Archives For Internet Links

realtor-156501_960_720In 2009, I wrote a widely-shared blog entitled “Digital Real Estate.” In it, I pointed to people like worship leader Matt Redman and pastor Rick Warren, as well as churches like Life.Church and Willow Creek – that had claimed their name on Twitter, but were not yet tweeting. They just wanted to reserve their name in case Twitter took off. It did and they started to tweet. This, my friends, is what I call Digital Real Estate.

Years ago, I had to wait for another Greg Atkinson to let his domain expire and then I jumped on it. I’ve been blogging here at GregAtkinson.com ever since. I have my name (@GregAtkinson) on Twitter and Instagram.

I mentioned in 2009 that when Facebook started offering vanity names I was on vacation and missed grabbing my name by 2 days. On Facebook, my personal web address is www.facebook.com/greg.atkinson1, instead of www.facebook.com/gregatkinson. Another Greg Atkinson beat me to it!

Call me paranoid or egotistical, but I prefer words like intentional and strategic, which are used all throughout my writing.

I come to you today with something that has been on my mind for well over a year now. And that is: You need to reserve your church’s name on the .church domain. You can purchase your church’s name here (if it’s still available).

I was consulting with a church in February of this year and told them to buy it and they didn’t. Now their name has been taken. I told another church to buy their church’s name on the .church domain about 2 years ago (that’s how long this has been on my radar). They purchased their church’s name alright but didn’t quite grasp the concept. Instead of getting Grace.church (I’m making up a name), they purchased GraceChurch.church. The “church” is redundant.

I see smart and wise churches around the country grabbing their church’s name on .church. I strongly suggest you do the same. Follow the example of Life.Church and so many others.

Allow me to tell you what I tell churches that I consult with (and if I’m wrong then I’m wrong, but if I’m right…). I tell church leaders and pastors that in the near future when people think of churches on the web, they will automatically associate the name of the church with the .church domain.

So, for example when I told a local church (northrockhill.org) that in the future when someone hears about your church from one of its congregants, they will say something like, “Cool. I’ll check you guys out online. It’s northrockhill.church, right?” “Right.”

Just trust me: As familiar as we are with .com and .org, it will be just as normal and familiar for .church.

BOTTOMLINE: Go today and grab your church’s name on the .church domain. What do you have to lose?

PLEASE NOTE: I am in no way affiliated with the .church domain, nor do I receive any payment for writing about this. My link for you to buy it goes to GoDaddy.com because that is who I personally use, but I really don’t care who you go through to purchase it.

This is about future-proofing your church, which I talk about a lot in my consulting. 

Here is what Life.Church and Willow Creek’s Twitter account looked like when I first wrote about this in 2009:

lifechurch2009 willowcreek2009

I think they have no regrets in reserving their “digital real estate.” Now go grab yours! Trust me.

 

This year, Catalyst Atlanta is going to be out of this world. I plan on going and hope to see you there. Please don’t miss the Early Bird Rates that end today! Register HERE.

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healthy person

I watched the big news yesterday that Derrick Rose got traded from the Chicago Bulls to the New York Knicks. What’s to note about this announcement is that Derrick Rose was supposed to be a Chicago legend and superstar originally. He is very talented and can make basketball plays and shots look effortless.

The problem is, unfortunately, like Grant Hill was, his career has been plagued by injury. He never reached his full potential. Your physical, emotional and spiritual health is huge. Without it, you’ll never reach your full potential. This applies to organizations as well.

If your organization is not healthy, it will not reach its full potential.

How do you address health in an organization? With its leaders. John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I agree. Does this happen by accident? No! You have to fight for health. Just like you make yourself go to the gym and eat healthy. You must be intentional.

“You don’t have to cultivate weeds. They grow automatically. In fact, weeds are a sign of neglect.” – @RickWarren

Don’t neglect yourself. Don’t neglect your senior leadership. Don’t neglect your staff. Don’t neglect your volunteers. I have talked with three pastors and one Director of Missions for a Baptist Association that took or are on a sabbatical. That’s awesome! Give your leaders a break. Go on a personal retreat. Take time to rest. Time to play. Time to have a hobby. Time to care for your family and house.

If your leaders aren’t healthy… If your org’s culture is not healthy… If your team is not healthy… Say it with me: You’ll never reach your full potential.

And even worse, you can cause harm, hurt others and do real damage. You need to protect health at all costs. I’m big on church growth, but I always say church growth is a by-product of church health. It’s the same for non-profits and businesses. Your health can fuel your growth, or it can have an adverse effect on your growth.

Friends, pray for your leaders. Pray for me. Pray for yourself. Seek after health – in every area. And BE INTENTIONAL. Health doesn’t happen by accident.

14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. – Luke 8:14 (NLT)

So, I ask: How’s your health?

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I and my company Worship Impressions are committed to helping your church reach and keep guests. As specialists in Guest Services, Hospitality, and First Impressions, we come alongside you and what God is already doing at your church and give you a guest’s perspective, as well as suggestions and next steps to improve.

We don’t just do one consult and leave. I am committed to a long-term relationship. I propose next steps, introduce you to friends, specialists, and strategic partners. And I’m always one phone call or email away. I’ve had pastors call me up and ask a question years after I did a secret shopper for them.

The question becomes: When is a good time to bring in a church secret shopper or mystery worshiper? It really depends on your church’s season of life/schedule, budget and an attitude that says you’re ready to do whatever it takes to reach lost people for Christ.

One word of caution:

You will always be busy and you’ll always be getting ready for something. Please don’t let that stop you from investing in your church’s future and potential. Make time for a consultation if you are struggling, plateaued, declining, dead, or even if you’re booming and just want to go to the next level. The key is you have to be intentional. You have to be open to change and invite feedback. It’s scary, but oh so worth it!

So to show you how I usually help churches, here’s what a yearly schedule could look like:

  • I come in the Summer and help you Get Ready for Fall
  • I come in the Fall and help you Get Ready for Christmas and the New Year
  • I come in the New Year and help you Get Ready for Easter

There really is no right or wrong time to bring in a church secret shopper. Just pray about what works best for you and your ministry. Once you’re ready, let us know. You can reach me at my personal email: greg@gregatkinson.com or Worship Impressions at info@worshipimpressions.com.

I hope to meet you soon. The best days of your church are ahead!

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We all come from different tribes, denominations, styles of music and sizes small to large. The one thing churches of all kind have in common on a day as huge as Easter is wanting to turn first-time guests into second-time guests. How do you do that?

One tool that I’ve used well over the years and highly recommend is having some sort of response card, info card, communication card or connection card – whatever you want to call it.

You can put these in the seats, in the bulletin or hand them out as people walk in. You can collect them in a variety of ways: Have the guests put them in the offering plate, or have the guests take them to a connection or collection area.

You can see a higher response rate by offering a free gift for people that turn them in at the designated area. Some churches give away books and some give away coffee mugs.

The point it to collect as many response and connection cards as you can. Please have a circle or box that they can check off that reads “First-time Guest.” Also good to ask is, “How did you hear about us?” Also have boxes for people to check off if they made a decision for Christ. Also good is a space for people to share prayer requests.

What you do with the card once it’s turned in – what you do post-Easter is key. As I’ve said before, “Assimilation is an often overlooked or under-appreciated part of church ministry.”

You can read all about how I did assimilation at my last church HERE

I hope you guys have an incredible and productive week and may you see much fruit this Easter season!

This is not leadership

We know we all should die to self daily, but seriously – how often do you do a serious heart check? I recently transitioned off a local church staff and had to reassess my heart, think about my identity, remember my calling, and refocus my time and energy.

But today I want to talk about reassessing our hearts. Monday night I was at a men’s small group worship night held in someone’s house. There were about 15 to 20 guys gathered around a living room and kitchen.

We sang and worshiped our Living God, but what struck me was that the guy leading worship (who happens to be a physician) was singing and playing like he was in an arena with 10,000 screaming worshipers (picture a Passion concert with Chris Tomlin).

