During my occasional rooting around on the internet I sometimes go to the “Ship of Fools” website (WWW.shipoffools.com). This, for me, is one of the best Christian sites around; it is irreverent and thought-provoking.
One of its pages is entitled “Mystery Worshipper” and the idea behind it is that a mystery worshipper will visit a Church without anyone knowing and then post a report on their findings and opinions on the website. Some of the views are interesting and reveal how Churches are often seen from an outsiders point of view. I know that several years ago Eastwood Parish Church was visited and that was when I realised that any of my Churches could be visited, my worship leading could receive comments and things like the welcome of the congregation could be examined.
Of course it isn’t a legal visit, like a school inspection, and it is subject to opinion, likes/dislikes and point of view. It is not an objective way of looking at things and of course once its on the internet the Church concerned has little real opportunity to redress the balance. However it still remains a challenge to all of us to think of how our Church would be perceived by a visitor. Would they feel welcome? Would anyone speak to them? Would they understand the service? Would the sermon be meaningful and relevant? Would they enjoy the after service coffee (if there is any!)? Would they want to come again? If not, why not?Last month Roger Johnson led a fascinating and challenging three-week course on “Welcoming Churches”. Those who were able to attend really seemed to appreciate it and at least once Church has begun to think of how it can improve as a result. Ironically its one of the most welcoming churches in the whole circuit, once you`re over the doorstep.
We may never gat a mystery worshipper in our churches but we should be asking ourselves these questions the whole time; and not just those people who hold office or sit on the Church council, but every one of us, who cares for Christ’s Church.
Go and have a look at the website and then think “How would a visitor perceive my Church?”