Categorized | AIS File Library, Outreach

Do You Need a Secret Shopper?

Do You Need a Secret Shopper?
Greg Atkinson

A lot of people have heard or read that I’m regularly doing secret shopper or mystery worshiper visits to churches around the country. The question has been raised (and it’s a valid one): Do you need a secret shopper? As someone who takes the mission to reach the lost and unfilled seriously, I think it’s a wise investment. It takes about a month for you to lose your new eyes, new ears and new nose. Things that you may have become used to or accepted, a secret shopper can spot on their initial visit.

I had a great Secret Shopper visit recently with a local church plant in the DFW area. I then had great meeting afterwards where I shared constructive and encouraging feedback with their senior pastor. I was reminded of how even young church plants can quickly lose their new eyes and start to miss things that are obvious to a newcomer like me. Since our meeting, the pastor has emailed me saying that they’ve worked on several of the items I listed and are excited about their future. I’m also sending a friend out that is an audio specialist to help them with their sound issues.

In two weeks I’ll do another secret shopper visit at a mega-church in South Carolina. I’ve already begun my pre-assessment, as I take a thorough look at the church’s website and make some phone calls.  This is a church that is seemingly doing well and has a large congregation in a regular city (not a metropolis), but they want to improve and tweak things and I applaud them for that.

I recently came across some good words on Mike Holmes’ blog that I’d like to share with you. He mentioned that a secret shopper or mystery worshipper can do a few things:

1. Assess areas of strength and weakness.
2. See what visitors see.
3. Give objective appraisal.

He also shares the story of his experiment as a secret shopper, which is convicting and inspiring. He goes on to share signs you need a secret shopper or mystery worshipper:

1. Visitors who don’t return
2. Decreased attendance
3. Lack of influence in the surrounding community

I would add an eye for excellence and an attempt to be better at your “main thing” (Sunday) – as Nancy Beach shares in her book “An Hour on Sunday“. It’s always healthy to look at your Sunday morning experience through the eyes of a newcomer and especially the eyes of a lost person. You may get only one chance to make a positive impression on them.

When you bring a guest to church, you instantly become sensitive to your surroundings – the people, the seats, the ushers, the greeters, the kids check-in, the sermon, the music, etc. You want everything to be perfect for your visiting friend (especially if they are not a Believer). A mystery worshiper can spot these crucial areas out for you, before your lost friend does. It’s an investment, but I think a wise one.

Mike also cites an article in the Wall Street Journal on secret shoppers and I think it’s worth a read. As the article states: “Department stores hire mystery shoppers. Restaurant chains bring in undercover diners to rate their food and service.” Isn’t what we do on Sundays as Church leaders more important than department stores and restaurants? Seriously, isn’t it???

Greg Atkinson is a consultant working with ARC. He travels the country consulting with churches, teaching at conferences and writing about innovation, technology, church planting and social justice. Greg most recently served as the director of technical arts at Bent Tree and before that as the director of WorshipHouse Media, after having served as a worship pastor for 11 years.

This article “Do You Need a Secret Shopper?” by Greg Atkinson was excerpted from: www.churchcental.com web site. August 2009. It may be used for study & research purposes only.

“This article may not be written by an apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”

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