CNLP 132: Greg Atkinson on The Secrets of a Secret Church Shopper: What People Are Looking for When They Come to Your Church

Would you ever send a secret worshipper to your church service? What do you think they’d find?

We’re talking to Greg Atkinson who is a secret worshipper to large churches all around the U.S., and hear some of the things he’s seen and discovered that churches are doing great – and churches could do better.

Welcome to Episode 132 of the podcast.

Greg Atkinson for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast

Guest Links: Greg Atkinson

Greg’s Website

Greg on Twitter

Secrets of a Secret Shopper: Reaching and Keeping Church Guests by Greg Atkinson

Free DownloadGreg’s Connection Card Template

Links Mentioned

The Canadian Church Leaders Conference Barrie, ON; June 8th – 10th

ReThink Leadership Atlanta, Georgia; April 26 – 28, 2017

TrainedUp Leadership

3 Insights from This Episode

1. First impressions start with your website. 

Just over ten years ago, first impressions started when people pulled into your church parking lot for the first time. Now, the first impression you make on new guests is through your website. Think about it, when was the last time you went somewhere completely new and you didn’t look it up online first?

Different website pages are important to different groups of people. Potential first-time visitors who are churched will probably look at your beliefs page and history page. First-time visitors who are unchurched will be looking for any information that can help put them at ease and let them know what to expect. This can include “new here” pages, about pages, staff bios (with photos) and vision.

If your website is welcoming and helps people feel like the know what to expect, they are exponentially more likely to turn into first-time visitors.

2. Always expect guests. 

All people want to be served well and loved well when they go to church, and first-time visitors are no exception. Walking through the doors of a new church can be intimidating—ease their nerves by making it clear where first-time visitors can go to receive information or talk to a staff member. When giving information out to newcomers, remember that less is more. Give them enough information to answer their main questions, but don’t overwhelm them with information

Lastly, remind your staff that every Sunday is somebody’s first Sunday. Their first 10 minutes in your church is critical to let first-time visitors know that you care for them and that you prepared for them. If you’re not expecting guests, you’ll stop getting them

3. Don’t miss the opportunity to connect. 

One of the most important things you can do is have first-time guests fill out some type of connection card. It’s critical to know who they are, how they found you and what they’re looking for. Taking the opportunity to learn more about them increases the odds of them becoming second-time guests.

Greg graciously provided a connection card template for podcast listeners. Click here to download.

Quotes from This Episode

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Next Episode: Todd Adkins

The vast majority of churches struggle to recruit and keep volunteers and even staff. As a result, they can’t grow or expand. Todd Adkins explains why most church leaders struggle to develop leaders and explains how to turn that around.

Subscribe for free now and you won’t miss Episode 133.

CNLP 132: Greg Atkinson on The Secrets of a Secret Church Shopper: What People Are Looking for When They Come to Your Church


  1. Debra Mendoza on April 24, 2018 at 11:27 am

    All the best blogs that are very useful for keeping me share the ideas of the future as well this is really what I was looking for, and I am very happy to come here.

  2. […] most churches lose guests within the first ten minutes of a visit. Incase you missed it, check out Episode 132 and this blog post outlining how to lose a first time guest in 10 minutes or […]

  3. Tim on March 26, 2018 at 10:59 am

    How do you make sure folks have a way to fill out the connection cards? Do you provide pens in all of the seats along with the card? what are some of the best ways to get new people to fill out these cards?

  4. […] Greg Atkinson returns to the podcast after a very popular first interview about how most churches lose guests within the first ten minutes of a visit. Check out Episode 132. […]

  5. […] 8. Episode 132: Greg Atkinson on the Secrets of a Secret Church Shopper: What People are Looking for… […]

  6. Tim Clayton on June 18, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    Do you have any thoughts on things to include in a new comers class? I like your point about answering the visitors questions without overwhelming them. Any insights into whinch questions to answer and which to leave for later?

  7. Tevis Austin on April 8, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    What a great episode. I believe this topic is so important for churches. Thanks for addressing this topic and sharing resources like the connection card. Looking forward to reading Greg’s book and to hearing more on this topic in a future podcast.

  8. Kurt Lindgren on March 29, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    I need the follow up episode before Easter. No pressure.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 29, 2017 at 7:16 pm

      Easter 2018 is no problem.

      • GregAtkinson on March 30, 2017 at 7:58 am

        Ha! The good news is you and your team can read my new book before Easter. 🙂

  9. Paula on March 22, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Such a great episode! Can we get the follow up episode sooner than a year?! Pretty please?

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