At a writer’s conference, one interesting speaker I heard claimed everyone needs 3 people to become a better writer and blogger. I think his list applies to Bible teachers — with one addition.
He said you need a cheerleader, a coach and critic. I’d add a craftsman. Ideally these should be different people.
A “cheerleader” is the person who encourages you to keep going. Your cheerleader gives you the positive feedback and emotional support you need to slog through the down times and rebound from the failures.
A “coach” is the person who holds you accountable so that you meet your goals and deadlines. Your coach is not concerned with how you feel or whether you have an excuse. The coach’s job is to hold your feet to the fire and say, “just do it.” A coach is someone who asks you questions to help you find your own solutions.
A “critic” gives you the negative feedback you need to improve. Unlike the cheerleader, the critic is there to tell you everything that needs work and could have been better. The critic need not be a fellow teacher. In fact, it can be really insightful to recruit a critic from your target audience.
A “craftsman” is the person you apprentice under to learn your trade. Pick several teachers who have a style that resonates with you. Attend as many of their presentations as you can with the goal of watching and learning. Notice how they organize and present. Try to learn how they attacked the passage and arrived at their conclusions, and how they tailor those conclusions to the particular audience.
While your craftsman may be someone you only observe from the audience, you’ll probably learn more if you can meet with her face-to-face and ask questions.
Find your folks
Before you ask someone to mentor you, think about which people you already have in your life and which roles you need. One person may be able to fulfill more than one role, but diversity is usually better.
Consider which person is suited to which role. Your best friend might already be your best cheerleader. Your marriage might fair better if you ask your spouse to be a coach rather than a critic.
After you identify the roles you need and the best people to fill them, approach your folks about filling a specific role and make it clear what you expect from that role. Problems arise when your friend assumes you want a critic, but you are expecting a cheerleader.
Trust your team
Finally, listen to your team. When your coach enforces your deadline, you have no cause to be annoyed. When your cheerleader encourages you, ignore the “trash talk” in your head that discounts her words. When your critic offers negative feedback, you should not be hurt or surprised. You can rejoice that your team is doing the job you asked them to do, and it is part of the plan to improve.