I stood there amazed watching this guy just go for it and sing his heart out. He truly led us into the Presence of God. And then it hit me:

Should we sing any less louder or give any less effort when leading before a small group than on a stage? Absolutely not!

Jesus deserves our all – our best. Our utmost for His Highest. Nothing less. He is worthy of all praise and as we sang the other night: a living sacrifice.

So, how’s your heart?

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A lot of people have heard or read that I’m regularly doing secret shopper or mystery worshiper visits to churches around the country. The question has been raised (and it’s a valid one): Do you need a secret shopper?

As someone who takes the mission to reach the lost and unfilled seriously, I think it’s a wise investment. It takes about a month for you to lose your new eyes, new ears and new nose. Things that you may have become used to or accepted, a secret shopper can spot on their initial visit.

I once had a great Secret Shopper visit with a local church plant in the DFW area. I then had great meeting afterwards where I shared constructive and encouraging feedback with their senior pastor. I was reminded of how even young church plants can quickly lose their new eyes and start to miss things that are obvious to a newcomer like me.

The pastor emailed me saying that they’ve worked on several of the items I listed and are excited about their future. Now, many years later, my secret shopper process has evolved. The last church I worked with was Menlo Church in California, pastored by John Ortberg. I evaluated all 5 of their campuses and went over a 22 page report with their senior leadership team. 

In one month, I’ll do another secret shopper visit at a mega-church in Dallas, TX. I’ve already begun my pre-assessment, as I take a thorough look at the church’s website and online presence.  This is a church that is seemingly doing well and has a large congregation in a metroplex, but they want to improve and tweak things and I applaud them for that.

I came across some good words on Mike Holmes’ blog that I’d like to share with you. He mentioned that a secret shopper or mystery worshipper can do a few things:

1.               Assess areas of strength and weakness.

2.               See what visitors see.

3.               Give objective appraisal.

He also shares the story of his experiment as a secret shopper, which is convicting and inspiring. He goes on to share signs you need a secret shopper or mystery worshipper:

1.               Visitors who don’t return

2.               Decreased attendance

3.               Lack of influence in the surrounding community

I would add an eye for excellence and an attempt to be better at hospitality. It’s always healthy to look at your Sunday morning experience through the eyes of a newcomer and especially the eyes of a lost person. You may get only one chance to make a positive impression on them.

We all know a guest makes up their mind whether or not they will return in the first 10 minutes.

Read that again!

When you bring a guest to church, you instantly become sensitive to your surroundings – the people, the seats, the ushers, the greeters, the kids check-in, the sermon, the music, etc. You want everything to be perfect for your visiting friend (especially if they are not a Believer). A mystery worshiper can spot these crucial areas out for you, before your lost friend does. It’s an investment, but I think a wise one.

Nelson Searcy (in his book “Fusion”) says that if a first-time guest turns into a second-time guest, they are 80% more likely to get plugged into your church and eventually commit their life to Christ. That’s huge and that’s what I do. I help churches remove unnecessary barriers and bad impressions and turn first-time guests into second-time guests. 

I once read an article in the Wall Street Journal on secret shoppers. As the article states: “Department stores hire mystery shoppers. Restaurant chains bring in undercover diners to rate their food and service.” Isn’t what we do on Sundays as church leaders more important than department stores and restaurants? Seriously, isn’t it???

If you’d like to pick my brain or ask what’s involved in a secret shopper visit, contact me. If you’d like to read through endorsements of my ministry, check out the Worship Impressions website. Keep pressing on and know that what you do matters!

3D-Strange-Leadership

[The following is a brief excerpt from one chapter of my new book Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization. Go to the book’s website for more info: http://strangeleadership.com/.]

My top two spiritual gifts are leadership and administration, so the subject of organization is something I love and gravitate toward. If you have the spiritual gift of administration, you love structure, systems, processes, and org charts. If you don’t, those things probably drive you crazy. Regardless of your primary gifting, it helps to approach leadership with a thirty-thousand foot view and try to see the big picture of what’s going on in your organization. The way the body of Christ works is if this is difficult for you, surround yourself with other leaders who this is natural for.

