’s simple but not easy. That’s why we need to practice.

First, learn the three steps to a great starting question: Begin, Extend, and Ask.

Second, choose someone you want to see grow: your spouse, your child, your co-workers, a church planter.

Third, pray that God will lead you to identify an area of growth in their lives. For example, you might see that your spouse needs encouragement, a child needs to develop diligence, a co-worker needs to be more kind, a church planter needs to deepen his skill as a fundraiser.

Four, create “The Starting Question.” If your spouse needs encouragement, you might ask, “Imagine yourself at a point in time when you felt encouraged, energized, hopeful, joyful. It might have been after we were first married or when we bought a house. It might have been when you had a conversation with a good friend. What were some perspectives or attitudes you had then that you are finding hard to have now?”

Five, make a commitment to find the right time and space to ask “The Starting Question.” Then follow the Holy Spirit’s lead and your curiosity as you continue the conversation.

Do this five out of the next seven days, so you develop the habit and skill of asking questions that lead to transformation.

Published January 11, 2018

Rick Duncan

Rick Duncan currently serves as the East Coast Trainer for the Send Network, the church planting arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). As an appointed missionary by NAMB in 1986, Rick was Founding Pastor of Cuyahoga Valley Church (CVC) near Cleveland. A graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, Rick earned All-SEC baseball honors three times as an outfielder. He was drafted by the Minnesota Twins and spent five years playing professional baseball. Before becoming a pastor, Rick served four years on staff of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Jacksonville, Florida. Rick graduated from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He loves to encourage younger leaders to create environments that God can use to invite people to new life in Christ. After 42 years of marriage, Rick is still in love with his wife, Maryanne. He enjoys spending time with his three sons: Alan, Ryan, and Evan. He is the proud father-in-law of Joanna, Alan's bride, and the proud grandfather of Ethan (7) and Caleb (3).