Greg is the founder of Worship Impressions, executive director of ExPastors.com, and part of the lead team of Full Strength Network. He is an expert when it comes to first impressions at your church, and he joins us to share his tips on how to make yours better.
What’s In This Session?
- What makes a church website so important? (6:38)
- Improving your website’s SEO (search engine optimization) (13:43)
- The most important button on your church’s website (18:55)
- Checklist for your website’s ‘I’m New’ page (19:00)
- Allowing for kids pre-registration on your church’s website (23:53)
- The importance of setting expectations (28:52)
- Pro tips & tricks for church websites (34:16)
Show Notes & Resources Mentioned
- Worship Impressions
- First Impressions Conference
- Full Strength Network
- Secrets Of A Secret Shopper by Greg Atkinson
3 Instant Takeaways
- Have a single call to action. It’s important that your congregation always knows where to find the next step. A great way to ensure this is to always point them to the same place, such as a website. Whether they’re filling out a connect card, signing up for classes, or submitting a prayer request – have it hosted in a single place so that it’s always easy for them to find.
- When creating an ‘I’m New’ page, don’t assume anything. You’ll want to create this page as though the person reading it knows nothing about who you are. You’ll want to have the street address, your service times, and some discussion on what to expect.
- If everything is important then nothing is. By giving stage time and announcing everything, you actually diminish the importance of everything. The reason for this is that the people listening are only able to retain and remember a small amount of information. If you give them too much to try to remember and they’ll end up forgetting everything you’ve said.
The Full Transcript
Brady Shearer: This is the Pro Church Podcast, session number 195, The First Impressions Checklist with Greg Atkinson.
Well, hey there, Pro Church Nation, and welcome to the Pro Church Podcast. You’re now part of a small group of pioneering churches doing everything we can to seize the 167 hours beyond our Sunday services. Why? Because we’re living through the biggest communication shift in the last 500 [00:00:30] years and what got us here won’t get us there. I’m Brady, your host, and this is session number 195. You can find the show notes for this session at prochurchtools.com/195. And in this session of the podcast, we’re joined by Greg Atkinson, talking about the First Impressions Checklist, everything you need to know for new people, so let’s do [00:01:00] it.
Welcome back to the Pro Church Podcast. This is Brady, your host, great to have you. We like to start off each and every show by sharing with you a pro tip or a practical tool that you can begin using in your church or ministry right away. And today I want to share with you a mobile app that’s on my phone that I’ve been finding useful in the last six months or so. It is simply called Countdown and Countdown is an app that does simply that. It creates a countdown [00:01:30] for you and every single day that countdown updates. So right now I have a countdown with 46 days left and I have a widget kind of on my home lock screen on my phone that shows up this number every single time that I turn on my phone.
And this is just a fun app that can be used in so many different ways. You can use it to count down towards a big vacation, count down towards a goal. We’re heading into the new year very soon and may you’ve got some goals for the new year, as I do, set for 2018. Some of those goals are hopefully timely, they need [00:02:00] to be completed by this date, so you can set countdown for those.
If you’ve been following my Instagram stories, maybe you’ve even seen that there’s this chalkboard writing wall in our office and at the very top of it, it says “imagine your life in XX number of days”, and so I’ve been counting down from 90, I think. There was no specific Pro Church Tools goal for that, that was more a personal, kind of fitness lifestyle goal, but it was just proving like how much can be done within 90 days. 90 days is such a long time, and a lot of the times we make 30 day goals, [00:02:30] but 90 day goals I’ve found are what really, that’s kinda like the sweet spot for length, where you can really make a huge, monumental, really life transforming difference in a short, as you know, 12-ish weeks, 90 days.
So I highly encourage you get it, it’s just called Countdown in the App Store. There are a number of different countdown apps, this one is kind of a teal gradient when it comes to color, and there’s this circular arrow kind of icon, so that’s how you know you’ve got the right one. Countdown, give it a shot.
With that being said, it’s time for [00:03:00] our interview this week. Today we are joined by Greg Atkinson. Greg is the founder of Worship Impressions. He is the Executive Director of expastors.com and he’s a part of the lead team of Full Strength Network, and Greg is really an expert when it comes to first impressions at your church. And so I called this session The First Impressions Checklist really because we bounce around to a number of different areas that pertain to how you are making a good or poor first impression on new people that are visiting your church or just checking you out online really. We talk [00:03:30] about what makes a church website so important, how to improve your website’s SEO, the most important button on your church’s website, checklist for your website’s I’m New page, allowing for kids’ pre-registration on your website, the importance of setting expectations, and we close it out pro tips and tricks for church websites. So lots of great stuff in this session with Greg. We’ll be back in just a moment with my interview with Greg Atkinson.