In my travels, speaking, consulting, and conversations with leaders of all types, I’ve discovered a major reason they are not getting the results they desire is due to a system designed to give them the exact result they’re getting. If your system is designed to fail, you will fail every time. If your organization’s culture is one of creativity, innovation, trust, and you have a healthy system in place, there is no limit to what you as a team can accomplish (through the Holy Spirit). Do you think the Bible cares about organization? I do. Read the story of Moses and his father-in-law in Exodus 18:13-26.

I thank God for including the story of Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro. In this story, we see Moses was a man with flaws and had made a poor decision on how to best go about judging the people. Maybe he didn’t have the gift of leadership or administration. He did, however, have the wisdom to listen to someone who did, and the Bible tells us this gave Moses new strength to carry out whatever God commanded him. The people also flourished in their settings. It was a win-win.

Greg Atkinson

The book The Externally Focused Quest by Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw has some great thoughts on this as well. I could easily quote chapters of it for you, but I’ll just encourage you to read it.

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.
Luke 6:43 (NIV)

It’s crucial to recognize your system could be choking the life, health, creativity and innovation out of your organization. My encouragement to you is to have someone with the gift of administration evaluate your systems. This could be someone in your church (maybe a business leader who will volunteer), a gifted staff member, or an outside consultant who can come in and look at the big picture.

One Scripture I’ve found myself quoting to church leaders often is when Jesus told his disciples to be “wise as serpents” (Matt. 10:16). In The Message, verse 16 reads, “be as cunning as a snake.” I am often referring to this verse when I’m engaged in helping an organization with strategic planning and overall strategy.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with strategy when it comes to church leadership. Of course we need to always be sensitive and open to the Spirit’s leading and sudden change, but God can be with us in the strategy and planning of any organization. So as you set up your systems, structure, and processes, I would suggest two thoughts: keep it simple and keep it fluid or flexible.

Neil Cole, director of Church Multiplication Associates said, “Simplicity is the key to the fulfillment of the Great Commission in this generation. If the process is complex, it will break down early in the transference to the next generation of disciples. The more complex the process, the greater the giftedness needed to keep it going. The simpler the process, the more available it is to the broader Christian population” (Cultivating a Life for God, page 10). Albert Einstein said, “Out of complexity, find simplicity.” I agree. You might have seventy-five staff members on your team, but this doesn’t mean you can’t approach your structure and processes in such a way in which they are simple to share, quote, and move people through. Did you know research strongly backs this principle?

The book Simple Church is full of thoroughly researched and proven principles. I want to strongly encourage you to read it if you haven’t already. In Simple Church, the authors, Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger, tell us that “in general, simple churches are growing and vibrant. Churches with a simple process for reaching and maturing people are expanding the kingdom … Conversely, complex churches are struggling and anemic. Churches without a process or with a complicated process for making disciples are floundering. As a whole, cluttered and complex churches are not alive. Our research shows that these churches are not growing.” (Simple Church, page 14).

*** Also be sure to download the FREE Team Discussion Guide on the book’s website and go through the book with your entire leadership team.

 

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1. Communicate for change. Your goal as a pastor is to take people from where they are to somewhere different. This is communicating for change. Andy Stanley will talk about how he crafts messages for “life change” rather than just to communicate information and he’ll also explain how to create clarity and focus around your message at the Preach Better Sermons FREE online event on April 29th.

2. Attract people to God’s word, not you. Lysa TerKeurst knows how to match the reality of God’s word with the struggles of her audience. She’ll explain how she does this, as well as how to help more people remember your message by using sticky statements and memorable points at the Preach Better Sermons event.

3. Preach from a passion for people and an urgency of the Gospel. Judah Smith talks about how preaching with the urgency of the Gospel is foundational to effective preaching. He’ll also share how to deal with discouragement as a pastor at Preach Better Sermons.

