“Ingredients of an Amazing Homily” A Spiritual Reflection, Part 2
Last week I shared about a podcast entitled “The Four Ingredients of an Amazing Homily.” When considering three elements of a positive “Sunday experience” (Hymns, Hospitality, Homilies ) homilies play a particularly important role (”No pressure”).
Pastors should look at four homiletic areas and ask whether their homily is Passionate (Delivered with conviction and emotion drawn from prayer and from the heart of the priest); Organized (Does the homily clearly connect points that people can follow logically); Understandable (Using words that people can grasp and follow both theologically and linguistically) and Relevant (Connecting the homily with people’s lives and to actions that they can take that week).
The podcast suggested priests/pastors give four-part scoring matrix to a select group of parishioners for their feedback. Ask them to rate the homilies (on a scale of 1-to-4) in each of the four areas giving a 1 to the area where the priest/pastor is strongest and 4 to a potential area of improvement. I gave this scoresheet to about 15 parishioners and received the following scores:
- 1st: Relevance 2.09 (strongest area)
- 2nd: Organization 2.45 (good, but not great yet)
- 3rd: Passion 2.55 (good, but not great yet)
- 4th: Understandable/Clarity: 2.91 (area for most potential improvement)
Last week I shared parishioner comments concerning the “Relevance” metric. This week, I share what parishioners wrote concerning the other three areas:
Organization: “It is obvious you put time and effort into all aspects of preparing for a homily. But sometimes they are too organized and perhaps too detailed. You state, “There are three ways…” and then you say, “Within those three there are two more…”
“There is sometimes a lack of passion or flow in that it feels more like a college lecture that an inspirational, spiritual, bucket-filling experience.”
“You are very much organized. People “get it,” I think, due to the use of your iPad and the natural comfort you exude when are giving a homily or lesson. It’s like the fact that you’ve thought it all out and have approached this thoughtfully. Homilies typically flow well.”
Passionate: “You certainly speak with conviction. My only constructive criticism that might relate to the “passionate” element is — slow down. We are hanging onto your every word. Slow the cadence of the delivery – don’t rush. We’re on ‘God time.’”
“You generally – but not always – come across as controlled with a smattering of humor, where appropriately interjected. But I think the average person in the pew may not be convinced of what you are trying to convey. It’s easy to miss someone’s internal passion with a reserved personality-type.”
“You definitely come across as more serious and in control rather than letting your passion get a hold of you enough to override your reserve.
“I give you a ten out of ten for passion and organization. You always come across as really wanting to convey the message. Walking out into the audience also conveys passion and willingness to share the message with others.”
You deliver your homily with conviction but I don’t notice much emotion.”
“You do use poems as prayers and that touches our hearts, but I can’t say that your homilies are passionate.”
Understandable/Clarity: “For the most part I can understand and relate to the messages delivered.”
“As a product of RCIA and a-Catholic-still-learning (me), don’t assume we know all the Catholic stuff and language, stories, parables in the Bible, etc… Spell it out for us from time-to-time. You do an excellent job.”
“I like the challenge of thinking “where is he going with this” or working the context for a term I’m not necessarily familiar with.
But, I think you can get sometimes a little too “collegiate” for the kids at Mass, or maybe even some of the “still-not-awake-yet” heads.”
“I rated ‘Clarity’ in fourth position only because I am a simple person when it comes to theology and philosophy. I know it is so much more than just those subjects, but I get lost sometimes in the details because I just have trouble connecting the dots especially when you are putting so much out there.”
“I really need to pay attention to the entire homily to get the message across, because the storyline is often complex. I enjoy it, and the parishioners should be paying attention. However, there may be some people that struggle a bit because of the complexity, but I do not know for sure.”
“For the most part, yes. Your homilies are understandable. However, there are only some times where it seems one of the initial points you make does not “match” the explanation of another.”
“Sometimes you perhaps make a few too many references to articles, authors, outside sources that make it a bit difficult to follow. Maybe just don’t mention the references but just build in the content so that the homily “flows” more naturally.”
“I do like what you did last week when you came down off the altar and walked in from of the congregation from side to side.
“I felt more connected to what you were saying. Perhaps others felt the same way.”
So there you have it. I wish to publicly thank the parishioners who took a chance to offer me constructive and honest feedback. I found the comments fascinating. It also provided a “baseline” for me and a specific area on which I can focus over the following months. I’ll send this out later in 2017 and circle back with the parishioners to see if they have noticed any change and improvement.
By the way, if you are interested in being part of the evaluation team, let me know, I’d be glad to include you. Fr. Zlock