Well, hey there Pro Church Nation, welcome back to another session of the Pro Church Podcast. Today we’re joined [00:04:00] by Greg Atkinson. Greg, welcome to the show.
Greg Atkinson: Hey, thanks for having me, glad to be here.
Brady Shearer: Great to have you here. We met up for the first time at that church conference last year in September and we’re just finally getting the podcast together now. We actually had a couple scheduled, but they fell through, but I’m thrilled to have you on the show finally. Can you introduce yourself to Pro Church Nation and really tell us what you’re all about.
Greg Atkinson: Yeah, I’m thrilled to be here. As you said, my name’s Greg Atkinson, I am married with [00:04:30] three teenage kids. I’ve been married 21 years. I’ve been in ministry for a little over two decades, serving in a variety of roles, from worship pastor to tech pastor to campus pastor at a multi-site church. And then I’ve consulted off and on with churches around the country for the last 12 years, little over 12 years, started in 2005, and I am the Director of Communications for a national non-profit that works with [00:05:00] pastors, encouraging them to be healthy and avoid burnout, and so we focus on six key areas of health and well-being. And we have a smartphone app, which we call it kinda like a Fit Bit for pastors, but we help you monitor your well-being and we connect you to resources and counselors and coaches and retreat centers, whatever your need may be. And so we’re just kind of a champion and encourager of pastors.
[00:05:30] Some people may have heard of my other website, expastors.com, E-X-pastors.com.
And then most people know me as the secret shopper. I actually wrote a book on it called Secrets of a Secret Shopper. And so I go into churches, at least one a month, I’ll go in and do a guest evaluation. Some people call it a mystery worshiper, some people call it secret shopper mystery guest, but I’m the guy that goes in undercover and evaluates [00:06:00] everything I experience on a weekend. And so it’s interesting, I’ve had a lot of fun stories over the years.
Brady Shearer: A lot of scary stories, I imagine, too.
Greg Atkinson: Yes, yes.
Brady Shearer: Well, that’s the reason that I wanted to bring you on the show because I fully believe that, that old adage that you only get one chance of making a first impression, which of course refers to in-person relationships, the same applies to churches. And what’s interesting is that, nowadays, for almost [00:06:30] every interaction, you’re making your first impression, your church with an individual in your community or beyond, with your website online. And I’m a firm believer and proponent of the idea that your church’s website is your most important marketing tool, when it comes to being discovered, making that first impression, and then really fostering an existing relationship with your congregation online once those first impressions have been made and for the people that already exist within your congregation.
And I imagine that [00:07:00] you believe a lot of the same things, Greg, and that one of the things that you do is you look at churches’ websites and do reviews and look over them, take inventory of all that they’re doing, and then provide reports to churches based on their online presences. Do you want to just kind of give a brief overview of why a church’s website is so important? And this sounds like a basic question, but it’s a question that I’ve had on the Ask Brady Show before, and something that actually comes up more than I would expect. Reason being, I think, because the average church is less [00:07:30] than 200 people and, even today, in 2018, churches don’t necessarily know why their website is so important. Maybe they have them because everyone else does, but why is it so important?
Greg Atkinson: Man, you know, it’s huge. So when I do a secret shopper evaluation for a church, a lot of people don’t realize it, but part of the report that I give a church is online presence evaluation and I start with social media and website. [00:08:00] And I have to say, when we’re talking about website, that also includes mobile website. Your website’s gotta be mobile friendly, responsive, and the majority of people, as you know, check you out online before they do in person, and a ton of those people check you out on their phones. And so they may be scrolling through Facebook on their app or Instagram and they come across your church, and they say, well, let me check them out, and they open up Safari [00:08:30] on their iPhone and they go to your church website, and so what they see there is critical.
I wrote an article last year for pastors.com, saying always point people to the website, and I have felt this in my gut for a couple years. I had interviewed several key pastors and church leaders, friends of yours and mine, and they agreed, yes, point people to the website, let’s really maximize and put a huge [00:09:00] focus and spotlight on the website.
