Catalyst Report

I’m tired and I left the iron on so I won’t go into massive detail, but I wanted to give a Catalyst Conference report. I think the biggest thing that came from the conference was that I really fell in love with the name Catalyst. I am mulling over a name change for our youth group. I like the idea that church is a place that facilitates the change, it doesn’t actually bring it about, it just sort of kicks off the process. (by the way when I looked up the definition of catalyst I found that it is pronounced with just two syllables: kat-list not kat-a-list, but I think I will go with the 3 syllable version).

Anyway, I thought I would break down this review into 3 very subjective sections: Things that were cool; things that weren’t so cool; and things that I learned.

Things that were cool:

     I guess I have to start with just the playful nature of the whole event. They really went out of their way for a 2 second joke several times. Everyone was given a goodie bag with a 4 color pen, some crayons, a balloon, some gum, a blue kazoo, a whoopee cushion, and a bag O confetti. We set the world record for most whoopee cushions sat on at the same time (the guiness people were actually there) and before Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) came out and spoke we all played “Blue Christmas” on our blue kazoos. They even set up a mechanical bull in the middle of the arena to introduce Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point)

     Part of me was thinking that all of that stuff was a terrible waste of money, but the other part of me understood, and liked it all. The small things broke down barriers and made what was basically just sitting and listening to a program with 9,000 other people feel more interactive and fun.

I was also very impressed by the level of detail and planning of the entire event. It was the little things like the professional magazine like notebooks that we were given for notes and how that design matched the design of the graphics on the screen, and even had little color by numbers spaces in them so that you could use your crayons. It all seemed very thought out and planned that was cool.

     The next thing that really enjoyed with the whole show: lights, video, staging, etc. They did a very great job and showed off some really cool toys. Of course the best part of the light show wasn’t really part of the show and was more a cool feature of the arena. They had an LED light strip running around the top of the arena and when they turned them all on white it lit up the room. It really made for a great soft light that could come up or down very easily and even change colors. It was the coolest thing I have ever seen for lighting a large place like that. (I know these aren’t that new, but it was the first time I had seen them used well)

     I finally got a chance to hear Donald Miller speak and I am really bummed because He is already famous, and now I know I never will be. He has already taken the niche of the large sort of out there guy who just says whatever is in his head at the time. I mean he is me, but better at it than me, so I am resolved to linger in obscurity. Of course maybe the reverse is true, now that he is getting popular (suddenly Blue Like Jazz is a bestseller) maybe there will be a new market for large random guys. With luck I can be the Christopher Paolini of the Christian world.

     We got to see some previously unreleased scenes from Narnia. It was really cool. I had forgotten about the huge battle and it was neat to see some footage from that. We also got to see some new scenes with Asland and some of the other fanciful creatures (minotaur rock!). They gave us like 10 minutes of new footage, but pieced together like a really extended trailer. I have to admit at the end of it I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. (I think there is a whole post coming about what touches my soul: music no; movies yes)

What wasn’t so cool:

     I’m not a big fan of 10 steps to anything. I don’t like anyone from a large church giving me steps on how to do things in my church so there were a couple of speakers that I could have just looked at the bullet points of their sermons and walked away happy. The cool thing was that I got a chance to spend some time looking at my own youth group and flesh out some of the ideas from the other speakers.

     I want to preface this next paragraph by saying that I am sure Andy Stanly is a good man. From everything I have seen he is a man of God who is doing what he was called to do. I don’t want anyone to think that this is an indictment of him, but I can’t stand to listen to him. Alright maybe that is a little harsh. He normally has a few things that I can take to heart and learn, but for the most part he has nothing to say to someone in a church the size of our church. He has some really smart ideas about leadership, but many of them assume a talent level that just isn’t present in the average 300 person church. It is hard to get a team of people around you who know what they are doing when they have never been trained. You could argue that God would place the right people in place and I agree with that, but I have never once heard that from Andy Stanly. Instead he speaks about getting out people who aren’t getting the job done and getting people in who can do it. That doesn’t work if you don’t have a whole lot of people, and it doesn’t work if you want to minister to the person who is terrible at their job.

     This is a truth that I see at most of these conferences for young leaders that I go to, that people aren’t concerned with the people in churches who are old and stuck in their ways and wrong. I hear this message of write off those people and go and start something new and fresh. But who is left to minister to the fuddy-duddies and those who are trapped in tradition? Can’t we find a way to break them out of their bondage and help them find the God they are just pretending to worship?

Alright that is a rant for another time, there are just a couple of more things I want to say on this subject. I have moved from thinking that excellence in those who lead in the church is of
first importance to thinking that ownership and involvement is actually the key. Sometimes people need to grow through serving so we need to make space for people to mature while they are working, and that means that sometimes things aren’t going to be perfect. Having a place that accepts mistakes will make much more impact on a lost person than something perfect.

What I learned:

Well, this has gone on for way to long so I will look back at my notes and come up with what I learned tomorrow.

I do want to say one thing. I have been doing a terrible job of using the people who are at my church and who work with our teenagers. God really convicted the way that I treat my volunteers and the lack of trust I have in them. I was also convicted on the lack of training that I offer them. Over the course of the next few months I want to relaunch our youth ministry and start with an improved emphasis on its leaders and their role in reaching the students of Eufaula.

I also want to have a comprehensive full frontal assault of Parental Evangelism, but that deserves a whole entry as well.

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