Mystery Guest Worshiper
Jan is highly sought after by congregations who desire a better understanding of who God is calling them to be and need help with defining and implementing a plan of action to become that congregation.
Jan is the owner of Grow Church Now and consults with churches who have questions to answer to move forward in living out the Vision and Mission that God has given them. She has been consulting with churches since 2007 and has had the privilege of working with United Methodist congregations of all sizes and demographics, located across the Texas Conference.
Virtual Worship…. your new front door! Two years ago, we seldom thought about having a conversation regarding what hospitality might look like with an online congregation, but now it is crucial to bring a hospitality focus to everything we offer online and onsite. Today, more than ever, the first impression received by our guests determines if they make a second in-person or virtual visit. That first impression includes the initial welcome, the intentional follow-up, and everything that happens in between.
I have led District trainings and workshops on Hospitality/Welcoming Ministry, have personally consulted with over 40 congregations to bring an improved, intentional hospitality focus, and served as a Ministry Subject Matter Specialists for Vibrant Church Initiative from 2015-2020. My extensive training and network allow me to stay current with best practices in the Hospitality arena and to help each congregation determine their strengths and the opportunities for improvement. I look forward to having a conversation with you soon.
Rev. Dr. Craig Gilbert
Rev. Dr. Gilbert is currently the Pastor of Worship at Friendswood UMC. He has provided guidance to almost 50 churches in the Texas Annual Conference in his role as worship consultant. Craig was the Worship Director for the TAC for six years, planning and leading worship for the annual event. He has also worked with many churches across the country, as well as personally instructing over 5,000 worship pastors and worship leaders from across the globe on a variety of congregational worship issues. His book, Launching a New Worship Community, was released by Upper Room Books in August of 2021. Craig works closely with Discipleship Ministries and Path 1 Church Planting to help UM churches around the country with developing, designing, and launching new worship services, re-imagining and re-launching existing services and even planting new churches. Craig is a national faculty member of the National Worship Leader Conference, member of the Advisory Board of Worship Leader Magazine, former contributing editor to Worship Sound and Song Magazine.
Using years of experience in consulting in the areas of worship and church development, as well as years working in the VCI program for the Texas Annual Conference. Rev. Dr. Craig brings that expertise to your church through the mystery worshiper program. Craig visits your church on a regular day of worship. His evaluation begins before he even arrives as he assesses the ease of even finding and getting to know your church both online and in the community. His worship day evaluation is a comprehensive, “parking lot to parking lot” report that helps your church understand strengths and weaknesses in all areas of the worshiper experience. His observations, recommendations, and subsequent coaching will help your church turn his initial report into actionable plans that will help you increase positive visitor worship experiences while also increasing your member retention levels, resulting in overall church growth.
A native of Houston, Texas, Ms. Juanita Jackson is a life member of Trinity East United Methodist Church.
As a child, she found joy being active in children and youth ministries of the church, such as Sunday School, Children’s Choir, Youth Usher Board, Girl Scouts and MYF. Over time, her infectious love of children and the elderly caused her to continue to serve the church through her passion for lay ministry. She has served as Chairperson of Administrative Council, Member of SPPRC and Finance Team, as a Member and Chair, Board of Trustees. She currently coordinates Congregational Care Ministry and serves as Lay Delegate to the Annual Conference and District Lay Leader for the Central South District.
Ms. Jackson helps extend the witness of the church, by serving on the Trinity East Village Community Development Corporation and on the Emancipation Economic Development Council.
A graduate of the historic Jack Yates High School in Houston, Ms. Jackson earned a BA in Speech Communication from Texas Southern University and continued Post Graduate studies at the University of Houston.
Beyond the local church, Ms. Jackson serves as Lay Leader for the Central South District, as Secretary to the University of Houston Wesley Foundation Board of Directors, Treasurer of the Local Chapter of Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) as well as coordinates camping logistics for district campers. Additionally, she served as an officer for South Central Jurisdiction of Black Methodists for Church Renewal (SCJ BMCR) and as Youth Coordinator, and member of the board of Directors of National Black Methodists for Church Renewal (NBMCR).
After being diagnosed with cancer in 2009 she retired from 40 years of active employment at the University of Houston. God directed her fight for life, through medical treatment, a stem cell transplant, plus fervent prayers from family, friends, and her church. She returned to lay ministry at Trinity East, with great joy and inspiration. In 2019 she underwent a second stem cell transplant. Her motto: if I show love and compassion for the young and the elderly, God will bless my later years with a younger person to provide the same needed attention.
My name is Jack Matthews. I was born and raised in Houston and currently live in Tyler, TX. I have been working and volunteering in a ministry of some kind for the last 15+ years. Volunteering on a U.M. ARMY workday in 2010 actually led me to meet my wife, Marla, while building a wheelchair access ramp. Marla and I got married in 2011, we have two boys, Jackson, and McClain, who have managed to keep us on our toes, but also show us a deeper level of connection to God and our Church. I currently work for U.M. ARMY as a Regional Director, setting up and facilitating mission trips in the Texas and Louisiana United Methodist Conferences for church groups large and small.
What is the first impression a visitor has about a church or their congregation? Whether they are coming to an event on-site, attending a Bible study with a friend, or coming to worship, every time a visitor steps foot on your property, they are learning something about your church. As a mystery worshiper, I will help your church hold up a mirror to let them see how they looked on a particular day to a visitor from the outside. While I have been invited to all kinds of events and Bible studies, my specialty is analyzing your Sunday morning experience. As a life-long United Methodist worshiper, and someone who has attended services throughout Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Washington D.C., and England, I have seen what a good worship service can do through music, a sermon, a prayer, or even the simplest bulletin. Picking up on these things is difficult for a member, so let me help you find out what your church looks like from the outside.
I am a retired banker with over forty years financial and management experience. Currently I work Monday through Thursday for a not-for-profit corporation that serves as an agent for the US Small Business Administration. I help business owners cope with outside pressures affecting their business such as a pandemic and changing market conditions. I have served my local Methodist church in numerous roles including the Administrative Board chair with the introduction of a single board model. I served the Texas Annual Conference as a lead consultant for six years for the Vibrant Church Initiative as guided by the Office of Congregational Excellence.
Though the Gospel never changes, our communities and world are constantly evolving and creating new opportunities for ministry. We like to keep the “status quo” because it represents stability and is comfortable to us. Unfortunately, our quest for comfort can lead guests that are looking for a place to build a relationship feeling unwelcome. A tool that I have used to identify such issues is to employ mystery guest worshippers to reveal areas that we as members take for granted.
Rev. Dr. Steve Stutz
The Rev. Dr. Steve Stutz is an ordained Lutheran minister who has served rural/small town congregations in west Texas, as well suburban/inner city congregations in the metro Houston area. He has worked extensively with clergy and congregations of the Texas Annual Conference in a wide variety of consulting roles since 2014. He is a certified church consultant through the Society for Church Consulting and teaches at the Houston Graduate School of Theology.
Guests often visit our churches with little or no understanding of worship and what to expect, but they do come with expectations regarding excellence, cleanliness, the safety of their children and their own comfort, etc. Because it is so easy to overlook what we have gotten used to, it can be very helpful to secure an outside evaluator for a greater degree of unbiased and unprejudiced objectivity. Dr. Stutz has worked with several UMC congregations in the Texas Annual Conference to improve their first impression/welcoming experience on the basis of “secret shopper” methodology. Typically, this would involve sampling your Sunday morning services and providing observations and suggestions for improvement, while reinforcing the good stuff already going on.