And then last fall, I went to a digital marketing summit, not a Christian conference, but they had speakers from like Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Yahoo, and I listened to this talk on 10 key areas on digital marketing. And so they had these 10 areas that everybody needs to do when it comes to digital marketing. Number [00:09:30] 7 was email marketing, we all know how crucial that is. Number 5 was SEO, we all know how vital that is. Number 1 was website, and that shocked me, that when I go to a digital marketing conference, where you think they would be talking about SEM and SEO and social media marketing, email marketing, the number one thing that they talked about was website.
And so [00:10:00] when I am looking to visit a church, maybe I’m on vacation or I have a free Sunday, I’ll do a Google search. It’s important for your church to show up on that first page, if I type in churches in Charlotte or churches in Toronto, or wherever that, is that we show up. A lot of people now are promoting to their staff, to their congregation, [00:10:30] to go on and review them on Facebook, on Google, on Yelp, however people come across your website. What they see when they get there, whether they came from social media or a Google search or their mobile phone, what they see is critical.
And my big, big, big thing that I always look for is an “‘m New button. I think that if I was [00:11:00] coming to a church as a guest, and I didn’t know anything about your church, what would bring me peace is to see a little button at the menu bar at the top or right in the middle of the home page, depending on your web layout, and to say, oh, okay, I’m new, let’s click here, and then you have stuff like directions, service times, here’s our vision. Some churches even have like here’s some of the music you’ll hear, here’s [00:11:30] some songs you can listen to, or check out some of our previous messages so you can see the pastor.
There’s other stuff we can dive into. I don’t want to ramble forever, but what else do you want to dive into when it comes to the importance of website and what to look for.
Brady Shearer: I think there are a couple of things that you hit on that I just want to reiterate. The first is the importance of using your website as kind of that one-stop [00:12:00] shop for everything and anything, and this has been something that we’ve been teaching for a while now, that being that churches often have so many different calls to action. And I was just at a conference today, it was an online conference that I was teaching, and then we got to the Q&A period and one of the questions they asked was how do we get more people to take action during our announcements and respond to our announcements. I said one of the first things that you can do is make sure they always know where their next step is and-
Greg Atkinson: [00:12:30] Yes.
Brady Shearer: -too many churches are using an app, a website, a lobby, a bulletin, an email, a phone number, a “talk to Pastor Stacy”. It’s like that was just seven things that I know a lot of churches will all use in tandem and the difficulty of remembering each and every one of those is mostly impossible, especially when you’re just giving your announcements, you know, ten minutes a week basically, and people aren’t attending church every week on average anyway. And so I think a huge win for so many churches is [00:13:00] just beginning to use their website as the one-stop shop for every single thing. No matter whatever it is, head over to newspring.cc, whatever it is head over to centralcc.ca, whatever it might be. And that way, not only do you kind of create this confidence within your church, where they always know where to go to get what they need, but also you condition them to use the website and use it frequently, which is going to, obviously, help in so many other communication areas, and the more traffic to your website, the higher you rank in SEO, and [00:13:30] that leads me to SEO.
If a church does not have any idea what they need to be doing when it comes to search engine optimization, and my guess is that most churches don’t. This kind of paints a sad picture, but I was doing some keyword research the other day and the keyword within the church world for bible clip art gets 20,000 uniques every month in America.
Greg Atkinson: Wow.
Brady Shearer: The keyword church, SEO, any combination of that gets 10 searches. So I think that a lot [00:14:00] of us are searching for the wrong things. What would you tell a church that wants to improve their SEO, but seems like a foreign language to them maybe.
Greg Atkinson: I think you can be very intentional and strategic with page titles, blog posts, things that, for example, there are a lot of articles on my personal website that, in the permalink, [00:14:30] have church secret shopper in the link, and if you Google church secret shopper, you’ll see I rule that first page that comes up. I think being strategic with some of your keywords and tags, also Google reviews. This is one of those areas where I joke with friends about whether or not Google+ is relevant, but I found a lot of people will post [00:15:00] posts to Google+ because it helps you, in Goggle’s eyes, have a little bit more impact. And then I think speed of your website, as you know, plays in to Google’s algorithm. Your speed on both your website and mobile, how fast your page loads, whether or not your website is mobile friendly.
