Gowalla and The Gospel

by Paul on March 19, 2010

I’ve been playing around quite a bit with the location-based social networking service called, Gowalla.  From Wikipedia:

Gowalla is a primarily mobile web application that allows users to check-in to locations that they visit using their mobile device. This is achieved either through the use of dedicated applications available on Google AndroidiPhone, Palm WebOS and BlackBerry, or via m.gowalla.com. There is currently no way of checking-in through the standard website. Check-ins can be pushed via Notifications to iPhones, and by linking accounts, to Twitter and Facebook.

Trips, which as of January 2010 [5] can be made by any user, link up to 20 related spots, falling into categories such as Nature Hikes or Pub Crawls.

Spots and Trips can be featured by Gowalla, and with this comes a special status and icon, along with being highlighted on the website. Featured spots tend to be local landmarks such asBuckingham Palace in London, whilst featured Trips are chosen for being ‘unique and exciting’[6].

Upon checking-in, users may receive items as a bonus and these can be swapped or dropped at Spots. Users become Founders of a spot by dropping an item there. Items form a key feature within the game and each user has a vault into which they can place items they want to keep for ever. Special items have been created for specific events of importance such as the2010 Winter Olympic Games, and also as promotional items linked to real-world prizes e.g. Incase

It’s been pretty fun, and I’m really looking forward to testing it out in my upcoming trips to Amsterdam and Egypt.

As always, though, I can’t stop thinking about how lo-so (location-social) media can help us build meaningful relationships that allow us to glorify God.  I have some ideas.  As a disclaimer, though, I think these just scratch the surface.  I really hope you will add your own ideas in the comments.

Prayer Walking

You can create a trip in Gowalla that marks specific places people can pray for the well-being of the community.  Team members can take the trip together, or individually, and ‘check-in’ at each point you marked when you created the event.  You can even leave short, specific prayers in the notes for that location.

If I get time, I’d like to set up one of these for Amsterdam while I’m there.  We’ll see.  Tons of meetings.

Strengthen Community

Mark the places where people in your church work.  That way, if you happen to be nearby, you can stop in and say, “Hi.”

Also, as more of your spiritual community get on Gowalla, you may notice that you frequent the same coffee shops and restaurants.  Instead of going alone, let them know you are heading there ahead of time.  Maybe you can share a quick cup of coffee and a prayer before heading back out.  Maybe your families can connect over a meal.  Use Gowalla to drive the relationships in your church deeper by connecting with people who check into the same places.

Connect with Strangers

With Gowalla, you can see who checked-in at your location.  If they checked-in recently, maybe you can send them a friend request and connect.  You probably share a love of social media, so use that as a common ground to begin a relationship.

Please, please, don’t ram the Gospel down a stranger’s throat.  Build relationship first.  If it becomes appropriate, then share.  The Holy Spirit will let you know.  Don’t inoculate people against the Gospel by inappropriately sharing your faith.

Pretty basic ideas.  I hope to develop them over the next month or two.  I’d love to hear how you’re using lo-so media to connect with your community.

Oh yeah, find me on Gowalla.  I’d love to connect with you.  http://gowalla.com/users/pauldwatson

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dave Bourgeois March 19, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Paul –

I, too, am trying to understand how these location-based apps can play a role in online ministry. Thanks for the ideas!


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