How to Write Amazing Observation Questions | Outdoor Bible Study

Wilderness Leadership is Saltless & Bland if it Does Not Acknowledge the Creator of this Vast Landscape

Wilderness leadership is most effective if it is anchored in a humble reverence for the God who created this vast stage of beauty. There are many organizations that lead people into the outdoors for personal transformation and growth, but still a scarcity of organizations and churches that have crossed the chasm from wilderness leadership to wilderness ministry.

One of the most obvious signs of whether a wilderness program is really aimed at “ministry” rather than just outdoor education, etc. is how the organization incorporates outdoor Bible study into the program. Those programs that use the Bible effectively throughout the whole program have in my opinion “crossed the chasm” from Wilderness Leadership to Wilderness Ministry.

Barriers that Block Outdoor Leaders from Crossing the Chasm from Wilderness Leadership to Wilderness Ministry

I think one of the “barriers of entry” into wilderness ministry is that many ministry-trained leaders don’t have the skills to facilitate Biblically-focused wilderness experiences well.  I’ve also observed a common weakness in Christian outdoor leaders’ ability to help their participants connect what they are learning from the terrain and climate of the wilderness to Biblical truth that connects with their lives in a relevant way.

In this blog post I begin a three-part series, “3 Steps to Writing Well-Crafted Outdoor Bible Study Questions.” My single goal is to remove this “barrier of entry” by giving Christian outdoor leaders a topo map that leads to competence and confidence in the skill of crafting awesome Bible-reflection questions for the wilderness setting.  The goal is to quickly be able to put together well-crafted inductive Bible study questions for trail quiet times and solos. Mastering this skill also helps outdoor leaders lead participants into worship experiences in the cathedral of the wilderness… the sanctuary of God’s Creation.

A Basic 3 Part Inductive Study Method

At the most basic level, you want to take a passage of Scripture and break it down into three types of questions for your participants. The three types of questions are: Observation, Interpretation, and Application. Here we will look at the first step: Observation Questions.

Observation Questions

Here are some tips to writing effective observation questions:

  • What are the basic facts in this passage?
  • Who, what, where, when, why?
  • What do you notice about the way this passage is written?
  • What repetitions, comparisons and contrasts, verb tenses, cause and effect are present?
  • What kind of literature is it?

A Trick of the Trade

One the most recycled tools in the toolbox of asking great observation questions is to use the word “List” in your observation questions quite often (notice how we use the word “list” in the sample questions below).

3 Specific Keys to Remember

  • KEY #1  A good question will make them reread the whole passage
  • KEY #2  A good question is one that anyone who answers it could get an “A” for their answer
  • KEY #3  This is probably the MOST important tip of all:  Open-ended questions (not one right answer or Yes/No only).  For example notice how in the questions below we use the words “some of”, “some ways”, “some things”, or “might”, etc.  These are open-ended phrases that do not make it seem like you are fishing for one right answer.  This causes the participants to be more open to sharing their ideas rather than being quiet because they are afraid they might have the wrong answer. Look for how I’ve used these key open-ended words and phrases in the sample questions below.

3 Examples of Observation Questions (I’ve italicized the “key” words that make these questions very effective and qualifies these questions as “well-crafted” in my book)

  • Mark 2:1-12  

Badly Written Question: Who are the people in this story?  What do we learn about each of them?

Well-Crafted Question: List the various people in this story?  What are some things we learn from the text about each of them?  (Or have participants pick a person in the passage and focus on what they learn about them).

  • Ephesians 2:1-10

Badly Written QuestionWhat is being contrasted in these verses? What are the differences between the two things being contrasted?

Well-Crafted Question:  List the contrast in these verses, and what are some of the differences between the two things being contrasted?

  • Psalm 37

Badly Written Question: How does the psalmist encourage us to follow the Lord?  Why does he say we should follow his commands?

Well-Written Question: What are some ways the writer of this Psalm encourages us to follow the Lord?  What are some of the reasons he gives for keeping each of these commands?

Action Step

  • Write your own question for one of the passages above.
  • Evaluate whether your question passes the test of the three KEYs above.  If so then this is a GOOD OBSERVATION QUESTION.

Other Posts in this Series, “3 Steps to Writing Well-Crafted Outdoor Bible Study Questions”

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

One thought on “How to Write Amazing Observation Questions | Outdoor Bible Study

Comments are closed.