Asking Questions Like Jesus: How to Bring All Ages Together for Family Devotions

If you’re raising children, how many times did you ask them a question yesterday?

Over the course of the last couple of days I have asked my eight- and ten-year-olds all sorts of questions: Where did you put your shoes? How do you spell accommodation? What needs to happen before we can leave? How were you feeling when you did that? What was the highlight of your day?, etc.I’ve asked questions to train and steer. I’ve asked questions to make conversation, seek their contributions, and probe their hearts. 

In normal everyday parenting, alongside giving clear directives to our kids, we also, almost without noticing, ask all sorts of questions that help us teach our children and develop our relationship with them. 

In using questions, we are reflecting the Lord Jesus and His approach to interacting with people. When He walked among us, He asked all sorts of people all sorts of questions and to all sorts of ends, among them: 

For Christ in His interactions and for us in our parenting, questions are a valuable part of teaching and discipling. Questions promote engagement and help determine understanding. They require the person being asked to think. And they help the questioner to listen, to better understand the person they’re speaking with and to deepen the relationship. At the same time, questions encourage us to put thoughts into words, something that can help us both retain ideas and inspect our own stance—perhaps even examine our own heart. 

Questions for Every Age

Jesus’ approach shows us how we can use questions with our families to engage with the truth about Him as we open the Bible together. And it shows us how we can do that even when our children span a large age range. Just as Jesus measured his questions to the person he was speaking to, we can do likewise. After all, you might ask a toddler a yes/no question or a four-year-old where they put their shoes, but you’re unlikely to test either of them on “accommodation”! 

Using different types of questions with our kids, depending on their age and stage, can help make family conversations about God’s Word feel natural and prove meaningful for all ages.

What might that look like? Well, here’s how you might walk through a familiar story, the visit of the Magi in Matthew 2. 

1. Explain

The fact that the members of your family have different levels of maturity and knowledge can be an asset rather than a stumbling block to reading the Bible together. Invite adults and older children to explain the meaning of complex words in the passage. Ask them the sort of factual, explanation questions that will help everyone start to understand what the passage is saying. For instance:

  • What do the words prophet and worship mean?
  • Do you know who the Magi were?
  • Can you explain what the prophecy of verse 6 refers to?

2. Spot

You don’t need to cover every verse and draw out every possible detail. (If I were doing this particular passage with younger kids, I would go to verse 13 so that we see Herod’s true colors, but no further.) Decide the key things you think would be helpful to notice both for understanding and applying the passage. Then use retrieval questions to help your family spot them too. I like to give each person their own particular question before I read the passage, so everyone knows what they are looking/listening for. 

For younger children you could ask them to . . . 

  • Spot one simple piece of information as the passage is read aloud. Choose something that will lend itself to young children drawing/coloring/playing with it as the conversation continues around them—What did the Magi see in the sky?
  • Spot information to answer simple questions—Where did the Magi come from? Who were they looking for? What did they give him when they found him? 
  • Find an important word in the passage—What word beginning with the letter/sound “w” tells us how the Magi treated Jesus?

Older children could . . . 

  • Be asked to spot a verse that tells us . . . how Herod really felt about the new king.
  • Sum up the main action of the passage in their own words.

3. Meaning

Once you have picked out the key things the passage says, you can turn to its meaning. Here, different types of questions for different ages are helpful. With some steering, a younger child can articulate the meaning of the passage. You do more to help them, but they still contribute meaningfully.

  • Give them a sentence and ask them if it’s true or false, or deliberately get a word wrong and ask them to spot and correct it: King Herod loved the idea of there being a different king instead of him.
  • Give them two possible options and ask them to choose the correct one: The Magi believed that Jesus was a toddler/king.
  • Leave gaps in a sentence and ask them how to complete it: Herod wanted to ______ Jesus because he didn’t like the idea of Jesus being a king. 
  • Put someone’s response to Jesus in your own words: Ask them who might say, “To meet King Jesus is worth facing a difficult journey. I want to give him the best I have.”?
  • Start a sentence and ask them to finish it: Herod and the Magi show us two different _________ .

Older children could explain if and why they agree with a younger child’s answer. They can attempt “How do we know _________ ?” and “What does _________ show?” questions. You might ask them to put something in their own words or to say what they think the passage shows us about Jesus and why. 

4. Now what?

When it comes to application questions and prayer, what you discuss and pray about depends on who you have around your table and where they stand in terms of the gospel. Some family members might not yet be following Jesus as their Savior. Some may be very young in the faith and in need of more guidance. Others might be hungry to ask the Spirit to change their heart in light of truths just read. Here are some types of application questions you can consider using in your devotions as a family:

  • A question that doesn’t assume a personal relationship with God and is designed to encourage discussion. This is kept open-ended and non-confrontational: Being able to know Jesus as your King is a gift that is freely offered. What do you think stops some people from accepting this gift?
  • A question that invites the whole family to think together about how to live it out. The application is clearly stated and then the question asks for ideas on what that can look like in your family’s life: The Magi thought Jesus was so important that they traveled a long way to see him and gave him the best they had. If someone watched our lives, how could we show them how important King Jesus is to us?
  • A question that assumes a relationship with God and encourages a personal response to the passage. It’s great when, as adults, we answer this type of question openly and honestly ourselves to model what that looks like to the children: Think of the Magi’s sacrifices. Can you think of something you have given up (or will need to give up) in order to know and serve Jesus as King? In what ways is Jesus better than that thing?

Start Familiar, Start Small

If this is something new for your family, here are some tips to help give it a go:

  • Choose a time when it’s easy and natural for you to be all together.
  • Select part of a Bible book you have recently spent time in yourself and feel familiar with, perhaps from a sermon series or small group. A Gospel narrative would be an accessible first book for all ages. 
  • Consider supplementing an age-specific devotional resource you’re already using with a few of these different question types to draw an older or younger child into the discussion. 

Whatever the age of your children, as you guide them and relate to them in everyday life, you’re already experienced in the art of asking different questions. As the Lord Jesus showed us, those very questions can prompt wonderful conversations about our glorious God—and lead to the most precious times as a family.

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