Monday, August 25, 2014

Fantasy Evangelism (2014 Revision)

Fantasy Sports are a huge part of the sports industry in the United States. Various estimates I read value the industry at $2-5 billion per year. Most of that is advertising revenue on the various fantasy sports websites. Last weekend I attended a Buffalo Bills preseason game and one of the four scoreboards seemed dedicated to giving fantasy updates from around the league... for PRESEASON GAMES!!!!!!

So I got to thinking about how churches could use fantasy sports that so many of our male members are involved in as an evangelistic tool.

I can't believe this is a real thing!!!!!!!
In 2013 I worked in a couple of leagues to build community by having weekly awards. They were both ESPN leagues. At first I tried to use the message feature built in to the ESPN website, but it didn't work very well. I think guys go to the website to work on their team, not chit-chat about the season.

My other league was a 20 team league, which was a bit crazy. But another player started a Facebook group for the league members to discuss trades and trash talk. It had a lot more interaction. I suspect this worked better because people come to Facebook to chit-chat so are more willing to engage.

Within in the Facebook group I published weekly "awards" that I felt met my goal. It's not like all 20 guys commented on the post each week, but the awards created some continuity. They helped us keep track of how other teams were going. And they provided an opportunity for some more trash talk.

Here's the list I used:
  • Most Points Scored (Season)
  • Most Points Scored Against (Season)
  • Worst Winner (Weekly winner with the lowest score)
  • Biggest Loser (Losing team with the highest score)
  • Blowout of the Week (Matchup with the greatest winning margin)
  • Keeping it Close (Matchup with the smallest winning margin)
I also tried to include a weekly Trivia Tidbit. For example, "3 teams have an 8-3 record. 3 teams have a 7-4 record. 3 teams have a 6-5 record."

You may come up with different ways of creating relationships. It's my hope that my experiences might spark your creative juices. Just keep in mind that fantasy sports can be about a lot more than just winning.

Here are 10 Fantasy Football Commandments that I came up with last year that might also help out your fantasy league be an evangelistic tool.

  1. Use your imagination when inviting people to your league. Perhaps the unchurched husband of your members would like to get involved. Have you met a guy at the local diner or coffee shop who might like to get involved?
  2. Make sure you have a draft party. I know most drafts can be done on the computer, but remember the goal is face-to-face time. So take the time to get together and write it out. It's more work, but it will be worth it. Maybe use the church building or even better for building relationships would be using someone's home.
  3. As commissioner work hard to keep the emails and online comments (trash talk) going throughout the year. It's so easy to just let the league run on auto pilot. Community will only be built through intentional interaction.
  4. Do you have a church Christmas party or special event you can invite the unchurched participants to attend?
  5. Develop a list of awards so everyone still has an interest in participating. 
    1. Have a vote for the most creative team name.
    2. Keep track of the biggest win by an underdog.
    3. Longest winning/losing streak.
    4. Highest and lowest weekly scores over the course of the year.
    5. Team with the most injuries.
    6. Team with the most single digit losses.
    7. Anything else you can think of.
  6. Have physical trophies for the winner, runner-up, and maybe consolation winner. This will provide continuity from year to year. You could even have a plaque somewhere in the church if you want to go all out.
  7. You MUST have an end of season awards night. Bring everyone together and eat lots of guy food.
  8. Plan to watch a final or the Superbowl together. Many people have standing plans for the Superbowl, but it could work great for an earlier playoff game. 
  9. NEVER have a league prayer meeting for your fantasy teams!!! Did I need to include that?
  10. FOOD! Involve food whenever you can. It just makes all the get togethers work better.
If you can apply most of these suggestions, there's a very high likelihood that you'll know these guys a lot better at the end of the season than the beginning. Only God knows where that relationship will go from there.

I'm always looking for additional ideas, so please leave a comment if you have any.

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