Today was the kick-off for Catalyst East 2010! The day included an opening session followed by four “lab” sessions (the standard conference equivalent of a “break-out seminar”). At each time slot there were four different speakers communicating at four different locations at the Gwinnett Convention Center. The day was a fantastic jump-start for me. The day included Michael Hyatt (CEO of Thomas Nelson), Tim Elmore (Founder of Growing Leaders), Jonathan Acuff (Author & Blogger at StuffChristiansLike.net), and Alan and Debra Hirsch (Authors of a number of books, including their recent release, Untamed).
Michael Hyatt spoke on Platform: What it is, Why you need it, and How you build it. Hyatt’s premise was that great leaders influence their audience. Thus, appropriate, efficient, and developed platform-usage is a necessity! The platform, regardless of the medium, isn’t a pedestal – a chance to make yourself known. Rather, it’s a connective opportunity to engage people and influence them where they’re at. Hyatt provided three steps to growing a platform:
- Establish a command center: Use a website or a blog to deliver a concentrated message that you can control. Use compelling content to attract traffic, not design tweeks. Popular services include: WordPress, TypePad, Blogger…and I might add Squarespace, my provider of choice.
- Set up embassies: Utilize Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and similar services to promote material. These assist the command center, but should never replace it.
- Develop an intelligence agency: This allows you to know what people are saying about you, your product, or congregation. The most popular free service is Google Alerts.
Overall, I realized the talk was an introductory talk to utilizing social mediums, but it was helpful nonetheless! You can access Hyatt’s presentation here.
The next talk – and my favorite talk of the day – was by Dr. Tim Elmore on Generation iY. Generation Y is expected to be the largest generation that America has ever seen at 100 million strong. This generation must be reached, trained, and developed in order to see society transformed. To begin, Elmore differentiated Gen Y from iY. Generation Y (those born predominantly in the 80’s) are activistic, compassionate, view technology as a tool, are ambitious about the future, and experience accelerate growth. Gen iY (born in the 90’s), so called because they have been impacted by all of the “i” products (iPads, iPhones, iPods, iChat, etc.), are slacktivistic (they want to care about a lot without any commitment), lack empathy, view technology as an appendage (they can’t go anywhere without it), are ambiguous concerning their future (have 20 different options), and experience postponed maturation. Elmore emphasized that postponed maturation concerns him more than any of the forementioned points. He cited one surveyor that said, “26 is the new 18.” This is what Elmore diagnosed as the “Neverland Syndrome:” a disease that plagues the minds of most Gen iYers. It’s the idea that entirely rejects growing up.
Now, a number of things contribute to delayed maturity, but the one that stood out to me was the effects of media technology. It’s ironic that the most social generation to live is also the least relational generation. Technology has dabilitated and atrophied the relational muscles of Gen iYers. These digital natives spend their lives before screens rather than people. Their emotional intelligence is handicapped because they only interact with those of their own kind. Overall, they are prone to postponed maturation unless Godly leaders step in and take initiative to raise them in active, Biblical, and responsible homes.
Elmore suggested that Gen iYers greatest needs are emotional intelligence, character development, and leadership perspective. The best way to equip them is through EPIC means:
E – Experienctial
P – Participatory
I – Image-rich
C – Connected
Elmore summarized this as using images and visuals that lead to conversations that lead to experiences (or ice).
The 3:00pm session I attended was Jonathan Acuff on when a story intersects with a community. Acuff, a hilarious communicator, completely embodies this subject at his blog, Stuff Christians Like. Acuff’s gave seven things a community and a story need:
- Space – enough space to have others tell their stories.
- Bridges – good stories unite all of the elements of the story really well (the elements of the story such as the intro, body, and supporting points are not clearly identifiable).
- Surprise – people are receiving enough messages every day and filing them mindlessly into familiar categories. Get creative and shake things up. Surprise is different than shock. Shock is offensive. Surprising gets people engaged.
- Honesty – honesty is more important than talent. As media mediums increase and talent becomes more visible, honesty needs to increase in presence.
- Patience – time needs to be treated well. The essential question to ask here is, “How do I give more of me to more of them well?”
- Compassion – there’s a world’s difference between mockery and sattire. Sattire seeds conversations for great ideas, mockery chums the water for sharks. Mockery allows for quick laughs, but makes it hard to be loving later.
- Meaning – There’s a difference between community and viral. Viral may be popular, but only for a moment. Community develops long-term meaning.
Acuff concluded on a serious note about looking to make yourself known. “Fame,” observed Acuff, “is a drug wrecking ministry.” Acuff boldly pleaded for believers to live in the most significant acceptance they’ll ever have – before an Almighty God. The ending became clear: “Don’t trade your story for fame.”
The last session I attended – unfortunately my least favorite session – was headed by Alan and Debra Hirsch. I don’t know if the Hirsch’s were informed or not, but there session was only 45 minutes and they spent the first 15 minutes outlining their new book. Nevertheless, they eventually arrived at some solid points on missional discipleship. Consumerism, noted Debra, is one of the most plaguing religions around today. It provides what rival religions provide: identity, meaning, purpose, and belonging. This consumerism drives the church today and treats the church like a service where people come to pay (tithing) in exchange for something they desire (to be entertained). Rather, the people of God need to come to be empowered and sent out to reach others.
My favorite part of the session was a parable Debra gave to conclude the talk. She drew two pictures: a square on one side and a circle on the other. She pointed to the square and likened it to a fence to box the sheep in. This is how most people keep their sheep reigned in. However, this method only looks at externals, and not the internals. Hirsch pointed at the circle and said that this was a well. One doesn’t have to worry about the sheep going far because they know where the water is. In the same way, we should be more concerned about presenting Jesus to people, not getting them to conform to behavioral norms.
Whew! Things have just begun…