Bob’s Diagnostic Questions


Bob Phillips came along at an important period in my life. When I first met him, in our early years in the Netherlands, he was just the father of my friend Leslie. But when my co-pastor moved away from Amsterdam and I ended up more or less as a “solo pastor,” Bob stepped up to provide key emotional support and spiritual mentorship. He’d been serving as a missionary in the Netherlands for about twenty years, so he had a lot of insight into Dutch culture, cross-cultural dynamics, and church leadership. He asked a lot of good questions (including the set of “Bob’s Diagnostic Questions” that I set out to share in this post). He was an excellent listener. But he was also just a wise and calming presence in an otherwise tumultuous season of my life.

I honestly don’t know the full story of Bob’s Diagnostic Questions. But I know some of Bob’s story. And to me, that makes the questions all the more interesting. He was something of a drifter in young adulthood. From listening to his stories, I imagined him as a classic 1970s hippie (though I don’t know how closely he even adhered to that counter-cultural stereotype). He worked as an artist. He joined a commune. Somewhere along the way, though, Bob became a Christian. His love for Jesus eventually led him and his wife (Miriam) to move from California to the Netherlands. There they raised a family and started a church. Eventually, they moved on to other pursuits including coaching and leadership development for various churches. And that’s where our paths crossed.

De Diagnostische Vragen van Bob

In any event, I think I was introduced to Bob’s Diagnostic Questions in a casual small group discussion one day in Amsterdam. Bob shared five simple questions that prompted powerful conversation that led to profound insight. I made a note about them in the Spring of 2012 (though I may have already used them a few times before that). But really, ever since, these questions have become a regular tool in my ministry. The original prompt was in Dutch (which, ironically, was neither of our first language).

  1. Waarvoor ben jij het meest dankbaar op dit moment?
  2. Wat voor nieuwe informatie zou je graag met de groep willen delen?
  3. Welke vragen / puzzels in je leven bestaan waarmee je nog worstelt?
  4. Wat voor “klachten met een verzoek aan verandering” zou je graag willen indienen?
  5. Wat zijn je huidige perspectieven qua persoonlijke visie, hopen, en dromen voor de toekomst?

Bob’s Diagnostic Questions

Since then, I’ve translated the questions into English. And I’ve even condensed the areas of focus to a few short words or phrases that help me to remember them and share them with others:

  1. What are you most thankful for? (Thankful)
  2. Any new information? (New Information)
  3. Any puzzles puzzling us? (Puzzles)
  4. Any complaints with a request for change? (Complaints)
  5. What are your current perspectives regarding vision, hopes, and dreams for the future? (Future)

As far as I can tell, there are no other places on the internet where these questions exist. So, I’m adding them here as a resource and a reference point. Hopefully, Bob’s Diagnostic Questions can serve others in some of the same ways they’ve served me.

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