The Friday (Oct 10) edition of the Wall Street Journal contained an article whose title and deck pretty much say it all: "The Mystery Worshipper: To try to keep their flocks, churches are turning to undercover inspectors, who note water stains, dull sermons and poor hospitality."
The numbers aren't staggering. Alexandra Alter, the article's author, references "at least half a dozen" consulting firms that have sent covert church-goers to between 20 and 50 churches each. So we're talking about somewhere between 120 and 300 documented instances. Not a trend; not yet. But this is just the sort of thing evangelical church staffs seem to love - it's an opportunity to quantify, qualify, and create an action plan for maximizing ministry impact.
And I understand a church's wanting to know a first-timer's impressions upon visiting its services. Just as you don't recognize how weird your own family is until you bring a girlfriend or college buddy home ...1