The Gospel in Action – A Reflection on My 2022

Greg Atkinson reflects on his past year

 

It’s the end of 2022, and I was reflecting on my very full and exciting year. Where do I begin?

 

Let’s start with my family. My wife is a hospice nurse who helps many people die with peace and dignity. She has a career of purpose, and I regularly try to encourage her. She recently moved to a triage role where she has a home office and helps people via phone. She works long shifts late into the night, and I try to sit in her office and talk with her when I can to help make the time go by easier. I don’t know if it really helps, but I like keeping her company. She now has a family member who got a terrible diagnosis and will be going into hospice down the road. It breaks my heart for her and her family – my family – and I am trying to support her as she walks down this brutal and painful road. Suffice it to say; I’m very proud of her.

 

Next, let me tell you about my three remarkable children. My youngest finished high school in 2022 and started college close to home in the Fall. She’s studying tele-production and wants to be behind the camera. Like me, she’s an artist. She’s been thriving and found a whole new group of friends whom I see on occasion and take out to eat or host in our home to watch movies. My daughter is an activist with a compassionate heart. She’s been active on Instagram about social justice, LGBTQIA+: matters, and women’s rights. Not only that, she has been to several rallies and protests (like for the women of Iran) in downtown Charlotte and even made the news playing percussion and singing a song at a rally. I’m beyond proud of her.

 

My middle child, my son, is a college sophomore and lives in an apartment with three of his friends. He leads worship at a church college group on Wednesday nights and plays guitar, which I taught him, so to say I’m proud is an understatement. He has a very tough academic load, but he continues to make the President’s List and excel, even in his Russian class. Next Fall, he’ll be overseas taking classes in a Russian-speaking country, so I’m just thankful to have him relatively close, just 3 hours away, and treasure the breaks and holidays when he gets to come home. My son chose to double major in International Studies and Religious Studies. Being that I was a worship major and minored in Religion, and have spent nearly three decades serving the church, I love that he chose to study something so meaningful as Religion, and I feel that his faith will be made stronger through the experience.

 

My oldest daughter is a senior in college and will graduate in the Spring of 2023. She’s a Bio-Chemistry major with a minor in Physics, so you know I don’t understand anything she does. I’m just cheering for her to cure cancer as she has worked in a lab the last two years and will continue to after she graduates, as she’s applying to grad schools to work on her Ph.D. She also makes the President’s List and will graduate with honors. She lives in an apartment with her best friend and has been involved in a small group and now college ministry throughout her four years away from home. She also is a musician and plays flute in the concert band at her university. She has a servant’s heart and volunteers often. She’s volunteered since high school, and I admire her. Where I resonate with her the most is that she’s very driven and ambitious. I’m wired the same way and cheer her on when she stretches herself and strives for excellence.

 

My gospel (good news) is that I text my three kids daily and tell them I love them and am proud of them. If I’m up early, I encourage them to have a great day. I tell them I miss them and can’t wait to see them again. No matter what, they know they are dearly loved, and I’m so proud of them. I remind them of their identity – that they’re a dearly beloved child of God. I also try to encourage my wife and surprise her with gifts to show her I was thinking of her. She’s much better at writing handwritten notes, but I know how to shop. My family is my pride and joy. I’m not perfect, but I love fiercely. I look forward to spending the rest of 2022 with them, as my kids are home on Christmas break.

 

Regarding the family I grew up with, my Dad died in 1997. My Mom remarried years later, and I have a kind and interesting Stepdad. We had lunch recently and shared stories of our year. I look forward to getting together with them again over the holidays and exchanging Christmas gifts. I said some kind words about my Mom in my last book and in my new book coming out next year. I thank God for their prayers for me and my family daily.

 

My sister’s oldest kid, my nephew, graduated high school and went to college this year. He’s the same age as my youngest child. We went to his graduation party and caught up with their family. My nephew is a Quarterback on the football team at his college, which is not too far away from where I live. He had a teammate die this year, and I checked in on him and told him I was praying for him and there for him. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, much less someone so young. Needless to say, I’m so proud of my nephew and my sister and brother-in-law for how they raised such sweet, kind, and smart kids.

 

My brother lives in the same city my son goes to college. Earlier this year, my wife and I visited my son and had dinner with my brother and his wife. We shared stories of growing up and laughed way too much. My brother is experiencing some rough stuff with having long Covid. It broke my heart to hear of some of what he struggles with. I continue to pray for his health and healing.

 

The rest of 2022 has been a blur. I run my own business, which has been very fulfilling this year. I am in the process of starting a new business and a few new initiatives. It’s a very exciting time as an entrepreneur. I also wrote my fifth book on the power of kindness, which will come out in the Spring of 2023. I can’t wait for you to read it.

 

We were able to give financially to some great churches, pastors, missionaries, charities, and special things like LifeBoxes, Water Mission, and St. Jude Hospital. I’ve always said that hospitality and generosity are two sides of the same coin. I was taught to be generous, and I have tried to model that for my kids. I hope they carry it forward.

 

I was able to be a good friend to those close to me. My best friend, for thirty years, went through a tough season being accused of something he didn’t do. I was able to support him, encourage him, remind him who he was, and pray for him. He came through his trial by fire, and I’m so happy for him.

 

My second-best friend is my pastor. He and his wife not only had Covid during the pandemic, but his wife has long Covid and is experiencing something like early dementia. Her brain has shrunk, and she’s not the same as pre-Covid. She had to stop driving and can’t really work anymore. With the pressures of running a church, a non-profit, and the demands of a church plant with many needy people, I try to be a fun friend to my pastor and do life-giving stuff that’s not draining.

 

This year we started doing Taco Tuesday. My wife works on Tuesday nights, so I and my pastor and his wife will go to their favorite Mexican restaurant, where I treat them to dinner. We take our time eating and talking for a couple of hours. Nothing church-related – no pressure or demands, just fun. Often, we will go see a movie after we eat at a nearby theater. He was there for me in a tough season, and I’m trying my best to be there for him in his tough season.

 

Another local friend of mine came to terms with his alcoholism this year and spent thirty days in rehab at Onsite. I’ve been to Onsite, and it’s wonderful. I highly recommend checking it out. I heard about it from Bob Goff, Donald Miller, and Carlos Whitaker. When my friend returned from Onsite, I took him to lunch and listened to his thoughts and reflections. You’ll find I break bread with a lot of people. Most of my meetings involve food. Recently, we had dinner together, and he was telling me about how he goes to AA meetings every morning, and his sponsor has been sober for 38 years. I said that’s incredible! We get together regularly and talk about our families and dream up business ideas together. He’s a great business owner.

 

My pastor and my local business owner friend are both Republicans and voted for Trump. So did most of the family I grew up with – and that’s okay. I’m not a Republican and don’t like Trump. My in-laws are Democrats. I get along with both sides of my family. I will not burn a bridge or ruin a relationship over politics. When I get together with my friends or family, we simply talk about everything and anything besides politics. They know where I stand. I don’t need to bring it up.

 

The part of 2022 that nobody sees is what’s special to me. We love to host and have had several house guests in this season of empty nesting. We had two gay friends stay with us – one for a weekend and one for two months. They are dear friends, and it was a pleasure to host them.

 

We also had a homeless man stay with us for six months. He was the third recovering addict to live with my family for multiple months. Most of his stay was when my youngest daughter was still in high school. It was a challenging season and didn’t end as well as the previous two people to live with my family did, but we know God saw that we sincerely gave the man everything and tried to help him get on his feet. We wish him well as he lives in a different state now.

 

Some other special memories of 2022 were having my transgender nieces stay with us in our home – one for a weekend and one for two weeks. They are beautiful souls who have been in my life for a long time. I love them and love spending time with them and seeing them grow up.

 

Another special memory was when my youngest daughter brought one of her best friends by one day, who is a transgender man. It was his birthday, and I asked him if he was doing anything special with his parents to celebrate. He said, “No, we don’t have any plans.” I said, “We can’t have that. I’m taking you to dinner! Pick any place you want to go.” He asked if he could invite his twin brother to come since it was his birthday, too, and I said, “Sure. The more, the merrier.” I offered to take them to my favorite restaurant in town, but they opted for their favorite restaurant, which I was happy to oblige.

 

After dinner, he and his twin brother returned to our home to talk and share stories. While we were talking in the den, my wife (unbeknownst to them) baked them a birthday cake. She decorated it and put some candles on top. They were blown away. We sang “Happy Birthday” to them, and they blew out the candles and devoured the cake. They were so happy, and it made my heart so happy. They took whatever cake was left over to their home, and I was so glad we gave them the opportunity to celebrate their birthday.

 

Friends, as I reflect on this past year, I guess the biggest takeaway that I’ve said for years is that proximity breeds intimacy. The more you spend time with different people, the more you find you have in common with them, and you learn to love and appreciate them for who they are.

 

Whether it be a homeless man, a person of a different ethnicity, a gay or transgender friend, a person of a different political party, or anything you want to fill in the blank, the thing I know to be true is that they are not an issue to argue over or a subhuman being. They are a child of the Living God, and he loves them dearly. Therefore, I love them dearly as made in the image of God.

 

I’m not perfect in any way. I have my faults and issues and regrets. However, my family knows I love them, and they know I love people – all kinds of people. They know I don’t judge and that the gospel, the good news, is available to all. You see, I believe we need to not only preach the gospel of Jesus but “be” the gospel – the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need. We should be good news to a hurting and broken world. Life is tough. We can display love and kindness and make the world a better place.

 

My 2022 was an incredible year, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of all that God did in my heart and life and how grateful I am for another year. I look forward with anticipation and expectation to the new year and can’t wait to see what it holds. I’m praying that God would do exceedingly more than I can ask or imagine in my and my family’s life, and I pray the same for you, my friend. Thanks for reading.

 

 

*Copyright 2022. Greg Atkinson. Written by Greg, not AI.

How to Have the Best Trunk-or-Treat Ever

I was having dinner with two pastors that I coach and they both said they were doing a Trunk-or-Treat this year. I told them of how we did some serious evaluation of the one at my old church and wanted to make sure that we had a way of collecting information and being able to follow up with guests (as opposed to just giving out candy).

My friend Chuck Scoggins, who was the Executive Director of the Center for Church Communications (maybe you’ve heard of Church Marketing Sucks) was with me and he decided to write about how to maximize this outreach opportunity. What follows is his guest post. Enjoy!

If you’re going to go through the effort to plan a trunk-n-treat, fall festival, or whatever you call your Halloween-alternative event, make sure you have a plan in place to maximize the event by following up with them afterward. There are a variety of ways to get participants to return to your church, but one of the most effective is through an email campaign.

Below are a few tips for you to consider if you plan on leveraging an email campaign to get your trunk-n-treat families to come back to your church on a Sunday.

Collect Information

There’s no way around it: if your strategy is to use your event to get people to eventually check out your church, you have to collect their info. The key to getting folks to give you their info is to get creative, for example:

  • Give Something Away
    If you give away a compelling gift like an Amazon Echo, Apple Watch or AirPods, etc. people will be quick to hand over their details as they register to win. Set it up where someone doesn’t have to be present to win as a good excuse to get an email address so you can contact the winner.
    Pro Tip: Make sure you state at the bottom of your registration card that by registering to win, people are giving you information to send a follow-up email.
  • Give Away Food
    Cook up some hotdogs and have a cooler of soft drinks (sodas and water for adults, juice boxes for the kiddos) and ask folks to quickly register (name and email address only) to get their ticket or wristband for concessions.
  • Photo Booth
    Family photos can often be a compelling reason to ask folks for their contact info. Set up a backdrop with hay bales and corn stalks where a professional photographer can take a free family photo. Collect an email address so you can send folks their photo.
    Pro Tip: If you take this approach, you might choose to manually send Email 1 from below (instead of using an automatic send) to thank them for attending and attach their photo. It’s a little more work, but the results will be a huge payoff.

Start With What You Know
As you begin thinking about forming your follow-up email campaign, begin with what you know: folks who came to your fall harvest event were most-likely families. (Pro Tip: Keep in mind that families come in all shapes and sizes, so make sure your emails are mindful of that diversity.) They’re also willing to attend community events that provide benefits for their families. We also know that people will not care about your church until they know that your church cares about them.

When done skillfully, we can leverage what we know about the people in our community to send emails that serve them in such a way that we leave them with a desire to check out our church. We can reach them without a hard sell email.

Pro Tip: Consider a mindset shift that your goal shouldn’t be to get people to come to your church, but rather to take your church to them where they’re at and serving the needs they have. Resist the urge to tell folks all about your church in the initial email(s) you send.

Email Sequence
An email sequence, if you’re not familiar with them, is a series of emails that automatically send at regularly-scheduled intervals when you add an email to the list. You can easily set these up in MailChimp and, for following up on your fall event, I recommend sending one email immediately, and then an email once a week following the initial send.

Here is an example of six value-add emails you could send:

Email 1:
Send a very short email simply thanking them for attending. You might want to include one line that tells folks you’re going to send them five more emails that might be helpful to their family.

Let them know they can unsubscribe at any time (by giving them this permission, you’ll show that you’re trying to be helpful and not pushy). Again, resist the urge to talk about your church in this email; make it about them, not you!

Email 2: 

Find another community event that they might enjoy and tell them about it. It there a community fall festival in your area? Or, perhaps you can provide a list of pumpkin farms and corn mazes in your area.

Pro Tip: If you can find a local pumpkin farm to partner with, you might be able to work out a special deal or a free giveaway (i.e. each family gets a free pumpkin) that can be an exclusive gift for your guests.

Email 3:

By the time you send this email, the calendar will be nearing Thanksgiving. Send an email with “Six Ways to Help Your Family Express Thankfulness Around The Thanksgiving Table”. Include tips such as a go around the table and share one thing you’re grateful for, place butcher paper as the tablecloth and encourage everyone to draw what they’re thankful for with crayons. The goal here is to be creative and give creative and fun ideas for your email recipients. You might also include a list of area Thanksgiving Day parades or other activities folks can do on Thanksgiving.

Pro Tip: Resist the urge to make this over-spiritual.

Email 4:
Use this email to continue to provide value to your trunk-or-treat guests. This email could be something simple like a generic “Keeping Your Sanity While Parenting During The Busy Holiday Season” or something similar. Make sure it’s valuable to them and not about you (it’s okay to include a few spiritual tips such as how to find a good church with a good children’s program, but avoid making this list too churchy). Your goal here is to continue to keep yourself top-of-mind for them by giving them something they can use in their everyday lives without talking to them directly about your church.

Pro Tip: Get your children’s ministry staff and volunteers involved in creating this email. They probably have a better grasp of what families struggle with during the fall holiday season than you do.

Email 5:

If you time your emails just right (a week apart, beginning after Halloween), you should be getting close to Christmas. Use this email as a chance to give folks something like “Five Ways to Avoid Christmas Gift Overload.”

Again, make this a practical piece, not a spiritual brow-beating where you help families navigate the pressure to go overboard. Perhaps you introduce them to the “4 Christmas Gift Challenge,” like:

  1. Something they want
  2. Something they need
  3. Something to wear, and
  4. Something to read

Perhaps you introduce them to an alternative Christmas concept like Advent Conspiracy. Or, perhaps you point them to some meaningful local charities where they can use some of their Christmas budgets to serve another family at Christmas.

Pro Tip: The most important thing to do in this email is to help them navigate pressure, not add guilt or give them more stuff to do. Approach this email carefully!

Email 6:
After you’ve provided a TON of value to your fall event guests, you now have permission to start introducing your church. However, avoid simply making this a pitchy piece inviting people to church. Instead, make an introductory statement like, “If you’ve enjoyed these emails, we’d love to introduce you to our children’s ministry. Then, explain the benefits of your children’s programming (talk about how it’s fun, safe, etc.). Introduce your children’s ministry staff (with photos) and let people know what they can expect when they arrive (children’s check-in process, etc.).

If you can get these families to bring their children to check out your children’s ministry, you stand a great chance at getting the adults to attend your worship service and have a great shot at getting guests from your fall event to your church.

Follow-up Emails:

Christmas

If you’ve done this process well, you are probably okay to send people a simple email to invite folks to your Christmas service(s). I would encourage you to send this email 7 to 10 days prior to your Christmas service(s) and think about how to include language that talks about how folks can enjoy the traditions of Christmas while celebrating at your service(s). Help them understand the benefit to them (think: warm and fuzzies, not spiritual transformation) if they go through the hassle of bringing their family to church.

January

Think about some on-ramp events or programs you can invite people to with a seventh email after a few weeks have passed (maybe in January). Financial Peace University or a Family Life Marriage event or something similar is a great option.

Final Pro Tips:

  • Make sure your church’s web address is in the footer of the email in case someone wants to find out more about you on their own. Don’t make it gaudy or overbearing, but don’t neglect the opportunity to provide someone an opportunity to get more info.
  • Speaking of the website, make sure your website is stocked up with everything a newcomer would need to get the information they want. See this post about what to include on your website to help first-time guests.
  • In the final email you send (sixth, seventh, or eighth email), include a single line at the end that says “This is the last Trunk-or-Treat follow-up email we’ll be sending you. If you’ve enjoyed this valuable content and would like to add your name to our main church email list, click here [with a link to join your main list].”
  • Use an email system, such as MailChimp, that helps you follow the CAN-SPAM laws.
  • Please, don’t go cheap on your candy quantity, the quality of your soft drinks (don’t buy cheap discount store off-brand sodas), etc. Nothing is worse than a family taking the risk to bring their children to your event and them going home disappointed that they got less candy than their friends did by going door-to-door.

My prayer is that God would send many, many people to your event and that He would give you wisdom in how to best follow up with folks to eventually grow your church.

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7 Simple Things You Can Do to Start the New Year Off Right

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2022 is coming upon us. Most people make new year resolutions like joining a gym, going on a diet, etc. I’d like to share 7 simple things you can do to get your new year started off right.

  1. Go on some sort of fast – Priorities and focus are more important at the start of a new year than resolutions that quickly fall by the wayside. You need to participate in some sort of fast from something you love to place your focus on God and make Him your priority. I’ve done short fasts, extended fasts, Daniel Fasts, movie and TV fasts, and most recently a technology fast. Since it’s not healthy for me not to eat due to some medicine I take, I recently fasted one month (30 days) from social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat… you name it) and all things technological. I was shocked to see how dependent (in a bad way) that I had become on them. Getting away from technology for a month allowed me to spend more time in Scripture, prayer, and with my family. It also gave me a healthy perspective on social media. I found myself wanting to post the silliest things that had no business being on Facebook. When I returned to social media, I had a new purpose and perspective and started using my social media platforms the right way. For some of you, it may be easier to go 30 days without eating than without social media. If that is the case, you have a problem and an intervention is needed. I’m kidding. Sort of.
  2. Get a watch – While I was on my recent fast from social media and technology, I found one thing happening over and over: My iPhone was constantly in my hand. I was attached to it. I realized that I always had it out, in my hand and would look at it during meetings, mealtime, and other rude and inappropriate times. I jokingly told my wife, “I just need to get a watch. Then I could keep my phone in my pocket.” Sure enough, while out of town speaking at a conference, I stopped in a shopping mall and bought a watch. Now my lunches, dinners, coffees, and meetings are different because I’m not constantly checking my phone and appearing rude to whoever I’m eating or meeting with. Everything is going mobile and we need a healthy boundary and perspective for this technology.
  3. Read a different kind of book – I’ve often said, “Leaders are readers.” To start the new year off right, I want to encourage you to read something completely different and out of your comfort zone. For two decades of ministry, I bragged about only reading non-fiction and said I had no time for fiction. Guess what? God opened my eyes that truth and beauty can be found in fiction. I recently watched “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” again and I found myself saying, “Tolkien was a genius and God had His hand on His writing.” God used that eye-opening movie to open my mind to reading books out of my wheelhouse. Maybe you only read Christian or ministry books and need to read a business book. Maybe you need to read a historical book or biography. Whatever may be your case, branch out this year and read something totally different. You’ll be better for it.
  4. Go on a retreat – At the last church I pastored I would go on two different retreats at the start of each year (in January). One was with our church’s Senior Leadership Team. One was with my campus staff. I would put a lot of time and effort into prepping for my campus staff retreat. I would think of things that my team needed to address, tackle and discuss. I would be sure to include plenty of social and bonding time as well. We also spent a great deal of time dreaming and talking strategy. There’s a lot of ideas and creative juices flowing at the start of a new year, coming off of the Christmas season and heading towards Easter. January or February is the perfect time to get away and pray, dream, create, plan, play, and bond.
  5. Go to a conference – I also try to take key staff to a conference in the early part of the year (pre-Easter). It’s another opportunity to get away, bond, and feed your professional side. I’ve often said I’ve learned far more at conferences over the years than I ever did at school. Going to a conference as a team could be just the boost your team needs. You must stay sharp in the ministry world and the new year is the perfect time to fill up your tanks (spiritually, mentally, creatively) and to just all around be inspired. Definitely plan on attending the 3-day online First Impressions Conference. This is a must-watch for your team and no travel is involved!
  6. Visit another church – This is my secret that I’ve kept for 20 years of ministry. Whenever I can, however I can, I take any opportunity to visit another church. Maybe I’m on vacation. Maybe I’m out of town at a conference. Maybe I go to a Saturday night service or a Sunday night service. For two decades, every chance I got, I visited other churches. Good and bad. I’ve visited almost all of the churches on the largest church list, as well as the fastest-growing list. I’ve learned what to do and what not to do (I’ve visited some bad churches, too). The key is to see something different than what you’ve grown accustomed to. You see the same church week in and week out, 48 to 50 Sundays a year. You have to be intentional and make it a priority to visit somewhere else and learn what you can. I can not stress enough how important this is.
  7. Set goals – I’m extremely driven and goals are essential to the innovation and strategic leader. It was the late great Zig Ziglar that said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” At the beginning of last year, I asked my staff to turn in goals for the year for their area of ministry. You would have thought I had tortured them. It was like pulling teeth. I scratched my head in disbelief. Every staff member should set goals for his or her ministry area and then share them with the team. This is a concept called Goal Contagion. Scientists have found that you are dramatically more likely to accomplish your goals if you can see other people working on goals. You don’t even have to meet the person, simply reading about what they’re working on gives you a literal boost. As I have blogged about numerous times in the past, we must constantly be recruiting, equipping/training, and growing in our given areas of ministry. If you have 10 volunteers, make a goal to get to 20 volunteers. If you are bad with communication, make it a goal to communicate better this new year. If you’re bad with follow-up and assimilation, make it a goal to send out letters, emails, and make phone calls this new year, each week. Make goals to grow spiritually and professionally. If you lead a staff or team, think of developing personal growth plans for each of your team members and check in with them each week. Don’t wait until the year-end evaluation to tell someone how they’re doing. If someone is doing a poor job, it should not be a surprise to them in a year-end review. Read that again. Communicate and set clear, measurable goals.

