“Personal Questions” and/or “Opinion Questions”

It seems to me when I first started with BSF in the study of Isaiah, all the personal questions were marked as personal and our BSF leader would not call on us to answer the personal questions.

Slowly, through the years, I started marking the questions I thought personal that were not marked personal in the questions as such:

“Personal Question.  My answer:”

because I believed them to be personal questions.

This year, in the study of the Life of Moses, it seems to me that hardly any questions are marked personal yet usually 20-25% of the questions asked are either an opinion question (what or why do you think) or a personal question by my assessment.

I think BSF has quit marking personal questions because there are too many on each lesson and if they are marked as personal, the leader can’t call on you.  Quite often, at least in my groups, the personal questions have a dead silence after they are read.  In the past, BSF would move on if no one answered.  Now, if they aren’t marked, my leaders will call on someone.

I’ve mentioned before when I’m in class I don’t answer the personal questions.  EVER.  One, my answers are here for all to see so if I repeated them you’d either know who I was or think I just copied the answer off the internet.  [Believe it or not, I’ve had women in my group say my personal answer in class so this does happen!].

Personal questions are a mixed bag for me.  Sometimes I think they are good; others, not so good. If there are too many on the lesson or some that don’t even apply to the passage, I can’t deal. Some questions speak to others more than me and that’s the point.  Plus, they get us thinking. That’s the point as well.

However, sometimes I want the personal questions to stay between me and God and not others. It’s no one else’s business how I obeyed or didn’t obey God or why I didn’t obey and the consequences thereof, etc, etc.

Has anyone else noticed a change in how BSF has handled the personal questions over the years? Has the number of personal questions increased or has it reminded steady or even decreased?  I’ve had a couple of you comment that the personal questions have always been there but would love to hear from more of you.

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37 comments on ““Personal Questions” and/or “Opinion Questions”

  1. Tonia says:

    Yes, I have noticed. The “personal” questions now seem to be an application question or an opinion question. The opinion questions I sometimes don’t answer because it’s asking for my opinion about what God did or has done and I don’t want to question God. If the question is very personal, I don’t put an answer down just because I don’t want to share it.

    However, in my group, for the past few years the leaders have not been calling on people as they did before. If no one answers and there is silence, then the leader will tell her answer and most of the time that leads to others going ahead and opening up. My group this year is rather quiet, they don’t speak up readily as in some groups I ‘ve been in.

    As far as using your answers, especially the personal thoughts, I do not copy your answers. I compare…in fact, I am always ahead of you so by the time I get your e-mail, I have already answered my questions,,,I finished mine to the end a few weeks ago.

  2. Yes, I have noticed that we don’t have questions marked “personal” this year although it does seem that we have many more. I like the personal questions as they help me relate what we’re discussing to my own personal feelings and beliefs but I agree with you completely that I do not share them with the group. My answers are usually so deeply personal that I feel they need to stay between God – and me. Thank you for sharing your work and your deep feelings with us. I love to do my lesson and then compare my answers to yours. When we are very different, I go back and re-study that portion to see where we diverged.

  3. eeyoresk says:

    I was under the impression leaders weren’t to call on anyone, for any question. But if I find questions are personal, I don’t often share. I often don’t even write something down just in case someone might look at my paper. Then I’ll jot something down later as I’m putting my lesson away. That way, if I repeat a study, I can look back and see how much I’ve changed (hopefully grown).

  4. I started in BSF in 1978, right after college, and the changes have been numerous. Off-and-on through the years, I’ve been in classes, even when living abroad for years as a missionary (my son grew up in BSF classes in The Netherlands). I think the classes have changed to make the studies more applicable to new believers and those who are not believers yet, and I have noted a definite swing towards recruiting young moms. In 1978, the lessons truly were “meaty,” and between my full-time ministry as a Director of Christian Education/Youth Ministry in Presbyterian churches, it was challenging to get the lessons and notes completed! Now, I can literally whip through them in a matter of a couple of hours, even with reading all the extra scriptures. In the past, if you had not completed your lesson, you were allowed to attend your group and lecture, but you could NOT participate in answering the questions. I think the newer format is allowing for more discussion amongst the women because they are not so deep and theological as Miss Johnson’s original ones were. I have been surprised that the more personal questions are not marked as such, and often I think they are silly or twaddle; then I get into my group, and hearing from the other ladies, I discover those very questions have touched something deep in some of them, so I am learning to not pre-judge the questions and their intent. BSF isn’t perfect; but after all my years, in BSF, seminary classes, and in churches, I can tell you there isn’t a course of study more solid, foundational, or truly life-giving than the BSF studies…in my humble opinion. So many other studies that churches use are topical, hit-and-miss scripture studies, and the exegesis of BSF studies are continuing to teach and train women in Bible study, and it’s being used by the Holy Spirit to change lives. I am now a grandmother with my grandchildren and daughter-in-law in BSF with me, and it is beyond comprehension to see these children growing in their faith and understanding as their father did with me in The Netherlands’ BSF classes. I am not sure I answered your question or stayed on point with your discussion, but in a nutshell, yes, BSF has changed over the years, and I have to say, it is definitely more “user friendly,” thank before. Some of the earlier notes and questions had me poring over the scriptures for literally hours each day to finish a day’s questions, and there was very little personal sharing; there were challenge questions, but no real place for personal applications.

