The Power of 4 Consistent Questions

By Dan Colwin November 15, 2016

Students’ lives are about as inconsistent as the weather here in Chicago. Their favorite teacher or coach leaves the school mid-way through the year. Their family dynamics shift as a result of a painful divorce, and their friendships and relationships fluctuate on an hourly basis.

In the midst of so much uncertainty, students have a desperate, but perhaps unspoken, need for consistency. This consistency needs to be present in not only our time with them, but also in our content. I’ve recently started mentoring a new student, and, bearing in mind this need for consistency, I brainstormed four simple questions to ask him each time we meet. These questions add value, designate a clear focus, and establish built-in accountability. Take a look.

Since our last meeting:

  1. What is one thing that has brought you joy?
  2. What is one thing that has frustrated or challenged you?
  3. What is one risk you have taken or something that took you outside of your comfort zone?
  4. What is one thing you’ve done to serve someone else?

Added Value
These questions add value to our meetings. They inspire my student to share stories about his life, and they keep our minds from wandering towards less important topics.

Clear Focus
They also provide a consistent focus and direction for our time together. It’s given me a way to tell my student, “This is what’s important.” It’s my hope that what’s important will become memorable, and what’s memorable will become practical and applicable and lead to lasting change in his life.

Built in Accountability
Finally, these questions have become a source of built in accountability for my student. The nature of asking a consistent set of questions holds my student accountable to living out the discipleship principles we’ve talked about. We get to celebrate his successes, and we get to assess areas where more growth is needed.

My questions provide much-needed consistency for my student. They add value to my meetings, give focus to our time, and create a space for accountability. Above all, they’ve helped me create a tailored mentoring experience for my student and be more intentional about his discipleship. Give it a try; four consistent questions could make a big difference for you, too!

If you’d like to develop your own set of questions, here are three of my recommendations.

  1. Design questions that are Story-Based. A great question will prompt a student to tell a story or share about an experience.
  2. Develop questions that are Specific. My questions encourage my student to talk about specific circumstances or specific times that they experienced certain emotions. Students tend to respond to vague questions with blank stares; they have no context from which to draw an answer. Specificity sets them up for success.
  3. Your questions should also be Goal-Driven. It’s my goal to see my student grow in service and risk taking, and my questions communicate those unique goals. They are designed to encourage my student to live out specific action steps between our meetings.

About the Author

Dan Colwin

Dan Colwin is director of trips at LeaderTreks. He and his wife, Clare, live in West Chicago with their sons, Everett and Oliver, and little puggle, Roxy. They love their church family at Life Church in Wheaton, where they volunteer together in the youth group. He enjoys spending time outdoors, taking walks, having fires, reading, building Legos, working in the garden, and…  Read More