Getting Ready for Fantasy Football 2011

On this blog, we write mostly about leadership and other ministry-related areas. We sometimes post family updates, especially throughout the adoption processes for both Ethan and Sarah. But I’ve also been known to write an occasional post about fantasy football—Fantasy Football (2008), Life Lessons from Fantasy Football (2009), Fantasy Football 2010 Underway (2010).

The thing that makes the 2011 season interesting is the fact that the NFL lockout that lasted 130+ days finally came to an end last Monday (with all the season and pre-season games, except the Hall of Fame game, intact). Immediately, teams and players began scrambling as teams signed draft picks, cut some players, signed other players, acquired free agents, and orchestrated trades. It’s been (and continues to be) a wild week. And all of this will have huge implications for fantasy football!

Time will tell how the lockout will effect the season in terms of team preparedness as well as injuries (because of the lockout, players missed out on all of their team’s offseason organized training and conditioning activities). Injuries make life much more challenging for fantasy owners (not to mention the real teams)!

In my first fantasy football-related post, I listed several of my favorite fantasy football sites. My list of favorites, as well as my strategy, is always changing. As we head into the 2011 season, here’s my basic strategy (which will continue to evolve over the course of the year) …

Follow football and fantasy football experts on Twitter (see my Fantasy Football list, which currently follows 49 people/sources).

Two of my favorite sites for fantasy football research/advice include: Fantasy Football Librarian (daily links to recommended articles at other sites), Fantasy Football Pros (for custom consensus rankings from the experts). I also occasionally watch some of the brief video segments/reports from ESPN, Yahoo, and NFL.com.

During the NFL playoffs last year, I participated in a group sponsored by Pro Football Focus, a statistics analysis site. I finished in first place among 184 participants (and finished in the top 0.1% among hundreds of thousands in the ESPN playoff challenge) and won a premium membership to their site for the coming season (it was a $90 value at the time, but prices were reduced recently to $29.99) – obviously, I was very lucky, but we’ll see if it helps in 2011.

I enjoy fantasy football for the research, the competition, and connection with league-mates at Centre Grove. Probably the thing that I enjoy most is finding the breakout player few expect. In last year’s draft, I drafted Aaron Foster for both of my church teams (I was in both church leagues so everyone has a chance to beat the pastor!). This year, Aaron Foster is the consensus #1 pick (so far).

As I’ve mentioned before, I began playing fantasy football at Centre Grove UMC, where the church began a league when I arrived in 2008. Last year, in our third season, we expanded to two leagues, and soon, plans will be laid for the 2011 season. It looks to be an exciting, unpredictable season!

5 Years of One-Point Preaching

It’s been five years since I read Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones. Stanley and Jones propose a model for preaching one-point sermons. I embraced the approach immediately. I preached my first one-point sermon right after I started reading the book (I had completed the first two chapters, as I recall). In 2007, I wrote a post about the book, One-Point Preaching (the most visited post on this site).

Over the years, I have read the book a couple more times. Each time helps me to process something that I hadn’t before, or remember something that I had forgotten. My goal has always been to start with the approach laid out in the book and modify it over time as I learn and develop.

The heart of Stanley’s approach is the ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE map (or outline).

The ME part is a growing edge for me (although, Stanley points out in the book that speaking to the same group of people week after week lessens the need of including the ME section all the time). But the goal is to establish common ground.

I generally think of the opening ME-WE as the opening or introduction. In my outline, I think of it as the problem or puzzle.

My biggest weakness is the closing WE. I don’t often finish the sermon with this vision casting section (although I probably do this to some degree at the end of the service with the dismissal with blessing). I offer application in the YOU section, then wrap up with prayer. I need to improve my use of the closing WE.

Late last year, I started veering from this approach a little. I still tried to convey a main point, but I didn’t always craft a sticky statement. I believe there’s always a better way, so I may have been trying to shake things up, maybe I was trying to modify the approach. Whatever the case, up until a few weeks ago, I felt like I had been drifting for several months.

Preaching is hard work because of having to create something out of nothing … every week. And with the one-point preaching approach, that includes creating memorable sticky statements!

