Five years ago Woodgreen was visited by a ‘Mystery Worshipper’. This is the spiritual equivalent of a ‘Mystery Shopper’ that market research companies sometimes use to test the quality of customer service in shops.
Of course, a church isn’t a ‘shop’ and those who attend aren’t ‘customers’. However the Mystery Worshipper idea can be healthy.
What is it like for a complete stranger to walk into our church?
Would they feel welcome?
Do people talk to them?
What do fresh eyes make of the way we do things?
Sadly, the Mystery Worshipper who visited Woodgreen rated us badly on ‘welcome’. While they had a handshake when they came in the front door, nobody spoke to them after the service, even though they sat on their own for some time.
I think things have changed over the last few years. Visitors now regularly tell me how well they have been welcomed and how friendly people have been. In our recent Community Carol Service one of the last people to leave the building was one of the guest visitors!
So I don’t think we would be rated as badly on welcoming now as we were then.
However, our Mystery Worshipper visit all those years ago does illustrate the role we ALL have when it comes to being welcoming, hospitable and Christ-like on Sundays.
I read an article recently by Ed Stetzer who highlights the ‘3-minute rule’ when it comes to welcoming.
‘The three-minute rule begins when the final prayer is said or song is sung. This is not the time to talk to your best friends. During those first three minutes, two things are going to happen: people who are familiar are going to talk to each other and people who don't know anyone are going to leave quickly. This is where it's crucial. If you take the time in those first three minutes to talk to the people who aren't connected, you will have time afterward to talk to your friends who are more likely to stick around.’
I think he makes a really good point here and gives a really practical strategy to help us all be better at welcoming.
Being better at welcoming isn’t actually that difficult!
In part it just means being selfless with our time after the service and using at least the first three minutes to be on the lookout for people we don’t know, whom we can speak with and encourage to take that next step closer to us... and to Christ.