    • mindaleigh says:

      Like you, I originally started BSF a long time ago. I think it was 1982. Lots has changed since then, including leaders being able to wear pants :), and not using scripture only with references to answer questions. I too see many more “personal” questions that aren’t marked as such I also see next to none of the Challenge questions. I see difficult questions, but they aren’t marked as “Challenge”. I find that the questions that seem personal are often confusing to me. Sometimes until I see or hear another’s response, I have no idea how to respond. Like you, I think BSF is trying to make the study of God’s word more relevant to today’s younger members. Some changes I welcome, others I don’t. I am just glad to have it still after all of these years.

  5. tree says:

    We were told that they don’t call on anyone anymore, but our leader does say she when she would like to hear from someone that hasn’t spoken. I do my lesson, and if I am really stuck on a question (sometimes the personal are cryptic), I look to your blog. But even then I try to think about the answer from your perspective. I wouldn’t copy your answer.

  6. Ann says:

    My Leader did explain BSF Leadership made the decision to remove personal to encourage more discussion, however I feel exactly as you about any question that’s personal…its between me and my Father.

  7. Nan Stegall says:

    I have noticed that they aren’t marked any more. I too, don’t usually answer the personal questions. I feel those are for a study of like a life application class or something. Some of them are good, but I also feel they are between my God & myself.

    Nan

    >

  8. stephanie steinhauer says:

    First of all I do like and thank you for your summaries and your synopsis. It’s why I read your blog. I don’t do homiletics because I just don’t have/make the time. So your synopsis really help me to get started and to finish up. Your analyzing and opinions makes me think. That being said personal questions sometimes insite quite good discussions in my groups. Over the years I have heard people talk about leaders styles. A very good leader will make the whole discussion time seem like a seamless conversation . very rare. An art. The people that write these lessons pray over them and I just have to believe that God is with them. Isaiah was difficult for me and drove me crazy because I could not grasp meaning in history or philosophy. I wish I had found your blog back then. If your instinct is not to share then God is not speaking to you to share. I have seen people being helped and I have seen the light go off in others head when they understand a biblical truth. I personally don’t take the questions quite so literally personal. I like to tell Any good story to illustrate how God spoke to me. I am an artist by trade so I am allowed to be quirky. Ha ha! As I said earlier you are a wonderful summarizer and you should just embrace that. I don’t know if your leaders say this: “it’s what you feel, how God speaks to you.”. The only other thing that I would advise is that when you share a bit of something personal people get to know you. I have people stop me all the time from previous Bible classes that I can’t remember because they sat quietly. But I am not so good with what people share in ASK. I decide on something that I want to pray for all year & that’s what I give every week. My advice is to just settle into what God speaks to your heart and just let it be your calling in your blog for God’s glory. You do have a gift and others look to it for inspiration. That being said, people that repeat Your answers in your class, that is weird. ASK God to speak to their heart for their own answers. Good luck and God bless.

  9. Sally says:

    I try to answer the questions myself and use your site if I need to check myself or gain more information. Thank you for being an additional resource for us.

  10. Andie says:

    My group lives for the personal questions. Sure, they’re not marked personal anymore, but they’ve helped us really connect with each other. Often a personal question in my group will lead someone to relate the passage to something actually happening in their lives, which makes them vulnerable to us and allows us to pray for them in a deeper way and really know them. I think you might reconsider sharing personally in your group and take advantage of the community of believers there.

