Debt Annihilation Team

What We Do

Purpose & Mission

DAT offers a practical solution to the slavery of consumer debt by building trust, sharing burdens (both literally and figuratively), and providing capital to eliminate consumer debt in our community. The Debt Annihilation Team fosters freedom, simplicity, and recovery through accountable partnership, coaching, and collaborative debt payment.

We are inspired by the idea that we “do not owe anything to anyone besides love.” (Romans 13:8)  This is for the purpose of freedom; free people can do more good than those in bondage. Our exhortation to the church: don’t use your freedom like stereotypical Americans…enslaved to debt, living in shame, unable to experience the freedom of sharing and fully participating in the imagination and responsibility of life in the church [adaptation of Galatians 5:13-15]. DAT provides a way to work through the burden of debt in community, learn new ways to think about money and be reconciled to God’s way of abundance.

Another portion from the writings of St. Paul that inspires our philosophy is found in Galatians 6:1-5: “Family, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore them gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are nothing, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves, without comparing one to somebody else, for each one should carry their own load.” [italics added] Though this sounds paradoxical at first, the team is designed to provide both support and accountability as needed so that debt burdens are carried communally, but each member is also personally responsible for their own financial load.

How We Do It

Structure of the team

The Debt Annihilation Team has four components: team leaders & administrators, personal finance coaches, DAT participants, and a seed fund.  We form each Debt Annihilation Team out of applicants for a projected period of time during which they will use seed money from Circle of Hope’s fund and an agreed upon timeline and strategy to pay off one another’s debt.

Leadership & Administration help facilitate the entire process: candidate selection, fundraising, vision development, payment processing, and provision of tools for communication and accountability for the team. There are also pastors and other church leaders who are not on the DAT who hold the DAT responsible for their progress and their use of Circle of Hope funds.

Personal Finance Coaches provide basic financial stewardship training, encouragement, and accountability personally tailored for each participant. This often includes helping participants produce working budgets and arranging monthly meetings to assess progress and discuss struggles and goals. Coaches are trained by an Everence representative in quality financial coaching.

Participants form a team to foment freedom from their collective consumer debt. Generosity, trust, growth, and a commitment to recovery keep this team ripe to provide mutual accountability and encouragement. Each member of the group has a personal finance coach.

The Seed Fund is a lump sum of money that was donated to the team by Circle of Hope and other generous supporters and is specifically designated for use by the DAT. This seed fund benefits the process by allowing a large amount of high-interest debt to be paid off quickly, saving a large amount of collective interest and jump starting the debt repayment process. The seed fund is repaid by the participants after their credit card debt is fully paid.

Tools to start your own DAT!

Complete DAT Resources Document
(A complete package document detailing DAT’s philosophy and instructions)

DAT Toolbox
(Additional tools which includes: Sample Agenda, Master Spreadsheet, Interest Survey, Seminar)

How You Can Get Involved

To be in a “D.A.T. Group” at Circle of Hope

  • We give covenant members preference.
  • Complete intake process with full disclosure and offer to be considered to participate by the Debt Annihilation Team.
  • Meet with a Personal Finance Coach before entering the group, checking in as suggested by coach.
  • Agree and abide by DAT Group Covenant which will indicate the people in the group, the length of time, the order of annihilation, and how much money will be contributed. The length of time will include paying back the seed money.
  • Enjoy freedom from consumer debt. People who complete their life cycle of the DAT Group are welcome and encouraged to “pay it forward,” $10-$20 per month to future seed money for more groups to spawn. DAT Group members are encouraged to reconsider what they choose to give to the common fund each month in light of their new freedom.

FAQs

One person has a 0% interest credit card with $7,000 available creditcould another person’s debt be transferred to that?

  • Is a possibility, but there are a few factors to consider:
    • Sometimes there is a transfer fee (i.e. 15%) and it’s risky because we’re trying to scam the scammers.
    • 0% interest means you would be the last one to be annihilated, and we may only have a year, so it’s risky.

What happens if you move away?

  • The whole thing is about faith and Christ and trusting one another—so someone could take the money and run. We don’t have recourse for that.
  • We hope it can be face-to-face, but of course we can’t predict whether we’ll move in the next couple years, so we’ll work with it.

What would you do if someone gave us a $5,000 gift?

  • It would go into the seed fund for the next group.
  • We had to go around about that a few times because we didn’t want to rob people of the dignity of having done it.

Who does the fundraising?

  • Leader and administrators, and it’s for future seed funds.

Articles about us!

Jonny’s blog

The world needs more Debt Annihilation Teams

Joshua’s blog posts (2015)

How We Annihilate Consumer Debt Part 1

How We Annihilate Consumer Debt Part 2

Podcasts

Caroline shares her DAT story on Marketplace

NPR – “Is everything OK?”

Other journals

The Christian Century (2012)

Shalom! (2014)

Sojourners

Mentions: 

The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne (updated and expanded, 2016)

Philadelphia Neighborhoods 

In Part (2014) by Patrick Cicero

Other Resources

Nicole Rule’s “Greatest Worth”

Team Leader

Marguerite McDonald