Greg Atkinson Reveals Secrets from Being a Church Secret Shopper
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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Inspiring Leader // a living pastor of a small church who has served faithfully for 20+ years