  11. Jeanette says:

    I agree with you on the increase and no longer being marked as personal. Fortunately our leader will say this is a personal question and then read it. Challenge questions are no longer marked as such but will say “use any other Bible verses to support your answer” or something along those lines. She does wait for someone to answer and is willing to move on but there are a few who always answer. If one opens up often others follow. I love to read your end notes! There is wonderful information in them and often websites with maps. I have never been good in geography or following the history of that part of the world so I love your end notes. Thank you for your insights.

  12. Tracy Hince says:

    I totally agree with you. I feel there are more personal questions this year and my leader is always asking multiple people for their answers. When no one talks, she says ” come on ladies, lets hear the good stuff. ” It totally turns me off and I don’t want to share anything. BSF is not a therapy session and I don’t want it to be. Thank you for pointing this out. I thought it was just my leader this year. Last year my leader never asked people for their answers and we all volunteered our thoughts when we felt compelled to and had the most amazing discussions! I’ll just have to pray about it this year!😉. Thank you for all the wonderful insights and lessons in your blog! It has helped my understanding of the BSF lessons tremendously.

  13. If you TRULY want an answer to these questions, I implore you to go to your Teaching Leader and ASK HER……not get on your blog and ask the question to others who don’t really know the answer. I appreciate your blog and the resources you provide others…. But I promise there is a REAL reason for why ‘personal’ questions are included in our study of the Bible!

    • atozmom says:

      Candice,

      You are implying that “others don’t really know the answer,” which means they don’t know their own experiences, sins, prayers, and ways to improve? Furthermore, you are implying that the Teaching Leader knows more than others. He/She is just as human as the rest of us who are all sinners and undeserving of grace. Just as fallible. He/She is not an expert on the Bible just because they are the teaching leader. He/She just happens to be chosen to teach/lead by BSF, a bible study like many other bible studies. Do they know more? Perhaps. Is it always correct? No. God’s ways are not our ways and scholars/commentators/interpreters are still human and still not God and even they don’t know things, can’t know things, and misinterpret passages. Our human mind cannot grasp God’s ways as much as we try–and that is all people. We are equal in God’s eyes. Therefore, I believe your comment to be insulting to me and those on my blog and am thus saying so.

      “Real” reason I’d be happy to entertain if you’d care to list some. I’ve never said they weren’t valuable. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they are filler. Sometimes they don’t pertain to the passage at all and are a stretch to me. Of course, this is all my opinion. Yes, they serve the purpose to make us think how we can apply God’s word. I agree. But when the whole lesson is personal questions and in my mind BSF does not ask the hard questions, I get in a dither. Simple as that.

      My blog is for all. To learn from each other. To explore God’s word. To support one another. To help one another. To pray for one another. Asking others on my blog for help is why I’m here–to help all of us inch closer to God (because that is all we can do–inch). Questioning questions is what I do as well. That’s who I am. Who God created me to be. One who questions.

      I respect all those here and many know more than I do, and I solicit their opinions when I am stumped. That is my right. My privilege that they respond. And my gratitude as well.

      To me, they do know. Know more than me. And every day I thank God for them. They are “in” my life. And it awes me.

      • Firstly, I was NOT looking to argue with you or complain about what you do. You have totally misunderstood my urging for you to speak to your teaching leader in regards to WHY there are ‘personal’ questions on all BSF lessons. The teaching leader does know more than you in regards to how BSF works and how the lessons are written. She has had years of training and preparation.

        If you are truly ‘stumped’ as you say you are above. Again I IMPLORE you speak and pray with your leader or teaching leader as to WHY personal questions are on our lessons. Then after you’ve had that conversation and prayed about it….IF God still wants you to start a thread like this on your blog, go for it!

        Perhaps the better question you should be asking is why is it that personal questions are so difficult for me and others to not only answer, but to share with others????

      • atozmom says:

        I think you need to re-read my post. I have never questioned why we have personal questions. I have questioned the number of personal questions and if they have increased or decreased over the years. I have also questioned the personal questions that seem to come out of left field and have nothing to do with the passage we are studying–that seem random to me. As always, this is my opinion. Perhaps others do not feel they are so random.

        As is my prerogative, I can discuss whatever I want on this blog as it is my blog. I don’t need to ask someone ahead of time nor gain permission as I do live in the US with freedom of speech.

        You are also implying I haven’t prayed about this “thread” or post. How would you know if I have or haven’t?

