Over 30,000 churches have turned to Gloo, a small company that gathers online data to target people as a new means of outreach and evangelism.
According to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal, Gloo wants churches to utilize big data or extremely large data sets that can be analyzed to show patterns, trends, and associations linked with human behavior and interactions.
"We believe this is the right thing to do. And Gloo is committed to doing it the right way," the company told the WSJ in a statement.
According to The Christian Post, the company's goal is for churches to target people in the same manner that major corporations such as Amazon, Google and Netflix use big data to target consumers with goods and services.
"By helping churches and people connect to each other, and then powering those connections with the right tools, we extend the Church's capacity to reach, know and move every person it serves," the Gloo website says.
Users can sign up for its free and premium services, with the premium users paying about $1,500 annually.
Many churches note that their outreach efforts have been most successful when reaching people in crisis. With Gloo, big data is used to assist churches in targeting those people in need, whether it's marriage issues, drug addiction, or depression or anxiety.
One church, Westside Family Church, a nondenominational Christian church near Kansas City, Kansas, used Gloo to reach people struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic and financial issues via online ads.
"The church is committed to going out at whatever cost to find that one lost sheep that needs help," Randy Frazee, lead pastor of Westside, told the WSJ. "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."
According to a September report by Gloo for Westside, it predicted that 25 percent of marriages within a 5-mile radius of the church could possibly end in divorce. Meanwhile, another 26 percent of people were prone to opioid addiction, and 3 percent of households had people who were anxious or depressed.
In marketing material from Gloo titled Data & The Church, the company explained how the data could be "co-serving."
"Let's examine the following example to explain this clearly. Analyzing data may reveal that a person is spiritual and has a high propensity for depression," Gloo representatives said. "With these insights, they may decide to take part in a small group at church, work with a therapist, and interact weekly with a personal trainer. Each of these Champions play an important role in the growth and development of that individual."
Gloo reps also asserted that it complies with California and other state privacy laws along with the privacy laws of companies like Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google.
"We call ourselves a trusted personal growth platform," Gloo co-founder Scott Beck told the WSJ.
While Gloo reps told the news outlet that it ceased using mental health data in its analysis, it did not explain how it determined which individuals had mental health struggles. Gloo reps also refused to say where the data came from by referring to confidentiality agreements with third-party data providers.
Photo courtesy: Annie Spratt/Unsplash
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.