As the cost of living rockets many of us simply don’t have the spare cash to book a holiday. That is where the genius of Christian House and Church Swap (CHACS) comes in. Now celebrating its 20th year, founder Vivienne Wills-Crisp tells us how it all started – and how you can reap the benefits! 


Early in 2001, our daughter, Eliza, then aged 25, suffered a brain haemorrhage. It was caused by an AVM, Arteriovenous Malformation, which is a tangle of abnormal blood vessels connecting arteries to veins. AVM’s are quite rare, but can usually be treated within weeks or months. Unfortunately for our daughter, there were many complications. As a family we received a great deal of prayer and practical support from our friends and church family. As our anxieties raged, a God-given calm and peace were also present. 

Until that time, I had been teaching for nearly 30 years and expected to continue until retirement. When Eliza fell ill I was immediately given six-months’ compassionate leave. She recovered from the initial haemorrhage remarkably well, but we were told that she wasn’t safe and another bleed could occur at any time if she didn’t receive the necessary treatment. When the extent of the complications became clear, I decided to resign from teaching. 

This meant that, with time on my hands in between accompanying her on the many medical appointments, I started thinking about next steps for me. Soon, God gave me another vocation: to set up a Christian house-swap holiday scheme.


How Christian House and Church Swap works

My husband and I had considered a house-swapping holiday ourselves, but there didn’t seem to be a way of accessing a facility to do it. House swapping with other Christians was our first priority when thinking about the business. Providing information and welcome from each other’s churches was also quite an exciting element. And so we brought the two together to birth Christian House and Church Swap. 

In late 2003 I enrolled on a business course run by Suffolk Biz, and learned many things including how to run our website. Up until 2009, the then 40 members received hard copies of the brochure. As these soon became out of date, an online brochure was created – which has the added facility for members to contact each other direct to plan their house-swap holidays. 

House swapping reflects our values of hospitality and openness, trust, respect and care

For anyone interested in the possibility of house swapping, we email, or post, a registration form that we use to write up a profile about their home, locality and church. Before including it in the brochure, we contact their church leader, to ask them to verify their knowledge of enquirers as members/attendees of their church. We feel this provides an added extra to give peace of mind.   

When we hear back from church leaders, we add their profile to the website and give them login details for the secure members’ area. There is no charge for registration. Only when a house-swap holiday is planned do we ask for the administration fee of £50 (£25 for any subsequent swaps in the same year). 

A Christian ethos

There’s so much about house swapping for your holiday that seems right for us as Christians. Firstly, we share our God-given home with others who graciously offer us their home in return. This reflects our values of hospitality and openness, trust, respect and care.

The added bonus is that we can all have amazing holidays for practically no cost! We have 220 members on the website, mostly in the UK but Europe and beyond too; we’d love more Christians to join up, as it gives more choice for all, I so want to encourage you to give it a try. Three long-standing members share below how they have been blessed by the scheme. I thank God for the opportunity to run this business, and it is so wonderful to constantly receive messages about experiences of fantastic house-swap holidays. 

And for those of you who may be wondering: five years after her haemorrhage, Eliza received gamma-knife radio surgery, bringing about complete healing – and much happiness! We thank God and the amazing NHS for this. 

Travelling as retirees 


Diana and Martin King

We are in our mid-70s now and have been enjoying membership of CHACS since our four children were in their early teens, 20 years ago.

Lately we haven’t been actively looking for areas where we would like to go as we get approached by other families who want to stay in our home. So, we have been happy to swap and go wherever they live – within reason! Now that ours are married with children of their own and living in different parts of the country, it’s not always possible (for space reasons) to stay with them.

In recent years, we have been delighted to be able to take some of our grandchildren with

us, which has given our homeschooling family a break and hopefully been educational for those accompanying us. 

Over the years we have swapped in various parts of the UK including rural Oxfordshire, the Ardnamurchan peninsula, Lancaster, Bury St Edmonds, the Peak District and Kent. We have been able to explore the lovely countryside and cities that we wouldn’t otherwise have known about, visit many National Trust properties and coastal areas. We’ve even had one swap in Germany. Our eldest grandson still remembers the German name for the oak processionary moth, Eichen-prozessiosspinnerraupen, an infestation that we encountered in the woods.

We have loved having a home from home, being able to dry soaking wet clothes on real washing lines, enjoying board games together, swapping bikes sometimes, kayaking on the river flowing past the back of the garden, looking after rabbits, hens, a sick cat once and of course watering tomatoes and other plants as necessary.

In short, we can thoroughly recommend house and church swapping with CHACS members!

Travelling with young children


Rebekah and Graham Wilson 

We have been holidaying with CHACS since 2006, when our youngest child was two years old. We have done on average between one and three swaps a year. We have been all around the UK, from the south coast of England to the Scottish Highlands, taking in Northern Ireland and Wales. We have also been to France, Spain, Germany, Holland, the USA and Australia, and many other places besides. 

We are usually away in the summer but also during Easter holidays, half terms, and New Year (twice to the same lovely house in Devon and once to an amazing house in central London). 

We have looked after cats, dogs, rabbits and chickens, and our children, when small, had great fun playing with other children’s toys when on holiday. 

House swaps have given us so much pleasure, from being able to stay in central Manchester to visit our daughter at university, to spending three weeks in a house on the coast south of Sydney with car-swapping thrown in!


We would never have been able to do all these holidays without house swapping, and definitely not in so much comfort. 

We consider these holidays a great blessing from God and are very thankful to Vivienne for setting up CHACS. 

It’s an odd feeling the first time, but the pressure of responsibility fades quickly as you realise your swappers are feeling exactly the same in your house!

Travelling solo 

Chrissy Grindle

I’ve had some wonderful holidays at minimal cost. I’ve already booked for this year; I want to see the wonderful art in Newcastle and Gateshead so I simply looked in CHACS’ online brochure and chose a suitable house, emailed and we sorted the dates. A week’s holiday for a lot less than £100 is absolutely incredible!

I don’t meet the people who I’m swapping with, but we email about arrangements. And I get to ‘meet’ them through photos when I’m in their home. Before a swap I do clean and tidy my house, put away private things, make sure instructions are left on how to look after the cat and chickens, along with providing some local information. I’ll probably arrange to leave bedding out for them and they will for me – towels by arrangement too, and I leave them milk, bread and welcome biscuits. We use each other’s washing up liquid, laundry detergents etc – it’s all up to the swappers and myself. 

It’s an odd feeling the first time, but the pressure of responsibility fades quickly as you realise your swappers are feeling exactly the same in your house!

The key to all of this, the confidence you and your swappers have in each other, is that the swappers belong to a church; they are known to their community so are as trustworthy as you or I. I have never had anyone who has not respected my house.

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