Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Is Your Church Friendly?

Do you know how to assess your church’s ability to make a visitor feel welcome? The Pennsylvania and Chesapeake conferences have mystery guest programs to evaluate how visitors experience their churches. Read how they evaluate their churches and think about how your church handles the following areas: Chesapeake’s secret visitor program is run in-house. They find their own guests, give instructions and follow up to make sure the visitors submit their questionnaires and comments. Guests are asked to rate the following general areas:

  • First impressions
  • Building appearance and grounds
  • Greeting experience
  • Programming
  • Sabbath School class
  • Worship service
  • Fellowship meal

Several questions are included under each of these headings. For example, Chesapeake asks about whether there was a fellowship meal after church and whether the secret guest was invited to stay. Participants are also asked to rate the overall impression of the dinner, whether they felt welcome during the meal and if a church member either sat with the guest or invited them to join their table.

One thing Chesapeake leaders have learned is that “all of the secret visitors said they would welcome a follow-up card or email,” says Gary Gibbs, Chesapeake’s evangelism and ministries development director.

“Mystery guests are also “especially impressed when a member makes it their mission to get to know them, and shepherds them through the morning services.” Pennsylvania Conference contracts with Faith Perceptions, a Missouri-based research and marketing company that gives churches an inside look into the church experience from a visitors’ point of view. Mystery guests rate 16 different areas using a 10-point scale, with 10 as the most favorable rating. The areas rated are:

  • Community awareness
  • Signage
  • Greeting upon arrival
  • Pre-service atmosphere
  • Seating
  • Music
  • In-service greeting
  • Message
  • Speaker
  • Post-service atmosphere
  • Information
  • Friendliness
  • Children’s/Youth ministry
  • Diversity and outreach
  • Return
  • Overall experience

In addition to rating each area numerically, visitors are also asked to provide details that help give context for the numerical rating. Faith Perceptions highlights the highest and lowest three categories to give clients a snapshot of what they’re doing well and the areas that need some sprucing up. They also compare those high and low numbers with churches they’ve rated of similar size, and also with all other churches in their index, regardless of size. Here’s where Pennsylvania stands:                         

Need More Guidance?

Tim Madding, former director of leadership and spiritual growth at Pennsylvania Conference and Tamyra Horst, communication director, created a DVD church training resource to help bring greater awareness to guest connections. It includes four hours of training and helpful tools to jumpstart the church in connecting with and discipling the guests. Click here for more information:

Read more from the July 2014 Visitor:

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