Greetings, agent. Thank you for your willingness to take part in Secret Agent Sunday. You probably have questions about what we're doing and why we're doing it, so here's the information you need.
Before the mission begins, be sure to get acquainted with the questions so that you're prepared to answer them. We've created a Google Form that you can fill out--access it by clicking the link below. Prefer pen and paper? No problem: download the PDF below (it's laid out for 2-sided printing that you then fold in half).
Question #1: What Are We Doing?
It's simple: on August 5, we're not going to hold a service at Parkland. Instead, we're sending you out on a mission to get outside our walls and see what's happening in the greater church community around us. You'll pick a church and make some observations about what they're doing, recording those observations on paper or on your mobile device through a snazzy Google Form we've created.
On Sunday, August 19, we'll spend some time together over lunch talking about what we observed and brainstorming what we might want to do or change based on what you've observed.
Question #2: Why Are We Doing This?
Perspective. The longer you do any given thing in life, the harder it is to be objective about that thing, and it's helpful to put yourself in situations that allow you to gain back that perspective.
To put it another way, one of our goals is to see numerical growth at Parkland, and growth happens primarily when people come to Parkland on a Sunday morning and feel like they've come home. The best way for us to know whether we're creating a place that people want to call home is by putting ourselves in their shoes, and the best way to do that is to be a guest in someone else's "home."
The only way to do that is to go to another church for a Sunday service, which means you can't come to Parkland that day (I mean, you're good, but probably not be-in-two-places-at-once good). Secret Agent Sunday is about giving you permission to get out there and observe, and to be very intentional about it.
Question #3: What Should Our Attitude Be?
As you know from our series in Luke's gospel, our emphasis as authentic disciples of Jesus is heart first, hands second. Before we talk about the specific things we're looking for, let's talk about our hearts as we engage this task.
The point of Secret Agent Sunday isn't to evaluate what other churches are doing and cast judgement on them. We're not mystery shoppers evaluating church x or y; we're missional agents extracting best practices and observations that will help Parkland fulfill its mission.
This is about our mission, not about the mission or ministry of another church. And, truth be told, you can never evaluate a church with one visit anyway (especially in summer) because you don't know what's happening behind the scenes (and there's always something happening behind the scenes).
So, as you go about the task, do so with a heaping measure of grace. Always give a person or a church the benefit of the doubt. Be gracious, kind, and kingdom-oriented, because that's the only way this will work.
Question #4: What Are We Looking For?
Let's get down to brass tacks here. There are four specific things we're looking for on Secret Agent Sunday.
First, we're looking for facts, not interpretations. The questions we've come up with are designed to be quantitative, not qualitative (i.e., facts vs. opinions). Don't go down the rabbit hole of interpreting what you see; just report it.
For example, one of the questions is, "The greeters noticed I was a guest." It's a yes-or-no question. If that didn't happen, you can say "no" because that's a legitimate observation. It's not legitimate, however, to say in the comment section, "Nobody cared that I was a visitor." You don't know that, because that's a heart question. All you know is what you saw.
Second, we're looking for as much information as we can possibly get. As you'll see from the form, we've come up with a lot of data points for you to observe, taking into account everything from how easy it was to find a parking spot to whether people were hanging around in the foyer after the service, and pretty much everything in between.
Most of the questions on the list are things that you might never have thought about before, which is good, and you might feel a bit overwhelmed by the task.
If that's true, then please relax. Fill out as much information as you can, but don't worry about answering all the questions. Yes, more data is better, but don't let your desire to collect data keep you from worshipping Jesus.
Third, we're looking for the "so what?" as a church. As you're working through the questions, think about how your observations will help Parkland fulfill its mission better. To put it another way, your job isn't just to collect data: your job is to help turn that data into useful information.
You'll likely see some things that make you think, "You know, that's a really great idea that we could do pretty easily and it would make our services better." Write those things down.
You'll also likely see some things that make you think, "You know, we do that too, but I never thought about how it feels when you're a guest, and we should stop doing that." Write those things down, too.
Fourth, we're looking for the "so what?" personally. What are you experiencing as a guest at another church that's giving you a heart for the people Parkland is trying to reach? What is the Holy Spirit prompting you to do (or not to do) when you get back to Parkland?
Here's an example. Let's say that you, as a guest, wanted to blend into the crowd and sit at the back (which is a common impulse for guests), but the only available seats were at the front and you felt a bit self-conscious sitting up there. Your "so what?" in that case might be something like, "I'm going to start sitting closer to the front at Parkland because I don't want our guests to feel the way I did."
Okay, agents, you have your mission, should you choose to accept it. It'll be exciting to see what you've observed, and to see how the Holy Spirit is going to use it to shape Parkland.
Of course, if you're captured, Parkland will disavow all knowledge of you (it's part of being a spy).
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