By Jacqueline J. Holness
Birthed in 1999, Catalyst is a nondenominational organization that defines itself as “a community of change makers” endeavoring to encourage the next generation of church leaders. They hold conferences across the country and offer leadership resources (catalystconference.com). I had the chance to speak with Tyler Reagin, executive director of Catalyst.
How did Catalyst begin?
Tyler: “John Maxwell was getting older and realized that so was his audience at his events. He wanted to make sure he was always committed to the next generation of leaders. So Andy [Stanley] had just started North Point three or four years before that, Gabe Lyons, Reggie Joiner, just all started to get together and said, ‘Let’s connect with church leaders who are 40 and under so we’re always investing in that next generation of leaders.’
“The rumor is that first year, they carded at the door: ‘Hey, if you’re not 40 and under, then you can’t come in.’ Over the last 16 years, that is still who we program to, but it’s more of a mindset. It’s a mindset toward progress and not doing what we’ve always done and making sure we are creating change in our communities.”
What are the essential qualities of great leaders?
Tyler: “We have attributes that we say are in our DNA of Catalyst but also in the leaders we are trying to encourage. They are leadership, courage, change, creativity, innovation, and unity. Now as far as what makes a great leader, at the end of the day, we want them to be healthy, choose relationships over results (because we believe results follow relationships, especially in the kingdom), and be authentic. Good leaders are humble and see every bit of influence they have as opportunity for stewardship. We also believe that Christian leadership is a divine directive from God, and we are called to a standard of service, sacrifice, and surrender to God’s glory.
“We also think the church should be the best-run organization on the planet, and that is not always the case. We believe that Christian leaders should be the best leaders on the planet. As a believer, you represent God to other people. We’ve all got friends and family who walked away from faith not because of Jesus but because of how someone represented faith or led so poorly. That’s a big deal. We want leaders to understand the weight of how they lead and how it affects someone’s faith.”
Describe some Catalyst success stories.
Tyler: “These couple guys who make coffee for our conferences were at a Catalyst conference seven years ago. They were planting a church, and God began stirring in them a new idea. They still to this day attribute their time at Catalyst for inspiring them. They’re called Phoenix Roasters, and basically they created an entirely new model for how they do church. They started a for-profit coffee business, and they learned from some of the best coffee brewers in the world in Latin America. They’ve created a model where pastors aren’t having to raise money through their church. They support 86 full-time pastors through this business. It all goes back to a moment they were sitting at an event and God just stirred their hearts.
“Yesterday I was up in New York and Jon Tyson, who was doing a devotional for these entrepreneurs, said he was sitting at Catalyst about 12 or 13 years ago and one thing was said about planting a church. It was said in such a way that he was like, ‘I never heard it that way and I knew it was exactly what I was supposed to do.’ So he planted a church about 10 years ago in New York City, and now they have several campuses.
“A guy in my small group was a part of a church and came to Catalyst, and he went from that point and really started digging in at the church. He ended up starting a new church and watching that church grow to 1,000 members. I keep hearing these stories about people who were inspired by just a moment of a talk.
“John Maxwell’s description of leadership is that leadership is influence, and we’re not talking to just the up-front leaders. We believe that leadership is using your influence to the best of your ability—so whether you’re stewarding five kids in a Sunday school class or 2,000 people who come to your church or a 25-member staff at your bank, everybody has some sort of influence. It’s really about what you’re doing with your influence. We truly feel like the kingdom expands when leadership is paid attention to and is fostered.”
Jacqueline J. Holness, a member of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, is a correspondent for Courthouse News Service. Read more on her website (afterthealtarcall.com).