Evangelism is taking a modern approach with Gloo, a company that is using the same methods that businesses and political campaigns use to target individuals who are more likely to accept churches' messages and join their congregations. This time, Gloo is focusing on more personal data and analysis focuses on identifying difficult moments in people's lives.
According to the Wall Street Journal, it's a similar method to what retailers or political candidates use to send out online ads to a particular demographic. Gloo takes the same concepts and identifies certain things about people, which churches can then use to determine who to target. Gloo will show ads to groups of people who they think are more likely to be receptive to becoming members of a particular church or a person they think the church can help.
Churches believe that individuals who are going through a personal crisis are more likely to be open to outreach efforts. Gloo is the organization that will take on the task to identify who are these people by, according to its marketing materials, "[predicting] the characteristics of people who might have a marriage in trouble, be suffering from depression or anxiety, or have a propensity for a drug addiction, based on data analysis."
Gloo depends on thousands of data points from third-party providers and data from its own data collection efforts through the churches it works with. Following WSJ's reporting on Gloo, however, the company decided to stop using mental health data and revamped some of its earlier practices. In addition, one of its largest data providers also cut ties with the company.
Aside from data analysis, Gloo also serves as a bridge between webpages that offer support for people suffering from grief and marital distress, with local churches. The webpages are then promoted through ads on social media or Google ads that appear when a user searches for specific search terms related to loneliness. Users can provide their name and contact information, which Gloo then passes on to churches.
According to Fox Business, over 30,000 churches have signed up for Gloo's platform, which uses Big Data for a new kind of evangelism. The company said that the number of sign ups they have right now account for 10% of U.S. churches. Clients can enjoy free or premium membership, which average premium costs up to $1,500 annually.
Some churches believe that this effort to evangelize online will help with the effects of the pandemic on in-person church attendance. A Kansas City non denominational Christian church called Westside Family Church has tried to use Gloo to reach individuals who are struggling with finances and with the pandemic.
Westside Family Church lead pastor Randy Frazee remarked, "The church is committed to going out at whatever cost to find that one lost sheep that needs help."
Pastor Frazee explained that using Gloo goes beyond just finding new church members, as it also helps them serve their community. The pastor explained, "There are a lot of people who are in pain and isolated. If you don't come to church, the church will come to you."
As per Gloo, the company started with a "moral imperative" to provide churches with access with the same kind of data and technology that major corporations use to reach their customers or target audiences. The company said in a written statement that they "believe this is the right thing to do. And Gloo is committed to doing it the right way."