Geo-socialization, in its simplest terms, may be described as social geography – socializing with those in your geographical area through the tool of social media.
Connecting to your primary audience within a certain radius of where your business is located is the goal of geo-socialization.
It connects people to businesses and events that show a common interest based on what they have shared in social media profiles.
In his book, “New Mega Trends: Implications for Our Future Lives,” Sarwant Singh writes, “If Facebook was a country, it would be the third largest in the world today with over 800 million members; and with eight people joining Facebook every second (its birth rate is twice that of the world’s), it is also the fastest-growing community in the world.”
Note the use of the word community: It is no longer defined by neighborhood. Community is defined by interests, services and support. Community is also the main desire of a digital audience.
Social media’s influence in changing the terminology and this new understanding of community redefines the church’s neighborhood.
Unlike businesses who attract customers due to centrality to a local neighborhood, churches attract congregants seeking specific ministries, events and resources.
A congregation using children in an active participatory way in worship will attract families seeking a family-friendly church.
A congregation using digital media, social media and an emergent style of worship will attract those seeking an emergent church.
Thanks to social media, community has expanded beyond a church’s neighborhood, forming around like interests and common experiences.
Geo-socialization is one of the better 21st century trends that local churches could co-opt and adapt as they seek to understand and engage a post-Christian culture.
This approach allows the congregation to expand its sense of community and redirect its focus.
Singh writes, “The interesting feature to note … is that the power of the social group has transformed itself from a mere knowledge-sharing portal to a full-fledged support group or a marketing forum, calling the shots for new product development, or feedback on certain services, or even coming together to support a common social cause.”
Responding to this trend requires churches to explore what Richard Hamm calls adaptive change in his book, “Recreating Church.”
Adaptive changes are those that address fundamental values and that demand innovation, learning and changes in the system itself.
Geo-socialization is an adaptive change for congregations concerning online presence, social media interaction and social concerns.
Reflecting on the location of my current congregation, the need for geo-socialization is great.
Black Creek Baptist Church’s community is currently defined by a three-mile radius or the Black Creek Estates neighborhood in Mechanicsville, Virginia.
The community within the congregation, or the community the congregation attracts, includes those as far as 12 miles away from the church location.
Our community is larger than the immediate community, and our location is a rural area roughly 30 minutes outside of Richmond that is being transformed into a growing suburb.
Geo-socialization gives our congregation an opportunity to connect with the larger Mechanicsville area who may not know what ministries we provide.
In addition, geo-socialization creates an adaptive change for the congregation to reach a specific audience.
If we determined that our target “consumers” are those who prefer a cookout, live music, a fire pit and playing corn toss rather than a regular structured Wednesday evening program with Bible study, choirs and age-specific programs, then using geo-socialization we would be able to create teams who organize an event like this, sending invitations to their local neighborhoods.
As a result, the church becomes decentralized and mobile, connecting with those who are seeking to interact and connect over dinner, music and corn toss.
Geo-socialization allows for ministry to take place on more relational levels instead of on a teacher-pupil level that the current Wednesday program creates.
I believe geo-socialization is a trend that centers on the basic theology of church: community.
Churches help people discover the good news of Jesus through the development of community. In other words, the development of a sense of belonging, participating and interacting with one another.
The challenge is finding a way to manipulate the system into organically creating the adaptive changes geo-socialization requires.
The outcome of such change would be a church system that easily adapts, remains connected and is socially engaged as this trend leads into other trends later in the 21st century – perhaps even the 22nd century.
Joe Kendrick is the senior pastor of Black Creek Baptist Church in Mechanicsville, Virginia. A longer version of this article first appeared on his blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @majorfury99.
Joe Kendrick serves as Associate Pastor for Youth and Community Engagement at Spring Creek Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.