Skip Navigation

Rethink your couch: a new spin on mission

By Darby Jones

Editors Note: Since this article was originally published has become a for-profit organization and has lost a lot of the values we used to love. We are now recommending BeWelcome as an alternative. Check out this hospitality exchange comparison table to easily see the differences. may still be a valuable resource for some, but consider all the pros and cons before signing up.

What if missionaries received free lodging wherever they traveled? What if a hospitality service allowed the church to open its doors to people from all over the world?

Both of these scenarios come true everyday via the CouchSurfing Project. With more than 1.2 million users, is the largest free hospitality-exchange network in the world.

People are searching the world for spiritual fulfillment. could be a valuable tool as you begin to rethink your church and reach out to the global community.

Look at the mission statement for and compare it to the new “Rethink Church” campaign. Both strive to open minds through cultural exchange, open hearts to all people and religions, and open doors to people in need. is not just about finding a free place to crash. It makes the world a smaller place through global conversation and real connections.

Whether you’re a missionary or just wondering the world, find out how couchsurfing works. If you’ve already seen the world, can’t travel at the moment or want to minister to young adults, then consider hosting. Open your doors to a new generation.

The goal is not to push church on people, but to turn “church” into a verb by discussing what it means to live a life of faith; to love as Christ did. Plant the seed and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. Hopefully, guests will accept your conversation and hospitality and pay it forward.

Simply register, create a profile and begin interacting. Hosts can make their couch available at their leisure; it is not required. Surfers search for and request accommodation, but the exchange is completely consensual between the host and the surfer. The duration, nature, and terms of the surfer's stay generally are arranged in advance to the convenience of both parties. If living space is tight, some hosts make their yards available for camping. Others may specify that they are only interested in meeting for coffee. Though money is not a big part of the equation, it may be good to talk about compensation for food, gas or other expenses that may arise.

Is it safe to host or to be hosted by people you have never met? CouchSurfing has several safety guidelines, and security features. It’s like a virtual neighborhood-watch program. CouchSurfing provides personal references, credit-card verification, and a vouching system to help people make informed decisions on who to host and with whom to stay. Ultimately, a user’s judgment is the best tool. Thoroughly research prospects by reading e-mails, profiles and references. Set boundaries, ask questions over the phone and interact with people based on your comfort level. Women may want to stay with other women or families, especially if traveling solo.Read more about safety on the FAQ page.

— Darby Jones, eMarketing Manager at United Methodist Communications. Darby has hosted many surfers from all over the world and can't wait to visit them all someday.