Questions to Ask a Church Secret Shopper

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a meeting or coffee with a pastor and told him what I do as a consultant and I watch them perk up. They love the idea, but they either don’t know who to hire or where to start or what to ask a church secret shopper.

This week I had a meeting with a Senior Pastor who had just left being over Guest Relations at a huge church and he put his hands over his face when I told him what I do. He said, “Greg I would have paid any amount to bring you in at our church if I had known about your services.”

It’s no secret that pastors love their churches. They want their church to be healthy and they want their church to grow. There’s no shame in saying or thinking that. Every pastor wants their church to grow and make an impact in their community.

So if you want to grow and reach and keep more guests, what can you do?

Here are some biased thoughts: 

  • If your church has the budget (despite size) hire me to come to your church for a weekend. You won’t regret it. That’s my sales pitch. I’m done.
  • Second, if you can’t afford to hire an outside consultant like most churches in the United States, I have good news for you! I wrote a new book that comes out this Fall entitled Secrets of a Secret Shopper. In the book, I tell you exactly what I look for and how you can improve your church starting today! Look for more info on that in the Fall.

The book is something I’m very excited about and I hope pastors across the country buy and use it, however, nothing replaces an outside set of new eyes. So, if you have the budget and you’ve made up your mind that you are going to make the investment of hiring a church secret shopper, then contact them and get to know them.

I have no problem with you calling around. My last client said, “Greg, I did my homework and you’re the guy.” I was honored. I have a good reputation for excellence and integrity and I’m proud of that.

But whether you call me or another church secret shopper, here are some questions you should ask:

  1. Can you give me an overview of your service for churches?
    – Reason to ask: We don’t all do the same thing. I offer extra (included) services like an online presence evaluation (social media and website), that other secret shoppers don’t offer.
  2. How much do you charge?
    – Reason to ask: Some secret shoppers have one flat fee. I don’t agree with that philosophy. I have a price that I think my services are worth, but I’ve always charged prices that benefit the smaller churches. If you are a church of 500 and you have a small facility, small parking lot, and one service, you shouldn’t have to pay what I charge a church of 15,000 that has a giant campus and multiple services including Saturday night, Sunday morning and Sunday night.
  3. How will you give feedback?
    – Reason to ask: Some mail you a report and you don’t get to discuss anything with them. Some do a phone call and you can’t see them. I do a video conference and after I go over my report, I answer any questions the leadership may have.
  4. Who should I let know you’re coming?
    – No one! Just kidding. I understand that your admin needs to cut my check and arrange for my travel, but really only 2 to 3 people should know about it. Usually, it’s the Senior Pastor, Executive Pastor, and an admin.
  5. Who should I ask to be in the feedback meeting?
    – Reason to ask: Let me give you some ideas. Some have just the Senior Pastor be on the video conference call. Some have just the senior leadership team. Some have all staff or all elders. I just want you to think through who you want in the room and I can help offer some suggestions based on church size.
  6. What churches have you worked with (size, denomination, worship style)?
    – Reason to ask: I know some secret shoppers that just work with traditional churches. Some just work with small to medium size churches. Some just work with a particular denomination. I have worked with just about every denomination, including Church of Christ where they sing with no instruments. I’ve worked with church plants. I’ve worked with giga-churches. I’ve worked old, historic churches. I’ve worked with cutting edge churches in their early explosive years. I’ve worked with plateaued and declining churches. I’ve worked with acapella, pipe organ, choir and orchestra, and rocking band music styles.
  7. Why should I go with you instead of another secret shopper?
    – Reason to ask: A secret shopper should earn your business, your trust and your respect.
  8. How long have you been doing this?
    – Reason to ask: Experience matters. I’ve been doing church secret shopper consultations all over the country for 10 years. There are some, I believe that have done it longer. I would stay away from someone just starting out that doesn’t know what to look for and forgets stuff.
  9. Are you biased in any way?
    – Reason to ask: Integrity check. Yes, we’re all biased. I love my church and I’m thrilled with all their ministries. Would I try to get your church to feel and look like my church? Absolutely not.
  10. Will you try to get us to be something we’re not?
    – Reason to ask: A good church secret shopper consultant just observes and points out things that confused or intimidated him or her. I have no plans to change your vision and mission. I want you to be who God has called you to be. I’ve always said, “God uses all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people.” Hear this: Excellence transcends. I don’t care what style of music you do, as long as you do it with excellence and to the glory of God.
  11. How long will the whole process take?
    – Reason to ask: This is very important. I was talking with an Executive Director at a massive church who had narrowed his options down to two companies – mine and another. He said, “After you visit our church, how long will it be before we go over the report? I said, “Could be two weeks or one if you need it right away to make changes for some deadline.” He said, “Wow! The other company said their process takes 6 to 9 months” It was a no-brainer.
  12. How would you define our relationship moving forward if we went with you?
    – Reason for asking: I think this is important and maybe it’s just me, but I like to have long-term relationships with my clients. I want them to call me a year later and say, “Hey. We’re going to redo our branding or website or facility. Who do you know that we could talk to? I have a lot of strategic partners that I trust and respect. Also, some churches like to be secret shopped yearly. Some multisite churches like me to do all their campuses. Some have me do the main campus and then come out later to do the satellite campuses. My point is: I’m not going anywhere. I’m here for you. You’ll have my contact info and you can reach out to me whenever you have a question. No charge. 🙂

I hope this gives you some concrete stuff to think through if you make a crucial decision to bring in an outside church secret shopper consultant. We must be good stewards and like every church I’ve worked with has done, do your homework and don’t settle for anything other than excellence.

God bless you as you serve others and lead God’s people. Sign up for my newsletter here and follow my blog and this website for details on when my new book becomes available. I hope it blesses you and I hope this post is informative and helpful for you.

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