The guest reveals…“The way this congregation treated
us was one of the most comforting experiences I have ever had with any church.”
Do you ever wonder why
some people visit your church and not return for a second or third visit? Our Mystery
Guest Program helps your church see themselves through the eyes of a
visitor and can help strengthen your welcoming process so that when a guest
does come, they feel welcome, accepted and want to return again.
Each month we feature a
unique guest experience we’ve read about from one of the many mystery guests we
send into churches. This month’s mystery guest experience comes from a
44-year-old unchurched female who visited a church in Minnesota…
Is the Church Well-Known in the Area?
I stopped at a convenience
store about 12 blocks from the church. Two people were aware of the church and
could point me in the right direction, but that was all I was able to get.
Could You Find Your Way?
The first thing I noticed
was that you had to kind of guess how to get behind the church to the parking
lot because there were no signs. Across from the church was a really big
parking lot, but that too had no signage. The outside sign indicated the name
of the church and had the service times which was very helpful, however, when
you walk into the building, you’re immediately faced with stairs going up and
stairs going down. There were signs that pointed to the children’s/youth
ministries downstairs, but I did not see any signs pointing towards the worship
area, which made it confusing.
The First Impression
A woman initially greeted
us and walked us into the area of worship. The church was not very big, and it
seemed like everyone that was there were “family” people of a much older
generation who had known each other forever. It was clear we were new, yet everyone
completely embraced us being there. All others were smiling or making small
talk with us. It seemed like they just accepted us as being there for the same
reasons they were.
Finding a Seat
I really enjoyed the fact
that the pews were cushioned. I also enjoyed the breathing space because it
wasn’t packed. The pews were also set far enough apart to allow for sufficient
leg room. It seems that comfort, along with hospitality, is also a priority for
The organ playing was
great. The three women singing, however, did not do well. They seemed
distracted and kept losing their spot or were not able to hit some notes, so
they would just stop singing altogether and laugh a little bit. The pastor
seemed annoyed by this at one point. It was neither a positive or negative
experience, it was just different and unexpected for a church choir.
The pastor welcomed
everyone and then requested that we all sign the “Ritual of Friendship” books
that were located next to the hymn books and then had everyone stand and greet
their neighbor. It was an interesting experience and a nice change.
The message was somewhat
hard for me to make sense of. This was not a good experience because I really
like to understand, or at least try my best to understand, a point someone is
trying to make. There was no way around this one for me, so it was frustrating.
There were two speakers.
The female did the majority of the talking until the actual sermon began. The
male speaker validated what she was saying. I rated the speakers’ delivery as
somewhat poor because I could not understand the message, so I found it to be
frustrating and not engaging. It was also somewhat hard to hear at times.
What About Kids?
The children’s ministries
were not taking place while we were there, however, I did see it announced on
their website. There was also a nursery announcement in the bulletin. I did not
see any children other than the few that were in the worship area, nor was
anything announced about it at any time during the service. My impression in
this area is neutral as I did not get to experience any of it first-hand. There
were maybe six kids there, and three of them were with me.
What Happened After the Service?
Everyone was still happy
and talking with each other and not trying to push each other down just to get
out of the door. I was also very impressed with the pastor remembering our
names at the end. In my opinion, this experience could not get any better. The
pastor and a few others invited us for cake and coffee. I could tell they
really wanted to talk and get to know us.
Friendliness of the Church:
The friendliness of this
congregation went above and beyond anything I have ever experienced with a
church. These people are 100% genuine and sincere.
Information About the Church:
I did not find any social
media sites for the church. All information on their website was up to date,
although a few of their links did not work. It explained quite a lot and had
links to provide further explanations in areas such as a sacrament, which is
excellent for newcomers. The only suggestion I have here is to better explain
the women’s groups and the mission of helping women and their children. I
really wanted to learn more about their programs. One suggestion would be to
have a prepared welcome packet ready to offer new people or visitors as soon as
they are greeted.
I personally believe the
church is doing an excellent job in their efforts to create a relationship with
their community. They step up and are willing to help in any crisis no matter
what. Nobody is turned away.
I only left my first and
last name as well as my city, state, and zip code, including those of my
daughters and my nephew, in the friendship book.
I am a non-believer, so to
say that my overall experience with this church was startlingly impressive is
something I never thought I would ever say about any church. I have learned a
lot about this particular church over the last few days, but to see and
experience it all first-hand is way different than just reading about it. I am
still solid in my non-belief, however, the way this congregation treated us was
one of the most comforting experiences I have ever had with any church.
Likelihood of Return: Likely
My overall experience and
appreciation for this experience would be the deciding factor to go back. I can
only hope that future guests will be able to walk away with as much as my girls
and I have (and we are non-believers), which was simply being treated with
basic human decency and genuine importance. It is also worth mentioning that
this was the very first time my girls have ever stepped foot in a church.
Likelihood of Recommending the Church: Likely
I would definitely want
others to experience what my children and I did today.
The Last Impression
Most churches, in my
experience, had cast some sort of judgment and made me feel like I was
invisible. It was surprising when we experienced the opposite. The people at
this church didn’t know us, had never seen us before, and certainly had no idea
that we were not believers, yet they accepted us immediately.
Because of this mystery
guest visit, the church knows they treat first-time guests well, but they have
also identified opportunities to improve. Do you want to know what guests experience
at your church? Let Faith Perceptions find out
for you. Our desire is to help churches become a welcoming and comfortable
place for guests and the unchurched.
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