I went to another marketing conference last year, it was not a church [00:15:30] conference, it was a Google conference, and all they wanted to talk about was mobile. This was Google and the only thing they wanted to talk about at the conference was mobile and how mobile plays in to their algorithms, how it plays in to their search results, and they gave us links, I’m sure you’ve seen, for like mobile-friendly tests, speed tests, things like that.
But [00:16:00] a majority of website traffic comes from organic search, as opposed to paid search, and so it’s not about just spending tons and tons and tons of money for Google ad words, which you could do and there are some great companies out there that can help non-profits and churches, but I think realizing that Google has one goal, and that’s searcher task [00:16:30] accomplishment, Google learns from user behavior every time a user searches.
And so Life Church, for years, has used what people search for to their advantage, especially pushing traffic to their church online. They used to run, and they probably still do, ads for porn and addiction and sex and different things, where somebody would Google search [00:17:00] porn and wind up at lifechurch.tv back then or life.churchnow at their online service, online campus.
But your goal at SEO is figuring out what your audience wants and do your best to help them get that. And so if you’re a church in Charlotte, North Carolina, I would do whatever it takes to make sure that when churches search for a church in Charlotte that you’re gonna come up in the results [00:17:30] and a lot of that is based on mobile friendliness and speed tests, and that’s straight from Google, going to one of their conferences.
Brady Shearer: Yeah, absolutely. And I want to hit on what you said about just mobile first and the importance of that, or that’s I guess the term that I injected, but you were talking about the importance of mobile and how much time was spent at that conference with Google saying, hey, mobile, mobile, mobile.
Greg Atkinson: Yeah.
Brady Shearer: And the reason for that is, like if I look at my traffic, the majority of it is mobile. It didn’t use to be [00:18:00] that way, but now it is. And that’s why we try to build, like with Nucleus, we built it to be mobile first for that reason, where we first designed how it would look on a mobile device and then, second, we adapted it for desktop, whereas previously the way that we always have designed websites is, okay, let’s design for desktop first, and only. And then it was let’s design for desktop first and, oh, yeah, we’ve gotta think about phones now ’cause that’s a thing too and it was an afterthought, where now, we’re kind of seeing that as the inverse.
It’s almost the way that video is switched, where [00:18:30] originally only horizontal video was cool, and then vertical video was like, okay, well sometimes we can use that, it’s an afterthought. And now you’ve got movie trailers and [native 00:18:40] videos being made purposely vertical, and sometimes things literally and figuratively are turned on their heads and we kind of have to adapt as those things happen.
Greg Atkinson: Yes.
Brady Shearer: I want to hit back on also what you said about what I would consider the most important button on your church’s website, the I’m New button, and you talked about a couple of different things that you would put on an I’m New page. Can [00:19:00] we kind of break down like the nine things that every church should have on their I’m New page, or however many.
Greg Atkinson: Yeah, I’m one of those guys, and I’m sure you are as well of less is more, so I wouldn’t necessarily say nine, but I do think it needs to be clear, whether it’s a button right in the middle of your home page, depending on the design. There’s several themes out there and companies that build their websites, or people that do their own work [inaudible 00:19:27]. There needs to be a clear What to Expect or [00:19:30] I’m New button, either one words, but I kinda prefer I’m New, or at the top in the menu bar. And then when you click on it, you always want to see directions, Google maps, and service times. One of things when I work with churches and consult with churches, I say, over and over and over, don’t assume people know anything. And so you want to have a street address, you want to have the service times and locations.
And then [00:20:00] some kind of aspect of what to expect. For example, if we don’t assume people know anything, then we need to say stuff like you need to arrive 15 minutes early, look for guest parking, when you come in somebody’s gonna greet you at the door and take you to the kids’ check-in, we’re gonna register your kids to make sure that they’re safe and secure, and that the parent that checks them in gets to check them out. There’s gonna be a service, there’s about 20 minutes of music, [00:20:30] there’s a 30 minute biblical message that’ll be relevant to your life, and you just kinda give them an overview of the day, of the morning. People don’t know what to expect, as far as music and sermon and things like that. They also don’t know dress, do I wear a suit, can I wear jeans, can I wear shorts. And so I think having, I mentioned earlier, you could have like here’s some of the music you’ll hear or watch a previous message.
