Many years ago, not long before 'senior school' beckoned, I can remember one of my Aunts bringing round some gifts; one of which was a box of chocolates which bore an image of a kitten. I found the image on the box rather lovely and imagined just how lovely the contents must be if the box looked that good. But I was warned by my Mum that they were to be saved for a special occasion and so they sat on the shelf in the kitchen waiting for a suitable day, and someone special enough to have one, arrive.
And at last that day came!
They were brought down from the shelf and unwrapped and offered to whoever it was who had been considered to have been worthy of such an honour. I couldn't wait! I stood there waiting my turn, which being the youngest and therefore most insignificant of the bunch meant last, to select one of the wonderfully shining chocolates for myself.
As I was about to bite into the treasure which had at last been made mine there was a rather sharp 'crack' which came from the direction of one of the 'grown ups'. Silence fell and a broken denture and two bits of the 'unmelted' confectionery were ejected in one swift spit (so much for being the favoured guest!).
Upon inspection it transpired that the 'sweets' were in fact shop window 'dummies' made of plaster of Paris painted to look the part (which was why they looked so shiny and appealing I guess)! My aunt had bought them off a market trader who she (if I recall correctly) had never seen before - no surprise there I guess!
But the more interesting thing for me as I recall the goings on is that this is what so many people find when they encounter the Church for themselves. Take away the pretty wrappings, heralding something so delightful, and what you find is at times just not fit for consumption!
What was promised and what was delivered turned out to be poles apart - and this is something many people I chat with love to tell me in the following format:
"Ooh, we went to 'St Namewitheld's' and found ourselves:
i. Totally ignored,
ii. sighed at because the kids were making a noise,
iii. standing up when they sat down and vice versa,
iv. totally confused by person who read something at the front (think he was called 'Mark!')
v. asked to move because we were in someone's seat,
vii. looking forward to coming again next week,
viii. ........... add your own comment.
Now I would like to challenge you with this blog entry to do a couple of things:
THE FIRST THING
Read the 'Ooh, we went ...' and decide (honestly) which of the eight responses (yes, you
can add your own) you would select for your church (or better still get someone else to do
that for you) and then collect them and discuss them with your church council.
THE SECOND THING
Enlist the help of someone who is unknown to the church family (a 'Mystery Worshipper')
and get them to come on their own or with others (a noisy baby is fun if you can find
someone to bring one) and get them to give you a report which answers the following
- When was the service? (date and time)
- Were you greeted or welcomed by people?
- How many in?
- What were your first impressions?
- Before the service started .. I experienced, noted ...
- How easy was it to keep up with the service? (Leader, hymn books, projector, etc.)
- Comfort factor (warm/cool, comfortable, could see and hear stuff?)
- Sermon? (length, theme, content, boring, interesting, Zzzz? rate from 0-10)
- Music (choir, music group. What style? rate from 0-10)
- What was good about the experience?
- What was bad about the experience?
- Would you go again (or recommend to a friend?)
- What did you find out about: the people, their ministry, vision, aspirations?
- After the service ended .. I experienced, noted ...
- If any, who came and engaged with you
- The high and low points of the day were?
And having done that, bring these along with the self-assessed paperwork and start to see whether what you have is likely to break the teeth of those who come through your doors (and your hearts).
We'll be doing this where I am again soon - it is worth doing as you'll learn so much when you see yourself through the eyes of others.