There are three types of organizations:
- Those who make things happen
- Those who watch things happen
- Those who wonder “What in the world just happened?”
Whenever a person, group or organization considers whether to change, and they begin to list alternatives, one of the first items that can be put on the board is, “Do nothing.” by now you must all know that I am not a “do nothing” person. So last week I outlined some ideas about the “Mission” and “Vision” of St. Monica. I also mentioned concrete steps that we have been taking to “make things happen.” I outlined steps that we have taken to objectively determine whether we are on track in terms of the “Mission” and “Vision.”
One of those concrete steps has been to actually ask the people of St. Monica for their thoughts on how we are doing in terms of critical and key components of a vibrant parish. We placed a kiosk in the lobby of the church to help measure the sentiments of parishioners in areas such as homilies and our hospitality. Soon we hope to add music and other liturgical components to that list.
Naturally, when you do something out of the norm, there will be comments and critique. Perfectly acceptable. I listed some of these last week. This week, let me provide some rationale for why we are doing this type of analysis and the methodology we are using.
The analyses that we have done has been especially helpful to me personally over the past few weeks. Let me give you two examples: there was one case when we asked whether the homily was “audible.” Three masses scored 95+. The 11:30 Mass score was 75. That much of a discrepancy begs the question, “What happened?” So I went into the 11:30 the next week and asked. It turns out that there were significantly fewer people attending the 11:30 and – with fewer bodies in the space – the echo effect was quite significant and unpleasant. We made adjustments. We turned down the mic levels. The organist began playing with “stops” that where lower pitched and not as shrill. Two weeks later, people personally spoke to me and emailed me to say that they noticed the improvement. Is that consumerism? Look at it from another perspective. Suppose we don’t have that information because we didn’t ask. People have complained about the sound volume. I know because they’ve told me – for years! Now I had data that told us specifically what the problem was and when it was.
Doing nothing or not addressing it would have been a sin against charity. It says, “We don’t care and you don’t count.” Addressing it is good “stewardship” of the hearts (and ears) of our people. They now (1) have a more pleasant “Experience of Christ Through the Liturgy” and (2) know that they DO count. We said, “Your opinion matters because – you’re important.”
Another example: After personally receiving fairly high scores (in the 90’s) as to whether my homilies were audible, passionate, relevant and understandable, I received lower scores (in the low 80’s) on “Was the Homily Organized?” Ok, what’s going on? The data “pointed” to something, but I needed to dig deeper to find out what. So I sent out 20 emails and asked why. I found that I often say, “I’m going to cover 3 points.” I cover point 1 and then point 2 but then go off on tangents. Hence the idea thread gets lost. That was a tremendously valuable insight. I went to a homily leadership site for advice on how I could address that. The speaker provided some ideas and a guide on how to organize a good homily. I have tried using these over the past few weeks. I became more cognizant on the organization of the homily. When asked this same question about 3 weeks ago, my scores were in the 90’s. But none of this happens unless I have the data.
That’s an important lesson. If I don’t have the data – I don’t make the change and the quality of the homily suffers. If I have a “chronic” shortcoming in my homilies, and I don’t know that, I will do that again and again and again. Over time, if homilies are of consistently poor quality – people leave.
The Catholic Church has had this “They’ll come for the Eucharist and other sacraments” attitude for far too long. That is simply not true any more. They’re not coming, and with good reason. I travel to other churches – Catholic and non-Catholic. Catholic Churches are terrible. The homilies are vapid. There is no hospitality and sense of welcoming. The music is ok but not inspiring to the point where people are streaming into the churches. People are voting with their feet. We simply have to be better because we’re not that good. One big problem is – most pastors and churches have absolutely no idea what is happening. Why? Because – they don’t ask. You don’t ask… you don’t care.
There are a whole host of other issues where I simply do not know how well we are doing as a parish. That’s why, besides homily feedback, we’re also asking about how welcoming/hospitable the parish is. Eventually we also will ask about music and hymnody. These are the three areas that, nationally, parishes are finding play a key role as to whether the liturgy experience is fruitful or not. It might not be a perfect solution but, considering the current culture, doing nothing or doing the same-old-same-old is no longer an effective evangelization option.
Final point. I know that the aesthetics of the kiosk is less that ideal. That is why, at a minimum, I commissioned to have the wooden stand constructed and ordered the wood grain to match the color of the wood in our church. I wish the kiosk button panel was a different color and design. I’m open to have you chair a small ad-hoc committee to address that. You probably know some creative people who could come up with a different design to at least reduce the harshness of the button panel.
Feel free to call or write with any ideas. Thanks and God bless.