Reflecting on my sticky statements, some turn out better than others. I re-read some and wonder what I was thinking, while others have stuck with me to this day. The point is to capsulize the message in a way that’s memorable without sounding trite (Stanley says it’s better to be clear than clever).

The two biggest results of this approach for me have been 1) preaching with minimal notes, and 2) an increase in creativity. Greater focus leads to increased creativity. And building everything around one point, following a basic map, allows me to use minimal (if any) notes.

Well, I am excited about continuing to grow as a communicator (see Developing the Preaching Gift). One of the things that has helped me get back on track and start enjoying preaching again (as well as reaffirming my commitment to one-point preaching, ironically) is work by Nancy Duarte.

A few months ago, I watched a video of Duarte’s 18-minute TED talk. I bought her book, Resonate, and am currently reading/processing it.

Duarte’s work is fascinating. I see a lot of similarities between what she presents and what Stanley and Jones present in Communicating for a Change. So, watch for posts in the coming weeks, reviewing Duarte’s book and comparing it with Stanley’s approach.

(Edited to add: I wrote several posts on Duarte’s book, Resonate. The final post, Bringing It All Together, includes links to all of the previous ones.)

“Courageous Leadership”

Earlier this year, I wrote about 15 Books That Have Shaped Me as a Leader. In posting the list, I realized there were a few books that I’ve never blogged about. One of them is Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels.

Few people inspire, challenge, motivate me like Bill Hybels, whether through his speaking or his writing. So it’s not surprising that three of the fifteen books I named were written by Hybels.

Hybels wrote Courageous Leadership (2002) after nearly thirty years of leading Willow Creek. The book is described as his magnum opus. As stated in the book jacket, the book resonates with the conviction “that leaders … have the potential to be the most influential forces on planet Earth.”

Anyone who has ever heard Bill Hybels speak knows that he believes in the church. He often proclaims, “The local church is the hope of the world.” Hybels states, “There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right” (23).

In Courageous Leadership, Hybels adds, “The local church is the hope of the world and its future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders” (27). That certainly raises the stakes for church leaders!

Hybels talks about the importance of vision, calling it “a leader’s most potent weapon” (29). Hybels asserts, “Vision is at the very core of leadership” (31). I love Hybels’ definition of vision: “Vision is a picture of the future that produces passion” (32).

In recent years, there’s been a lot of discussion about mission, vision, and purpose. Sometimes these words are used interchangeably, sometimes differently. It gets confusing. So, I like what Hybels writes …

When a leader is casting vision publicly the goal is to help people know, understand, and remember the ‘main thing.’ Call it vision, purpose, mission, whatever. But people better be able to walk away saying, ‘I know the main thing.’ (45)

Hybels describes different styles of leadership, including …

  1. The visionary leadership style
  2. The directional leadership style
  3. The strategic leadership style
  4. The managing leadership style
  5. The motivational leadership style
  6. The shepherding leadership style
  7. The team-building leadership style
  8. The entrepreneurial leadership style
  9. The reengineering leadership style
  10. The bridge-building leadership style

It’s been a while since I’ve read this section, but I’d probably say my primary leadership style is visionary (clear sense of vision), possibly followed by the shepherding (slowly building sense of leadership community) and reengineering (rebuilding, turnaround situations) leadership styles.

There’s a lot of good stuff in the book, but I’ll finish with this. In a chapter on self-leadership, Hybels describes several questions he regularly asks himself …

  • Is my calling sure?
  • Is my vision clear?
  • Is my passion hot?
  • Am I developing my gifts?
  • Is my character submitted to Christ?
  • Is my pride subdued?
  • Am I overcoming fear?
  • Are interior issues undermining my leadership?
  • Is my pace sustainable?
  • Is my love for God and people increasing?

Great, challenging questions for leaders.

Have you read Courageous Leadership?

“Secrets of Dynamic Communication”

A couple of months ago, I listed some resources by Christian comedian and communicator, Ken Davis, in my post, Developing the Preaching Gift. Davis wrote Secrets of Dynamic Communication. He also offers CD and DVD sets from his 4-day Dynamic Communicators Workshops (DCW).

Davis has developed a process he calls S.C.O.R.R.E. (Subject, Central Theme, Objective, Rationale, Resources, Evaluation). It’s a process to help communicators focus their message so that it will be more effective.

