Capture3-14-2008-2.51.00 PMSeveral years ago I worked for a well known national student ministry that held events throughout the year. It was my job to call churches and invite them to bring their students to our events. I remembered going into my directors office and looking at this huge map on his wall. It was a map of the United States and had 20-25 large marks on the cities we were holing an event that year. Around each mark were several circles each representing 25, 50, and 100 miles out from the location. Then there were dots all over the map showing the location of churches that came to the event the year before. I would gain a lot of insight from looking at this map. It told me where the kids were coming from and what areas we were not penetrating. I could make note of the areas we had not saturated and then market directly to them.

A few months ago, I started helping my parents with their business. They talked a great deal about expanding their business the next year and discussed the various options as to where they would likely open another location. Hearing them talk of this got me thinking. I remembered the map I used when working for the student ministry over a decade ago. Certainly you could do this with the power of technology we now have at our fingertips. So I set out to find answers.

It took me many hours researching this. There are many options out there, but few that are easy. Google Earth allows you to map out a limited number at a time with a premium account. Finally I hit the jackpot and it was easier than anything else I had found. I’m still amazed at how easy it is. You can try this yourself at It’s called geocoding… when you convert an address to lines of latitude and longitude. Just follow the instructions on the site. Download the excel sheet and cut and paste the addresses you have into the appropriate columns. Then select the entire sheet and past it into the form on the web age. Click the validate button and then the “run geocoder” button. It may warn you about doing more than 500 or a 1000 lines, but I did it with 1500 lines with no problems before. It may take a some time (it took me 5 minutes to code the 450 lines in my example), but when done it will plot all the points on the Yahoo Map at the bottom of the page. Even better, you can click the “download to Google Earth” button and it will save the geocoded information as a klm file. If you have Google Earth installed (it’s free) you can just double click this file and it will display all your points on Google Earth.

Application. There are all kinds of ministry applications for this. Your could use this information to see where to plant new small groups or even new campuses. You could use this to see where to target neighborhoods for outreach opportunities. You can use it to visually see where youre people are coming from. Okay, that isn’t a bunch of examples, but I’m sure there are more out there. Ultimately, it’s a really cool tool and doesn’t take much effort to pull off.

Let me know if you try this and how it goes. Also let me know if you can think of other good uses for this information, specifically for children’s ministry!


I ran and example to show you what this looks like. I put in a list of 450 that were on my mailing list 3 years ago. The coding actually even eliminated duplicates. Below are some screenshots, but after coding, it will even place your map with markers on a website that you can link to and send to others. Also, don’t forget about the Google Earth KLM. You haven’t truly seen it unless you’ve seen it in Google Earth. Here is the KLM of my example. Just open it up if you have Google Earth installed.


For those of you who like puzzles, I’ve got a challenge for you. Based on the plots on the map, where do you think the location of the church was? I’ve got a special prize for the person who gets the closest. No cheating! It wouldn’t be hard to figure out where I have worked and get an address from the Internet. So, no looking online and I’m not accepting answers from those of you who worked with me… Remember, Jesus is watching.

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