* Do these 7 simple, but crucial things, and your new year will be off to a great start.

3 Ways to Still Have a Team After Christmas

So here we are – less than three months away from the biggest church season of the year. I just left a planning meeting with the worship pastor at my home church. We were talking about ways to turn first-time guests into second-time guests. We brainstormed about setting up a tent outside to welcome guests and give them a gift, as well as info about next steps.

The reality is all we planned to do takes a huge amount of volunteer leadership. I coached him on delegating and equipping the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4).

But here’s the real question:
How do we still have a team going forward after such a stressful and busy season as Christmas?

Here are some thoughts:

We live in a digital world. Texting, IMing, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, and daily tweets – truly a whirlwind when it comes to communicating these days. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve found that a personal touch still goes a long way (yes, even in 2021).

  1. A Handwritten Note

Everybody loves to receive a handwritten note thanking them for their service on your team. We’re coming up on one of the busiest times of the year with Christmas. We all know that Christmas is like the Super Bowl for churches. More people will visit your congregation than any other season of the year.

Your volunteers are going to work countless hours (your staff, too). Take the time to write out ‘Thank You’ notes to each and every one of them. If you have the budget, include a gift card in the note to them. Sometimes I do Chilis gift cards for $25. Sometimes I can only do a $10 Starbucks card. Whatever your budget can do – make it happen.

  1. Phone Calls

Another thing that goes a long way in this digital world is phone calls. It seems we’ve lost the art of picking up the phone and checking on our team and seeing how they’re doing. I used to go through my team’s list of names and give them a call just to see how they were doing and if there was anything I could pray for them about. This went a long way!

