I love NFL football. I love the drama, the intensity, and the way every single game matters to the outcome of the season. Next to the Packers, my favorite thing about the NFL season is fantasy football. As I sat making my picks for my first draft the other day, I realized that building a quality youth ministry Core Team can be a lot like building the perfect fantasy football team. So, in honor of the fall kickoffs of both the NFL season and your youth ministry, let me suggest five top round picks for your Fantasy Core Team draft.
Running Backs & Wide Receivers
In fantasy football, running backs and wide receivers dominate the first round picks. They are the workhorses of the football team, and they score points the most often. They catch and grab the ball, hold on tight, and run fearlessly into all kinds of opposition.
A Core Member who is not afraid of the “work” of youth ministry is a necessity for your “fantasy” Core Team. These are your week-in and week-out Core Members who understand relational ministry and are willing to engage with the teens on their level. Most importantly, they know how to pick themselves up and do it all over again even when they fall. Chances are you already have some of these starters on your team – make sure to train them, empower them, and pray for them so they are consistent performers for the whole season.
In fantasy football, a sleeper is a player who may not be ranked very high by the “experts”, but who ends up exploding and having an unexpected breakout season. Fantasy team owners covet the sleepers, because they provide a team with unexpected points and can often make up for players who don’t perform as well as they had hoped.
Look beyond the traditional Core Member stereotype when doing your recruiting, and avoid competing with other ministries in the parish by using all the same volunteers. I have found senior members of our parish to be some of the best “sleeper” Core Members. The teens love them, they have some of the most strongly developed prayer lives, and they have a unique wisdom and perspective to share with the teens and the rest of your team.
When picking for your fantasy football team, usually you draft your starters first. These are the players you can count on to consistently perform and score points for your team. What will you do, though, when your starting wide receiver isn’t playing this week? Or your starting quarterback is out for a game with a concussion? This is where the back ups come in. They usually aren’t as consistent as your starters, but you know you can count on them to put a few points if you need them.
Consider drafting some back ups on your Core Team as well. These are the people who have told you repeatedly that they just can’t commit to every Sunday night, but they wish they could help. These volunteers can be great for stepping in for that Life Night when you have a huge environment planned, or when a third of your Core Team ends up with food poisoning from the Core Retreat. Don’t forget about your position either – do you have a back up in place in case you have to be out for a night? Draft your back ups and set the procedures now to help avoid adding stress later.
This is the one position on a fantasy football team that isn’t an individual player – it’s a whole team. You might pick (for example) the Packers Defense and earn points for the total number of sacks, interceptions and safeties that they get in a game. You can also earn points if they keep the other team from scoring.
They say that the best offense is a good defense, and the adage applies to your Core Team as well. Remember that in the culture war we are fighting, we have a formidable opponent (Satan) who is consistently attacking your teens and your team. The best way to combat those attacks is to set up a whole team to play defense for you. These are your prayer warriors – you can call them after every Life Night to ask them to pray for specific intentions that came up in small group discussion, you can ask them to head to the Eucharistic chapel to pray for the teens and Core during the Life Night, and you can ask them to pray for you and your Fantasy Core Team on a regular basis.
The quarterback is perhaps the most hotly debated position in fantasy football draft strategies. Some say you should aim to pick a superstar in the first round, others say you shouldn’t waste an early pick on what can be an incredibly inconsistent position. Ultimately every fantasy football team owner knows that if your quarterback has a great game, you’re going to have a good week.
When it comes to your Fantasy Core Team, you don’t get to draft your quarterback…you are the quarterback! Ron Jaworski was the quarterback who led the Eagles to a Superbowl win in 1980. He spoke to the importance of the quarterback role saying, “The heartbeat of a football team is the quarterback position and I think everyone who has any intelligence about the game understands you must have consistency at that position to be a championship team.” The same is true of your “fantasy” Core Team – your consistency in prayer, motivation, and leadership is what will build your fantasy Core Team into a reality. Never underestimate the impact your words, actions, and attitude can have on your entire team. Stay positive and stay prayerful and your team will follow your example.
“It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men. Men respond to leadership in a most remarkable way and once you have won his heart, he will follow you anywhere. Leadership is based on a spiritual quality – the power to inspire, the power to inspire others to follow.” – Vince Lombardi
Your turn: What Fantasy Core Team positions have you drafted? Do you have an Offensive Line? A Kicker? Tell us why they’re essential to rounding out your Core Team.