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Food critics. Movie critics. Why not sermon critics?
Singing hymns and clasping hands in prayer, they look like regular church-going Christians. But the worshippers at some Sunday services in Britain definitely are not.
Instead they are mostly nonbelievers paid $60 a pop to rate churches in Britain on everything from sermon length to after-service refreshments.
For decades, businesses have used “mystery shoppers,” researchers dispatched to retail stores to pose as consumers, to evaluate customer service and quality control. Now, churches are turning to “mystery worshippers” to visit and rate their performance.The program was launched in November by Christian Research of London and expands this month before reaching nationwide in May.
Religious experts agree that the research could be beneficial for any church seeking to understand how to best draw and keep worshippers in an age of declining attendance.
“Any self-respecting organization is, or should be, alert to useful criticism of its modus operandi,” said Sam Berry, an expert on religion at University College London.
“I would regard the mystery-worshipper approach in the same way I would hotels asking people to fill in a form about their experiences at the hotel.”