Student first, trainer second: 3 things you can do

By Mac Lake

Every trainer should be a student first and a trainer second. When I begin a training, I love telling my students that I am here to learn, as much as they are. One of my objectives in the first session is always to position myself as a co-learner with my class.

When we get things backward and begin to see ourselves as a trainer first and student second, we are setting ourselves on a path of becoming irrelevant. Being a student keeps you fresh with your topic. Being a student keeps you hungry and growing. Being a student allows you to continue to add to your catalog of wisdom that your students will benefit from.

But I know we’re all busy. It’s easy to grab 30 minutes before a session and quickly read through your notes “brushing up” on the content. Or sometimes we grow so comfortable with the content that we can walk in cold, without even looking at notes, and lead a good session. But again, that is an indicator we are on a dangerous path as a trainer.

When was the last time you read a book on the topic you’re teaching? When was the last time you sat through a class on it or interviewed an expert in the field for your own personal development?

A few years ago, I had the privilege of being on a weeklong trip with an internationally known leader. The thing that impressed me the most was not his wisdom or knowledge, though that was impressive. The thing I walked away remembering was how he always had a pen and notebook in hand and, as we sat around the mealtime table, he would ask questions and take notes. We were there to follow him and support him as he taught huge crowds every day, but he was learning from us every day as well!

Here are three things you can do to be a student first and trainer second:

1. Always carry a learning journal with you. Keep it in your book bag or purse, whatever you carry with you. I’ve discovered that if I posture myself by being ready to learn something every day, I learn something every day. But if I am not ready by having the tools to capture learning, then my mind is not even looking to learn anything new.

2. Always be reading something in your area of passion and expertise. It’s easy to get to a place where we think we have hit the “good enough” level. The truth is that many of you are probably at a place where you do know more about your area of expertise than most people around you. Don’t let that be an excuse to stop growing. As you get better, the people around you get better. As you get smarter, the people around you get smarter. As you get wiser, the people around you get wiser.

3. Always write a new thought you’ve learned into your training notes. As a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, I remember going up to Howard Hendricks after class to ask a question. I would see his teaching notes that were scratched over on top of his typed notes, handwritten new insights and fresh thoughts he had introduced to us that day.

If you’re teaching a lesson you’ve taught before, go in and insert some new principles you’ve learned. Stop telling that same old story you’ve been telling for five years and find a new one. Challenge yourself to think fresh thoughts. When you teach something that is fresh and new to you, it comes across with greater passion and energy to your learner.

What are other things you can do to posture yourself as a student first and trainer second?

Watch Mac’s video “4 habits to Development Your Credibility as a Trainer” to learn more:

Published June 1, 2018

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Mac Lake

Mac Lake is a pioneering influence in the church planting movement. In 1997, he planted Carolina Forest Community Church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In 2004, he began serving as Leadership Development Pastor at Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where he served for more than six years. In July 2010, Mac Lake joined West Ridge Church to become the Visionary Architect for the LAUNCH Network. He then became the leader of the Send Network Training Team. In 2018, he joined Auxano as Lead Navigator, specializing in helping churches and ministries develop their leadership pipelines. Mac and his wife, Cindy, live in Charleston. Follow him on YouTube at Developing Leaders with Mac Lake.