Some time between 5th grade and now, four square changed meanings. You know, the game with four squares on the ground and you have to bounce the ball into the other…… oh nevermind. It was at least after I worked at a camp during college, because I distinctly remember trash talking some middle schoolers about my mad skills on the indoor four square court. Now, it seems I’m trash talking coworkers about my foursquare skills, this time though the court is my phone and I’m the mayor. That’s right, I’m talking about location-based services.
Before I dive to far into the subject, I have to admit, I got sucked in. I’m a chronic checkeriner (If that’s a word? If it isn’t, it will be soon. Watch out Palin, I’m coming for you.). I currently hold mayorships in…..(pause while checking my phone).. 7 places. Also, and the let’s get real here, I was a little sad when I lost my Chick-fil-a mayorship. Yet, even though I’m doing it, I still ask why and find it completely useless. Well sort of.
The location-based social networking craze came out of no where and it’s gone crazy. Just off the top of my head, there’s foursquare, yelp, gowalla, Facebook check in, SCVNGR, Loopt, and many more apps that one can install on to their mobile device. It makes me wonder how someone coming up with a new service thinks they will change the way we click a button to say, “We’re Here!”. In old school terms, is there a better way to raise your hand to say you’re in class? Maybe that’s whats next, kids “checking in” at school. Wait, they probably already do.
I see where retailers can use these services for giving out deals and coupons, we’ve taken advantage of 2 for 1 at Chipotle multiple times. It also makes sense that keeping up with friends is a nice plus, but isn’t that hard with all the service/app options? John’s on foursquare, Seth on gowalla, Mark on SCVNGR, it’s just so confusing. But what’s the greater use for this? I mean the technology is cool, but unless a better use is found, it will remain a gimmick and fall to the wayside like a 90’s slap bracelet. Good news for you is that I think I found it. It’s in the movement.
My wife noticed that when enough people check in at one location on foursquare that location “trends” to the top of the list so that anyone about to check in to a nearby location sees that trending location first. Let’s look at this from a church perspective. Let’s say you are having an outreach event. Create an event location on any number of these location based services and then have staff and volunteers check in upon arrival. Your outreach is now becoming a movement in the online social world, trending up across multiple services and reaching audiences that might not normally come to one of your events. The end result is that, like flies to a bug zapper, people will stop by your event to just see what all the fuss is about.
This is probably already happening to a certain extent without anyone planning it to. What I’m suggesting is that we be more purposeful with it. Plan it out ahead of time. It’s a very simple thing that could have far-reaching effects for your church in what we were put here to do. So, spread the gospel one check in at a time.