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If you read Christian books, it’s not uncommon to find yourself looking at a list of questions at the end of each chapter. These questions encourage you to interact with the material on a personal level, and help you process what you’re learning. Sometimes they’re designed for groups. Sometimes they’re just for you.
What I want to know is, “Do people use them?”
Recently I’ve been reading When Helping Hurts, which utilizes questions like these at both the beginning and the end of each chapter. At the start of each chapter, these questions are intended to gauge your current understanding of the subject at hand (in this case, poverty alleviation). They also help you see how your current perceptions stack up against what you’re learning in the text. At the end of the chapter, follow-up questions ask you to reflect on your original thoughts and see how new insights may have changed your response. These questions help highlight specific areas that you’re growing.
While I understand the value of these questions, I never use them.
I’ve always seen these questions as “conversation starters” for reading groups. They’re touch points for creating a larger dialogue about the subject. That may not be accurate, but when I’m reading a book by myself, that perception makes it easier to skim over these questions without feeling like I’m missing something.
To find out if this was just me, I headed to Faithlife.com and posed the question to almost 400 Faithlife employees.
Fred Sprinkle from design said he never reads discussion questions. He says, “Maybe it’s because I already feel like I’m reading enough. Or, perhaps I shy away from anything that reminds me of a school test or assignment. I might feel different if I was trying to lead a book group though.”
Similarly, Matt Miller says, “The ones I’ve encountered are tailored more as devices for recall of the content rather than instruments to encourage critical thinking.”
Not everyone was opposed to discussion questions though. There were just as many people in support of them.
“I think discussion questions are always helpful because they can help you apply the material or draw your own conclusions based on the text,” says Abby Salinger from Lexham Press.
For those who reflect on what they read through writing in a journal, discussion questions are useful writing prompts.
“I’m reading Shauna Niequist’s new devotional, Savor, and I’m finding the short discussion questions to be great prompts for journal writing, reflection, and prayer,” says Erin Land from Vyrso. “Discussion questions are great in devotionals, but I don’t think I’ve used them much elsewhere in Christian books.”
When what you’re reading is designed to be a brief mediation or a segue into personal reflection and prayer, questions help you make a smooth transition from the author’s thoughts to your own. If each chapter is only a piece of the overall message though, or you read several chapters in a row, questions before and after each chapter can feel like an overwhelming interruption to your study.
The common thread I noticed through this conversation about discussion questions was that people like questions that make them think. That’s why we read—to expand our perspective and think about the material in new ways. Questions that ask you to recall information or that “test” your understanding of the subject matter aren’t as valuable when you aren’t preparing for an exam or an essay.
Justin Marr from Lexham Press put it this way: “I find them helpful as long as they’re open ended. Questions that demand specific answers aren’t as conducive for introspection and application.”
So what do you think?
Tell us why you use discussion questions (or why you don’t) in the comments!
In this book, Clarence Larkin explores the history of the Baptist tradition and addresses key differences between Baptists and other Protestant denominations. Larkin walks you through church doctrine, infant baptism, the origin of Baptists, and much more! This is the perfect resource for anyone wanting to grow in the Baptist tradition.
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At any given moment, there are hundreds of books on sale at Logos.com, most of which can be enjoyed in your free Faithlife Study Bible app. Here are four that were too good to go unmentioned.
The Believer’s Study Bible—on sale for $23.95
The BSB made our list of best study Bibles a couple months ago. It showcases the fundamental Baptist tradition that undergirds mainstream evangelicalism. W. A. Criswell, two-term elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, served as editor, leading a team of scholars that included Paige Patterson, Daniel Akin, Dorothy Patterson, and Ray Clendenen. The BSB is a reliable study aid sure to add clarity to each passage you’re reading.
Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary—on sale for $22.95
The Faithlife Study Bible adds links to the study resources you own in line with the text, so when you add topical resources like this illustrated Bible dictionary, your FSB will integrate its content into your FSB study notes. In this case, that means you’ll get an additional 7,000 encyclopedic entries on scriptural topics.
The Practice of Godliness—on sale for $10.95
Jerry Bridges explains what it means to become more like God. In this book, you’ll get a roadmap for spiritual growth. Bridges offers unique insights into the way character formation affects our relationships—both with God and with others. This book has served as an important starting point for the spiritual growth of many believers, and will no doubt affect you profoundly.
A Contemporary Anabaptist Theology—on sale for $24.95
The Anabaptist tradition is rich and exotic. It broke away from the mainstream Protestant traditions during the Reformation, and launched what many consider to be the first missionary effort of the modern era. Several existing denominational bodies trace their roots to Anabaptist heritage. This handbook outlines the development of Anabaptist thought, summarizes their history, and explains the theological framework around which the Anabaptist tradition was built.
All four of these books are on sale at Logos.com through the end of the month. Download them today, and you can enjoy them right away in your Faithlife Study Bible app.
Logos.com is home to more than 46,000 Bible study resources, like commentaries, Bible dictionaries, systematic theologies, collected works, sermon archives, journals, lexicons, handbooks, devotionals, lectionaries, and more. And many of them can be enjoyed inside your Faithlife Study Bible. Here’s a quick explanation of how to do it.
Get 70% off with the 24 Days of Vyrso. Don’t miss out—these deals end January 6. Christmas is over, but Vyrso.com is continuing their sale on 24 hand-picked ebook collections. These deals were offered as one-day specials, but now you have another opportunity to save on all the collections featured during the 24-day promotion! We’ve selected a few that can aid your personal studies and help you learn to live a faith-filled life.
Three bundles for a faith-filled life
This bundle is the second-largest collection offered during the 24 Days of Vyrso. Authored by Stonecroft Ministries, this set is designed to encourage people to know God and grow in his love through the exploration of his life-transforming Word. Designed for both seekers and new believers, this bundle includes easy-to-understand explanations and applications of Bible passages, study questions, and a journal. Get over $65 off the Inspirational Bible Study Bundle.
Develop your ability to discern God’s voice from the distractions of life. Hearing God’s Voice provides eight insightful principles to test whether you’re hearing God or responding to your thoughts or situation. Also included in this bundle are two books by Stephen W. Smith—founder of Potter’s Inn, a ministry devoted to spiritual care. Revive your faith with the Spiritual Growth Bundle.
Prayer is one of the most important tools ministry leaders use. This collection includes a book by Terry Glaspey highlighting 25 keys to a dynamic prayer life. Establish a better foundation for prayer—get $30 off the Powerful Prayer Bundle today.
These deals disappear on New Year’s Day. Act now to save on all the bundles featured in the 24 Days of Vyrso.
Readers will love the Vyrso Voice blog, which features guest posts from prominent Christian authors and leaders like Aaron Smith, founder of HusbandRevolution.com and Cynthia Ruchi, author of Ragged Hope.
Vyrso specializes in Christian ebooks made available at deep discounts over their print counterparts. The free Vyrso app makes it possible to read all of your books on any mobile device where you have it installed. You can find the best Vyrso deals each month at Vyrso.com/deals.
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