Could Churches Be Using Location-Based Services Wrong?

Could Churches Be Using Location-Based Services Wrong?

July 25, 2011 by

“Location, location, location.” Many recognize this phrase from the real estate industry but there is an another phrase, “location-based services” (LBS), that has created substantial discourse in the technology industry. Foursquare, Gowalla, Tri-Out and a host of other LBS applications have not only integrated their features with regular businesses such as coffee shops, restaurants and other venues but churches have become more aware and began leveraging their potential too. Below are some examples of how churches could use and are using LBS (I have mentioned some of these examples before in a post on Media Salt):

  • First-Time Check-Ins – When an attendee checks into your venue for the first time.
  • Rewarding the “Mayor” – Some of these services designate the person who checks in at one location the most often as the “mayor” of that location. Offer the mayor at your church a prize for consistently being the mayor. Basically, you are rewarding that person for consistently coming to church and sharing where they are with their friends.
  • Outdoor Events – Have your community check-in to your outdoor events to let friends know where they are and why they are there.

The Problem
Now that I have been using LBS behind the scenes for a year and some months, I have watched how our church community uses LBS and I am convinced that LBS by itself is a useless feature that could obviously get lost in translation in the church arena. For example, one major concern remains what happens after you “check-in”? How many times can you be rewarded for simply checking into venues? In addition, checking-in can become exhausting at times if you are “just checking in” to places. On the other hand, If you tweet, you can tweet multiple times in one place and tweet about anything you want in 140 characters or less. This is one reason why Twitter works so effectively and why LBS by itself fails. LBS only has one purpose.

I am convinced that LBS have to be used as a feature inside of another application to make it “stick” or for people to really understand its true potential. Below are some suggestions of how churches might best use location-based services:

  • Group Settings – Outreach projects or small groups: Mediasalt recently had a Creative Missions trip where they used a group messaging app called Beluga that has LBS built in. Mediasalt and their team of creative volunteers were able to not only communicate with each other, but they were able to see each other’s current locations in real-time. This same model can work with Small Groups in churches where the groups meet in various places.
  • Location with Social Networks – Having location turned on when you are Facebooking or tweeting I believe could be valuable because you are sharing photos, videos and messages about a particular person, place or thing. Have you ever viewed a photo or watched a video and wished you knew where it was taken or recorded?
  • Campaign – If you are a church that is actively in a campaign of some sort, you could use LBS to not only get the word out about your campaign but use it to your advantage to get people to participate. For example, a potential volunteer could participate in an event if they check in by this time and/or this date, etc.

What are your thoughts on this subject? From my experiences talking to and watching my church community, the latter examples above are what I see LBS being best used for currently. If you have better examples or if you like the current ones, I would love to hear from you!

Post By:

Andre Barnes

Andre' Barnes is the technology director at !mpact Church in Atlanta, Ga. Andre' and !mpact were both featured in a segment on CNN for "Social Networking In The Church."
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2 Responses to “Could Churches Be Using Location-Based Services Wrong?”

  • Paul Loyless
    July 25, 2011

    I’m with you and struggle to quantify the value of LBS for the church. Brand awareness is probably the greatest benefit LBS brings to a persons community.

    Here’s how that looks… someone “checks-in” at a church his followers/friends are (or can be) notified. This may be the first introduction these followers/friends have to the church. Who knows? It may lead to conversations about the church and Christ.

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  • Katie
    August 3, 2011

    I recently read an article about a shopping center that rewards there mayor with not one parking spot, but two. Might be a great (and cheap!) way for a church to reward their Foursquare mayor. Even better, the extra spot encourages them to bring guests with them.

    You can read the article here:

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