It’s a statement many consider key to effective biblical counseling: “A question stirs the conscience, an accusation hardens the will.” If you read carefully through the gospel accounts, you’ll realize that Christ himself avidly modeled this strategy in his interactions with His followers, skeptics, and antagonists alike. Quite the contrast to “shoving it down their throats,” He often allowed for conviction, wonder, and curiosity to illuminate spiritual truths. As a parent or youth leader, you can learn to use the same tactics with the teens under your care.
The following types of questions can be used in everyday life, not just in official counseling settings. In fact, they may be even more effective when they’re thoughtfully but unobtrusively woven into everyday scenarios.
Questions that Reveal Thinking Patterns
Often, adults assume that certain behaviors are linked to particular attitudes or beliefs and try to guide teenagers according to their assumptions. Unfortunately, this method can lead to frustration on the part of the teen and a lot of wasted breath for the adult.
Maybe a teenager is constantly texting his friends instead of participating in family conversation at the dinner table out of disrespect or apathy, or maybe it’s because he fears being criticized by a sibling or just doesn’t realize that his behavior comes across as rude. By asking questions instead of accusing him of “being disrespectful,” you can determine where the issue actually lies. As they understand their own hearts’ desires, teens will likely be more open to biblical truths.
Questions that Point to Biblical Truths
Depending on a young person’s familiarity with biblical truth, you may want to start with a general yes-or-no question, such as “Did you know that the Bible says something about this issue?” or “Do you know that God has an opinion about this, too?” If the teen is more Scripture-savvy, you could ask a more specific question about the behavior or thinking pattern at hand. A good follow-up question for those who don’t know what Scripture says would be “Could we look at God’s Word to see what it has to say about it?”
Questions that Promote Problem-Solving
Starting when our children are small, we often ask them questions in order to discover blame. Perhaps your son teased his sister one too many times, prompting her to shove him into the end table, causing the lamp to fall off the table and break. Not having seen the events leading up to the shattered fixture, you may come into the room and ask, “Who broke the lamp?” That’s clearly the wrong question, and knowing the answer will not solve the problem that you have: the broken lamp. Instead, you could state the obvious, illuminating the problem: “The lamp is broken. What do you think we should do about that?” This kind of problem-solving prompt can help teens to think productively and take responsibility for their actions rather than playing the blame game and defending themselves.