I hated the thought of this question. What a loaded question when a supervisor asks this of an intern whose job it was to start the after school drop in center for kids! And this was the situation I found myself in my junior year of college. It was the first day we opened our drop-in center for the high school one block away. This was my project, ministry and program from start to finish. I had a grade, reputation, and pride on the line pending the success or failure of this drop-in center. So when my Young Life supervisor, Dave Kanelos, walked in 30 minutes after we’d opened and asks, “Why aren’t any kids here?” I knew that as quickly as my youth ministry career had started, it had now finished.
“Do you want to stay here and wait or go out and get to know kids to invite?”
This question was almost worst than the first! My education, training, and experience were in developing and running programs. I had done just that so now it was the kids’ job to find my strategically placed fliers and drop-in. So yes, I wanted to stay and wait. But intrinsically I knew the right answer was to go out and meet kids to personally invite, but what do I, a junior in college, say to persuade a freshmen in high school to come to my drop in center without sounding like some kind of creeper. Wow, so far this isn’t going well.
“Do you want me to go with you?”
The first question that I’ve been relieved to hear. To high school guys Dave might as well of been a life bottle of Mountain Dew with a flat cap made of Flaming Hot Cheetos – they loved him. He has this uncanny ability to strike up conversations with anyone, anywhere at anytime. I thought it was some family secret from 30 years of ministry. The only other logical answer I could think of was an anointing he’d received in a dream one night from an angel. So when he asked to come with me I knew I had a chance of getting A) at least 2 kids to my drop in center and B) Dave’s secret recipe for recruiting kids into his ministry. I was ready to take notes and watch the master work his magic. I was dually let down and blown away by the simplicity of his approach. What I saw him do radically changed my perspective in evangelism.
“Hey guys, how’d you get so good at hacky sack?”
Dave asked good questions. Dave asked personal questions without invading personal space. Dave asked questions that validated and affirmed the person he was engaging in conversation. He would find something, anything, about a kid he wanted to talk to and ask them to teach him about that thing. Where could I get a shirt like that? What time of music does that band play? How did you know that pink was a great color for your hair? How hard would it be to teach a guy like me to do that trick on your skateboard? It was amazing. He allowed the kids’ first interaction with him to be one where they were teaching him about themselves. He loved teenagers and it was reflected in the questions he would ask them.
As I look through scripture I see God asking good questions! He begins conversations with the least likely with a disarming question – allowing the hearer of his question freedom in their response. For a God who knows every thought we think before we think it this is such a gracious act, his questions to us. Where are you? Will you give me a drink? Do you love me? What good questions! We see in his questions how important being known and knowing is to him. In a world that’s more connected than ever before in history, teenagers (and adults for that matter) don’t feel like anyone wants to really know them or that they don’t know how to initiate spiritual conversations. Here’s where learning how to ask good questions becomes such a great evangelistic and relational tool. A good question disarms, encourages, and educates everyone within ear shot. So ask a question. Ask a lot of questions. Be ready to listen and wait for God to give you a point of entry in to their story and their life. It may be awkward but the safe and much less exciting alternative is stay and wait for the poor, the widows, and the orphans to read our fliers and come to our programs.