MissionWebs and Drive Times: Defining the boundaries of our neighborhood

This post on MissionWebs and Drive Times is written
by Ken Howard

If “Love your neighbor” remains a core command for followers of Jesus, both as individuals and as congregations, then “Who are the people of our neighborhood?” (cue Mr. Rogers’ theme song) remains our core question. 

But before we can ask “who?,” we first have to ask “where?”… Where are the practical boundaries of our neighborhood? 

After all, we don’t have the wherewithal to show infinite love to everyone everywhere. Unlike God, both as individuals and as congregations, our love has limits. Limited time, limited attention, limited space, limited resources. So we have to prioritize how and where and to what end we will spend those resources to reap the most good for the most people. In other words, we have to establish reasonable boundaries for “our” neighborhood to which we will open our hearts and our doors. 

Back in the old days, when denominational affiliation was more important to people than it is now, hierarchies established our boundaries for us. These were both our “fishing ponds” (the area from which our people would come) and our “cure of souls” (the area for which we were responsible to serve). 

For many reasons, those kinds of boundaries don’t work any more. So how do we define the area in which we will cast our nets and for which we will take responsibility?

MapDash for Faith Communities offers two ways to ask these questions: one is called “MissionWebs,” the other Drive Time Boundaries.


MissionWebs help us answer the question, “Where is our region of greatest missional influence and attraction?

We create MissionWeb boundaries by identifying all same-denomination congregations in an area and generate non-overlapping drive time areas. Why same-denomination? Because, sadly, congregations of your own denomination will be your greatest competitors unless you intentionally work to make them your greatest collaborators.

Think of it as one of those math word problems we all hated back in school. Two drivers leave adjoining same-denomination congregations and drive toward each other at the posted speed limits. Where those cars would meet is one point on each congregation’s MissionWeb boundary. Repeat this on every road between every surrounding congregation and you have their MissionWeb boundaries. This is your area of greatest influence and attraction. By tapping inside a MissionWeb, you can reveal a popup that contains a snapshot of key population statistics for that area.

15-Minute Drive Time Boundary

15-Minute Drive Time boundaries help us answer the question, “What is the area from which the membership of our congregation is most likely to come?’

Why 15 minutes? Because research has demonstrated that, whether your congregation is in an urban area, a suburban area, or a rural area, the vast majority of your membership (approximately 70%) will come from within a 15-minute drive. 

In MapDash, you can use this analytic several ways. 

One way is to turn on the 15-minute Drive Time for your congregation and see the area from which 70% of your congregation is likely to come. Count up the other same-denomination congregations within those boundaries to get a sense of the possibilities of competition and collaboration. As with MissionWebs, you can click on the Drive. Time area to reveal key demographic statistics from within its boundaries.

Another way is to turn on the 15-minute Drive Time for your congregation and an adjacent congregation and observe the amount of overlap. If the overlap is greater than 50%, your congregations should be collaborating informally in your ministries. If the overlap is greater than 75%, your congregations should consider developing a formal collaborative ministry plan. If the overlap is greater than 90%, your congregations should consider combining your ministries. 

At the judicatory level, another way to use Drive Time boundaries is to turn on all Drive Time Boundaries for the judicatory and look for gaps in which you might want to start a new congregation or ministry. But that is a topic for another day… 

Watch this space…

FaithX is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and Ken’s faith-based consulting practice at FaithX is done under an extension of ministry from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

Want to learn more about missional opportunities
in your congregation’s neighborhood?
Click here for a free Neighborhood Missional Intelligence Report

Want to learn how your judicatory can identify
emerging missional opportunities within its boundaries?
Click hereto schedule a free demo of MapDash for Faith Communities by Datastory
and Strategic Missional Planning by FaithX