“The Church Was Friendly and I Felt Welcomed”—Lessons From a Mystery Visit

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

—A 30-something unchurched female visits a small church east of Atlanta, Georgia, on March 13, 2016, at 10:45 a.m.

4 stars out of 5

What was it like when you entered the building?
I felt welcomed from the moment I walked in. Someone opened the door, met me with a warm greeting and handed me a program. The church members were friendly. Everyone was engaged in conversation and several people tried to make us part of the conversation.

Was it obvious where the children’s ministry was located and that it was clean, secure and well-staffed?
The children had a nice space and the kids seemed eager to go with the youth leader. I would feel comfortable leaving my child in their care. The bulletin had information about the youth ministry.

Did you observe anything that would lead you to believe that the church values diversity?
The diverse congregation had young, middle-aged and older people. Everyone seemed interested in me. The church had programs for the youth, but the music during the service was neither diverse nor geared for youth.

Describe the service.
The traditional music did not appeal to me. The people singing on stage were more engaged than the rest of the congregation. The congregation was somewhat engaged. The pastor, his wife, and several others greeted us. The greeting was on point and visitors were not called out and made to introduce themselves. I liked the time of fellowship, where everyone just came over and acknowledged each other. The message was not intended for someone who was not well versed in the Bible. Instead of teaching, it was more of a refresher for people who were familiar with Bible stories. Although the pastor was well prepared, it was hard for me to grasp the message. He used PowerPoint slides for visuals, but seemed to count too much on audience participation.

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Overall, how friendly would you say the church was to you during your visit?
The church was friendly and I felt welcomed. A lot of people introduced themselves and asked me to return.

Would you return to the church?
This church would attract an older group of people or grandparents who enjoy taking their grandchildren to church. Based on the friendliness, I would return, but based on the style of service, I would not want to come back. The music and teaching style did not appeal to me. In order to appeal to a younger audience, the pastor might consider teaching as opposed to discussing the Word.

Additional Observations

Was the nearby community aware of the church?
I stopped by a local store and asked the cashier for directions. He offered specific ones that led me directly to the church. I also asked a group of people outside the store and they too guided me to the church. They offered no other information.

How was the seating?
The seats were pretty typical standard seating, but there were plenty of seats to go around. People just sat where they wanted.

How recognizable was the church signage?
I saw no clear entrance from the street; however, the church sign was large and I clearly saw the service times from the street. Inside the church, I observed small signs marking each area of the church as I walked by. However, being unfamiliar with the church, I saw no larger signs that would make me aware of which direction to go.

How was the post-service atmosphere?
The atmosphere was friendly and people were helpful in guiding me to where I needed to go. I overheard conversations from different committees planning activities for other services.

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How would you rate the information resources?
The bulletin had information about the last service and the church was forthcoming in the area of finances. They seemed active in their community. The website had thorough information about the church and they posted previous sermons. The website should be updated more often to include the most recent activity. The church provided cards for visitors to fill out and leave in the collection plate. However, I was not able to fill out the card before the collection plate went by. It might be a good idea to have a box for visitors to leave their information after the service.

What is your overall impression?
It is a loving church. In order to appeal to a younger audience, the pastor might consider teaching as opposed to discussing the Word. Everyone is not a seasoned Christian and some people know little to nothing about the Bible. The congregation was a warm and welcoming group of people and I felt welcome.

An unchurched person reports on an unannounced visit to a local church. Adapted from a report provided by Faith Perceptions, which has evaluated more than 3,500 worship services across the United States. Visit FaithPerceptions.com.