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Frequently Asked Questions

So what is GMMS 2017?

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) allow the interaction of data (including your own institutional or locally-gathered data) with geographic data to produce maps depicting the data. The Global Ministry Mapping System (GMMS) combines the industry-leading GIS software with a wealth of global geographic and statistical databases, pre-made maps, software extensions, and labor-saving tools. GMMS 2017 for ArcGIS Desktop 10.4/10.5 is a complete computer mapping package built around Esri's powerful ArcGIS Desktop 10.4/10.5 GIS software. Designed to support church and mission work around the world, this strategic information tool assists Christian leaders to learn about their world and to plan, coordinate, and communicate their work.

Is GMMS for me?

GMMS is an excellent choice if, on an ongoing basis, your ministry needs to analyse research information or needs to communicate research information in a way that is easy for people to grasp.


The GMMS will suit you well if:

  1. You have research data already available or research is feasible for you.
  2. Your data requires frequent updating or you have multiple projects to analyse and communicate
  3. Your data is complex or you need to do complex analysis on your data.
  4. You have organizational capacity for a GIS, meaning:
    • someone with good computer skills
    • someone with a good sense of design (may be the same person)
    • time for 1 to 2 weeks of training
    • a modern computer with a color printer
    • time to invest in obtaining and adapting research data

If this describes your situation, we invite you to learn more about how the GMMS can help you accomplish your mission.


On the other hand, if you are looking for some pre-designed missions maps, take a look at the large collection of free maps available on Mission InfoBank. We would be glad to create one or more custom maps to meet your particular needs; learn more here about GMI's Custom Mapping. Information about other mapping resources is available here.

GMMS or standard ArcGIS Desktop?

I have, or am considering acquiring, ArcGIS Desktop 10.4/10.5 software from Esri. Should I get GMMS 2017 for ArcGIS instead of or in addition to Esri's retail ArcGIS software package?


GMMS 2017 with ArcGIS 10.4/10.5 incorporates Esri's ArcGIS Desktop 10.4/10.5 as its mapping software engine, and then adds substantial additional value to it. If you are interested in acquiring GMMS 2017 with ArcGIS 10.4/10.5, and you do not already have ArcGIS Desktop 10.4/10.5 software, there is probably no need for you to acquire ArcGIS Desktop separately; the software included within GMMS 2017 has all the ArcGIS Desktop 10.4/10.5 functionality.


Specifically, GMMS 2017 with ArcGIS 10.4/10.5 includes the following value-add features not found in Esri's normal retail ArcGIS package:

1. Wizards

GMMS includes a map-creation wizard that greatly simplifies the development of new maps. Often, you can create the map you need with only a few mouse clicks.

2. Databases

GMMS includes a vast, unique, and updated collection of geographic and attribute data compiled by and for the international missions community. Esri's Maps and Data for ArcGIS 10.4/10.5 is included with the GMMS package.

3. Maps

GMMS includes hundreds of finished missions maps created by GMI staff and associates, ready for users to edit or build on for their own map creation.

4. Documentation

GMMS includes all of the documentation normally included with Esri's retail ArcGIS Desktop 10.4/10.5 software. Also the GMMS has incorporated links to some of the most important Esri documentation with links in the GMMS main menu. The GMMS also includes additional documentation and tutorials written by GMI.

5. Technical Support

GMMS technical support is provided at no charge by GMI staff and associates who are working cartographers familiar with both the GMMS software and the GMMS data. Esri charges a substantial annual maintenance fee for ArcGIS Desktop, whereas GMMS users pay no annual maintenance fee. Software upgrades are provided by GMI in conjunction with GMMS upgrades.

6. Community

There is a whole community ofusers dedicated to encouraging and supporting GMMS users around the world.

What if I already have ArcGIS Desktop 10.4/10.5?

If you already have ArcGIS Desktop 10.4/10.5 and wish to take advantage of GMMS data or features, you can contact GMI and request a reduced price on our version or you can request a quote for a purchase of the data as a stand-alone product.

What if I'm not part of a Christian ministry organization?

GMMS 2017 with ArcGIS 10.4/10.5 is available to Christian ministries only. We are legally restricted to distributing it only to non-profit Christian ministry organizations who are committed to using the software exclusively for Christian ministry purposes. If you are not formally part of such an organization, we encourage you to contact your nearest Esri representative or visit the Esri website to acquire needed mapping solutions.

What are some examples of GMMS 2017 applications?

Church Planting

  • GIS maps the presence or absence of churches (with denominational/mission affiliation) in each village or urban neighborhood.
  • GIS tracks ratios of churches to population by census block, district, state, etc.

Unreached Peoples

  • GIS allows visualization of existing research tracking geographic distribution of approximately 2,500 ethnic and caste groups based on historical census data and of the 4,000 groups catalogued by the Anthropological Survey of India.
  • GIS uses 3-D modeling techniques to visualize village-by-village surveys of caste and ethnicity.

