top of page

Smart Leaders Ask Questions

I once had dinner with a well-known leader of a powerfully influential church after I spoke at his church.

I had so many questions to ask him…but curiously enough, he kept asking me what I had noticed at his church about this or that. I remember thinking, “Wow…this guy is still operating in a learning mode even at his level of experience and influence!”

I’ve observed that some leaders have a natural curiosity regarding what could be, often questioning the status quo with “What if…”-style questions. They tend to have an entrepreneurial bent or an internal research-and-development engine that purrs with ideas and wonderments, typically toying with questions regarding effectiveness, whether involving mission, structures, personnel, methodologies, priorities or culture.

In his book How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In, Jim Collins recalls an invaluable lesson his mentor, Bill Lazier, taught him: don’t try to come up with the right answers; focus on coming up with good questions.

All leaders must learn to cultivate the quality of asking questions in their organization. It breathes life into teams. It can be imaginative, such as:

  • If you quit and then were hired as the new lead pastor, what would you change?

  • What if you ruthlessly evaluated and innovated your evangelism methods?

  • What if people could find and connect to a small group in a web-based approach?

  • What if once a year everyone in the church did a spiritual gifts assessment instead of having a regular service?

  • How would your key leaders describe your church/organizational culture in one-word descriptions?

  • What would your staff or key volunteers say is the primary purpose of your weekend services?

  • If you changed the name of your church, what could it be?

  • What is the greatest felt-need in your community?

  • What if you told your city council that your church would totally clean up after the next street festival?

  • What if twenty churches in your city canceled their weekend services one weekend, and instead met together in a large central location for worship, took up an offering and gave it to an inner-city school for needed resources? How might that change the way people in your city view Christians?

  • What language in your church has lost its meaning?

  • What would cause the biggest “head-tilt” from people outside the church and cause them to re-question their stereotyped assumptions about Christianity?

  • If you could recreate the atmosphere of your church, what would it feel like?

  • What if you offered a “free yard sale” and asked your church members to donate gently used stuff to give away?

  • What if each year your staff identified one 20-something leader that could potentially plant a church…and began to intentionally mentor them toward that?

  • What if you filled your lobbies with empty boxes with a grocery list attached to feed a family of four and had your members take one home, collect the goods and give them away at Thanksgiving?

  • What would help create some entrepreneurial ministry and R&D in your church?—in other words, who needs permission?

…and the questions can go on. If the “Imagination element” is not your strongest inclination, these types of questions may feel overwhelming and frustrating, but a leader with this dominant element will actually find them energizing. If not you, who on your team has permission to probe and dream with questions like these...and share them with you?

And are you open to grill up a few sacred cows?

Dave Workman | Elemental Churches


The Elemental Churches Inventory guides your leadership team through a multi-faceted review of strengths and opportunities in four vital elements of your church’s life: Integrity (systems, processes, infrastructure), Passion (commitment to the mission), Servanthood (outward-focus), and Imagination (innovation, openness to change). And because of its unique web-based and curriculum approach, it’s a third of the cost of typical consulting!


  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
bottom of page