“It Was an Uplifting Environment”—Lessons From a Mystery Visit

“Everyone was so welcoming and genuinely seemed interested in getting to know me and having me as a member.”

—A 20-something unchurched female visits a large church in Philadelphia on Nov. 26, 2017, at 10:00 a.m.


What was it like when you entered the building?

Upon entering the church, the first greeter offered me mints and said, “Enjoy the service.” The second greeter received me with such a vibrant and welcoming demeanor. She asked if I was new. When I said, “Yes,” she walked with me to a table with welcome gifts and brochures for first-time attendees. We introduced ourselves and she asked what I was looking for in a church. She shared some facts about the church and also explained a little about the sermon speaker. She seemed genuine.

Was it obvious where the children’s ministry was located and that it was clean, secure and well-staffed?

I’m a parent and I would feel good about my child joining the youth ministry. The clean building was ideally located and had a warm welcoming environment for children. I noticed signage with smiling staff awaiting children for the youth ministry. I also read a pamphlet about the youth ministry.

Did you observe anything that would lead you to believe that the church values diversity?

I observed a number of ethnicities within the staff and guests. They had a mix of age groups, a pretty even amount of men and women, and a wide range from young to older adults. I learned about a volunteer opportunity called “Night to Remember,” a formal event for children with disabilities.

Describe the service.

I enjoyed the live band that played contemporary, up-to-date music. The mu-sicians smiled and were into the music. Most of the guests clapped and sang along. The speaker greeted everyone and invited all the visitors to join the church. The greetings were just right. The 35-minute message was extremely positive and an easy concept to grasp especially since the speaker clearly ex-plained it. I felt like the speaker was talking directly to me and my life, that’s how relevant the message was to me. It focused on making good of the strengths you are blessed to have and not being jealous when you see other people succeed-ing. The speaker gave examples from her own life and the Bible. She was a guest pastor from the church’s other location who appeared on a screen via broadcast. She was not in the building. I would prefer to have the speaker pre-sent, but the technology was done well with no glitches or anything that hindered understanding the message.

Overall, how friendly would you say the church was to you dur-ing your visit?

Everyone was extremely welcoming. I felt like I belonged with all the hospital-ity shown to me.

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Would you return to the church?

I would definitely return to this church even though I don’t attend regularly. It was a positive and uplifting environment. Everyone was so welcoming and genu-inely seemed interested in getting to know me and having me as a member. I definitely would encourage others to go. Modern families and younger people would be attracted to the church.


Was the nearby community aware of the church?
About a block from the church, I stopped someone getting off the subway and asked where the church was. The young woman pointed toward some red signs and explained the church was located where the signs were. She didn’t share any more details.

How was the seating?
The seating was comfortable. I was led to a seat by an usher and there was an adequate amount of seating. About 20 to 25 open seats were left on the level I was seated on. Everyone was seated together and not separated all over the church.

How recognizable was the church signage?
They had bright red signs outside the church as well as the service start time. I did not notice any signs for parking. Inside the church, signs were easily visible outside the bathrooms and by the children’s area. The bright red signs were most helpful in finding the church as I wouldn’t have thought that a theatre building would host a church service.

How was the post service atmosphere?
I waited around and talked to someone about my experience as a new visitor. The atmosphere seemed relaxed and inviting as everyone hung around after the service talking to staff about the service as well as getting complimentary tea and coffee. It made me enjoy the experience at the church even more because every-thing seemed so genuine.

How would you rate the information resources?
They had several brochures with information covering a wide variety of topics. As soon as I walked in, a sign for new visitors to stop at a table and receive a welcome gift with a mug and brochures. The greeter informed me about the background of the church and the service that day. Upon entering the auditorium, someone handed me a form to fill out with my contact information. The infor-mation available on the website included the background of the church, its pas-tors, and its sister locations spread around the city. I was able to learn from the website what services the church offered. They had an event listed on the web-site for first-time members called “Starting Point.” This get acquainted program invited visitors to have lunch with the pastor and some of the members to learn a little more about the church.

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What is your overall impression?
Overall I really enjoyed being a visitor at this church. The environment was ex-tremely genuine and welcoming. My only suggestion is that the speaker actually be in the building and not on screen. No one mentioned if this is how it is every service or if this was a special occasion. I left my contact information with the church and received an email from one of the pastors two days after my visit. The email welcomed me and invited me to join them again.

Adapted from a report provided by Faith Perceptions, which has evalu-ated more than 7,200 worship services across the United States. Visit FaithPerceptions.com.