Tales of an Unchurched Mystery Guest: Part 2

The mystery 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 church.

The Music/Worship
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.

 In-Service Greeting
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
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.

The Speaker
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.

Outreach Opportunities
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.

Church Follow-Up
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.

Overall Experience
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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