How a Church Secret Shopper Helps You Prepare


Greg Atkinson and Worship Impressions are committed to helping your church reach and keep guests. As specialists in Guest Services, Hospitality, and First Impressions, we come alongside you and what God is already doing at your church and give you a guest’s perspective, as well as suggestions and next steps to improve.

The question becomes: When is a good time to bring in a church secret shopper or mystery worshiper? It really depends on your church’s season of life/schedule, budget and an attitude that says you’re ready to do whatever it takes to reach lost people for Christ.

One word of caution:

You will always be busy and you’ll always be getting ready for something. Please don’t let that stop you from investing in your church’s future and potential. Make time for a consultation if you are struggling, plateaued, declining, dead, or even if you’re booming and just want to go to the next level. The key is you have to be intentional. You have to be open to change and invite feedback. It’s scary, but oh so worth it!

So to show you how Greg usually helps churches, here’s what a yearly schedule looks like:

  • He comes in the Summer and helps you Get Ready for Fall
  • He comes in the Fall and helps you Get Ready for Christmas and the New Year
  • He comes in the New Year and helps you Get Ready for Easter

There really is no right or wrong time to bring in a church secret shopper. Just pray about what works best for you and your ministry. Once you’re ready, let us know. You can reach Greg at his personal email: or Worship Impressions at

We hope to meet you soon. The best days of your church lay ahead!

Confidentiality and Anonymity Option


Did you know that Greg has served several churches that no one knows about? Some churches want to bring a secret shopper in to help them reach more people for Christ, but they don’t want others to know.

If this is where you find yourself, please know that we can accommodate you and your church’s needs. You can contact Greg and ask about this option where your church gets served, but no one is ever told about it. Contact us today to find out more!

Booking for 2016


It’s a new year and a great time to take an intentional step toward reaching and keeping more guests. I’d like to offer my services as a consultant to your church in 2016. I’m free to travel and coach and consult and I’ve added a whole new section to my thorough secret shopper report that will be of great benefit to your organization.

If you’d like to start a discussion about working together in the new year and find out what all is involved and how your church will benefit from time spent together, email me at or and let’s start a conversation.

It never hurts to ask and if you read the endorsements on this website, you’ll see it’s money well spent and a worthy investment in reaching more people for Christ. I look forward to working with you in 2016 and helping your church go to a new level.

Four Keys to Creating an Irresistible Church

Let me preface what I’m about to write by saying that basic and foundational things like prayer, discipleship and evangelism (having an externally-focused church as I’ve stated before) are all a given. Each church should take the Great Commission seriously and have an emphasis on the “Go” and on the “make disciples”. I start everything with prayer and so please know that what I’m about to discuss is with the above stated things as must-haves and what I consider foundational to a healthy church.

With that being said, let me share with you the big four that I look for when I visit a church, secret shop a church or consult with a church. As the title says and Scriptures encourages us – we should compel them to come in. The big four that I look for when I do a secret shopper are First Impressions, Children’s, Security and Worship. Yes, worship is last and I have listed them in the order that I weigh them.

As many studies have shown us, people make up their mind whether or not they will return, long before the worship service and especially the sermon. Most visitors will know in the first 10 minutes if they will return to your church.

First Impressions

Let’s start with what I consider to be the most crucial of all ministries at a church. Whether you call it First Impressions, Hospitality or Guest Relations – it matters and is paramount to breaking down walls and making guests feel welcome at your church.

You’ve got 10 minutes. Somewhere between the parking lot and the children’s center, the ten minutes pass…They should know they matter to us before they hear how much they matter to God.”- Mark Waltz, Granger

Something I tell all the churches I work with is: “You must be strategic and intentional about breaking down any barriers of intimidation. You must be strategic and intentional about creating warm, welcoming environments.”

Now, I could spend an entire series on just first impressions. This is everything from your online presence (social media like Twitter, Facebook – as well as your website). For example, I did a secret shopper this past weekend and I had created 13 pages in my report on just online presence before I ever left to attend their physical campus.

Once one comes to your physical campus, the real fun begins. First impressions then includes the parking lot, greeters, ushers, and people that greet you at your church’s Welcome or Information Booth. First impressions also includes things like smell (your church may stink), signage (your church may be intimidating and confusing for new people) and how your facility is kept up and maintained. All these things play subtle parts in a guest’s first impression of your church and their subconscious.

Children’s Ministry

Maybe I’m biased because I’m 35 and have three elementary school-aged kids, but I believe in having a strong and attractive children’s ministry. A lot of churches target parents in their mid-twenties to mid-forties and the best way to compel them is to offer a children’s ministry so dynamic that kids drag their parents to church.

