May I recommend the following website www.shipoffools.com who have created the concept of a mystery worshipper and let’s face it credit has to go out to the people who dreamt up this idea so sadly they piped me to the post, quite unlikely of me not to have done this first I have to say – feeling very modest today as you can tell however!!!
There have been a good number of reviews over the last 10 years since it was set up and in my humble opinion it is a shame more reviews have not been undertaken given the amount of churches in the UK and the countries mentioned on their site.
There are a number of issues they cover which are cited below taken from the website, it has to be said the reviews are very comprehensive, excellent & worldwide. Churches need to take more seriously these issues and perhaps as this website becomes more like TV’s Watchdog in tern this may affect the performance of the church of the 21st Century for the better.
If highlighting the good and not so good areas of the church this may draw some people to it and others away but if in the long run it is done independently, fairly and honestly then as this is a unique idea no one else I have come across on the internet has achieved it would be an even more worldwide success and build on the small beginnings.
The review covers the following topics:
Name of Mystery Worshipper: Name of the church: Denomination: About the building: About the neighbourhood: What was the name of the service? How full was the building? Did anyone welcome you personally?: Was your pew comfortable?:
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?: What were the exact opening words of the service? What books did the congregation use during the service?: What musical nstruments were played?: Did anything distract you?: Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?: Exactly how long was the sermon?: On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?: Which part of the service was like being in heaven?: And which part was like being in... er... the other place?: What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?: How would you describe the after-service coffee?: How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?: Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?: What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
What would I like to see added to this review?
How would I rate the experience overall? Similar to scores on the doors system that Environmental Health uses and categories like on www.hostelbookers.com!!!
How would you improve the service for future guests?
What activities or mid week activities does the church perform?
How accessible is the building for wheel chair people?
What activities and provisions are there for children?
Does the church have the correct legal signage around the place i.e. fire exits?
An undercover video of the actual visit so if the church is that poor it could be placed on the website to name, shame and hopefully improve for a second visit and to praise those who have demonstrated good service to new potential incumbents.
Does the site need more marketing?
My recommendations cover three aspects for future marketing ideas to improve this aspect of their site and these are as follows:-
a) National Co-coordinator & Volunteers:
A National Volunteer Coordinator should be appointed to coordinate volunteers and to expand the mystery worshipper scheme. This person would have the power to edit commission articles for publication and draw a Rota of places mystery worshippers would visit.
What I propose is that in the United Kingdom there are a team of regional mystery worshippers so for example in the East Midlands there could be 6, West Midlands 6, Yorkshire 6 that review all denominations and place these on the above website and possible sites such as www.hope08.com, www.ucb.co.uk or www.crossrythmns.co.uk so there is greater word of mouth and credibility of the site.
It would be great to see a review of every church in the United Kingdom and the leaders of the church take note of there comments to improve the quality of religious experience for people in this country.
b) Annual Fee:
Each church should pay an annual fee of £5 to the website to contribute to the wider community for a fair, constructive review of an independent person to come at a random time to visit their church, if that does not keep churches on their toes I don’t know what will. This will cover any basic travel costs for the people doing the work voluntarily as a not for profit organization.
c) Marketing to the church:
The editor should as part of the National Co-coordinators role email and write to all churches in the UK and world to inform them of the scheme as many may not be aware of this and secondly to request whether there are any volunteers who would be willing to participate to go to other churches and write articles.
Any person wishing to enter the Christian writing arena this could be a perfect opportunity to gain experience and to write on a National Website.
There are many benefits to increasing the number of reviews on this site as highlighted above but when reviews hit your home church then one should stand up and take note of what someone outside has said about the experience as one can often be biased when you love a place so much you may not be totally objective.
This time millions of people read the review instead of having a hear say approach by people in the locality at least this is written, concrete and actually occurred.
Finally, it would be great to hear of any church that has had a mystery worshipper and your thoughts on being on the receiving end of this? Would you recommend other churches receive a mystery worshipper to their congregation? You’re thoughts as always. Thank You.