        I am soliciting others advice and experiences–others who may or may not be teaching leaders who do know more than I do, who have been in BSF for years (some decades) and have a world of knowledge I do not possess. Speaking to the teaching leader is difficult as is and for me I’m much more fluent in the written word than the spoken word–hence this blog.

        You are also free to read or not to read, to participate or not to participate–as in class. Listening is a tool in today’s world a lot of people are not good at being so caught up in “me”. I wish I were better at listening…

        I digress…

        I think you misunderstood my post as well and I apologize for our miscommunication as it seems I misunderstood you as well 🙂 Does that make sense what I’m saying?

      • Also I would love to know who you really are…..what is your name? Your photo? Where do you do BSF?

  14. Amy says:

    Yes I agree with to many personal questions but you have helped a lot with all your answers and I never read your personal answers or mine in class maybe once or twice a year I might say something but not very much Your Blog is great I just want to say Thank You and God Bless and I hope you have a wonderful Easter

  15. vmiller82901@verizon.net says:

    Yes, and all these personal opinion/experience annoy me too. I know many ladies are excited about the upcoming Revelation, and though I’m signed up, I’m wondering how much will be questions I don’t choose to answer. It does se

  16. vmiller82901@verizon.net says:

    Yes! When no one chooses to answer a personal questi

  17. nwthomas13@yahoo.com says:

    Yes, we have discussed this in our BSF classes. Like you, I prefer to keep my personal answers to myself. We have not have a challenge question in a long time. Had one in Lesson 25. Some people LOVE to answer these personal questions, but not me. I have found the Life of Moses hard to read, but interesting. I have learned a lot, but reading is boring.

    I look forward to your comments every day. I have gained a lot of insight from your comments.

    Thank you.

    Sent from Windows Mail

  18. Frank Hoffecker says:

    I agree with you, there has been an increase in personal questions without calling them such.
    Thanks for your Blog.

  19. CL in tx says:

    I don’t comment often here, and try to keep it positive when I do! I am so THANKFUL for each BSFer who takes the leap to be vulnerable in class, or in a leaders circle, by offering their personal experience on a “personal question”. No, I don’t see eye to eye with every single comment, but it has helped me to no end in my faith and personal growth with the Lord. It has helped me feel not alone, and not as afraid. Here’s to all the personal commenters out there, who take that chance on vulnerability. Thanks, from me!~ ❤

    • NickieJ says:

      Thanks CL, “I” to feel the way you do. When “I” am led by God to share my personal answers, “I” do so Just as God used Moses and the Bible to speak to us, we to can be used to help others through our testimonies and personal experiences. I am often blessed by others who are vulnerable enough to allow God to use them in sharing their personal questions, it may be freeing to them to share and a blessing to others.

  20. Joni says:

    I have noticed this. Seems also like there are very few challenge questions. Seems too like things are dumbed down a bit. Often a personal question is very similar to the previous question and I sometimes have even wrote see previous answer.
    Thank you for your blog. When I get stuck on a question I will look to see what you have written and it will jumpstart my thoughts and I may go along your line of thinking and other times I might go a complete different direction. At least I am moving.

  21. pam tempest says:

    Yes, my class has said some of the questions asked are personal and not marked so. but our leader stresses not to worry how you answer a question, no one is judging your answers and if we don’t have it or don’t want to share we just “pass”.

  22. Vanny says:

    I had wondered about that but never asked anyone. Maybe we should ask. I like application questions and am a pretty transparent person IF I feel like the Lord is leading me to share but I would hate to be called on. Our group has gone to a more conversational style where no one raises their hand or is called on. We never seem to have a lull in the conversation. I also agree with Joni’s comment …. there seem to be way fewer challenge questions. I really enjoy the challenge questions because they encourage us to look at the whole of scripture rather than just assuming the references presented encapsulate all that there is to know. I’d encourage each of you to mention your concerns to your group leader or teaching leader. They do rewrite the lessons from time to time so your suggestions might work together for the good of all.

  23. Renee says:

    As many have said, there are no longer personal questions because the dynamics of the group changed from calling on people, to “discussion” where they just speak up. These questions can be challenging. But as a group leader, don’t be so adamant about not answering them in group. I have seen the Lord move in amazing ways when someone speaks up on a personal question. Sometimes it isn’t so much about you as it is about someone else in the group that needs to hear it. The group is a “safe” place where you can speak and not fear judgement or others going out and sharing those things. My mother passed away 2 years ago. She was in BSF and I kept her lessons. I am so thankful she answered those questions. I learned so much about my mother’s spiritual journey. I also agree with the others to speak to your group leader or teaching leader if you have questions. I have had several ask this year about the change in the lesson format. And I appreciate the chance to talk to them about it.

