Almost all of our visitors come hoping that they will find their spiritual home. They have not just wandered off the street and into our sanctuaries, they have done their homework: They know what Unitarian Universalism claims to be, and are now seeing if a particular congregation is the right place for them.
How might we see our strengths and weaknesses with “fresh eyes?” How might we learn from others?
One way is arranging for a Secret Seeker assessment. Similar to the idea of mystery shopping, it provides an opportunity to humble ourselves to how others perceive our community.
Step 1: Arrange a meeting with other UU congregations in your cluster (at least 4 works best). Try to include the minister and 2 membership committee people from each church. (Folx outside your normal demographic, such as those with children or marginalized identities can provide pointed insights.) At this meeting, go over the assessment form. Work out a schedule where each church is visited by 2 “secret seekers,” 1 each from a different congregation, and that each church sends 2 “secret seekers,” 1 each to different churches. Try to arrange the visits so the 2 seekers visit on different Sundays, and that special/holiday services are avoided.
Step 2: Make the visits. As a “Secret Seeker,” feel yourself fully in your role as non-UU visitor as you consider each item. Use the same standards you would use in judging a pre-school, coffee shop or an assisted-living facility. For each item, write down some brief notes about what you perceive in the congregation you are visiting, and then check one of three ratings:
(1) Could Be Better (2) Okay As Is (3) Welcoming!
Please complete the assessment individually and immediately after your secret visit. Feel free to add any or all significant items that may not be on the form.
Step 3: Schedule a second meeting six to eight weeks later, where all of the seekers bring back their assessment forms. Have each seeker share their observations with the whole group, then at the end everyone give the assessments to the members of the church they visited.
Have gentle and frank discussion about what each congregation did well, and where they could improve.