Tyler Reagin is a hip, charming and—surprise!—hilarious up-and-comer in the Christian events community. As the new executive director for Catalyst conferences, he has a tall order in front of him: He’s tasked with re-energizing the brand, redefining the direction of the live events that build leaders in the religious community and maintaining the reputation Catalyst has formed in the industry. His first event in his new role was this year’s Atlanta conference in October. As this, ahem, catalyst for change gets to work, we examine the results.
How are the conferences shifting under your leadership?
Going into our Atlanta event this year, we felt we had two options: We could ride this thing into the sunset for another couple of years, or we could realize we just need to recalibrate. The only thing that was non-negotiable was that we invest in leaders who love the church. Everything else—how we do it, what the events look like—was on the table for discussion.
Catalyst Atlanta did look different than years past. What exactly changed?
Attendees didn’t know if it was a preaching conference, leadership conference or a social justice thing. The target was moving a bit—nothing crazy, but enough that people didn’t know what to expect. For years Catalyst has been known as this carnival experience, and we’ve hung our hat on that. If people walk away saying their greatest memory was the guy getting shot out of the cannon, I don’t feel like that’s a huge win for us. Now, we’re going to have some of those intentional surprises, but I feel like the win is when people walk away and say, ‘Man, that talk by Christine Caine changed my life. God spoke to me this afternoon through Robert Madu, and it changed me forever.’ We also heard consistent feedback that it was one of the calmest events people had been to, that the pace was palpable. I’m a programming guy, so I’m all about taking people on a journey.
Was it equally as calm for your staff behind the scenes?
Commander Rorke Denver, a good a friend of our organization, says, “Calm is contagious.” One of my calling cards as a leader is being calm. I really believe that makes everybody better. If I am not calm, that instantly trickles down to my leadership team. They’re going to be tense and not be at their best. We’re seeing our sponsors and our leaders saying how much they loved interacting with our team. When you have a posture of service, I think calm comes with that.
Why do live events still matter?
I think gathering with a large group of people, whether it’s 50 or 5,000, we have the realization—in a good way—that we’re small, but we’re a part of something really big. You can’t replace a gathering like that with a video screen. You can get parts of it, but you can’t encompass the whole reality of God’s movement through technology. I think technology is an incredible vehicle for spreading and sharing resources, but it doesn’t replace community in a physical sense.
What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years?
My No. 1 goal is that everybody who ever works for me is a better leader the day they leave than when they started. That’s how I gauge whether or not I’m doing a good job. It’s my role to keep them healthy emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally, because [that will help them] become better leaders. That’s a part of my 50-year plan, and it’s central to who I am.