When using any curriculum developed for Sunday School, Wednesday programs, Vacation Bible School or even devotional material geared towards children, there are usually questions prefabricated to help the discussion and evoke a sense of curiosity. These are “wonder questions.” They are composed to create wonder and excitement as the learner and the content intersect.
For discipleship with children in and outside of a classroom setting, being able to develop your own wonder questions can foster deeper faith development. This can be done at home when reading scripture together. A sense of wonder and exploration enriches a child’s ability to gather and retain information.
Here are eight factors to think about as you craft your own wonder questions around the story:
- Age Level. Take age and grade into consideration for asking appropriate age-level questions. Younger children need more concrete questions while older children have begun to think more abstractly. For example, when introducing Zacchaeus to preschoolers you might ask, “Have you ever had to stand on your tip toes in order to see better?” For older children you might ask, “Have you ever wanted something so bad you were willing to do something unusual to get it?”
- Connection. Create connections between what they know and what they don’t know by starting with what’s familiar. For instance, while introducing King Solomon ask, “Who is the smartest person you know?” “How do you know they are so wise?”
- Empathy. Use a sense of empathy for a character or event to set up a question. “Why do you think the father might have been sad for his son to take his money and leave?”
- Environment. Ask leading questions that make sense to your child’s surroundings and environment. While talking about Noah you might ask, “Have you ever been outside when it started to rain?”
- Imagination. Ask questions that engage a child’s imagination. “I wonder what it would be like to be in the middle of a storm on a small boat?” or “I wonder what it would have been like on the sixth day of creation?”
- Metaphors. Ask questions that frame the story with another story. Jesus used this all the time while telling parables. “How is the kingdom of God like a mustard seed?”
- Narrative. Use narrative to help capture interest. Ask a student to share a story related to your main idea. “Have you ever been fishing?” “What kinds of tools did you need?”
- Point of view. Ask questions that take a character’s point of view in the story. “I wonder what the women were thinking when they arrived and no one was in the tomb?”
When developing your own wonder questions, it is important to keep in mind that you are providing a guide for children to connect with the content or idea. As you ask questions, it’s important to follow up with feedback or another question that keeps leading them to the point you are trying to make. Though these questions help direct children, it is important to allow them to discover and investigate along the way. Allow them to think outside the box. Always affirm their answers, no matter how off the wall they might be. And be careful not to rush to the answer ahead of them. Trust and ask the Holy Spirit to help you and to help guide them.
If you’re interested in learning more about family discipleship, get Grow at Home: A Beginner’s Guide to Family Discipleship from our store.
Hi Rebecca! I’m a fellow Alabamian and United Methodist who is passionate about personally connecting people to spiritual ideas. I wanted to compliment you on your thoughtful article. I especially love the topic! Creating a sense of wonder is crucial for motivating authentic spiritual formation. Skilled questioning allows for important connections between self and the scripture or theological idea. Your 8 factors were thought provoking and will likely lead to better questioning. My favorite is Imagination. We don’t take the time to imagine spiritual possibilities as we should because of our fast pace which affects even our time in a Sunday school lesson! I’m the creator of Picture Book Theology http://www.picturebooktheology.com. I hope you’ve heard of it or will check it out. There you’ll find over 600 picture books with specific connections to scripture and ideas for ministry. I often mention potential questions for particular books. Thank you for this article. Blessings in your good ministry.