Greg Atkinson Reveals Secrets from Being a Church Secret Shopper


Thanks so much for listening in today on the unSeminary podcast. It’s so great to have you joining us as we talk with Greg Atkinson.

Greg has joined us on the unSeminary podcast twice before, and we’re happy to have him with us for a third time.

Today we’re talking with Greg about first impressions. He’s just released a new book called Secrets of a Secret Shopper, which is a great resource on how churches can improve their first impressions with visitors. Greg has been working as a secret shopper among churches for several years and helps them find ways to improve their first impression.

  • Welcoming the newcomer is a biblical command. // Greg did a study on hospitality in the bible, which begins in Leviticus when we are urged to welcome the stranger. It then continues into the New Testament with Jesus’ teachings. Hospitality is a biblical requirement for all pastors and elders as Greg notes in 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:7,8. In the bible the person who is called a stranger would be the same person who is a first-time guest or newcomer in today’s churches. So the first thing a church should do is be hospitable to the newcomers and make them feel welcome. Greg notes that many new people may have been away from church for a long time, or have never ever attended: “We have the amazing privilege and opportunity to welcome guests as they come, remove barriers and distractions and help people that are skeptical, nervous, uneasy…”
  • Have a welcoming web presence. // The first thing Greg does as a secret shopper is to evaluate a church’s online presence. This means visiting their website, Facebook page, or any other social media they may use. He looks for things that display the identity of the church, which includes photos and information about events. He works with those churches on ways to increase their web presence and make their websites draw people in.
  • It begins in the parking lot. // When Greg visits a church, he says a welcoming atmosphere begins in the parking lot. His book goes into detail on the expectations of each part of the welcoming committee: the parking lot attendants, the greeters, the ushers, the information desk. Greg urges everyone to be “hands free”—don’t look at a cell phone instead of greeting and helping each person who comes through the door. Put down your cup of coffee while opening doors for someone and give them your full attention. Be present and welcome them by smiling and waving as people pull into the parking lot to give that great first impression.
  • Be accessible. // Part of Greg’s evaluation of a church is whether the pastor is easily accessible. Take time to greet people, especially the visitors, and be open to talking with them and praying with them. A pastor shouldn’t act like a rock star who is immediately ushered off the stage at the end of the sermon and isn’t available to everyone.

You can find Greg’s book Secrets of a Secret Shopper on Amazon and find out more information on Greg’s website www.gregatkinson.com. You can also visit www.expastors.com for more resources aimed at ex-pastors, pastors, and church leaders.

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Lightning Round

Helpful Tech Tools // Google Docs

Ministries Following // Northpoint

Influential Book // Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance by Bob Buford

Inspiring Leader // a living pastor of a small church who has served faithfully for 20+ years

Contact // gregatkinson.com  expastors.com  [email protected]

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.