As we discovered last year, many congregations successfully used Lent Madness as a parish-wide devotion. It's actually a terrific way to make for a livelier coffee hour as parishioners engage in heated debates and engage in fisticuffs over their saintly picks. Plus it gets people to focus on something other than the rector's not-so-hot sermon.
We get a lot of questions about the best way to turn up the competitive spirit by engaging in a little saintly combat. Unlike the ubiquitous March Madness office pool (evidently there's some other bracket-driven tournament out there), Lent Madness bracketology leaves people inspired and better prepared for Easter.
Here's a step-by-step guide to drawing your congregation into Lent Madness fever. But first, don't forget to order the poster-sized Lent Madness bracket to post in your parish hall and encourage people to download the Calendar of Saints e-book ("Ultra-Revised Edition!") that includes all of the 2013 Lent Madness saints along with many others. (NOTE: This book should be available by the end of January. Watch this website for details.)
1. Pick up a blank 2013 bracket from the parish office (or print it off the Lent Madness website).
2. Fill it out with your picks (be sure to put your name on top!) and submit it either to the parish office or the official parish Lent Madness Coordinator.
3. Encourage an optional donation per bracket filled out with the money going to a particular charity supported by the parish (Episcopal Relief & Development is always a terrific choice).
4. Use a simple point system to decide the winner. Last year the Rev. Chris Arnold has devised a scoring system that I'll have to put in his own words because I did horribly in high school algebra: "There are many different ways of scoring brackets. To strike a balance between correctly picking early rounds and correctly guessing the winner, we’ll award 2 points for first round picks, 3 for second round picks, then 5, 8, and 13. This gives a total of 105 possible points, and the possible points from each round are 32, 24, 20, 16, and 13." According to Chris, this worked beautifully.
5. Unless you have a CPA in your parish (or Jimmy Carter) to total things up, your Lent Madness Coordinator can do this and declare a winner after the Golden Halo is awarded.
6. To further entice participation, you may want to offer a prize to the winner. It could be a devotional book published by Forward Movement (to placate Scott) or the winner could determine which charity gets the bracket donations. Or he/she could be allowed to preach on Easter Sunday.
7. You might like to have a large bracket in your parish hall or narthex, or perhaps attached to the altar frontal. If you are blessed with graphic artists or stone masons, you could create/carve your own large bracket. Or you can order the official, poster-sized bracket from Forward Movement for just $10, two for $18.
It's that easy! And, as always, let us know if you have another system you'd like to share or give us feedback on how this has worked/is working at your congregation.
(Remember: order your own bracket poster! All the cool kids have them pinned up at home. And another at church. Maybe yet another for the office or the car.)