I am one who has never been on the cutting edge of technological innovation. However, I do enjoy and appreciate good tools and resources that assist me in the work of the ministry and my studies. One such tool that I have come to use in recent weeks is Google Maps.
In years past, when I would attempt to canvass a community with the gospel, I would purchase a full-size map of the city and put it on a poster board or tack it on my door. I would then use thumb tacks and plot out the areas or streets where I have gone in sharing the gospel. I would then mark the hopes with colored markers where people were receptive or came faith in Christ. The map became a resource that helped me plan out my evangelism strategy as well as encourage me to pray for various parts of the city.
That was then.
Two weeks ago, I went to Google Maps to figure out how to customize a personal map for a research project I am doing for class. The first time I saw a customized Google map was during the wildfires in southern California last year. In my project, I am working with a multi-ethnic church who has two services–one for English-speaking congregants, and another for Spanish-speaking congregants. My first segment was to take the directory for the Hispanic congregation and plot them on my customized Google map, which came to a total of 105 units (family residences). The second segment is to do the same with the directory for the English congregation on a second customized map. When completed, I will overlay the two maps to see where members are located across the city and region, perhaps breaking them down by zip code.
The second phase is to gather the most recent demographic and ethnographic data of the city as possible, finding the areas where Hispanics are most densely populated. I would then break that segment down to find the specific ethnic groups, such as Puerto Rican, Cuban, Mexican, etc. Once I have found the areas, communities, or streets where the various ethnic groups are located, I would then make a third customized Google map, marking the streets and communities with various symbols, designating the different areas. When finished, I would then overlay this ethnographic map over the map of the Hispanic congregation. Hopefully, the results would allow me to see what areas of the city are effectively being reached by the church, and what areas or people groups within the city where the gospel has yet to come to their home.
Needless to say, I am really excited about this project. I think it would serve profitable not only for strategic evangelistic planning but also alert the church to places and peoples for prayer, service, or other forms of ministry.
Having shared all that, I was wondering if any of you have in the past, or are currently using Google maps or any other map resource for your evangelistic or missional purposes. This is all new to me, and I am learning more and more by the day of ways to use this to benefit the advance of the gospel. If you have any ideas or ways that online maps could be use for the sake of the gospel, please pass them along as I am sure that I will benefit from your input (as well as others).
For those interested in learning more about customizable Google maps, check out this YouTube video: