QUICK HIT: The Catalyst Leader is one of my favorite small group resources of all time. Ever since originally using it in 2016, it’s been cornerstone content in preparing my church’s two year lesson schedule. Each lesson runs about 30 minutes and covers eight weeks of material on the essentials of leadership. The discussion guide is a bit sparse, but I’ve never had trouble creating and keeping conversation around this series. While it’s good for all ages, I’ve found it especially relevant for our high school students beginning to think about college and adult life. A great resource!
So I just started The Catalyst Leader with my high school youth group. Usually, if I deem a series a good fit for my group, I wait to review it until we’ve completed the series. From the very first minute of The Catalyst Leader, I was anticipating the end of our (very good, informative, and well-attended) current series. Finally, last Friday, I had my chance.
The first lesson is on the concept of calling, which is something I’ve talked up, down, and sideways about. We had a whole series on calling last year at this time and I’ve been talking it up again as my seniors transition to college. Moreover, I’ve been challenging my younger youth to be considering what they can do now for the Kingdom. So they get it. They get the idea of calling. So I was afraid that this would be overkill for them.
We’ve heard this.
We know this.
We’re doing this.
Why are we listening to this?
I really did consider skipping the first lesson. But the Spirit inside me said no. So I fired up the lesson, created a nice intro object game (I asked each kid privately what five year old them wanted to be when they grew up, wrote that on our board, and had the rest of the group guess who was who), and then dove right in.
The first thing that was said to me at the end of the video? Can you go back to when Jon Acuff was speaking? He said something I want to hear again. I also got to see various kids’ faces light up when certain people were interviewed. The kid that plays in the church worship team was caught whispering not-so-quietly, Dude. Kirk Franklin! Another girl was explaining to another how she needed to read Kisses from Katie when Katie Davis was interviewed.
By having a wide range of Christian speakers and thinkers give short answers to questions in an interview format, The Catalyst Leader manages to create something different than many other small group curriculum: it’s not just one person preaching on a screen. With the range of people, there’s bound to be someone they know, something they respect, or someone that catches their attention in a way that others won’t.
We spent an extra thirty minutes discussing a subject that I seriously thought was all talked-out and I actually heard more than one “I can’t wait for next week.” Ok. Stop. Seriously. I had teenagers provide valuable input and tell me what they watched was relevant to their lives. Now maybe I just have a good youth group (and seriously, I do), but they don’t get that way for everything I teach or every series we go through. The Catalyst Leader grabbed them in a way I’ve not seen and I’m excited as to where the next seven weeks will follow.
Each lesson is about thirty minutes long and covers the following topics:
Called: Finding Your Uniqueness
Authentic: Unleashing the Real You
Passionate: Living in Pursuit of God
Capable: Making Excellence a Non-Negotiable
Courageous: Preparing to Jump
Principled: Anchored in Your Convictions
Hopeful: Building Toward a Better Tomorrow
Collaborative: Drawing Power from Partners
Each lesson begins with a short excerpt from a presentation on the topic from a Catalyst conference, then follows up with Catalyst head Brad Lomenick discussing the topic with blogger/worship leader Carlos Whittaker. After that, they jump right into the interviews, asking various questions on the topic to various Catalyst speakers.
Due to the length of the video, I highly recommend that, instead of saving the discussion time for after the video, you pause between each individual section and give time to reflect. I did this to begin and had an abundance of discussion. It really focused the group discussion, as they had only about 5-7 minutes of material to reflect on and could clearly respond to one specific thing. I actually chose not to do that for the latter half of the lesson due to time constraints and got called out on it by the kids!
On average, the participant guide has six before-lesson questions and six after-lesson questions. I took a few of the before lesson questions and modified them for group use (most were meant for personal study) and added in an icebreaker type of activity to the beginning. The after-lesson questions usually pertain to one interviewee’s response to each major point and, while I used those as guides, because I was stopping between every major section, I really just let conversation happen. I did review the video beforehand and wrote out my own thoughts and conversation starters for each interview in case I needed to jumpstart discussion.
The lessons end with ideas for application and reflection. Application is broken into three aspects: personal, spiritual, and organizational. These could all be modified into a post-video activity or utilized as a take-home assignment for next week.
Altogether the verdict is in: Summer is going to be all about learning to be a catalyst leader!
EDIT: Fast forward a couple of years and I’m getting ready to reuse this material on a new generation of youth group kids. This remains one of my favorite small group series that I’ve ever done and is perfect for the summer, especially if you have high school seniors gearing up for college. I cannot more highly recommend this. Below is the entire week one lesson.