I’ll dive deeper into the Big 3 that I look for in every children’s ministry in the next blog post, but for now, let me suggest that you make children’s ministry a priority. I’ve seen churches that spent millions on their worship center and have dumpy children’s facilities. I’d never return with my family to churches like that. Show me – show your community that kids are important and that you care about partnering with parents to be a help in their spiritual growth. We all know the statistics on the likelihood of people accepting Christ after age 18. Student ministries (children’s through youth) are vital to fulfilling the Great Commission.


This is probably the most overlooked part of most churches I visit. Most church leaders have never set down and intentionally and strategically thought through how and why they do security. I wish this wasn’t important and that you didn’t have to have some kind of security presence, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. If their had only been one church shooting, that would be enough. I’m sad to say that several churches have experienced the tragedy of shootings – not to mention molestation and kidnapping.

Bottomline: If I’m worried about my kids’ safety, I’m not going to enjoy the worship service and I will miss what God wants to do in my heart through the experience of corporate worship.

Security includes everything from people’s cars in the parking lot, to the safety of infants in the nursery, to children’s facilities, check-in and check-out procedures, mentally ill people acting out in the middle of a service and protecting the senior pastor. Every great church with a well known senior pastor that I’ve worked with had a body guard standing next to the pastor for his protection. This is not for show or something for rock stars – this is something real and needed to protect that man of God from people that mean to do him harm. When you stand for truth and speak against sin, you become a target for many that live in darkness. If you haven’t already, think through every aspect of security in your organization. I just returned from a church in California that had security people covering every single entrance and exit to their children’s ministry. It was a beautiful thing to see and made me feel safe as a parent.

Attractional Worship

I know there’s a lot of discussion and debate about whether a church should be attractional or missional. I’ve talked extensively about it all over the country. I’m a both-and person and like for a church to seek to be both, but when it comes to the corporate worship service – I look for an attractional model. Again: COMPEL them to come in. Blow your people and your community away with excellence and an environment that allows the Holy Spirit of God to move.

I never got over Sally Morgenthaler’s book Worship Evangelism. I think lost people can be moved by witnessing genuine and authentic worship happening. I also know God moves through the preaching of His Word. Please know I’m not talking to just large churches. I work with large churches, but my home church in Georgia is a church of 350 people. They do things with excellence and for a small church, blow me away each week that I’m home.

Regardless of what size church you are, you should think through worship flow, song selection, authenticity, communication/preaching and every aspect of what you want people to experience each week when you gather. Are sound, video and lights important? I think so, but you don’t have to have the best of the best to see God move. One of the most special and memorable services we did at Bent Tree when I was there was have a stripped down music set with no technology. Below is a picture of the worship team singing with an unplugged band around a single light bulb.

Whether you’re in a school, movie theater, gym or worship center – you can seek to create an environment where people encounter the Living God.

Please know these are not Biblical laws or Scriptural requirements. These are just four keys that I look for when I visit a church and I’ve found over the years that the churches that do these four things well, see God bless their church in amazing ways. Think through each as a team and prayerfully consider how you can do each to the best of your ability.

Understanding Our Process and Strategy

In the last month, we have been contacted by four different churches that made the mistake of telling the wrong person about what we do. Please understand, we act with the utmost integrity and our founder, Greg Atkinson, is passionate about the “secret” in secret shopper.

Here recently we’ve been contacted by senior pastors, executive pastors, worship pastors and first impressions directors. The problem is that we only deal with senior pastors or executive pastors. This is important to know to understand our process. What we do is strategic and beneficial for the entire organization and should be handled and taken seriously by senior leadership.

One of the situations that happened recently was an executive pastor contacted us and copied his First Impressions Director in on the email and said he’d “let him handle the details”. We don’t do that. Greg has too much integrity and believes too strongly in the “secret” of our secret shopper service that he won’t just take your money and do a disservice to your church.

Here’s the why or strategy behind what we do. If your worship pastor knows we’re coming, he’ll change his set list and pick all zingers and plan the service with us in mind, instead of us just witnessing a typical Sunday. If your first impressions director knows we’re coming, he’ll put his best people up to greet, usher and park cars. Please understand: If we come all the way out to your church and see your A-team and don’t get to observe a typical Sunday that no one has specially prepared for, YOU LOSE. Picture this: If we observe your best of the best in action and don’t find anything wrong, you’ve wasted your money. If you know we’re coming and tell your people to “be on their toes”, you’ve wasted your money. We believe in being good stewards of God’s money and resources and see this as an investment for your church – a wise investment that will reap fruit, but you have to play by our rules.