Urban Ministry

  • GIS helps study ethnic distributions and population demographics relative to existing churches, outreach centers, and ministry projects in order to determine the best locations for additional churches and other initiatives.


  • GIS tracks locations of and responses to mass evangelism events, literature distribution, film presentations, etc.
  • GIS coordinates movement of teams; makings sure teams are equipped with resources for languages and cultures of the areas they will visit.

Association / Network

  • GIS coordinates locations of new work to reduce duplication of work across agencies.
  • GIS determines areas of particular need and encourages work in most needy areas by appropriate organizations.
  • GIS tracks locations of organization offices, workers, projects, and other "harvest force" resources to identify opportunities for collaboration and resource sharing.
  • GIS illustrates large-scale strategies and trends and mobilizes present and future leaders toward effective action through publications and events.

Education / Leadership Development

  • GIS tracks locations of schools, libraries, leadership training events, and other educational resources, and encourages those making training available in an area to notify other organizations and leaders in the area.
  • GIS maps locations of alumni and encourages continuing peer mentoring, support, and continuing education within concentrations of alumni.


  • GIS tracks progress of cooperative philanthropic efforts such as the India Leadership Study.
  • GIS enables Indian leaders to see the locations of their donors (within and outside India) in order to effectively plan visits or gatherings.
  • GIS allows projects and organizations to effectively communicate the geographic reach of their efforts to donors and partner organizations.
  • GIS allows donor organizations to analyze the geographic reach of the projects and organizations they fund and identify under- and over-served areas.

Relief & Development

  • GIS helps assess and predict environmental, agricultural, and economic threats in order to preposition resources in areas of likely need.
  • GIS tracks ongoing projects and disaster responses within and between agencies.
  • GIS helps plan transportation/distribution logistics.


  • GIS facilitates the selection of broadcast locations, program language, and antenna coverage patterns to fit language areas.
  • GIS helps analyze patterns of mail responses to broadcasts and devise alternate strategies for reaching unresponsive areas.

Bible Translation/Publishing/Distribution

  • GIS tracks translations completed, in progress, or needed by language area; helps assess best locations to place additional translators.
  • GIS is used to coordinate scripture availability and distribution points with evangelism/church planting efforts in an area.

Literature and Non-print Media Distribution

  • GIS helps in determining languages needed for first language or trade language materials in an area.
  • GIS helps plan the movement of distribution teams, to ensure all areas are reached.

How does GMMS 2017 work?

While there is an inevitable complexity to turning complex data into understandable maps, the unique GMMS includes a number of features that make it easier to make maps quickly:

  • A base map wizard simplifies the management of dozens of layers providing geographic context.
  • A library of over 200 full-editable map designs gives a variety of starting places that can be modified to create your own customized maps.
  • Most geographic data sets and many statistical variables have "layer files" that can be added to maps to provide automatic setting of colors, line weights, etc.
  • The large variety of statistical and geographic data sets provided, all with coordinated codes, substantially reduce the cost and difficulty of data acquistion and conversion.

What comes with GMMS 2017?

Some high points of the data included in the GMMS include:

  • Three global base maps, including GMI's Seamless Digital Chart of the World, suitable for use at a variety of map scales.
  • Names, populations, and locations of over 200,000 cities and towns. This can be extended to over 2.2 million cities, towns, and villages with the optional Populated Places data set.
  • Point and area locations of languages with associated data from the World Language Mapping System, version 19.
  • Point and area locations of people groups worldwide
  • A system for population-density mapping for people groups, language groups, and religious groups in South Asia
  • National-level data from Operation World, The World Factbook, UNICEF and many other sources.
  • Sub-national health-related demographics from Demographic and Health Surveys
  • Over 28 Gigabytes of additional data included in the Esri Data and Maps collection, including detailed terrain data, global satellite imagery, detailed base maps for many areas of the world, and a variety of other useful data.

See a complete list of included databases for international church and missions needs.

Can I extend the software?

Yes! The ArcGIS software used as the engine for the GMMS can be extended through hundreds of free and low-cost extensions. Several of the extensions we use most frequently at GMI are included on the GMMS disc or mentioned in the GMMS documentation. Others are listed at codesharing.arcgis.com and elsewhere on the web. GMI can also furnish several optional Esri-produced ArcGIS software extensions to enhance the power of GMMS for advanced tasls such as 3D visualization and surface analysis, interactive map publishing, map scanning, etc.

Can I extend the data?

Yes! The geographic data formats used by the ArcGIS software are the de facto standards of the GIS industry. Compatible data is available from a wide variety of government, educational, and commercial sources. You can also digitize data yourself.

What information does your website offer?

Learn more about GMMS by clicking on the "Explore What's Inside" link. You can also view sample maps, review the license and technical specifications and consider training resources and events. 

What if I need help with the GMMS software?

For a free personal consultation on using the GMMS in your ministry, contact us. To learn more in general about GIS and mapping in missions, visit the Mapping pages within our Discover section.