[00:21:00] One of the things that, whether it goes under I’m New, or you could just have a generic, at the top menu bar, an About button, but I think people want to know the church’s vision, what you are about, and they definitely want to see the church staff, the leadership. I’m sure you know, it was in a document a long time ago, the number one page that people look at on a church website is the Staff page. They want to see what the pastor looks like, they want to see what the worship leader [00:21:30] looks like, they want to see what the kids’ director looks like, they want to read a little brief bio. It is fascinating to me, when people look at their traffic, how much of it goes straight to the Staff page, and so an I’m New page and then a Staff page under the About page are essential.
I think that letting people know what to expect, meaning is it okay that [00:22:00] I wear jeans, I seen this unfortunately and it’s just horrifying to me, when somebody, they make up their mind, okay, I’m gonna go to church, I’m gonna get my life back together, I’m gonna go to church this week. They go and they dust off their funeral suit, they dress up as good as they can, and they walk in the church and everbody’s walking around in flip flops and blue jeans, and they feel humiliated and embarrassed ’cause they’re sticking out, ’cause they’re in a suit and they didn’t know that they didn’t have to wear [00:22:30] a suit.
And so one of the things that’s important to realize, I talked with a pastor yesterday on a coaching call, when somebody makes a decision to visit your church for the first time, they are making a huge spiritual decision. When somebody chooses to give for the first time and, as you know, online giving is huge, but in any form, if they choose to gift financially, that’s a significant [00:23:00] huge spiritual decision. And so as church leaders, as pastors, we have to steward that well and we have to take that seriously, and that’s why I’m so passionate about first impressions and hospitality and guest services. If God is at work in somebody’s life, and they have made this huge spiritual decision to get back in the church or to check out church for the first time in their life, then we want to do everything in our power to [00:23:30] make the transition as smooth as possible, as streamlined as possible. Hey, here’s what to expect, here’s what to look for, here’s how early to arrive, here’s where to park, here’s what you do to check in your kids.
You and I were talking off-line, I think the future, and I would love to see this more and more, but I think it will thankfully be common in the future, and that is when you go to the I’m New button on a church website, there ought to be a little tab that [00:24:00] says “click here to pre-register your kids.” You click there, they fill out a web form, they put in their name, their address, their phone number, their email, their kids’ birthdays, names, if they have any allergies, what grade they’re in, that kind of stuff. They register their kids online, they hit Submit, that then gets directed and integrated into the church’s CHMS, regardless of what they’re using.
And what that does is on a Sunday morning, [00:24:30] one of the biggest things I see when I consult with churches, is a huge bottleneck at the kids’ registration check-in kiosk or desk. And so I come to a church on a Sunday morning and there’s 12 parents waiting in line to register their kids and they’re getting frustrated and they’re getting upset and they know they’re gonna be late for the service because they didn’t see anything online that said arrive 15 minutes early. They arrived at 5 til, they’re waiting in a 10 minute line, they don’t [00:25:00] get into the service until 11:05, they’re frustrated. And we can avoid all of that by an I’m New button, give them clear directions, clear instructions, and then one day, hopefully in the very near future, we will see more and more churches pre-register their kids. And then you walk in on Sunday morning, you’re not flustered, you know where the guest parking is, you know where to check in your kids. You walk up and say, hey, Atkinson family, they say, great, type [00:25:30] in the last four digits of your phone number, here’s your sticker and you’re off and running. We want to do everything in our power to make sure that they have a great first visit.
You talked about how important first impressions are. Nelson Searcy, in his book Fusion, talks about how critical it is to turn a first time guest into a second time guest. It’s usually on that second visit or later that they get plugged in, that they [00:26:00] maybe make a decision for Christ, and so, just backing up, if they have made a huge spiritual decision to visit a church, we have got to do everything in our power to be ready for them.
Brady Shearer: I love how you just closed that out. Going and attending a church is so much more of a big deal than like going to a new restaurant for the first time, for that family and for just the eternal consequences. And for us to not properly [00:26:30] be prepared for that and steward that can have grave consequences.
And so let me ask for a point of clarification, when it comes to the kids’ pre-registration, that’s just for people that aren’t like currently in the system, in the database, that’s not sign-in for existing kids, right?
Greg Atkinson: Right, that would be brand new people.
Brady Shearer: Yeah, it’s interesting. I’ve been seeing a counselor now for about three months now, which I highly recommend, it’s been great.
Greg Atkinson: Oh, yeah.
Brady Shearer: [00:27:00] My wife just started. It’s like, man, why’d I wait so long to do this.
Greg Atkinson: I love it.
