In just a couple of days, I’m headed to Catalyst East in Atlanta. Catalyst runs October 5-7 this year, and the theme is Be Present. Several friends have asked what Catalyst is all about, and why I go every year. So here’s why!
1. Catalyst is a blast.
It’s hard not to have fun with 13,000 of your closest friends. The music’s loud, the speakers excellent, and the hipsters flock like the salmon of Capistrano. No other conference I’ve been a part of has been 1/2 as much fun as Catalyst, from the pre-show at 6:30 am on Thursday to the closing on Friday night. My first year, they gave us all records (think big, black CDs), and we broke the Guinness World Record for breaking records. Last year, they opened the conference with a mind-blowing rendition of Eminem’s “Not Afraid”. Oh yeah, and they shot a guy out of a canon. Check it out:
2. Catalyst is good for my soul.
They say it’s lonely at the top. And while I have an incredible team around me, leading just gets tough. It’s refreshing to get together with 13,000 other leaders to worship, encourage each other and feed our souls. Catalyst is one of the highlights of my year, every year.
3. Catalyst grows my team.
I love taking fellow staff and lay leaders to Catalyst. I get to invest in them and they love it. I’ve yet to take a single person to Catalyst who didn’t love it and want to go back. And I’ve taken probably 20 different people to Catalyst in the 5 years I’ve been going. I love having a strong, consistently excellent experience I can unreservedly encourage my leaders to attend with me. The growth we experience as a team is irreplaceable.
Every year, I purchase the Catalyst Experience kit, and it gives me enough resources to keep me busy for several months. I use the resources I get at Catalyst to make my teams at Beavercreek Nazarene better all year long. One more consistently excellent feature that never disappoints.
5. Catalyst gives me unbeatable networking opportunities.
Last year, I discovered the Bloggers’ Meet-Up on Wednesday night. I met some incredible bloggers like Nicole over at Modern Reject, Lindsey Nobles and Ben Reed. They’ve been wonderful peers to engage over the past year, and I look forward to seeing them again this year. I’m also trying out Labs for the first time this year, mostly because Nancy Duarte, one of my heroes, is leading one. I can’t wait to meet her, shake her hand and say Thanks for the influence she’s had on my as a communicator. I always meet new friends at Catalyst, from Peter Greer of HOPE International to my blogging peers.
6. A bunch of my old friends go to Catalyst.
Now that I live in Ohio and have friends scattered to the four winds, Catalyst is a great opportunity for us to reconnect while we’re learning together. I’ll take any excuse I can get to see people like Chad Johnson, Ashley Williams, Tom Fuerst and the MizzouBSU crew. We usually manage to grab at least one meal together and not just catch up on old times, but move forward together thanks to what we’re all learning.
I can count on Catalyst to give me excellent speakers. Of course I always look forward to both of Andy Stanley’s talks, but I always find a new mind, too. Catalyst introduced me to Seth Godin and Erwin McManus! This year, I can’t wait to hear from Cornell West and Judah Smith – I’ve heard great things about them.
I also really appreciate how much Catalyst values diversity in their speakers. Not every speaker is Christian, and not every speaker is the same kind of Christian. They bring in Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll. They love the tension, and they won’t choose sides. I really appreciate that.
This year, the theme is Be Present, and I know I’ll be challenged with how I use my time. One of my struggles as a pastor is to be people-oriented. I slip so easily into the job and get focused on what I have to get done rather than the people I’m called to live life with. I need to be reminded to Be Present. To be challenged to reorder my life. And I have a suspicion this year is going to do just that.
Scratch that. Last year I don’t think you were allowed to get on stage without making a comment on skinny jeans. We’ll see how this year pans out. I’m leaving my ironic beanie at home just in case.
9. Catalyst gives me FREE STUFF.
This is no joke. Bring an extra bag for all the swag. Trust me.
10. I get to meet a bunch of people I look up to.
Last year I got to shake Andy Stanley’s hand and thank him for how thoroughly he’s enriched my ministry. I got to meet Chris Seay and Anne Jackson, two authors I have a lot of respect for. I got to meet Gabe Lyons, just for a minute. Call me a dork if you want, but I really look up to people like that, and I love the opportunity to meet them and say thanks. BOOM.