Ask for Guesses, Not Answers

boyhandupYears ago in an inner city ministry, I had a little boy in my class named Trevon. No matter what the lesson topic or Bible story, any time I asked a question his hand shot up and he was eager to answer. The only problem was, no matter what I asked, he always answered with an enthusiastic, “Moses!” Some teacher must have hit it out of the park telling Trevon the story of Moses. Feeling badly for him always being wrong, one Sunday I thought I’d be smart and “rig” the Q and A time for little Trevon. Though it had nothing to do with my lesson, I asked, “Who did God give the Ten Commandments to?” Of course, Trevon’s hand shot up again! I smiled as I called on him knowing he would finally be right! Instead, he hesitated and then timidly answered, “Jesus?” I was as dejected as Trevon when I had to say, “No, Trevon, it was Moses.” I felt terrible. I thought I had set this little guy up for success, but instead, I had caused him to fail yet again. I shared this story with a mentor that week who told me, “Karl, that’s because you are asking for answers instead of guesses.” You see, a guess can always be affirmed. I could have been saying, “Moses? What a great guess! He was a mighty man for God in the Old Testament, but I was thinking of someone in the New Testament.” No matter how far off the answer, I can now affirm the child’s thinking and effort while guiding them toward the correct answer. “Michael Jordan? Wow, he is amazing on the basketball court, but I’m thinking of someone who was amazing in the time of Jesus. In fact, Jordan might be known as “Air Jordan,” but this disciple of Jesus walked on water! Not even Michael Jordan can do that. Any guesses?” Start asking for guesses and your students will keep trying and contributing, and as a result they will both learn and be encouraged.

This is just one of the four monthly Volunteer eTips provided for Premium Members each month to Equip and Encourage their volunteers. Download this months here: – features tips by Nicki Straza and Doug Olson in addition to my own.


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  1. What an awesome example! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I like this post! I’m starting doing it this weekend!

  3. Thanks!

  4. Thanks for commenting. Glad you liked it.

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