I’m working on a new project with my home congregation in Edmonds- designing and implementing a barter system.

At its most basic, a barter system just means that people swap goods or services with one another. For example: I need eggs and you need someone to fix your skirt. You have chickens that lay eggs and I am handy with a needle.  We trade the one for the other and both come away happy.

The one I’m proposing will follow a modified currency model instead, using a systems of credits that each participant can use to “buy” the services of others. The cool thing this means is that people don’t have to pay someone outside and everyone, regardless of their income level or employment status, is on equal footing. It also might give people a chance to get to know someone they hadn’t met more than in passing before.

Amazingly enough, I hadn’t even finished drafting the proposal when my pastor called and said he’d shared a little bit about it with another local pastor who might be interested. So, not only might this be an opportunity to connect within our church, it might help build bridges within the local Christian community (and maybe even outside eventually).

So without further ado, below is my first draft proposal, which you are of course welcome to comment on and offer suggestions of ways to improve:

Barter System Proposal for Church of the Beloved, Edmonds, WA

Summary: I propose a barter system (or small economy) for Church of the Beloved, possibly in collaboration with other Edmonds area faith communities. Participants would be asked to fill out a brief form with contact information and a list of skills they have that might be helpful to others. The skills can range from sewing to computer, from yard work to first aid instruction.

Everyone who fills out the initial form will be entered in a database accessible to other participants through a website and will be given an initial allotment of 10 credits. Credits can be exchanged for help from other participants on projects that require their skills. Each credit has an approximate value of ½ hour’s work, although participants are responsible for working out the “cost” of projects with each others. If a project requires materials or other financial costs, they are the responsibility of the requesting participant.

After a project is complete, the requesting participant will fill out a short form on the website registering the number of credits exchanged along with a brief summary of the work that was done and any comments. A moderator will ensure that all comments are appropriate and that any disputes that may arise are resolved.

Rationale: A barter system can accomplish a number of purposes. First, it reduces the reliance of participants on paid professionals, which frees up more time and money for addressing other struggles and/or supporting the ministries of the church. Second, it can bring together members of a community who otherwise would have been unlikely to get to know one another, particularly when it is expanded to include more than one local faith community. While they work out and work on projects, participants will have a chance to talk to each other about their daily lives, not just the churchy things they normally do. Third, once established, I believe it stands the potential to be a powerful outreach into the community, particularly to those who are struggling to make it financially.

3 Stage Outline:

  1. Setup-
    1. Finalize details of the system and determine launch congregations
    2. Create participant forms and feedback forms
    3. Launch
      1. Present to congregations together with time to fill out forms (in forum etc)
      2. Continue to publicize in congregations
      3. Monitor feedback and share results (update system as necessary)
      4. Expansion/Outreach
        1. Continue sharing with local congregations
        2. Determine possible ways to involve local participants not currently involved in faith communities
        3. Share success stories with other local church leaders