I recently read an article about mystery worshippers who are paid to attend worship and then give a report. [Read the full Wall Street Journal Report] Here’s a quote that stuck out.
“First-time guests, they don’t come with mercy, they come with judgment. They’re looking for a reason to leave.”
Whether we like it or not, there is some truth in this statement. People don’t attend the church because it’s closest to their home or is the right brand. They attend if they feel connected and engaged. In general, people are looking for the place that is best for them, which causes them to be rather skeptical as they enter the doors (even before, as they read the website and drive by it).
The importance of little things in and around the building are a factor. Cobwebs, stuffiness, ceiling leak marks, dirty bathrooms, etc are all things that regular attenders will glaze over – become blind to really – because of their existing relationship. But, to a new person, this could spell doom.
More than facility issues, however, is the vibe newcomers receive from the congregation. In one case the mystery worshipper noted that someone reached past him to shake another person’s hand – without even saying excuse me for bumping into him.
The cost to hire this particular mystery worshipper is around $2000, but I’m thinking about just recruiting someone locally who might have an eye for this stuff. Getting fresh eyes on the experience would be really helpful. Another way would be to survey someone who only came once and intentionally didn’t come back. Info from them would be extremely valuable. It would be a reminder that friendliness, facilities and feeling are three key components to reach and connect with first time guests in worship.
In response to the criticism that mystery worshippers might perpetuate “spiritual consumerism”, one pastor said that he thinks the church ought to do whatever it can to take away the reasons for people not to feel connected. “If the general public feels more like family down at the Cracker Barrel on Sunday mornings, then we’ve got a problem.”
Stop trying to close the back door – open it!
Move beyond the ordinary to generate leadership.