I am visiting churches scattered across major metropolitan areas as a part of my First Impressions Ministry. That sometimes involves identifying and locating churches, even when I didn’t know previously they existed. The question I find myself asking is simply, “are there any churches around here?”
That scenario places me in a very similar circumstance to many potential first-time guests to your church. They don’t know that your church exists; neither do they know where to find it.
In my case --- finding what I didn’t know was there--- I use my cell phone. In a certain geographic area (e.g., Parker, CO), I search IPhone Maps with the word “church.” The Maps app will then create a map, on my phone, populated with markers indicating where there is a church. (The latest iOS upgrade will group together churches that are near each other). I then follow the map to arrive at the church location marked on the map.
Here is the important part: I am finding that not every church shows up on the Maps app when I follow that procedure.
To illustrate the point, here is a story: while recently driving toward a church identified by a marker on an iOS map, I turned a corner and right there in front of me was a church NOT on the Map. How did I find that church? Quite by accident. More than a few times now, I have turned a corner on the way to an expected church, and “boom!” an unexpected church appeared right in front of me.
The conclusion? Not all churches appear on the iPhone Map church search. Does yours? You may be surprised that in a just completed search for “church” in Colorado Springs, the iOS map pulled up only 32 of the 400 or so churches in the Springs; that is about 1 of 12. (Even some large Colorado Springs churches surprisingly do not appear on the iPhone Map)
Take it a step further. Google Maps. Does your church appear on Google Maps using the same procedure as above? It might not! I have observed that not all churches appear in search results with Google Maps. Further, some churches appear only when zoomed-in at/to the block or street level. Consequently, Google Maps may give the viewer the impression that no church is located in a given search area, even if there is one, simply because the view is not zoomed-in enough to see additional church markers. That is a problem! Your church may, in fact, be gettting overlooked because it is not as visible on the map (e.g, with a small dot rather than one of the the larger icons Google Map also uses).
A church in my own general neighborhood is located about 3 blocks off a main thoroughfare; I have driven that thoroughfare almost daily for 24 months. During that time, I have searched iOS Maps on my phone and Google Maps on my computer and mobile devices for churches in the immediate neighborhood repeatedly; but this church never appeared. One day this summer I was looking for a garage sale in the neighborhood and, you got it, “boom!” there it was... a pretty good size church tucked in the neighborhood and completely unknown to me, even though I had diligently searched online maps for churches in that very neighborhood.
The lesson? If online Mapping is not locating your church (clearly and visibly) for me, then it is likely that hundreds, or maybe thousands, using the same method looking for a church in the area will not find your church either... except by accident.
That said, I have found a couple of websites that can aid you in getting your church visible on iOS Maps and Google Maps. Here they are:
You will find in the Google links above that Google My Business (GMB) is the key to getting your church location marked on Google Maps. If you are unclear what Google My Business is, you can find an example of a GMB listing here in the search result for Garden Ranch Baptist Church in Colorado Springs.
GMB is the Google-added listing adjacent to the Google search listed results for Garden Ranch Baptist Church. It is a valuable resource, essentially free advertising, that you can edit and update; and it will play a role in getting the visibility that you desire for your church on Google Maps. Use it well.
Speaking of visibility, it is one of the seven ministry categories highlighted by First Impressions Ministry to improve guest impressions. Get yourself on the map and you will make a better First Impression.
If you have had experience with getting your church visible on the mapping services or with Google My Business, others could likely benefit from a few comments. Share them below. All help is welcome. Thanks. Check back as comments grow.
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