Interrogate Your Guests
This post title is what you would call “hyperbole.” When guests show up on the weekend, there’s no need to tie them to a chair, flip on a spotlight, and play good cop / bad cop. And yet, it’s important to ask guests good questions. In his book Deep Church, author Jim Belcher recounts an experience he had while visiting Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, CA. He writes:
“I grabbed a seat close to the front but off to the side…and a young woman named Laura greeted me. She was the fifth person to greet me in the thirty minutes I had been on their campus. This is unusual for most churches. And even more shocking, she didn’t just greet me but actually asked me questions. This takes depth. I realized that they take outreach seriously. They are aware of the stranger in their midst.”
I found it fascinating that this was such a novel experience. But the author has a point: we’ve probably lost the art of asking good questions. How do we reclaim it?
How to ask questions:
So the question: do you ask your guests questions? Not in an offensive, pushy, interrogating sort of way, but questions that help you make a connection and forge a friendship? I think there are at least six principles for asking good questions of a first timer:
1. Make them comfortable. Listen to the question from the perspective of your guest: are they going to feel engaged or suffocated? The question should serve their comfort, not your morbid interest. If they seem hesitant to answer, then back off.
2. Make them appropriate. Remember that you’re meeting a guest for the very first time. Light, conversational questions are okay. Deeply personal, poking-around-in-their-bizness ones are not.
3. Make them responsive. Good answers should lead to better questions. Don’t rely on your standard script; learn to respond to what they’re saying.
4. Make them open-ended. Don’t ask “yes” or “no” questions. Create some space for them to talk, and you to listen.
5. Observe the situation and proceed carefully. If a middle aged woman isn’t wearing a wedding band, don’t ask if she’s married. If someone arrives alone, don’t say anything like, “So what, are you here by yourself?” Show social grace.
6. Let them ask questions. You’ll serve them well by answering what they want to know. And be sure and listen for the question they’re not asking.
What questions do you ask?
So now you know how and why to ask, but what do you ask? Because if you’re like me, you do have that standard script from principle 3 above. Here is a list of 20 possibilities:
- My name is ___. What’s yours? (This one should be painfully obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times we skip it.)
- How did you find out about the church? / [Name of church member] invited you? Great! How do you know them?
- What do you do for a living? / How did you get into that line of work?
- Is this area home for you? / How long have you lived here? / What brought you here?
- (If it’s obvious they are married / have kids…) Tell me about your family. / Where do your kids go to school?
- Did you do anything fun this weekend? / Do you have a busy week coming up?
- What do you do in your free time?
- Where did you graduate from high school / college?
- Do you have a regular church home?
- What are you looking for in a church?
- Would it be okay if I introduced you to a few people?
- Do you have any questions I can answer for you?
- Is there any other way I can help you?
What other questions do you ask? And maybe a better question: what should you NEVER ask? Comment below: