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.

Why Churches Shouldn’t Be Meeting In-Person During COVID

Hi. I’m Greg Atkinson. If you’re new here: WELCOME! I’ve been blogging since 2003. If you don’t follow and keep up with me on Facebook and YouTube, you may not know that I’m working with a new writing agent on a big new book and have been busy prepping for that. I’m taking the whole month to write and focus on this book proposal that my agent will be pitching to major publishers. Pray for me, please.

In my brainstorming session with a pastor friend last night, I told him what I really think of churches meeting during the time of COVID and what it means to love our neighbor and wear masks. He agreed and it was a great discussion because it was a place of safety. Allow me to share with you what I shared with him in a “safe place.”

I asked him to pray for me as I’ve been thinking about blogging and writing an article to help church leaders think through this. We’ve got to realize that Covid/the pandemic is worse NOW than it was in March and April when we canceled services.

I told him that in 2020 (during a pandemic) Elevation Church saw over 9300 decisions for Christ! Saddleback Church saw over 16,000 decisions for Christ! That’s 80 a day. And Mike Todd and Transformation Church in Tulsa saw over 22,000 decisions for Christ!

Friends, you’re not being persecuted. You’re not being discriminated against. Your church isn’t being attacked by the government or the CDC. This IS NOT about your rights. But you say, “The church is essential.” Sure. So go to church online. But you say, “Studies show that people are healthier that go to church every week.” Sure. I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. I go to church online every week since March 8th, 2020.

As I said on my third podcast with Carey Nieuwhof, the Gospel has never been proclaimed so broadly, so loudly, and so boldly as in the time of Covid. If you’re wondering what Paul (who wrote letters and became all things to all men) and Jesus (who took a boat out on the water to speak to a crowd because it amplified his voice) would have done – they would have used technology. God gave us this technology.

 

Friends, I’ve been blogging about church online since 2008. That’s right: 2008. For 13 years, I’ve been begging churches to use technology and broadcast the Gospel. We have the tools. We have the technology and equipment. There’s no need to gather in-person and put people’s lives at risk and be a negative witness in our community and like SO MANY churches, become a super-spreader and make the news in a negative way. I watched a church in Charlotte get blasted on the news the other night for gathering with a large crowd and spreading Covid.

Why do I write about this all of a sudden today? I guess it’s a tipping point. I had an executive pastor reach out to me last night and say someone that came to their church on Sunday tested positive yesterday for Covid and he wanted my help writing a press release (which I’ve helped several churches with).

Then today: Today, not one, but two different church staff members reached out to me in tears saying that their church is refusing to shut down and is in the midst of a Covid spike in their community. One church just had a Covid outbreak with several people, shut down for one week, and is planning to open back up next week.

Both church staff members asked for my help, my prayers, my advice, and asked me to intervene and talk with their leadership to talk some sense into them and tell them not to meet in-person. I speak with so many church staff members that are on the verge of quitting because they’re putting their lives on the line for bosses that make them show up to work during the highest outbreak of Covid we’ve ever seen, in the biggest outbreak country in the world (the USA). I know other church staff members who did quit earlier this year because their leadership wouldn’t listen to reason.

I encourage you to read Carey’s blog and learn from the shifts that he’s talking about. Listen to my podcast with him about online engagement. Be encouraged by the stories of Elevation and Saddleback and Transformation Church and SO MANY others that are fulfilling the Great Commission and the Great Commandment by not meeting in-person and going online FOR A SEASON.

Lastly, read Rick Warren’s thoughts that he shared recently. I’ll link to his article below. Pastor, this isn’t about your rights and you’re not being targeted. Here are Pastor Rick Warren’s own words:

“U.S. churches,” he said, “have not faced discrimination.” He also said churches should promote the wearing of masks.

“They might have a discrimination case if theaters weren’t closed, football games weren’t closed,” Warren told Relevant. “But they are. We’re not being discriminated against. This is a safety issue.

Regal Cinemas closed down 650 theaters. Disney laid off 28,000 people. We’re not being discriminated against. Some churches are willing to gamble the health of their people. I’m not. The good shepherd prays for his sheep, cares for his sheep. One day I will be responsible. I don’t want to be a super-spreader. I’m not doing this out of fear; I’m doing this out of love. You wear a mask for the love of your neighbors, yourself.”

I’m praying for you pastors and church leaders. I’m here for you. I’ve been writing, blogging, speaking, teaching, consulting, and coaching on the online church for over a decade. I want you to reach people for Christ. I just know for a fact that you can do that through technology. I want you to disciple people. I just know for a fact that you can do that through technology (I’m in a Zoom small group). I want you to love your neighbor and that’s real and tangible and practical now by not putting them in danger and keeping your people safe and not becoming a super-spreader.

Lastly, I was talking with my friend Dave Gibbons yesterday and he lives near LA. My heart hurts over all the hospitals that are overrun and out of beds and out of ICU space and have ice trucks in the parking lot for a morgue. This isn’t political friends. Some in leadership have tried to make it political and partisan and they’ll have to answer for that. This is science and this is about saving lives.
Yes, the US is #1, but not in a good way. We lead the world in Covid cases and deaths and hospitalizations. If the Church would lead the way, we could get this under control. A watching world is watching us and wanting to know if we truly do care for others and if we truly do love our neighbor and our community.
Friends, listen to me: It’s NEVER BEEN ABOUT THE BUILDING. I’m a hospitality guy and even I know that. Take a break for a season. Watch online and trust God. You’ll still see your church grow.
Personally, I gave financially to my home church the most I’ve ever given in my life and I haven’t stepped foot in the door since February. I still worship. I still do discipleship. I still talk with my pastor. I’m still growing in my faith and spiritual journey. You can do it. Just trust God. Trust God to provide for your church financially. Don’t meet in-person simply to collect an offering. I know that sounds harsh, but I heard it directly from a pastor in my Facebook group. God is bigger than that. TRUST GOD.
If we all do our part, we can be a solution to the greatest crisis we’ve ever gone through, and guess what? It will actually help our economy.
I have friends in Australia and New Zealand that used to be under lockdown because they have better leadership and guess what? They don’t have any more new cases of Covid. It’s gone. It’s over and they can go back to their church buildings and they can rebuild their economy.
This isn’t about your 1st Amendment and God forgive those foolish pastors threatening the 2nd Amendment. This is about practically and tangibly loving your neighbor by PUTTING OTHERS FIRST. The first line of Pastor Rick Warren’s bestselling book Purpose Driven Life is “It’s not all about you.”

I have friends in other countries that look at us struggling with Covid and say, “What’s up with Americans and their rights?” We need to live out the Gospel and the words of Jesus. We need to put others first. We need to resist being selfish.
The American Church is bleeding right now and yes, we are in desperate need of a revival, but it won’t come through any political leader. It will come through worship and sacrifice and honoring others above ourselves and when the world sees that: WATCH OUT!
I’m praying for you and I’m stepping down off my soapbox and praying I still have some friends left after this. 😅 I love you.

Here’s Pastor’s Rick article that I referenced: https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/michael-foust/rick-warren-most-us-christians-have-a-political-worldview-not-a-biblical-worldview.html

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.

How I’ve Done Church Assimilation and Follow-up

I was a Campus Pastor at a multisite church for 6 years. After just “winging it” for the first year, I talked to my friend, Nelson Searcy, and he suggested I read his book Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church. Now, mind you, many things are discussed in the Fusion book, including first impressions (which is HUGE – you know how much I’ve written about that in the past). I’m just touching on the area of assimilation today.

I first read the summary of the book by one of my sponsors (seen to the right) called Leaders Book Summaries. After I read the summary, I was hooked and I had our entire Lead Team (our Senior Leadership Team) order and read the book. I then ordered copies for my staff at my campus and we read through it together, too. It’s an amazing read and well worth the investment. I highly encourage you to go get the book (paperback or Kindle) HERE. The leader’s summary will give you the basics and highlights. The book will give you the full philosophy, principles, and strategy for the Fusion concept.

So how do we flesh this out at my church? How do we get guests to return and become fully engaged? Well, I’m a big proponent of the Communication or Connection Card (having people fill out some sort of response or communication card), so we can gather data, allow people to sign up, let us know if they are guests and various other uses. On the Connection Card, there’s a place for you to check off if you’re a First-Time Guest or Second-Time Guest. (One church I served also tracked third-time guests) – We contact both (this is important).

My admin goes through the Connection Cards on Monday and gives me a list of all first and second-time guests. For the first-time guests, I write a handwritten thank you note (this is key) to thank them for coming and encourage them to come back. Inside the note, we give them a $5 gift card to Subway (this is all covered in the book, as to the Why?).

I also have a first-time guest email that goes out to anyone that included their email on their Communication Card. If they included their phone number, I also try to call them at some point later in the week to see if they have any questions about our church and again encourage them to come back the following Sunday. Many churches now use text as a connection point. I encourage you to check out my friends at Text in Church – they’re a great resource tool and have tons of free templates you can use to follow-up with your guests.

Why is all this contact with first-time guests so important? Allow me to quote from the book:

When your guests return for a second look, you’ve won 80% of the battle of gaining new regular attenders and have increased the chances they’ll begin a journey with Christ. Their return signals a new level of interest and openness that is very exciting.”

Did you catch that? IF you’re guests return for a second visit, you’ve won 80% of the battle and they are much more likely to make a decision for Christ! Wow! So, we put everything into getting first-time guests to become second-time guests. What do you do for second-time guests?

For our second-times guests (that check off that box on our Connection Card), I send a form letter that is geared to a returning guest and I talk about next steps (like getting plugged into a LifeGroup or checking out our Discovery or Newcomers Class). In the letter and envelope is another $5 gift card – but this is to Sonic. You’ll have to read the book to understand the importance of all this. I also have a second-time email that I send to them, which outlines next steps and encourages them to begin to get plugged in.

Here’s one sample or template for you to check out. This is the first-time guest email I sent out each week to first-timers.

First Time Guest Email:

Hello. I’m Greg and I’m the Campus Pastor at Forest Park Carthage. I just wanted to send you a quick email to first of all thank you for visiting our church and secondly to encourage you to come back and check us out again.

We are a fun, friendly, family-oriented church that welcomes people with open arms. Please feel free to come up to me and introduce yourself this Sunday so I can put a name and face together. I look forward to getting to know you better and would love to take you to coffee. Just let me know when is good for you.

To keep up with me, my family and my daily life, please friend me on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/greg.atkinson1. To keep up with our church on Facebook, like us here: https://www.facebook.com/fpcarthage. See you this coming Sunday. It’s going to be a great day!

One final thing: We’d really like to know what you thought of your first experience with our church. If you would, please take two minutes and go to this link and fill out our guest survey. We take seriously what we do at Forest Park and want to make sure we’re doing our very best to welcome people to our church. Thanks again!

Assimilation is an often overlooked or under-appreciated part of church ministry. It is vital to closing the back door to your church and helping your ministry grow. Another key, that I want to help highlight is how crucial it is to get people plugged in. When I was at Forest Park: We worship. We grow. We serve. – that’s our strategy. If people can get plugged into a LifeGroup (Grow) and/or begin to serve in some area of ministry (Serve), they are going to naturally be assimilated into our church and chances are, they will stick around.

This is all a work in progress for me and my church. We’re working the kinks out and tweaking our process. We don’t have all the answers. I just thought someone could benefit from this and thought I’d share it as a resource to you. I hope it helps. God bless you as you try to be a stickier church!

*** I mentioned how much I love a Connection Card. I put together a sample template pack of editable connection cards for you. You can download it (and other FREE PDFs I wrote) here. The sample connection card and PDF bundle is FREE!

*** PRO TIP: You’ll get more connection cards turned in if you offer a free gift. It’s also very thoughtful and appreciated. Ideas for free gifts are in the above-mentioned PDF resource.

*** BONUS: Did you know you can interact with me and nearly 15,000 church leaders from around the world? You can join us at http://guestexperience.church/

Also, we have a brand new group focused on assimilation and helping guests take their next steps. You can join us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/churchassimilation/

We’d love for you to join our community as we grow together!

*** Be sure to sign-up for the First Impressions Conference coming in November. We’re currently in Early Bird registration so you’ll save half-off!

Greg Atkinson Knows Church Guest Experience

Someone recently interviewed me and asked me what I do. I thought I would state it plainly here on my blog again. I’m still coaching and consulting – yes, even in this crazy 2020 year.

Greg Atkinson and the team at Worship Impressions specialize in church guest experience. From the basic church secret shopper or mystery worshiper weekend experience to online presence evaluations to coaching and training – we do it all and stand ready to serve you.

I’ve recently partnered with a company and offer all kinds of services including renovation, AVL, signage, platform design, and more.

Greg Atkinson has been considered an expert in church guest experience, guest services, first impressions, hospitality, worship, and overall church leadership. You can read more about him HERE.

Interested in hiring Greg? Contact Greg by filling out the GET STARTED form (found at the top of his business website).

And be sure to check out the fourth all-new: First Impressions Conference featuring a killer lineup of over 100 speakers.

Did you know you can interact with me and nearly 15,000 church leaders from around the world? You can join us at http://guestexperience.church/

Also, we have a brand new group focused on assimilation and helping guests take their next steps. You can join us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/churchassimilation/

Weekend Worship, Guest Services, Church Guest Experience, and the First Impressions Conference

Hey, friends! Did you know that there is a Facebook group where we talk about everything that happens on a weekend at the local church? There is!

If you serve as a pastor, church staff member (Communications, Children’s, worship, guest services, church guest experience, first impressions, hospitality – or even on the security team) – this is a great place to share best practices, ask questions, and learn.

Go HERE to join in the discussion with nearly 15,000 other church leaders from around the world! Remember – this week could very well be someone’s first Sunday at your church. LOVE and SERVE them well.

  • And if you haven’t already, go sign-up for the fourth First Impressions Conference. It’s November 4-6, and it’s all online (no travel). Featuring over 100 speakers. You’ve got to see this killer church guest experience and first impressions lineup featuring bestselling authors, pastors, practitioners, thought leaders, and church communications specialists.
  • See you in November! Register now for half off with the Early Bird discount. https://firstimpressionsconference.com/