When someone mystery-worships your church

A number of years ago, a college classmate contacted me to see if I would be willing to serve as a mystery-shopper for Seiko watches.  His marketing firm had with a contract to see that salespeople in jewelry stores put Seiko ahead of the competition.  So, I would enter a store and tell the clerk “I’m looking for a man’s watch in a medium price range.”  If I was taken immediately to the Seiko display, I’d say, “Congratulations. I’m the Seiko mystery shopper and you just won 10 dollars.”  (This was back with 10 dollars was maybe 25.)  Then, I’d get their signature and fill out a report.  For each store, I was paid 5 dollars.

Mostly I did it for the fun of it.

A few weeks ago, when we mentioned mystery worshipers on this website, a number of readers wondered if I had a list of questions for people enlisted for this role.  I didn’t.

But now I do.

I ran across a couple of pages from my friend Woody Sears, co-pastor with his wife Emily McKeever Sears, of Cammack United Methodist Church in Indiana.  Woody had shared this with me a few years back and I’d forgotten about it.

The plan calls for you to enlist one or more visitors from other churches to drop in on your church service unannounced, as a typical guest, and later write a report on their observations, how they were treated, etc.

Here is the form….


Name_____________________________  Date_______________

Thank you for agreeing to be a mystery worshiper at (your church).  Before leaving home, please read this entire form to familiarize yourself with all of the questions being asked.  We would like a thorough review as well as your evaluation of your visit.


–Was there enough parking available?

–Was it obvious where you should park?

–Were you greeted before you entered the church?



–Were you greeted in the entryway or foyer of the church?

–Were you given any visitors information?

–Were you given a bulletin or program for the service?



–Were you given any directions as to where you might be seated?

–Were you escorted to a seat?

–Was the seat/pew comfortable?



–Did the church building look in good repair?

–Did the wall coverings and decorations of the sanctuary look inviting?

–Did the building appear to be well-cleaned?



–Prior to the service….

….Was the church preparing for worship?

….Did the things happening in the sanctuary help you prepare for worship?

….Did anyone introduce themselves prior to the start of the service?

….If you have children, were they invited to junior church?


–During the service itself….

….Was the service bulletin or program easy to follow?

….Were there any typos or errors in the program?

….Was the sound system adequate?

….Were the hymns/choruses appropriate and easy to sing?

….Were comments made during the service appropriate?


–The Message….

….Was the message topic appropriate?

….Was the message well delivered?

….Was the length of the message appropriate?


–Following the Service….

….Were you invited to have coffee following the service?

….Were you invited to attend Sunday School?

….Were you escorted to the parking lot?

….Were you invited to visit us again?


Based on your experience today, would you attend this church again?

Give us any comments you wish–

We will welcome your suggestions for improving our ministry of worship.

(the end)

YOU WILL WANT TO ADAPT THIS to suit your church.  In fact, I would suggest you sit down with two or three key leaders and tweak this to fit your church.(Not too many. You want to retain the integrity of the visit and assessment.)

The main thing to guide your decisions would be: What do we want to know?  If your church has no greeters in the parking lot, take that question out. If you have no junior church, remove that, and insert whatever is important to you.

Is it best to have one mystery shopper or several?  My opinion is that if you find the right person, one is enough, especially to get your team started on improving matters.  Then, after you have made some improvements, bring in another mystery worshiper.  (A different person, of course.)

Do not tell the congregation to be on the alert, that “we are bringing in mystery worshipers.”  That’s something like coal mine safety inspectors alerting the mine foreman that “on Tuesday of next week, we will make a surprise visit to your coal mine.”  It defeats the purpose.

Your purpose is twofold: To see how you are doing now and then to improve.

Be sure to show proper appreciation to your mystery shopper.  If possible, treat the shopper and his/her spouse to dinner at a restaurant with a gift card.

We will welcome suggestions at the end of this article from church leaders with experience in mystery-worshiping.


2 thoughts on “When someone mystery-worships your church

  1. I often used friends and relatives as ‘mystery worshippers’ to churches that were considering extending a call to me to serve as pastor. A time or two, this was VERY useful in forewarning me about coldness and/or conflict in the church. (I couldn’t believe that church members’ first reaction to a guest was to try to recruit them to their ‘side’ in a conflict, but it happened!) I wish I had done this later on, maybe about annually, in the churches I served.

  2. Joe, thanks for sharing the evaluation for we put together several years ago. We have had it used in our church about five or six times and has proven to be very useful. I always share the results with the Ad Council (Committee Chairs) and they can do with it what they wish. It has improved our “welcoming.” We now greet unfamiliar faces in the parking lot and escort them into the building. Even though we only have two rooms in the church (sanctuary and community room) we still ask them where they would like to be seated and escort them to their seat. Over the years I have shared it with about 65 to 70 pastors of several denominations and have only had two use it. One reported that if his Deacons (he was not a Methodist) got ahold of it they would fire him. I thought, “Maybe they should.” If anyone would like to us the form, please feel free to do so. God bless.

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