Brady Shearer: The reason I waited so long to do this is because I didn’t know who to go to. And when I was looking within my region, I [landed 00:27:11] across a ton of different websites, and I ended up having to email one, I called on, they didn’t pick up. And then I finally stumbled across one that had an online booking calendar, where I could book a time with the counselor directly from there, and that’s the counselor that I’ve been seeing now for three months, all because he had a calendar online that allowed me to book a time with him and [00:27:30] pre-register right then and there. And so, I’ve recently had that experience and I can totally vouch for, that was the entire reason that I went with him and his agency, or whatever you call a group of counselors, all because they had that booking calendar online, which just made it so, so easy.
Greg Atkinson: I do the exact same thing. My counselor is booked online. I can see the available appointments. It’s good for them, it’s good for us. It’s just [00:28:00] we live in a digital culture. There are things that people are used to in the “real world” that has got to translate over into the “church world”. We’ve gotta step up our game. We have got to take seriously the co-mission of reaching the lost, reaching our neighborhoods, reaching the unchurched. [00:28:30] I saw a website that had FAQs on their I’m New page, so they had kind of directions, service times, vision. Then they had what would the experience be like, what can I expect, is there music, sermon, what is that like, how early shall I get there, then they lay that out, what should I wear, they lay that out, what about my kids.
People do not realize, and this [00:29:00] is important and this ties into the whole online strategy, what we put on an I’m New page, why it’s important to pre-register kids, when I work with churches as a consultant, one of the things that I tried to explain to the team is that a parent who is coming to church, that is not familiar with church, they do not realize that we have background-checked kids workers. They don’t realize [00:29:30] that we have put procedures and protocols and policies in place. They don’t realize that we’re using a CHMS. In their mind, kids’ ministry is daycare and they just want to drop their kid off in a room and go into the service. They’re not thinking about, is this person registered in the database, do I get a sticker. To an unchurched person, that is so foreign to them.
Now they are pleasantly surprised [00:30:00] when you explain to them this is why we do what we do, but when a guest comes to a church, if they have not found answers on your website, when they stand in a long line that I refer to as the bottleneck, when they stand in a line of people waiting to pre-register their kids, they’re sitting there tapping their feet and they’re getting flustered and frustrated, and they’re like, why can’t I just drop my kid off in the class and go in the service, and they don’t understand [00:30:30] that we’re trying to protect their kids.
And so, a lot of this, like I said, have some FAQs on your website, have a simple button that says “what about my kids”, and then you tell them, hey, we have something for birth through fifth grade, you’re gonna experience age-appropriate teaching, music, fun activities. They’re gonna be led by staff and volunteers who care and love your kids. We have a check-in system [00:31:00] that ensures a safe environment and that things are efficient when you drop off and pick up your kids.
I talk about parents being overwhelmed and concerned and anxious. So many people come to church with a variety of emotions, from skeptic to nervous to doubting to grieving. I mean, we don’t know what brings people to church, if there’s a tragedy in their life, [00:31:30] if there’s a divorce, we don’t know what God is up to. But, as I said earlier, we have to take it seriously, we have to be good stewards, and we have to do everything in our power to make that visit as smooth as possible.
Dave Browning wrote a book called Deliberate Simplicity, and he was being interviewed about the success of his church, I believe it’s called Christ the King. And [00:32:00] one of the things he said, he said the success of our church can be attributed to us working hard to partner with the genius of the Holy Spirit. And so God saves people, God delivers people, God heals people, God draws men and women unto Himself, but we, on our end, we need to work hard to partner with the genius of the Holy Spirit.
And [00:32:30] so, I get frustrated when I see churches get lazy or whatever the opposite of strategic is, non-strategic, but when they just throw a half-hearted website up with no thought onto it, that it’s a lot of insider language and they don’t really focus on the guest and the newcomer, that frustrates me because I want us to work hard to partner with the Holy Spirit.
Brady Shearer: It’s so funny because it’s a [00:33:00] super simple concept that has such far reaching implications, and that is the importance of setting expectations. And it’s something that I think churches often do poorly, and we all do poorly in our own arenas of influence because we take these things for granted. We have seen the path from the front door to the kids’ room so many times that it’s not even within our realm of understanding that someone else has no idea, that way of [00:33:30] doing things. And so we’re just so used to the way the people dress and the way our services are conducted and the way that our pastor preaches, that explaining that just seems like something completely foreign.