I appreciate the fact that Davis says if you already have an approach that helps you be focused, stick with it. So, rather than trying to describe Davis’ process (that would take too much space), I thought I would make some observations on this process in light of Andy Stanley’s one-point preaching approach, which I’ve been using for several years now.

What I like about Davis’ approach is that it stresses the importance of focus. Davis calls focus “the most important ingredient,” arguing that “if you want people to listen, learn, and take action, you must speak with crystal-clear focus” (11). Davis adds, “To make it as clear and powerful as possible it is necessary to leave out perfectly good material if it doesn’t contribute to the objective (19).”

Having a clear sense of focus is a core part of one-point preaching, as well. The heart of Stanley’s approach is narrowing focus, picking a single point, and building everything around that one point.

Stanley writes …

You’ve got to narrow the focus of your message to one point. Then everything else in the message supports, illustrates, and helps make it memorable (41).

I’m still processing Davis’ approach, but I’m struggling with his insistence on a multiple-point rationale. In writing an objective, Davis insists on the use of a plural key word. From this plural key word come the main points of the message. So while there’s a big idea, there are multiple points.

One way to adapt this process is to think of it in terms of a sermon series (Stanley addresses this in Communicating for a Change), then do a message on each of the main points.

Other than that, the process is great for helping communicators bring focus to their talks. In addition to the S.C.O.R.R.E. process, Davis also offers some helpful advice on public speaking. He addresses preparation and time management, engaging the audience, the use of humor, and body language.

The book closes with a reminder that effective communication isn’t just about technique. Davis lists some important points to remember …

  • The effective communicator delivers a focused and organized message.
  • The effective communicator models the message.
  • The effective communicator speaks with passion.
  • The effective communicator cares about the audience.
  • The effective communicator touches the emotions of the audience.
  • The effective communicator touches the lives of the audience.

A few weeks ago, Michael Hyatt blogged about his experience at DCW. His reflections are worth checking out, if you’d like to learn more about becoming a more effective communicator.

A Transformational Leadership Prayer

Almost exactly two years, at the outset of our second year here in Clearfield, I wrote a prayer in my journal. Little did I know at the time that that prayer would stick with me.

I find myself going back to it every now and then. Now as we begin our fourth year here in Clearfield, the beginning of a crucial year both at Centre Grove and West Side (as we both begin Matthew 28 Initiatives this year), I have added a little to it (i.e., the paragraph on “patience and persistence”).

I think requests in this prayer are qualities and characteristics that all transformational leaders need. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but some things I’ve found myself praying for, particularly in the last couple of years …

O God, I pray for strength. Be our Rock, our firm foundation. Provide us with the spiritual grounding we need for the life ahead. As we build our lives on Christ, the solid rock, develop your character in us!

Lord, give us favor with the people you call us to reach and the people you call us to be in ministry with, especially the leaders and influencers in our churches.

Give us wisdom so that we may lead well, and discernment so that we will be able to sift through all the distractions in order to focus on those things you call us to be about.

As we navigate the journey ahead, give us patience and persistence to stay the course in the midst of the challenges and obstacles that will arise during the slow-going work of transformation and revitalization.

And give us courage. Help us to follow you, even when it’s hard!

Through your leadership in our lives, expressed and lived out in the places we serve, create communities of faith that will be engaged in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world! Amen.

Strength. Favor. Wisdom. Discernment. Patience. Persistence. Courage. As you seek to lead transformation where you serve, what do you find yourself asking God for?

Day Out with Thomas 2011

Last Friday, we took a trip to the East Broad Top Railroad to spend a day out with Thomas. It was a nice day.

It was also our second day out with Thomas. Our first day out with Thomas took place in December 2009, shortly after we brought Sarah home from Korea. That trip took place on a cold, winter day. Last March, we saw the Thomas & Friends show when it was in Johnstown.

Interestingly, we noticed during our second trip to Korea (when we went to get Sarah) that Thomas appears to be a pretty big deal in Korea (we didn’t notice it the first time when we went to get Ethan, but may have been due to our ignorance).

Both kids enjoy trains (“train” seems to be one of their favorite ASL signs these days), and Sarah has embraced Ethan’s love for Thomas & Friends.

Here are a few photos from the day out with Thomas …