Why should your church have a regular Question & Answer session?
1. It’s good for the church. People are asking the preacher questions (some easy, some tough), and he is answering them. The church gets to hear answers to questions that some may have been wondering about for years. What sermon could you possibly justify preaching in place of a Q&A session when you know the church has other specific questions? The Q&A session allows people to see that Restoration Christianity really works.
2. It’s good for the preacher. Sometimes preachers get in a rut, and they need something that will stimulate their mind. The Q&A session forces the preacher to examine specific issues and questions and allows him to think ‘outside the box’ before answering them. He will grow as a result.
3. It’s a different way to teach the Truth of God’s Word. There are some questions that are just too difficult to answer in a sermon. I would have to do ‘sermon gymnastics’ to address specific questions like “Can a woman teach young baptized boys in Bible class?” or, “Is it wise for Christians to attend Christian rock concerts?” in a regular sermon. But on Q&A night, questions like these can be addressed, along with several others.
How To Conduct A Question & Answer Session
You may have some questions about the logistics of a Q&A session. Here is my advice:
1. Make it a monthly event.
People seem to really enjoy Question & Answer sessions, so let them know when to expect it. I conduct a Q&A session at Cedar Springs every 2nd Sunday night of the month. If you make the mistake of doing it quarterly rather than monthly, questions start building up and you won’t have time to answer them thoroughly. If you fail to do it regularly, people will lose their excitement and you will not have a consistent volume of questions.
2. Place a “Q&A Box” in the lobby.
Don’t worry; I don’t conduct Q&A sessions on the spot. I make sure I can read the questions ahead of time, so my answer can be more thorough. Encourage people throughout the month to write down their questions and place them in the box in the back.
3. Make it simple and appealing.
Tell people they can ask anything they want. It doesn’t have to be a ‘Bible’ question specifically; it could be a question about morality, or ethics, or a contemporary topic. Just make sure it is spiritually relevant. Also, tell people they do not have to sign their name. The question can be completely anonymous. Make sure no one feels any ‘pressure’ when thinking about asking a question.
4. Make the PROMISE that you (the preacher) will not ask any of the questions yourself, and renew that promise before every session.
This is perhaps the most important rule of Q&A. There are two things that can ruin a Q&A session: (1) people asking questions designed to hurt someone else (which I’ll get to next), and (2) people feeling as though the preacher has an agenda.
Let me warn you: tough and touchy questions will be asked. For example, there will be questions about the qualifications of elders, and one of your elders may not meet all of the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. There will be questions about marriage, divorce, and remarriage, and you may have couples in the audience who don’t have a right to be married scripturally. When tough questions are asked, you will be thankful that you made the promise that you didn’t ask any of the questions. People will realize that you didn’t write the question, you just have the task of giving a Biblical answer. “Don’t shoot the messenger,” in other words. Oh, and make sure you really don’t have an agenda behind your answers. Q&A is not the place for you to carry around a baseball bat. Your only desire should be to teach people the Truth.
5. Reserve the right to reword the questions.
This is also very important. Very rarely do I reword the questions, but sometimes it is essential. Some people will ask questions that are designed to hurt someone else (e.g. “Do you think John X Smith is still qualified to be one of our elders since he…”). If you were to answer a question like that, it would divide the church. The Q&A session is not the right venue for those kinds of questions. You may have to throw those questions in the trash, or you may have to reword them and make the more vague.
6. Tell people that your answers are not official ‘church’ answers.
There is no such thing as a “church of Christ answer.” Jesus Christ designed His church to be autonomous, and so the only authoritative answer that can be given is what the Bible says, not what the preacher says. Remind people that you are human, and you may not answer the question as accurately or as thoroughly as they wanted. Encourage people not to abuse the Q&A session by viewing it as the ‘official,’ ‘that settles it’ answer, but merely as a tool to help them better understand God’s Word.
Do you have something similar at your church already? Do you have any suggestions or ideas? I’d love to hear from you!