And yet, I think so much of our success setting expectations kind of pairs with that first impression and making the best possible first impression, which is why I love this idea of the secret shopper, Greg. We had Kim [Meyer 00:33:56] on the podcast, a little while ago now, and [00:34:00] we spent the entire conversation with her, talking about that.
Any other final things that you want to hit on, when it comes to a church’s website? Tips and tricks, things that you’ve seen otherwise done well by some of the best websites, or things to avoid you’ve seen from some of the worst church websites you’ve stumbled across in your time?
Greg Atkinson: We mentioned the I’m New button. I also think there’s a lot of power in an About button. If I’m looking at the top [00:34:30] menu bar of a church, the two main things that I want to see are an About button and an I’m New button. Now you can have a button for Ministries, you can have a button for Sermons, Messages, watch and listen to the sermon. Your pastor may have a blog. You may have an Events button or a Calendar. All that’s great and no issue with that whatsoever. But I would have, very, very prominent, an [00:35:00] About button and I’m New button. We’ve covered the I’m New button.
On the About button, I want to see your staff. As I mentioned, that’s the number one thing people look for on a church website, and I want to see your Mission and Vision.
I talked about throwing up a half-hearted website and not putting any thought or intentionality behind it, which just drives me crazy, one of the things that you can do, it takes a little bit of time, a little bit of effort, but the [00:35:30] rewards are so great, and that is just have some good head shots of your staff. Take some nice pictures, maybe outside with a blurred scenic view behind them, or a tree or something that’s kind of blurred out, and have them wear nice casual, good looking shirts and outfits. And then tell their title, you know, is this an IT person, is the middle school pastor, is this the worship [00:36:00] leader, is this the kids’ pastor, oh, hey, here’s the senior pastor, be able to look and to see. And it’s often cool to have a little email button right underneath where, if I see there’s a care pastor or a guest services person, that I could shoot an email and say, hey, I have a question. In today’s world, you don’t necessarily have to have a phone number. A lot of church staff aren’t in an office or at their desk, and they don’t want to give out their cell number, [00:36:30] but having an email where they can click on that. Some churches, depending on the size, break it down into Pastoral Staff and Support Staff. Some churches show their Elders, some churches don’t.
And then give a little overview of, here’s our vision, this is what we’re about, we want to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Christ. A lot of people have used that, or whatever your vision may be, just give a little [00:37:00] overview. And then somewhere on that About page, where you cover your vision, it’s very key to have your values, what do you value. People have like biblical authority, prayer, grace, authenticity, relevance. A lot of churches value excellence, and I love that, it’s one of my favorite values, some say generosity. So just give it a little overview of here’s who we are, here’s what we believe, here’s what’s important to us, here’s what we’re passionate [00:37:30] about.
You would not believe how many people are scoping out our websites. They’re scrolling through and they’re looking and searching. We talked about what people search for on Google. Somehow they have stumbled across your website and they’re curious and they’re looking, and I hope they get a little bit intrigued and I hope they get a little bit excited of, I’m not gonna miss Sunday, I cannot wait to be there Sunday.
And then once you get their Sunday, and it’s [00:38:00] the reason I do secret shoppers, I see stuff like you said, that they have gotten so used to, to the insiders, they know where the restrooms are, they know where the kids’ check-in is, they know where the auditorium is. I’ve worked with churches so large, I couldn’t even find the auditorium, I was just as lost as could be. They know where to park, they know what door to come in. When we get out of our comfort zones and go visit another church, maybe you’re on vacation, or you take an intentional trip [00:38:30] with your team or volunteers to go visit a local church, put yourself in the shoes of a newcomer.
And then the last thing I’ll say, when it comes to my secret shopper visit, I always look at communication, and you mentioned Kim Meyer, she’s the communication queen, she’s a genius. When it comes to what you put in your bulletins, when it comes to announcements, less is more. And this is where the power [00:39:00] of the website comes in. You want to stand up and mention one thing, hey guys, don’t forget, we have a newcomer connection class next Sunday night. We have some cool stuff going on here at Grace Church, or to find out what’s going on and get more details, go to gracechurch.org and check us out online.
The same thing, when somebody calls your receptionist, let the receptionist be well versed in, here’s our directions, here’s our service times, and [00:39:30] if you have any other questions, please check us out at gracechurch.org. After hours, if I call your voicemail, I want to hear, for service times press 1, and for directory press 2, for location press 3, for any other questions press 4. But somewhere in there, it needs to say, for this and any other details, go to gracechurch.org.
