FIRST-PERSON: Use 'secret worshipers' at your church

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--Do you ever wonder how your church looks to a first-time guest? Are you curious about why some guests attend once and never return? What if a "secret worshiper" anonymously visited your church and completed a survey to describe the visit?

I put together a simple plan to help a church see itself from an outside perspective. It could be called "Fresh Eyes by Secret Guys," but that sounds too much like a spy novel or burger restaurant. So let's just call it the "secret worshiper survey." It's an online process, and there is no cost.

In this plan, some "secret worshipers" are recruited by the pastor of another church. They anonymously worship as a guest in your church, and then complete an online survey to provide honest, confidential observances through a first-timer's fresh eyes.

When listing a home to sell, a realtor may walk through and give frank suggestions about how to best present the house. A homeowner rarely notices a loose doorknob or over-furnished bedroom, but it's blatantly obvious to first-time guests. Simple changes can help potential buyers' first impressions so they can see the true value of the home.

Let's be honest. We love our church. We look forward to worshiping God, serving Him and fellowshipping with our church family there. But, like that loose doorknob, we may not notice habits or distractions that deter first-time guests. No, you're not selling a house. It's much more important than that. You're welcoming others to worship the God of the universe and to discover a personal relationship with Him.

Secret worshiper survey results are provided exclusively to the pastor for his personal review, evaluation and possible action.

Here's an alternate idea: Do a reverse "secret worshiper" plan. Assign some church members to visit a growing, effective church in a neighboring city to observe practices that might help your own church.

If you notice a guest at your church's worship service next Sunday, will you welcome them warmly? They just might be secret worshipers. (Don't ask; that would negate the entire process.) Or -- even more exciting -- they might be real first-time guests seeking God or a place to worship Him.

Check out details for the secret worshiper survey at http://www.keeponshining.com/secret-worshipers/.


Diana Davis is the author of "Fresh Ideas," "Fresh Ideas for Women's Ministry" and "Deacon Wives" (B&H Publishing) and the wife of the Indiana Baptist State Convention executive director. Learn more at www.keeponshining.com.

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