  1. Personal Touch

One final thought I’ll mention on a personal touch is to give out hugs. You wouldn’t believe it, but a hug goes a long way. Now I know that some people don’t like to be touched and freak out if you try to hug them. You need to be aware of body language and know if you’re making someone uncomfortable, but by and large, most people like a good ole hug.

On Wednesday nights, I greeted my team members with hugs and asked how they were doing. This is in contrast to barking to get your post or “Did you hear about the changes we made?”

I’ve made it a point to not let something business come out of my mouth first. The person is always more important than the thing we’re trying to accomplish or produce. Check on them first and then update them on the changes. Lastly, greet them with a warm smile. Let your people know you love and care for them.

This is about valuing people over production. People are more important than what they can produce and we shouldn’t prostitute them and their gifts. God has entrusted them to us and our team and we should value them.

How long has it been since you wrote a note? How long since you called a team member? Given any hugs lately?

Let’s surprise our team and volunteers with a personal touch and an attitude of gratitude this holiday season.

 

*** Want help reaching and KEEPING more guests at your local church?

Signup for the November 10-12 (ALL ONLINE) First Impressions Conference here.

PLEASE NOTE: You don’t have to watch it all live. When you signup for the VIP Replay Pass, you can watch all 18 hours of video content at any time later on-demand! (Plus you get some amazing bonus content)

Introducing the First Impressions Challenge

Who else wants to fix their church’s guest retention problem once and for all?
The average church guest makes up their mind if they’ll come back for a second visit within 7 minutes of driving in the parking lot…
Long before you step into the pulpit and deliver the sermon you’ve been working on all week, people are deciding if they’ll come back for a second visit.
I know what it feels like to be frustrated by this problem because I’ve served for nearly 3 decades as a pastor at small, medium, and large churches that struggled with this exact issue.
In fact, we had so many guests who would show up once or twice then never return that we actually called them “drive-bys!”

That’s why I created the FREE 5-Day First Impressions Challenge.

 

So you can discover how to close the ‘back door’ and get people coming back and plugged into the life of your church.
During this free workshop you’re going to learn:
  • How to collect guests information in the most efficient and effective way possible
  • How companies like Chick-fil-A and Disney WOW their guests
  • This is the same follow-up system I use to train the largest and fastest-growing churches in the world to quickly connect with people and see them return for a second and third visit

Join the free 5-Day First Impressions Challenge today: https://firstimpressionschallenge.com/

Greg Atkinson is The Virtual XP

Greg Atkinson is open (currently) to work with one to two churches as a virtual XP (Executive Pastor). Greg has no plans to move but is available to a church (ideal size is 500 to 1500 average attendance) that is looking to hire expertise and experience without the expense of a full-time staff member with benefits.

Greg has served every size church in his nearly three-decade ministry career, including being on staff at 3 different mega-churches. Greg has also been a consultant to some of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the US, with congregations of 30,000+.

Greg has worked with a number of coaching clients, but this is different and more intense, with more access to Greg, who would be flying in once a month to be onsite at your church. Throughout the week, Greg would be available via text, phone, and Zoom, as agreed to upon the retainer and what the client needs.

Greg can oversee staff and be a great support, friend, encourager, and counsel to the Lead Pastor and Senior Leadership of the church. You can read more about Greg here.

If you’d like to explore this option with Greg, please contact him at greg@gregatkinson.com.

FREE COVID-19 Christmas Resources

Hi. I hope you’re doing well. I’m not going to lie to you. COVID-19 is on the rise and is the highest it’s ever been. This Christmas is going to be the most unique Christmas we’ve ever experienced.

Some churches have canceled in-person services and gone back online-only (I, personally, think that’s the right call). Some are doing a hybrid approach.

We at the First Impressions Conferencealong with one of our speakers, Ben Stapley of Christ Fellowship Miami, have put together a FREE COVID Christmas Resource Kit for you to help you and your team prepare for what’s sure to be the most unprecedented Christmas we’ve ever experienced as the Big “C” Church.

Go HERE to download your FREE resource. No strings attached. Enjoy!

