Whether or not you know anything about college basketball, March Madness is an amazing ministry tool. Now that the brackets have been chosen, it is time to round up any group you want to build some unity with and place your bets. It doesn’t matter if it is with your church staff, volunteer leaders, or small group, as long as it is a group of people that you like and you want to bond with, then this is the month for you. Click HERE to print off your brackets, bring them to your next small group, and let the bonding begin. If you have any doubts, here are the top 5 reasons March Madness is good for building group dynamics:
1) Betting Keeps People Invested: I know that some people are fundamentally opposed to betting. I understand that betting has bad connotations. But in the purest sense, it is simply a way for people to be vested in something. If you like another word, use that. (Unfortunately, my vocabulary isn’t strong enough to do that.) But whatever you call it, you want to find some way for everyone to buy in. This keeps it interesting and gives opportunities for bragging rights. Something special happens to a group when we are in friendly competition with each other. And this tournament is the easiest way to get everyone on your team to compete. Not everyone likes athletics, cards, board games, or video games, but everyone can participate in this. No matter how big or small the “bet” is, it should be something that “costs” everyone in the group.
2) It Takes Zero Knowledge of Basketball: Last year our office manager won our pool because she like a certain mascot. I personally dislike basketball, and couldn’t name more than 5 professional teams. March Madness is the great equalizer. If you love basketball and are an ESPN junkie, then you can’t wait to show off your depth of knowledge you have just as good of a shot as someone who wants to play it safe and just pick all the highest seeds. Even the person who picks their favorite teams based on strange family connections or school loyalty has a chance to win.
3) An Excuse For More Time Together: As youth workers we are always looking for excuses to hang with our teams and small groups. Buying into March Madness allows you to create several opportunities for your team to be together in “non-official” gatherings. An easy way to do this is to host the Final Four and the Championship Game. Another easy win is what we do as a staff. At the end of the tournament we all go out to lunch and the winner gets lunch paid for by the rest of the staff. We combine our betting with an excuse to be together and all of that builds upon itself with the next point.
4) Groups Need Common Experiences: We can only sit around and talk to each other for so long before a group loses its steam. For any group to stay vibrant, they need common experiences. Things that they have done in common. These allow for common stories and inside jokes. This is why retreats and mission trips are so good for the health of groups. March Madness gets to be another small common experience. The more experiences, the more jokes, the more memories, the stronger connections we have. The author Sheldon Vanauken in his book A Severe Mercy paints the picture of experiences and things in common are strands in a rope. The more strands the stronger the rope.
5) Everyone Else is Doing It: I know this is a lame reason and actually the reason we have be warned against our entire lives. But It is true, Everyone participates in March Madness. It is too hard to keep up with all the different shows, movies and music out there, but for a few short weeks we have an opportunity to have water cooler conversation with with everyone. And for those people in your group who could care less about basketball, you get to help them participate in mainstream American culture.
Building team dynamics and helping groups bond is a difficult task. Most of us work hard at being intentional with our small groups and with our teams. We pray for them, we walk through the difficult parts of life with them, and we celebrate the joys and victories with them. We are great at being deep. But, one of the marks of true friendship and comfort among people is that we can do all of life together. Not only can we be deep, but we can be frivolous and common. We can have water cooler conversations, we can compete, and we can joke with one another. March Madness does just that.
Good luck in your brackets! GO GAUCHOS!!