Mystery "Shoppers"


Would you be afraid to have your church rated by mystery "shoppers?" Pastor Mark Jeske suggests that church leaders ask themselves these four questions.

“Thank you for calling ___ Store. One of our associates will be with you in just a moment. This call may be monitored for quality.”

I’m sure you’ve encountered this message from a business you’ve called. Businesses that want to grow know that they need to take care of their customers because service is king. Phone centers need to make a caller feel important and give the caller a good experience with the company and its products. Competitors are waiting.

Another strategy that businesses use to evaluate the appeal of their stores, products, and salespeople is to use “mystery shoppers.” These people are paid to shop at the store and then write up their experiences. They rate the appearance of the facility, as well as things like ease of parking, signage, and helpfulness of the clerks. Newspapers send “mystery diners” to area restaurants to evaluate the food, ambiance and service. One good review will jack up reservations, but a bum review will do the opposite. Restaurant owners are intensely interested in knowing the appearance of these mystery diners and sometimes share information with other members of their trade association. The mystery diners have to be very careful not to be seen taking notes at the table or murmuring into a recording device. They don’t want to be outed.

Christianity Today reports that there is an organization called Faith Perceptions (FP) that helps local congregations use mystery shoppers, which we could call mystery worshipers, to evaluate the church’s Sunday experience. FP pays the secret guests $45 to rate the church’s quality in the following categories:

  1. Publicity in the community/awareness
  2. Quality of the pastor’s message
  3. Signage
  4. Member friendliness
  5. Pre- and post-service atmosphere
  6. Seating arrangements
  7. Diversity/outreach to community
  8. Children’s programming
  9. Overall: would you return for a second visit?

FP has found that smaller churches tend to be friendlier while the larger places have better music and messages. The article generated some heated online responses, usually from the standpoint that professionally reviewing worship experiences is unbiblical or something Jesus wouldn’t do and certainly didn’t command.

Here are my questions for you:

  1. If you wanted to know how your congregation looked to outsiders, which would be your top nine criteria?
  2. Do you find the concept of church mystery shoppers inappropriate?
  3. Would you be afraid to have your church rated?
  4. When you visit another church, do you evaluate the experience with family and friends?
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