Thanks and happy holidays!– Greg Atkinson, Founder Worship Impressions & First Impressions Conference

 

 

*** Again: Download your FREE resource list HERE.

The First Impressions Workshop featuring Greg Atkinson

Join First Impressions Conference Founder Greg Atkinson as he teaches you how to lead first impressions in the new normal. Greg discusses the Post-COVID Church and how to welcome guests in the new reality.

Sign up here for access. http://firstimpressionsworkshop.com/

 

First Impressions and Church Guest Experience Podcasts

Hello, friends. I’ve had the honor of being on several podcasts over the years. Recently, I was a guest on some great podcasts where we discussed my books The Hospitality Ministry Handbook for Volunteers and my bestselling book Secrets of a Secret Shopper.  

I realized that I haven’t told you all about them, so I wanted to post them here for you to check out.

I’m in the process of recording several more, so stay tuned for updates.

For now, give these a listen!

Greg Atkinson Launches The Church Secret Shopper Certification

Greg Atkinson is a bestselling author, speaker, pastor, coach, and consultant who has worked with churches of all sizes, including some of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the country, as well as organizations such as Josh McDowell Ministries. Greg is considered an expert in church guest experience, first impressions, hospitality, guest services, and worship.

Greg has produced worship services for three mega-churches, served on Worship & Arts staffs, and been a pastor – serving the local church for the last 26 years. Greg also produced several large conferences including Leadership Network’s Innovation3 Conference, Catalyst Dallas, and the Rebecca St. James’s SHE Conference.

Greg was selected as one of the Top 30 Christian Leaders to follow on Twitter in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. To read the list featuring leaders like Dan Cathy, Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Ravi Zacharias, Bob Goff, Russel Wilson, David Carr, LifeWay, Tim Tebow, Brian Houston, The Gospel Coalition, Dr. Sam Chand, Chris Brown, Frank Bealer, and others – go HERE.

Greg’s blog was also selected as one of the Top 35 Blogs Christian Leaders Need to Read in 2018, 2019, and again in 2020. His blog is listed with ChurchLeaders.com, Pastors.com, Michael Hyatt’s blog, and others. You can read the list HERE.

Greg has spoken at numerous colleges, seminaries, and conferences all over North America, including teaching “Intro to Praise and Worship” at Dallas Theological Seminary from 2005 to 2007. Greg has trained several church staff teams, including full-time staff at Saddleback Church and Prestonwood Baptist Church.

Greg is a contributor to many magazines and websites, including ExPastors.com, Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox Newsletter, Pastors.com, ChurchLeaders.com, Outreach Magazine, Relevant Magazine, Christianity Today, Leadership Journal, XPastors.org, Catalyst, FaithVillage.com, Preaching Magazine, ChurchCentral.com and Leadership Network.

You can hear Greg speak on the subject of first impressions on various podcasts here: https://gregatkinson.com/first-impressions-podcasts-greg-atkinson-church-secret-shopper/

Greg started and leads the Weekend Worship and Guest Services Facebook group. Currently, it is a thriving community of 15,000 church leaders from around the world. You can join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/worshipandguestservices/

Greg also leads the Church Assimilation and Next Steps Facebook group, currently boasting 5000 church leaders.

Greg is a coach and consultant – specializing in areas such as first impressions (also called hospitality or guest services), leadership, and the entire worship experience. Greg is a member of the Forbes Coaching Council and a Forbes featured contributor.

Greg has been a professional secret shopper for several aspects of the hospitality industry, including restaurants, hotels, and various forms of travel.

Greg is the Founder of the First Impressions Conference – the annual event featuring the leading voices for first impressions and guest services from around the world.

Greg is also the Founder of  Worship Impressions – a professional church secret shopper service. Greg has worked hard over the last two decades to build this consulting brand and reputation of a solid ministry to the local church. Greg specializes in church guest experience, first impressions, hospitality, worship, and production.

HERE’S THE BIG NEWS:

For years I have been asked to train leaders to be secret shoppers. I literally wrote the book on it and thought that would be good enough, but over time, the demand for hands-on training and mentoring has increased. So, I’m going to offer a secret shopper certification and train people myself.

If you’d like information, sign-up here: http://secretshopper.church/

NOTE: Like any certification, this will not be cheap. The book is cheap. 😉 If I’m going to invest in you and endorse you, you’re going to have to earn it. I look forward to hearing from you.