“They Made Me Feel Welcome”—Lessons From a Mystery Visit

An unchurched person reports on an unannounced visit to a local church. Could it be yours?

—A 30-something female visits a small church in Louisiana on Feb. 22, 2015, at 10:30 a.m.


What was it like when you entered the building?
A friendly person greeted and introduced me to another member. I sat with both of them during the service.

Was it obvious where the children’s ministry was located and that it was clean, secure and well-staffed?
The children’s and youth ministry area was located in a separate building from the sanctuary. The children were grouped by ages and grades in separate classrooms. I would feel comfortable leaving my children in their care. Children and youth would enjoy their time there. The children’s director was enthusiastic about the work and another member said the children welcomed visiting youth.

Did you observe anything that would lead you to believe that the church values diversity?
The church members were somewhat diverse. I saw older couples and some younger families. The worship team had people from different ethnic backgrounds. The church had collected items to send overseas for the military. They also had ministry opportunities listed in their church bulletin and posted on bulletin boards in the visitor area.

Describe the service.
I enjoyed the contemporary Christian music played by a live band. The band members were diverse in ages and ethnicity. They fully enjoyed singing. The people seated near me sang along while enjoying the music. Everyone who was able stood and participated. The speaker welcomed everyone including guests and visitors, and provided a moment for us to greet our neighbors and shake hands. During the 25-minute message, the speaker listed different types of love such as new, enduring, sacrificial, etc. The focus was on agape love and how to show it. I easily grasped the speaker’s concept of agape love. I am familiar with the reading so it was nice to hear it in church.

Overall, how friendly would you say the church was to you during your visit?
The friendly church members made me feel welcome. They seemed interested in me and my family.

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Would you return to the church?
I am interested in attending their Sunday school for myself and my children. My children would be receptive to learning and making more friends. The congregation was on the small side so that made me feel more at ease than some of the larger churches I’ve attended. I would encourage other people to attend. Families may be more attracted to this church.


Was the nearby community aware of the church?
I stopped at a local convenience store near the church. I asked a woman working behind the counter if she knew where the church was and she did not. I told her which road it was located on and she stated that it might be north, but they were still unsure.

How was the seating?
I had many available seats to choose from. The congregation was mostly spread out. The seats were comfortable to me. I am medium height and had plenty of leg room.

How recognizable was the church signage?
The church posted signs at an intersection with its name and the worship times listed. It was very easy to find. Every entrance to the church had signs along with signs directing people to parking. Signs on the exterior of the building directed people to the sanctuary and Sunday school area. The restrooms were also clearly labeled.

How was the postservice atmosphere?
The church members welcomed me after the service. I chatted with the two members who greeted me. One lady told me about the children and youth programs. I stayed for a little while after the service, and was introduced to another member who was involved with the youth program.

How would you rate the information resources?
The church had a large area outside the sanctuary for visitors. They had bulletin boards with information about what was going on for the upcoming month in the youth program and postings about the children’s ministry. A member took down my name and address before I left so they could send a postcard to invite my child to the program. I also signed the attendance notebook, but to date, I have not received any follow-up. This church has an effective website. It clearly states the time of their worship celebration and the time for Sunday school. The only information I was not able to locate was a statement of beliefs. Most church websites I’ve visited have that listed somewhere, and it is nice as a potential visitor to be able to read through those.

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What is your overall impression?
I liked the church just the way it was when I visited it. The people were friendly and welcoming. If they are trying to encourage more members, maybe they could branch out with more advertising in the community. I did leave my information for them to contact me; however, I still have not been contacted by anyone.

Adapted from a report provided by Faith Perceptions, which has evaluated more than 3,500 worship services across the United States.

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