You are here

Relational Questions for the Redemptively Curious

Printer-friendly version

Relational Questions for the Redemptively Curious

Redemptive relationships are first and foremost relationships. People are not projects.  We don’t want to be inauthentic, disingenuous, or fake – that would be the total antithesis to who we are supposed to be as Christ followers. Jesus cared for people because they were people. He pursued them, loved them, and shared himself with them. Jesus was for them, whether they chose to follow him or not. 

So, a good diagnostic question for ourselves is, “Will I continue to care about this person and be their friend even if they never come to Christ?” If the answer is yes, the following questions may be helpful in getting the conversation and the relationship started. To the extent Jesus is an integral and intimate part of your life, he will make his presence known to them as you become an integral part of their life. 

Your neighbor, friend or co-worker may be a Jehovah’s Witness, a Jew, a Mormon, or Muslim, or any of a myriad of possibilities. Regardless of their culture, religious label or spiritual affiliation, they are first and foremost a fellow image-bearer of God. That means there is more you have in common, than makes you different. In general, we all want to be explored, known, and accepted for who we are.  The questions that follow are suggestive, not silver bullets. There is no surefire, guaranteed tactic or technique when it comes to relationships or sharing the gospel. It’s the heart and the motive behind these questions that make them an effective key to unlocking the gate into another person’s world and life. 

With each of the four levels of questions, use their answers to ask natural follow-up questions, and where appropriate share from your own life.  Be genuinely curious without being nosey, invasive or inappropriate. If you’re sensitive to their verbal and non-verbal feedback you should be able to figure it out. 

Developing a relationship is a process that might take weeks and months, even years. Or you might find a willingness to go deep in a relatively short time. Not too long ago I had a Facebook Marketplace meet up in a parking lot. What I thought would be a quick exchange of a used car part for a few dollars, turned into a 15–20-minute conversation that ended with me praying for a woman who was here from Australia caring for her very ill mother. Turns out she was a sister in Christ. You just never know when genuinely caring about another person will open the door for deeper and more meaningful interaction and even turn into an opportunity to minister grace and comfort. 

It’s important we put our relational engagements into the hands of the Holy Spirit trusting him to work in the person.  Remember the Five Cs of Interfaith Engagement. (If you’re not familiar with these you can read the article or watch the short video series where I talk about the components that will let you move without fear into another’s life.) 

Here are several sets of questions divided into 4 levels of relational interaction to guide your engagement with someone you may find intimidating because of their particular faith tradition.  Let me repeat, these are suggestions to get you started and give you some general direction. The only thing they are guaranteed to do is give you something to say. 

Level 1 Questions – Facts not Feelings

  • What’s your name? (Do something mentally so you don’t forget it in the first 3 minutes.)
  • Where did you grow up?
  • Do you have siblings?
  • Where did your parents grow up?
  • What did your parents do for work?
  • How did you end up here? (if they’re originally from somewhere else) 

If they have an obvious hobby or interest or pet

  • How long have you been doing it… (car repair / gardening / wood working / ___?)
  • What got you interested in that?
  • What’s your cat/dog/llama/lizard/bird’s name?
  • How long have you had them?
  • Did you have other pets as a kid growing up? 

Level 2 Questions – Facts and Surface Feelings (These assume prior engagement at Level 1.)

  • What was your life like in your country of origin?
  • What do you do for a job?
  • How long have you been doing it?
  • Do you enjoy it?
  • Is this what you went to school for / originally wanted to do? (This can quickly move into a Level 3 conversation if they open up about feelings of disappointment, hurt, broken dreams. Pursue carefully and caringly.)
  • Do you have children?
  • Names, ages?
  • How long have you and your spouse been together?
  • How did you meet?
  • Are your parents / your spouse’s parents close by?
  • Do you get along pretty well? (This also has potential to move into Level 3). 

Level 3 Questions – Relationships and Related Feelings

  • How close was your family growing up?
  • How was your relationship with your siblings?
  • What do you remember from your childhood that still makes you happy when you think about it?
  • How is your relationship with your parents now?
  • How is your relationship with your siblings now?
  • What do you think contributed to that?
  • Is there anything you wish was different? 

Level 4 Questions – Religion, Relationships and Related Feelings

  • What was your family’s faith tradition / spiritual / religious background?
  • Was that a positive thing for you?
  • What did you like / dislike about growing up Muslim/Mormon/ __________?
  • Are your parents and siblings still practicing Mormons/Muslims/ ________?
  • How did your faith tradition affect your relationships with other people growing up?
  • What was your spouse’s spiritual / religious background?
  • How has that affected your relationship?
  • How close did you feel to God growing up?
  • How close do you feel to God now?
  • What do you think God wants from you / expects of you?
  • Within your faith tradition how does one know where he or she stands with God / has God’s approval / favor / blessing / acceptance?
  • How do you handle / process the pain and regret of the hurt you’ve both given and received?
  • How familiar are you with the traditional Christian faith that is based on the Bible? 

Once you’re at a place where Level 3 and 4 interaction is taking place hopefully there is the trust and freedom to share about any number of things that impact our lives both positively and negatively. Practice hospitality. Invite them to your home. Accept an invitation to their home. There’s no shortage of brokenness in anyone’s life and most people would welcome having someone who is safe enough and strong enough to enter into their hurt and pain and share in it without trying to fix them. 

Our own honesty and transparency, and candid admissions of how we’ve brought hurt and brokenness to our own relationships, especially those we are closest to, often serve as the permission and catalyst for another person sharing what they’ve contributed to the fallenness of the world and the pain and disappointment of their lives. This is a place for exploration and empathy, never judgment or condemnation. 

The Holy Spirit can help you navigate the tricky relational waters with the right balance of truth, love, compassion, and boldness. Don’t worry about whether or not you’re doing and saying everything right. Extend grace to yourself first, and care more about caring for the other person than feeling good about yourself.  Focus first and foremost on Jesus so your relationship with him is growing in trust and intimacy. He is the Vine from which we draw life and the source of hope and healing for everyone he brings our way.