Make a commitment to be a better preacher.  Sign up for the free online conference.  Here are the details:

Date:  April 29th, 2014
Time:  1pm – 4pm EDT
Speakers:  Andy Stanley, Matt Chandler, Lysa TerKeurst, Judah Smith, Herbert Cooper, Michael Hyatt, Andy Andrews, Derwin Gray, & Carl Lentz.
Registration:  Free sign up at PreachBetterSermons.com

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God has wired you uniquely and specially—your DNA and what makes you tick is different from mine and those around you. God has a personal plan for your life (Jer 29:11). Often, when God wants to use you for something significant, he will give you a passion for a cause or area of ministry. This is the H or “heart” in your SHAPE profile by Rick Warren. Mark Waltz of Granger Community Church says, “Every person has a fondness for a certain cause, need, or group of people. This is reflected in our conversations and is deeply tied to our emotions.” God will put his finger on something in your area of passion to use you for His cause.

 

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. —Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

 

The Bible instructs us to guard our heart. In the NLT, it goes on to say “for it determines the course of your life.” Where you go next and what you do next may be directly tied to your heart and passion. This is key for the innovative and strange leader. In a blog post at www.9Marks.org, Kevin DeYoung encourages pastors:

“Let your person constantly be refined by the spirit of God, and let the truth of God’s word shine through your own personality.” God is the one who gave you your unique personality and like it or not, He has a purpose and plan for it.

 

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

—Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

 

In the next chapter, we’ll look at the role vision plays in the life of the leader. Andy Stanley said, “Vision is always accompanied by strong emotion [or passion]. And the clearer the vision, the stronger the emotion.” (Visioneering p. 10) Another -ion I could list as a way to lead an innovative organization is by conviction, but to me this is closely tied with passion so I’m combining them.

I believe God gives you a passion, and this becomes a conviction for you. Like Christ, you won’t let anything deter you from what you feel led to do, pursue, or change. Jeremiah had a similar passion and conviction about sharing God’s word and speaking on His behalf. Look at this awesome verse:

 

But if I say, ‘I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,’ His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up

in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. —Jeremiah 20:9 (niv)

 

A heart check

Jeremiah, like so many of God’s servants over the years was living a passionate life based on the conviction he needed t be obedient to God’s call on his life. Jeremiah knew his shape,even though it wasn’t called this then. Do you know your shape?  I encourage you to take a SHAPE profile and read more about it in Rick Warren’s best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life. Rick writes in his Ministry ToolBox : “At Saddleback, we talk about the five different factors that make up a person’s SHAPE: Spiritual gift(s), Heart, Abilities, Personalities, and Experiences. Why is this important? Why should we bother figuring out how God has shaped us? I’ll give you five benefits.” Warren then promises these five benefits from understanding your SHAPE.: reduces stress, increases success, determines how you learn, deepens satisfaction, and builds self-esteem.

Rick Warren says, “The heart represents the core of your desires, hopes, interests, dreams, ambitions, and affections. The heart is the seat and source of all your intentions and motivations, what you love to do and care most about. Your heart is the real you, what you really are, not what others think you are or what circumstances pressure you to be. The heart determines why you say and do what you do, and feel the way you do about it. Just as each of us has a unique heartbeat, so God has given each of us a unique “Emotional Heartbeat” that signifies our passion in living.”

“What you are passionate about reveals your emotional heartbeat—find your passion and you will find your heart. And God looks upon the heart. And God wants you to serve Him out of heartfelt passion, not duty. There are two basic characteristics that determine when you are serving God from your heart. First is enthusiasm: You will be working out of love and enjoyment. Second is effectiveness: When you do what God has shaped you to love doing, you will get good at it.”

Throughout the course of human history, many have led from their heart and passion and many were thought to be strange— this goes with the territory. The beautiful thing about this concept to me is when you tap into your passion, the ministry, and service you do just flows out and you are less likely to burnout. Leading from passion is a secret to endurance and success in life and ministry. When God wants to do a new thing (innovation) through you, He may very well start with something near and dear to your heart. He may give you a passion for something He wants to change or be done differently. Follow your heart. Follow your passion and be obedient to God’s call.

 

The following is a book excerpt from my new book Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization.