Greg Atkinson

Why Bring A Secret Shopper Into Your Church by Greg Atkinson

Greg Atkinson is a pastor, author, speaker, consultant and the Founder of Worship Impressions, a secret shopper service for churches. Greg has started businesses including the worship resource website WorshipHouse Media, a social media marketing company, and his own consulting firm. As a consultant, Greg has worked with some of the largest and fastest-growing churches across the United States. Greg is the author of Church Leadership Essentials and Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization. 

Below is a guest post from my good friend Greg. Check it out!


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.

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!


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3 Questions with Greg Atkinson

Greg Atkinson is the Campus Pastor at Transformational Church's Rock Hill Campus. He is an international speaker and author and a leadership guru. Greg is a good friend of mine and someone I truly respect. Here are 3 questions I recently I asked Greg: 

In the past year you transitioned into a new role at Transformation Church.  I have been following the church's growth for a couple of years and it's unbelievable!  Can you share what your experience has been and what makes Transformation Church different from other churches you have either served at or been around?

The past year has been a whirlwind. You've heard of the expression "drinking from a firehose." That's what it's been like. I stopped blogging because I had nothing to say. I've been unlearning 21 years of ministry experience and learning the Transformation Church way.

There are two things that stand out to me that are different about Transformation Church than other churches I've served at. First, the senior leadership and Pastor Derwin actually care about my health and heart. There is a weekly tremendous focus given to soul care. They want their staff to be healthy physically, spiritually and emotionally. We say Upward, Inward and Outward. Inward is loving yourself correctly. 

The second thing that stands out to me is the vision. We are a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped community. Everything we say and do is based out of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. This is different because I'm not following a senior pastor's vision that may change from year to year. We follow Jesus' vision as laid out in the New Testament and it never changes. I would also add that Pastor Derwin is an amazing vision caster. He oozes vision and is laser-focused. That's been really refreshing as I've served other leaders that were vague about the vision. 


I loved having you in New York City recently!  It is always interesting hearing first impressions of the city, can you share yours?  

Crowded and iconic. Those are my impressions. I was in NYC and then Boston in back-to-back days. I could easily walk around Boston. It was 20 times more crowded in NYC. I couldn't get over how populated it was. Secondly, the iconic landmarks were awesome to take in. I had my son with me and we took in a bunch of tourist sites. You were a great tour guide and we really enjoyed walking around with you. Seeing TobyMac live in Times Square is something I'll never forget!


As a student of the church and a leader in a local church, what do you see developing in the future of the American church?  What do you get excited about and where do you have concerns?

I see three things on the rise and hear a lot of buzz about it. First, I think the most innovative and effective churches in the future will be multiethnic. Pastor Derwin has a new book called "The High-Definition Leader" that goes into great detail on this and I encourage you to read it for more on that. 

Second, I see a huge emphasis on leadership development. My favorite champion for this is my friend, Mac Lake. He is a genius when it comes to developing leaders. I encourage everyone to catch his daily Periscope updates. 

Third, as I mentioned earlier, I think soul care is huge now. Craig Groeschel once said we have too many full-time pastors that are part-time disciples. With all the scandals, moral failures and issues happening in the Church right now, soul care has never mattered more. John Ortberg wrote a book entitled "Soul Keeping." I've read it and recommend it. I'm currently reading Pete Scazzero's "The Emotionally Healthy Leader." We are going to read it all together as a staff at TC after we read Pastor Derwin's new book. I highly recommend "The Emotionally Healthy Leader" and "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality."


For more great insights by Greg, check out his website. Not only is Greg great at recommending books- he's also written quite a few! Check them out below and be sure to buy a copy- I highly recommend them! 

You can also follow Greg on Twitter and Instagram!