Getting to know a new ministry context can be a fun but time-consuming process. Using the geolocation service Foursquare can help you get the most out of your time.
One of the first tasks a ministry leader has in a new call is to get to know the local community. You drop in at local cafes, parks, restaurants, take in local events, drive around town, getting the lay of the land. You introduce yourself to ministry colleagues and local leaders, and reach out to local news outlets.
You want to understand the community in which your ministry is situated and your parishioners live — you want to let people know that you’re there — and begin to demonstrate your consistent presence in the community.
The goal is to start building a network with everyone from the mayor to the local barista — a network that becomes the groundwork for collaboration, supporting the community, evangelism and rallying together in times of need.
Foursquare helps take the consistent and demonstrable presence you are building in face-to-face meetings and extend it into the digital meeting places of your community.
Now checking in
In the first two weeks in my new call at Upper Dublin, I checked in 36 times. These were all places I was visiting anyway. Checking in was just an extra bonus — and it didn’t cost me anything but 20 seconds each time I checked in. I shared all of these check-ins on Twitter and selected ones on Facebook (so as not to fill up my friends’ newsfeeds.)
So, what’s the benefit of all this checking in?
There are a several things:
- I can help tell the story of my new call to my friends and family.
- I will have a record for myself of my first weeks in my new call.
- I check in at church to help spread the word about us.
- It gives nice shout outs to local businesses.
Mostly, however, it is so I can connect with people in the community. If people are looking to connect with people in Ambler and Upper Dublin, as I did prior to moving here, I’ll show up along with other residents, newsmakers and leaders.
I focus on Twitter because it’s the best place to connect with individual people, rather than just liking Facebook pages. Twitter users expect and enjoy when complete strangers connect. That’s why they are on Twitter. It’s also important to connect with this group because they tend to be power users of social media — they are connectors, influencers and amplifiers in the community. And being someone who specializes in social media, these are people I’d naturally like to connect with anyway.
In the short term, using Foursquare is a great way of saying “I’m here” and beginning to connect with your new community.
In the long term, it can lead to some remarkable moments, as I learned in my last call.
Do you use Foursquare in your ministry? Why? How does it work for you?
Keith Anderson is the pastor at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Ambler, Pa. He is co-author with Elizabeth Drescher of “Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible,” a hands-on guide to social media for ministry.