Foursquare and the Church

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

The Future of Foursquare continues to be uncharted and unexplored by many business. The power of the check-in has been felt by very few “mayor’s” across North America and many are just now unlocking the potential that could very well be the “next big thing.”
But exploring Foursquare and the church could be a whole new thing.

You might be wondering how could a church use an app that rewards people for checking in? Or for that matter how could someone be the “mayor” of a church?

Those are valid questions that can be debated, but Foursquare has more good then bad and is another tool that can be used by churches and is free.

But before we get into the what we have to look at the why.

Lets change the why we need to shift our focus to the win. What is the win for you and your church to start using foursquare? Simply put, more people that check-in to church provides more chances for you to interact, engage, and research. Think about this, you have a pastor stand on stage and ask the audience to fill out a notebook that provides their name, phone number and email address every Sunday. The main purpose for this is to find out who was there and how can we contact them. This is a fairly easy way to take notice of all that are in attendance that morning. Now bring foursquare (and twitter) into that equation. Instead of asking people voluntarily “check-in” providing their name, twitter name, and sometimes email. You have instantly see who is at church that Sunday and not only that you can provide a follow up message after each check-in.

What do I mean by a follow up message. Check out what Park Community Church in Chicago does with foursquare

A free drink? Heck ya. A simple little message could be the thing that brings someone into your coffee shop which then provides your staff to get a chance to interact with them, ask them how they are doing, but not only that give them coffee instead of those cheesy visitor packets that seem more lame then good.

Declaring the win is important in choosing the reason for using Foursquare at your church.

I believe this area of foursquare is very unexplored but filled with potential. Here are a couple of ideas that I think you could implement to bring foursquare to your church.

1. Create Your Church

As most churches have already been indexed, most have not. There has been several times I have gone to a church and had to create the spot myself to check-in. A great start would be to set the location of your church on foursquare. This is a very easy process and includes filling in some information about your area. But the second part of this process is the most important part, and that is having control of your church location. You will want to put in a claim to Foursquare so that you can have control of specials offered as well as other important notes and information. This process is very simple and can be done but going to this form here and entering in the information required.

2. Specials

Now that you have your spot (church) claimed on Foursquare, the potential is as big as you want it to be. Want to give away free coffee, go for it. Want to give away discounts to the bookstore, why not. Obviously you do not want to go as far as saying the first person to check-in gets priority seating (though I know someone has done that), but you get the idea of offering up incentive for checking in.  Remember this is incentive for checking in to Foursquare, not going to church. That is a whole other issue.

Some ideas that immediately jump out of my head:

  • Youth Group event check-ins such as scavenger hunts, serving opportunities, or concerts.
  • Series promo badges that follow along with the current series the church is in.
  • Select “social media” seating. Providing a place for people to use technology in service.
  • A tool to recruit volunteers by creating places of need throughout the church.
  • Provide a place to conversate after the sermon or service through a link provided to those that check-in.

3. Interaction

The tools of social media are all about interaction and not about broadcasting. I do wonder sometimes if the church gets those two mixed up on which one comes first. The tool of Foursquare can be that piece that allows you to do less talking and more interacting. The fact that people check-in and broadcast that they are there is a great step in the conversation. I equate this to making the first move. This now provides the church a chance to follow up on Twitter, Foursquare or Facebook. This also allows you to hear what people are saying about your church without ever having to ask. The most important thing is providing a non-threatening environment to engage in conversation.

Here are some ideas of how you can use Foursquare to interact:

  • Encourage photos of the service
  • Use to keep track of people mentioning your service through check-in’s and tweets.
  • ReTweet or @ reply people who check-in with a quick message and a follow.
  • Leave tips about different locations in the church (childcare, coffee, youth center, visitor center).
  • Provide a link to a special spot on your website that allows users to engage more through a live chat, more information, or future events.

The above image is of Cross Point Community Church in Nashville. I am the proud mayor of this place (which probably does not mean much to you). The reason I am proud of this is that on any given Sunday about 45 people check-in using Foursquare at Cross Point. Not only is it cool to see all the check-ins it also allows me to see when my friends are at church and what service they are attending.

The potential on the free service of Foursquare and churches is there. Though it will never be life-changing it could be a great open door for you to interact with church members, visitors and even skeptics. I guess the real question to ask yourself is why would not use Foursquare?

Can you think of any creative ways churches could use Foursquare?


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Kyle Reed

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I create websites, conversations, and ideas. Advocate for the 20 somethings. Looking to connect everyone to a mentor. Married to my best friend, Ginny. I like my coffee black and my dog Jack. I currently live in Nashville and work at Sony Music/Provident in Nashville
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  • Josh Burns

    Dude, these are some great thoughts on foursquare, and social check-in in church. We’ve been doing the free drink here at Park, but are always looking for new ways to utilize foursquare and other social services. Great stuff!

    • Kyle Reed

      well you are one of the first churches that i have seen actually take advantage of this service. So you are on the “cutting edge”
      But love that you do this. I know I would enjoy it.
      Thanks for stopping in

  • Morgan MacGavin

    My goal is to oust you as mayor one of these days!

    These are definitely some awesome ideas for how a church can utilize FourSquare. As I’m sure you know, we used it during Stretch Fetch last year and will again this June. It’s fun to see where the other teams are getting their scavenger hunt items. Not to mention you know if they are hot on your heels or not! ;-)

    • Kyle Reed

      Sorry, but that will never happen

      • Morgan

        We shall see, Kyle…we shall see.

  • Stephen Lynch

    These ideas make my mind feel very small. I simply don’t connect the full spectrum of usefulness of apps like this and the church.

    The first word I normally associate with ideas like this is “distraction”. Distracting you from the people around you to the church service itself. But this is definitely a fresh perspective, especially the youth capabilities.

    Once again, really cool stuff Kyle.

    • Kyle Reed

      it can definitely be a distraction. But I think if it is done in a way that has a natural movement from a quick check-in or something of that nature to then engagement in a service it is very useful.

      A great example to look at is church online and the chat that happens. I mean the struggle is that Pete is preaching and people are literally talking during his message. In a normal church service this would not be acceptable. But online the more chat the better. The trick though is moving people from general conversation to real, thought-provoking and engaging conversation.

      But these are the things I think about late at night in my apartment because I do not have internet or television to distract me :)

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  • Kyle Chowning

    Great post Mr Reed. I appreciate the insights.