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In this time of New Year’s resolutions, I, like many others, decided I should get more exercise. I had been thinking for a while that I would like to purchase an elliptical machine. So where do I go to find one? Craigslist, of course!

Most of you are probably familiar with craigslist, but in case any of you are not, here’s a little Q&A from the factsheet on the craigslist website, to explain it:

Q: What is craigslist?
A: Local classifieds and forums - community moderated, and largely free.
Q: What can I find there?
A: Jobs, housing, goods, services, romance, local activities, advice - just about anything really.

It’s kind of like a worldwide garage sale, plus more. What does this have to do with your church and technology? Well, for one, it can be a useful tool for finding technology-related equipment—and for selling it, too, for that matter.

Our church has used craigslist for projector light bulbs and sound equipment. It’s really almost unlimited what you can find on craigslist. If you’re looking for something, you may as well check it. Often the price is a small fraction of what it would be new. There is even a “free stuff” area where people list things they’re giving away for free. This can be an easy way to get rid of items you no longer need, but you aren’t interested in selling, or maybe you figure no one would pay for them. It could save you a hauling fee.

Craigslist goes beyond the garage sale concept. It is also a way to find workers or services, or to look for work. Our church found both our worship leader and administrative assistant through our postings on craigslist.

If any of this sounds as if it might be helpful to you and your church, I encourage you to go to craigslist and browse around. You’ll notice that your location is a crucial piece of information. Craigslist will show you listings near where you are. You can narrow that down, depending on your needs. For example, I live in San Jose, California, and I see listings for the entire San Francisco Bay Area. But I can narrow that down into smaller regions—South Bay, East Bay, Peninsula, etc.—if I want only to see listings in a specific area.

Besides narrowing down the location, you can enter various parameters into your search such as the minimum and maximum price and category in which you wish to search. As with any place where you’re searching, you will need to try various searches to raise your probability of finding what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for sound equipment, for example, you could search for “sound equipment,” then also the specific piece of equipment, perhaps the brand, that kind of thing.

If you decide to use craigslist, the first thing you’ll probably want to do is sign up for an account. You can read here why it makes sense to sign up for an account. A big reason is it enables you to manage your postings—to see a list of them, edit them, take them off the listing, etc., more easily. Also, if you post a job there is a fee ($75 per category in which you want the job classified) so you’ll need an account to enter your payment information.

Like everything else, craiglist’s technology can be used for good or bad. There have been problems with people posting false information, with nefarious personal ads, and other wrong actions and schemes to hurt people. You need to exercise caution when dealing with others.

As with anything on the web, security is a concern. When using craigslist for your church this is most likely less of an issue since you’ll be meeting people at the church and using the church’s phone number and so on. But if you use craigslist directly, don’t give out your personal information unless you are reasonably certain it is safe. When possible, meet the persons with whom you’re dealing at a public location rather than your own home. Sometimes it is necessary to give out your phone number or address, and you definitely want to use caution.

Craigslist has some ways it helps you protect yourself. You don’t have to reveal your email address on your listings, for example. Your ad will have a generic craiglist address people can send to, and the messages are forwarded to your real address. Craigslist provides some tips on safety here.

If you decide to list anything yourself, to sell or give away, it will be beneficial to provide photos of whatever you are listing. People are much more likely to respond when they see what they’re getting. In fact, you’ll notice that one of the built-in search criteria is “has image,” meaning some people will only see your listing if you include an image. It’s also good practice to see what price others are offering for what you wish to sell. That way you can make your price comparable and increase your chances of success. The craigslist help section has detailed information on the mechanics of using the site as well as ways to improve your experience.

I’m sure many of you have more experience and/or information to offer. Please share anything you can add to help others learn more or be more successful when using craigslist or sites like it on behalf of their church. Have you sold or bought anything for your church? Or maybe you can tell us about other sites you’ve used—eBay or something else? Have you used craigslist to find workers or services for your church—or to offer them? Give us your opinions and expertise! 

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