But when we point people to the website, we can [00:40:00] announce less and we can promote and push less. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Kim Meyer, and she says, “If everything is important, then nothing is.” If you stand up and you make ten announcements, it’s just gonna fly over their head. They’re overwhelmed, they don’t know where to start, they’re definitely not gonna do ten things, and so they just give up and they don’t do anything. But if you say, hey, here’s one thing you need to know, we’re gonna have a small group [inaudible 00:40:28] next Tuesday night. We want you to come out and check [00:40:30] out what new small groups are gonna be offered. For anything else, go to gracechurch.org. And then always, always point people to the website.
Brady Shearer: Amazing. I think that’s a great place to leave off, Greg. Can you tell us more about where people can find you online, what you’re up to, services you offer, all that good stuff?
Greg Atkinson: Yeah. As you mentioned, my name’s Greg Atkinson, you can find my website, gregatkinson.com. On Twitter and Instagram, I’m @gregatkinson. You can search for me on Facebook, [00:41:00] I have a Facebook page. And then I run a website called expastors.com, E-X-pastors.com. We have a brand new national non-profit that helps pastors get healthy and avoid burnout, that is launching this year. It’s brand new, we’re in the early stages, it’s still coming together, but you can check us out at fullstrength.org. And if you think of like helping pastors get strong or back to full strength, fullstrength. [00:41:30] org. And both Full Strength Network and Ex-pastors are on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.
And then, I am passionate about first impressions, I’m passionate about training church leaders to be as effective as possible, and so I am, in February, gonna be doing an online first impressions conference, featuring some of my friends and peers [00:42:00] and people who I greatly respect and think are leaders when it comes to church guest services and first impressions, and so you can check out my website, gregatkinson.com for more on that. You can also just check out firstimpressionsconference.com, but you’ll be able to find us. If you go to gregatkinson.com, you can sign up for my newsletter and I’ll be sending out details about that. But it’ll be just online, you don’t have to travel, you don’t have to book a flight or hotel. It’ll be an online conference that you can [00:42:30] sit in your home and office and watch online and learn from some of the best minds, not just me, but some of the best people out there when it comes to first impressions. I’m excited about that.
Brady Shearer: I love it, Greg. Thanks so much for coming on the Pro Church Podcast and delivering so much valuable content. Pro Church Nation salutes you for it.
Greg Atkinson: Thank you for having me.
Brady Shearer: Well, there you have it, my interview with Greg Atkinson, discussing the First Impressions Checklist. We talked about what makes a church website so important, why is it so important, improving [00:43:00] your website’s search engine optimization, the most important button on your church’s website, checklist for your website’s I’m New page, allowing for kids’ pre-registration on your website, the importance of setting expectations, and finally, pro tips and tricks for church websites. A big thank you to Greg Atkinson for coming on the show and sharing for so much information with us.
And now it is time for our review of the week. This one comes from Pastor [Voisey 00:43:26], and his name inside of Apple podcasts is [00:43:30] Seized the 167!!1, which I assume was meant to be a third exclamation point, five stars. It says, “I can’t remember when I started listening, or even how I came across this amazing podcast. As a church planter in a poor, urban community, with limited funds and people resources, I need all the help that I can get, and this podcast has been a huge help. I’ve gained not only knowledge through information, but great added resources that I could not afford to pay for. I’m very grateful for Brady and the Pro Church Tools team for all the hard work of bringing quality, [00:44:00] resources and information that helps churches, pastors and leaders seize the 167, so thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do. Your ministry is reshaping the way I think about ministry and make connection in our local expression of God’s kingdom.” Great review, so happy to hear that, Pastor Voisey, if I’m hopefully pronouncing that remotely correctly.
You can head to prochurchpodcast.com listener and subscribe to the Pro Church Podcast, leave a rating and review, the best way to support the show, the best way to help us [00:44:30] get into the hands and the ears and pockets of types of churches that could benefit from this type of podcast. Thank you so much for your patronage. You like that work, patronage. We’re gonna be doing so much great stuff in 2018, going daily with the podcast, going daily with videos on our YouTube channel, youtube.com/prochurchtools. We’re taking it to a whole nother level in 2018, so look forward to that. This is Brady, signing off for now, but we’ll talk real soon.