Tales of an Unchurched Mystery Guest

The mystery guest reveals…“The atmosphere was very cold and not friendly. I smiled at people and no one smiled back or greeted me. No one really tried to engage us.”  

Do you ever wonder why some people visit your church and not return for a second or third visit? You aren’t the only one asking that question. Our Mystery Guest Program helps you see your church through the eyes of a visitor and will help strengthen your welcoming process so that when a guest does come, they feel welcome, accepted and want to return again. Click to Tweet

Each month we feature a unique first-time 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 51-year-old unchurched female who visited a church in Indiana during Christmas time…

Is the Church Well-Known in the Area?
I stopped at a gas station about a mile and a half away from the church to ask for directions. Two of the people I asked knew right where I was talking about and one person had the church confused with another church in the area.

Could You Find Your Way?
The outside signs were really good and prominent letting us know in advance where to enter the church parking lot. The electronic sign was good for letting people know what is going on at church. I didn’t see a guest/visitor parking section. After driving in the parking lot, we were able to see where the entrance to the church was and found parking easily. Upon entry to the building, the sanctuary was on the right and we did not need signage necessarily to know where to go. The bathrooms are off the narthex and easily seen in that area and the information area was also in the narthex area to be seen, and signage for the fellowship hall was there too, but not seen right away. I did not see any signs for the children’s/youth ministries.

The First Impression
I was first greeted at the entrance by a greeter. The initial greeting was very nice, and I felt that the rest of the church must be very welcoming with as friendly as the greeters were, but no one else really acknowledged our presence. When we went to sit down, I smiled at the people in front of us and said hello, but they did not return the smile or a greeting. The atmosphere was very cold and not friendly. I smiled at people and no one smiled back or greeted me. No one really tried to engage us. Everyone had their people they talk to and that’s where they stayed. People should be more friendly to those they do not recognize.

Finding a Seat
Nothing really impacted me positively or negatively. It did seem that everyone had their space and where they always sit, but most churches have that issue. It made it a little difficult to find seating in the main area as people left just enough space between for their spacing and I felt like I could not approach there.

The Music/Worship
I liked the traditional service. They were having their Christmas Cantata the day I visited. Some of the singers in the Cantata seemed to be enjoying their presentation but overall there were no smiles or other expressions over the context of the music. I would expect a bit more excitement over the story of the birth of Christ. It was kind of stoic. I know it is a traditional service but there was just something missing.

Greeting During the Service
We felt very welcomed by the senior pastor’s welcome and greeting. There was not a formal welcome/greeting time between members and since we weren’t really greeted before, I think it would have been awkward, but at the same time, I kept thinking maybe that time is when the congregation members will speak with us, which would have been nice. At one point, the choral couple returned to their seats after their performance and I smiled and said it was lovely, but it was if they looked right through me. Overall, the greeting during the service was good and we felt welcomed by the staff, if not the members.

The Message
The message was the Cantata and about the hope for Christmas and the birth of Jesus. The message and the Cantata were good. I would have liked to have seen the choir have more feeling and bring the congregation in more to see some joy at the birth of our Savior.

The Speaker
The choir just didn’t seem to engage the congregation and didn’t seem joyous over the birth of Christ. An appropriately placed smile would definitely have helped. I liked that the words to what the choir was singing were printed in the bulletin.

What About Kids?
I didn’t see where the children’s area was so that was difficult to find. The children seemed excited about going up for the children’s message and to go to their classes. I liked the pictures they showed during the youth portion but would have liked to have known where, when, and what the kids were doing.

What Happened After the Service?
The mood was very cool. Some congratulations were given to the choir but everyone pretty much stuck to their own groups or exited the church. The senior pastor was very friendly, greeting everyone he could as they left. He spent a good amount of time with people, not too long holding up the line and not shoving people off either. He did acknowledge us as we left with a handshake. I think they could improve the post-service by coming up and speaking with us after the service. Perhaps tell us about the fellowship time or whatever happens in the hall. Maybe invite us the next Sunday or ask if we liked the program.

Friendliness of the Church
We just didn’t really feel welcomed. A returned smile would have been nice. Just smiling would improve the experience a lot.

Information About the Church
The website was excellent. I thought that the church experience would be just as good, if not better. The information was good and easily found on the website. I looked at the church’s Facebook page and it looks like a really involved and fun church to be a part of. It seemed that the church is very involved and has a lot of activities going on, but it didn’t seem like an active church when I was at the service. The information area had people around it before the service and following the service, but it was surrounded by others waiting or speaking to members of the choir, so I really didn’t get to see what was there.

Outreach Opportunities
It seems like they are working to expand into the community. With all of these things going on, I would have expected a lot friendlier church. They seem like caring and nice people, especially from the things they have on the website and in the bulletin, but it just didn’t feel welcoming in person.

Church Follow-Up
I was not able to find a way to leave my contact information.

Likelihood of Returning to the Church: Somewhat Likely
I really liked the senior pastor’s children’s message and would like to hear him preach. It wasn’t a very friendly experience, but everyone has an off day. It was a different service than normal, and I would like to see if more people would reach out to say hello.

Likelihood of Recommending the Church: Somewhat Likely
The church seems to be really involved in trying to reach out to the community and they seem to have a good youth program. Hopefully, I attended on an off day and the members are usually more welcoming.

The Last Impression
It was a very nice service and has a lot of positives, but I would suggest the congregation smile and communicate with visitors more.

Because of this mystery guest visit, the church knows that a first-time guest did not feel welcomed and they have opportunities to improve the guest experience. Making a guest feel welcome no matter when they visit is important, but it’s even more important during times such as Christmas, Easter and other times when you are likely to see more first-time guests. 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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