The How of Q&A Sunday
In my previous post (see The What and Why of Q&A Sunday), I began to explain our practice of following a series through a book of the Bible with the opportunity for our church family (and guest) to ask questions pertaining to the doctrine or application of the book (for instance, we just finished a 40 week series on Genesis). In this post, I will explain how we do Q&A Sundays, what we've learned along the way, and I'll share with you some of the crazy, awkward questions we've gotten before.
How we do Q&A Sundays: Three weeks before the final sermon of the series we begin to announce the date for our Q&A Sunday. This allows up to three weeks for our church family to submit questions they have about the book (I'll explain why we do this below). We open up different avenues for people to submit their questions (social media, e-mail, text, or post-it note) and encourage anonymity so pressure is off for those who really want to ask a question but may fear their name being attached to it (Who wants to be that guy, right?).
The morning of Q&A Sunday, we follow our normal order of worship and in the place of the sermon we begin to address the submitted questions. After the submitted questions are addressed (we usually limit it to under 10), we then give a few rules for open mic questions to be asked. After the rules, open mic time begins when the first brave soul raises his/her hand. While I am answering the first question, someone with a microphone is going to the next person to hear their question, check to be sure it's clear and on topic, and to keep us from wasting time in awkward silence. We close our time celebrating and praising the Lord for the sufficiency of His Word and the salvation offered through His Son!
One of the things at the beginning we make absolutely clear is the purpose of the Q&A. It is not a time to show how smart I am because it would prove otherwise. It is not a time to show how smart some in our congregation are (although we have some very wise and godly people in our church family. We also have a few who tell us how smart their mom tells them they are.). It is not a time to finally get closure on those obscure passages that scholars have been debating for millennia (although the divine sovereignty and human responsibility always manages to seem to pop up. It's both/and, people! It's always both/and!). It is also not a time to make God's Word say something it does not. In the areas where there is no clear answer or no answer at all (i.e. existence of mosquitos), we trust the Lord!
What We've Learned Along the Way: We have come a long way since our first Q&A in Job and have learned some things. The first thing we learned is to have people submit questions beforehand. Why? It gives people time to think about their question rather than feel the pressure of asking it on the spot in front of others. It also allows us to clarify or filter a question that doesn't quite fit the content of the series. The last thing it does is keeps several people from asking the same question. It never fails several people will be wondering the same thing.
Another thing we learned along the way is to not allow people ask questions without someone hearing the question first. We have the unique privilege of having a church building right off a main expressway outside of Chicago. This is to say, we get a lot of guests. We also have a lot of new believers. This has led to some interesting and sometimes awful questions (see below). I always tell our church family, "There are no stupid questions, but there are weird ones." We never want anyone to feel stupid asking a question, especially if they are genuinely interested in finding out what God has to say about the subject. However, we must be wise and avoid any foolish talk or language to come through.
Some crazy, awkward questions (if you skipped ahead to this section, I understand):
For the series on Job and suffering, I received this question, "I understand situations when adults get raped, but what about children? Why would God ever let that happen?" [To be fair, this person was genuinely asking about the reality of suffering in some of the most difficult to comprehend situations.]
For the series on Galatians, I received this question: "Under the Old Covenant, if circumcision was a sign of the covenant does that mean women could not be saved?"
During the Titus series: "Is it ever ok to break the law?" After I answered fairly throughly, they followed up with, "Are you sure? Because I've (fill in with felony of choice)."
One time we had a guest speaker do a Q&A on his sermon and he received this question: "I'm sleeping with my boyfriend. In the sermon you said that is not ok to do that and we needed to _________? I can't remember the word you said, but it started with an r." He looked at me, then looked at her and said, "Repent." She quickly replied, "How do you spell that?" Praise God.
Disclaimer: I realize there may be some of you who would say, "That's heresy. Sunday morning is for the proclamation of the Word and this type of thing would be better suited for a Sunday evening or Wednesday night or _______________ (insert desired time)." I get it. I really do. We discussed this as a church and as shepherds who wanted to not only help our church family but, more importantly, honor the Lord and His Word. These Q&A Sundays bleed Bible. One of my favorite parts about doing these Q&A Sundays is seeing our church family with their noses in the Bible, looking with me at the Word of God, hungry to hear His voice. Here is my advice then, if you don't like it then don't do it. If it would serve your church well, like it has mine, then by all means let your Q&A Sunday bleed Bible.
Appendix 1: How I prepare for Q&A Sunday...
Can you add an appendix to a blog? I guess I'll try. Some have asked what I do to prepare for Q&A Sundays. It mainly consists of me sitting in my office practicing how to say, "I don't know," over and over. Realistically, though, there are times where you just have to say, "I don't know. I will get back to you on that or point you to a great resource." Prayer is always the best preparation tool. "Lord, help me to point people to your Word, your truth, and let it transform their life." I usually read through the book or passage completely through in one sitting (just read through Genesis in a single sitting...whew!). I prepare beforehand my answers to the submitted questions and also make a cheat sheet for some questions I anticipate. The cheat sheet is mainly just an anticipated question and it's location in the book (For example, where did Enoch go? Gen. 5:24). When it is time to go to the pulpit, I take my Bible, my notes, and an iPad just in case I need to search for a cross reference or a transcript from Ask Pastor John (Piper). Kidding about the last part. Hope this is helpful.
If there are any questions about Q&A Sunday, feel free to ask below in the comment section or shoot me a tweet @joebest700!