  24. Becky says:

    First of all, thank you for doing this blog! It has helped me many, many times. Sometimes, I just get stuck and wonder if I am even thinking along the right train of thought so I like to see what you have. I greatly enjoy reading your commentary.
    As for personal questions, yes I have noticed that they are no longer marked that way. I do think its so that the leaders can call on people to answer. I just want to give my perspective from my personality type about how I feel about that. I am what I would like to refer to as an introvert. I prefer to sit quietly and listen. This year our leader has really put the pressure on us to talk in group. She has stated that half of the group needs to speak on lecture and half on the notes. She always says she wants to hear from everyone! When it comes to personal questions, she will call on people. There is one lady in particular who will remind her that its a personal question and her reply is that you can pass if you don’t want to answer. I get uncomfortable with that only because I feel like I should be polite and answer if she calls on me…..I know I don’t have to answer and I have passed. Most of the time I don’t even answer them on my sheet. The other thing I don’t care for is that she has asked us to share with the person next to us what we have answered. One time I did share, the other time I didn’t have anything so that was awkward as well. Before anyone says anything, yes I have mentioned to my leader that I prefer to be quiet. She has also taken my moments of speaking as encouragement to get me to speak more. It really does come and go for me. I really would just prefer to speak as I am led. This has become such an issue for me that I do not enjoy coming to group anymore. I also sit through lecture trying to concentrate on what I can write down for next weeks answer! I really hope that next year I will be able to be more comfortable. I do know that if its like this next year, I will not be doing another year.

  25. Vanessa Richards says:

    I’ve noticed the same thing with the “personal” being changed to “opinion”. It’s uncomfortable at times. I don’t like to be called on. Not that I’m shy, but its between me and God. Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad

  26. Julie says:

    May I ask, how do you deal with the personal questions if you get called upon? Do you just tell them that you don’t have an answer to the question? Or say you’d like to pass?

    I truly do not like answering the personal questions for BSF, but they always seem to call upon me for those questions. I have my answers to those questions, but I don’t want to share them.

    • atozmom says:

      Luckily, the last 2 years I have had leaders that haven’t called upon me (or others) all that much for personal questions. As long as it’s not too personal, I usually paraphrase what I have written here. Otherwise, yeah, I say “I really don’t want to share at this time” or “I didn’t get that one” or even “I don’t know” because sometimes a question doesn’t really apply to me like recently we have been asked in the study of Revelation how have we been persecuted and I haven’t really so I just say that.

      “I haven’t really experienced” and then whatever the question is asking. Nothing wrong with saying you don’t want to share.

      You could email your leader as well and tell her you really don’t want to be called on for personal questions.

      As I noted in this post, I haven’t seen any so far this year (the study of Revelation) and last year (in Moses) that are marked as personal questions any more even though the question says “How have YOU”.

      Don’t feel bad to say, “I don’t really want to share my answer. God knows and that is enough.” If you say this enough, you’ll probably stopped being called upon.

      Hope that helps! Take care and God bless!

  27. Annette Matheny says:

    Don’t know if you are still doings your blog, but I did the 7 years of BSF about 20 years ago, just restarted for Romans and have been very disappointed to see that not only are the questions very surface/dumbed down, but there are way too many personal questions (not marked as such). In the lesson I just completed, out of 14 questions, 9 had personal parts to them. I also find the notes to be geared toward beginnings. Very upset by all this, and I don’t know if I’ll complete the study.

    • atozmom says:

      Annette,

      Yes, you are correct. BSF has changed a lot in the past few years. Here’s a link to where we all discuss these changes if interested: https://atozmomm.com/2017/09/15/input-on-changes-bsf-is-making/

      I can’t tell you either way to stay or go. That is between you and God. BSF is trying to reach out to the younger generation and to be honest survive in this digital world. Hence, the questions are more personal (unsure why) and “dumbed down” as you say.

      I will be praying for you.

      God bless!

      • Annette Matheny says:

        Thank you! I have decided to leave BSF and return to Community Bible Study. After today’s questions where 9 out of 14 dealt with personal blah blah, I said that’s enough. It’s so sad, but appears to be the way of the church these days.

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