With hundreds of places of worship in the greater Spokane County area, those moving to town — or those just looking to practice faith for the first time — have an overwhelming number of choices.
“The average millennial has church-shopped four to six times in their life, visiting five to seven places of worship each time,” said Community Organizer Skyler Oberst.
Which is one of many reasons why the interfaith expert decided to quit his job, “take a leap of faith” and launch Seekr, a phone app that helps simplify the search for those who wish to explore religious venues in their area.
“Instead of Googling for houses of worship, or even looking through a phonebook, why not download an app that provides you with not only the listing information for spaces but also allows you to interact with these spaces in real time?” Oberst wrote when pitching his idea in a State of Formation blog. “This approach goes beyond just information and gives any Seeker the chance to find what they’re really searching for: is this the place for me?”
Seekr users can filter places of worship through types of faith or other categories, such as parking, “open and affirming,” ADA accessible, day care and outreach offerings.
Launching the App
Oberst was able to launch the app with some financial help after using the Mind to Market program through Startup Spokane. The “Shark Tank”-like experience netted Seekr $50,000 from various investors (and they’re still searching for more). Oberst also has the help of a small team of developers, designers and web gurus.
Profiles for the spaces seen by users is autopopulated through an internet scrape of public records and websites. Places of worship can add to or create a profile and, for a fee, fill it with additional information and visuals to pull in new members.
Users can see “what the church says and what other people say about their church,” Oberst explained. Comments, moderated by an algorithm, help inform the app and the users on the good (and the bad) happening in spaces across town.
“As an Episcopal priest and member of the larger faith community I am always in support of dialogue and opportunities that build a stronger sense of interconnectedness,” said the Rev. Karen Schomburg, of Episcopal Diocese of Spokane. “I believe Seekr will enable faith communities and seekers alike to see beyond what they have experienced in the past and find new expressions of spiritual life and companionship.”
While the app mainly acts as a place to search on and comment about religious spaces, Oberst has some ideas up his sleeves for the future:
- A value-based quiz could help narrow down users’ searches
- Places of worship profiles could one day include live-streams of their services
- Churchgoers could request community help when they’re ill (like an UberEats service)
- And users could request prayers in time of need.
Seekr is hosting its launch party from 6-8 p.m. Saturday on the rooftop of The M in downtown Spokane, 612 W Main Ave. The event is open to the public, including those who are wanting to use the app, religious leaders and interested investors.
Seekr is available to download free in your smartphone’s app store.
“It’s a one-stop shop where everybody can use the app to lead better lives,” Oberst said.
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