So, what can you do and how should you handle our company? If you’re the senior pastor, contact us and deal directly with us. If you have an executive pastor and want him to handle the arrangements, that’s fine, too. Both of you should know that you are the only two people in the church to know what’s going on and the details of our trip to your church. If you’re another staff member (youth pastor, worship pastor, first impressions director, communications director, etc.), we appreciate your interest in our service and urge you to pass our information up the ladder and get it in the hands of your senior pastor or executive pastor. After that, forget about us and don’t ask if or when we’re coming.


What Would We Think of Your Church Website?

Last week, I read a blog post by COLLIDE Magazine. It prompted me to write about it on here. First, let me have you read what Scott from COLLIDE wrote in his blog post:

Last week, I found myself looking for some information on the website of an extremely well-known church. It wasn’t long before I was completely frustrated. The site is an aesthetic hodgepodge overrun by banners, menu and sub-menu buttons, links, and text. And yet, among all those choices, the information I sought wasn’t there. Too bad.

The experience on this church’s website, combined with years of visiting church websites, prompted me to tweet this:

Here’s the thing: I don’t have any magic bullets or one-size-fits-all solutions for making the perfect church website. But I will offer you this challenge — spend some time this week making an effort to see your church website with new eyes.

Come up with a list of questions (Where/when do you meet? Where should I park? What options do you offer for kids? Do you have a marriage ministry? Who should I contact about finding a small group? Who should I contact about volunteering in the children’s ministry? How many families were helped by that recent service project?) and then try to answer them using your website. Better yet, ask someone who doesn’t attend your church to answer the questions, and watch them as they try to navigate your site. During the process, ask them how they feel (Confused? Overwhelmed? Welcomed? Comfortable?) and take note.

In many ways, your church’s website is the window through which your community looks in. It’s time to evaluate it thoroughly and honestly. Then, take your findings and act on them.


When we do a secret shopper for a church, the first thing we evaluate and report on is the church’s online strategy and presence. The third thing we check out is the church’s website. Unfortunately, most church websites are too busy and not well thought out (like what Scott experienced). Let me encourage you to prayerfully, strategically and intentionally think through how your website looks, feels, navigates and the impression it gives to people in your community that Googled for churches in your city and stumbled across your website. The web is the front door to your church – accept that, embrace that and plan for that.

Summer Is Great for a Secret Shopper

When is a good time to bring in someone like myself for a secret shopper visit? Anytime is really good, but summer has some key advantages. If you bring me in July or August, you have a chance to get solid feedback and make strategic changes before you crank things up in the Fall.

Most churches do some big Fall campaign or push and having me in this summer to help you do what you do better could be a huge win for you and your church. See what Ray Johnston, pastor of Bayside Church in Sacramento, CA had to say about my visit with them last month (Bayside is a church of 12,000 where Lincoln Brewster leads worship):

“Greg Atkinson is smart, detailed, thorough and saw things that we would never notice.  His feedback was invaluable and we are making several strategic changes as a result of his visit.  We will use him again.  I encourage to you do the same.  In a word – he’s the best.” – Ray Johnston, Senior Pastor, Bayside Church, Sacramento, CA

I’m confident that I will notice things you would never notice and positive that I can help YOUR church make several strategic changes. Like Ray, I want YOU to say, “We will use him again.” So, I encourage you to make the investment and bring me in to help your church make guests feel loved and welcomed.

  • To get more details on what we do, go HERE.
  • To read endorsements, go HERE.
  • To find out our prices (based on size of church), go HERE.

Do You Need a Secret Shopper?

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 had a great Secret Shopper visit recently 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 like me.

Since our meeting, the pastor has emailed me saying that they’ve worked on several of the items I listed and are excited about their future. I’m also sending a friend out that is an audio specialist to help them with their sound issues.

In two weeks I’ll do another secret shopper visit at a mega-church in South Carolina. I’ve already begun my pre-assessment, as I take a thorough look at the church’s website and make some phone calls.  This is a church that is seemingly doing well and has a large congregation in a regular city (not a metropolis), but they want to improve and tweak things and I applaud them for that.

I recently 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 your “main thing” (Sunday) – as Nancy Beach shares in her book “An Hour on Sunday“. 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.

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.

Mike also cites an article in the Wall Street Journal on secret shoppers and I think it’s worth a read. 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???

— Greg Atkinson