I’ll admit I’ve done a lot of strange things for money at various points in my young adult life. Yet I don’t think anything has prompted a more polarizing response than when I tell people that I got paid to go to church.
How did this happen, you might ask? With a research company called Faith Perceptions. What this company does is work with churches that want to evaluate the experiences of first-time visitors.
They send contractors out to the churches on assignment who attend a Sunday morning service, observe specific things such as if they were greeted properly and if the parking lot was easily accessible, and then fill out questionnaires afterwords about their experience. Thus, it is very similar in concept to what mystery shoppers do with for-profit businesses.
Each assignment typically earns the mystery shopper… er … church evaluator (?) about $45, although at the time I did it they had assignments that would pay slightly more if you went to college group meetings and special events in addition to the Sunday service (paying somewhere near $75 total).
The churches with available assignments were primarily in the Midwestern United States and almost entirely United Methodist congregations, for some reason. It did feel a little odd essentially having to lie about why I was visiting the church I was assigned to when talking to the different church-goers.
It also felt odd having to look with a critical eye for things that I knew were on the questionnaire, such as “was the pastor’s sermon clear in its message and communication style?” and “was it easy to tell where the nursery was located?”
The people they typically look for are individuals that believe in God, but don’t have a church home. Essentially the demographic a would-be congregation would be trying to reach.
Despite the peculiarity of the job, it isn’t a bad experience overall. Keep in mind that you are helping churches do something they themselves hired Faith Perceptions to do. If you enjoy going to church and are also looking for money, I suppose I’d recommend it and wouldn’t judge you for it. But what if you are solely doing this to make money rather than attend a church service, you might ask?
I’ll leave that one for a Higher Power.