[Earth Day] Practical Ways Your Church Can Communicate a Care for Creation
I remember in elementary school spending one Earth Day focused on caring for creation. We started the day by painting a picture of the earth, then went outside and picked up trash around the schoolyard and neighborhood. Our class ended the day with a presentation about recycling: reduce, reuse, recycle. That day had a profound impact on my understanding of caring for creation. By painting a picture of the earth (as a 7-year-old), I suddenly grasped how the world's immensity. By picking up trash, I realized how small our planet is and how we share this space created for our benefit. And by learning about recycling, I began to understand the impact we each make on the world around us.
While we yearn for and look toward God's restoration of all things in the new creation, our call as the church is to anticipate that day as we live in this time and place that God has placed us. We care for creation because "The earth the Lord's, and everything in it" (Psalm 24:1), so we ought to communicate and advocate to care for all that God has created. Here are some ways your church can get involved in protecting and healing the creation for the Creator's glory.
Integrate creation care into all facets of ministry
Earth Day is a great time to begin the process of thinking deeply about how to get involved in creation care, but if caring for creation is a one-time event that happens every April, people will catch on. If caring for God's creation is something your church truly cares about, then elements of caring for creation ought to be built into all areas of ministry. Rather than making creation care an add-on, interweave the concepts and principles into your church's worship, communication, discipleship, outreach, and every other area of ministry.
Start a gardening project or get involved in a community garden
One way your church can get involved in creation care is to participate in gardening. If your church has property, think about how you might develop some of the space to care better for creation. Create vegetable garden plots, or designate an area of your property as a wildflower garden. If you don't have the space available, work with your neighborhood or community garden to see how your church might get involved. People of all ages love gardening, so this is also a great way to include people from various generations together in ministry.
Be a Climate Witness partner
Your church could take part in the Climate Witness Project, a ministry of hundreds of churches and thousands of advocates committed to living justly and sustainably as followers of Jesus, responding to the dangers of climate change by caring for creation and standing with vulnerable communities. Becoming a partner can help your church provide valuable tools throughout the year, easily integrating our care for creation in various ways.
Host an educational series on creation care
An easy way to get the conversation started on creation care is by hosting an educational series for adults, a film series, or a discussion group helping people think deeply about how we ought to care for creation as the body of Christ. Climate Conversation: Kenya is a four-part film series. The accompanying discussion guide provides a chance to move past the white noise and get up close and personal with the issues of climate change and environmental stewardship. Climate Conversation: Bangladesh, a five-part film series and discussion guide, puts the spotlight on Bangladesh, where World Renew is promoting floating gardens, alternative means of livelihood like ducks, and addressing health issues. Before the Flood is another film you might consider showing to your church. The documentary, presented by National Geographic, features Leonardo DiCaprio on a journey as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, traveling to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change firsthand.
Develop a creation care team
Another great way to involve several generations serving together is to create a Creation care team. You can use your church's creation care team to find ways to advocate for creation care, advocate for changes that benefit ministry and creation, and live out the desire to care deeply for God's creation. Teams might adopt a trail or regularly share ways to reduce energy and water usage at church and home. A creation care team could also help the hospitality team's coffee ministry move from styrofoam to reusable cups, volunteer at or host a tree planting, and even help plan a creation care education series.
Reduce energy consumption and emmissions
Congregations across the U.S. and Canada are already leading by example (and saving thousands of dollars) by stewarding their energy usage. Your church could start the conversation by scheduling an energy audit with your local utility company to find ways your building can make energy-conscious improvements—many utilities offer this assessment for free. Local electricians and utility providers may also be able to provide tips on grants and rebates. While your church may desire to pursue LEED certification or Energy Star endorsement for your facilities, an easy way to move toward energy efficiency is to make it a policy only to purchase Energy Start-rated products.
One church leading the way in creation care is the Church of the Servant in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Church of the Servant installed a solar array (or solar farm) several years ago to ensure the building relied on renewable energy created right on their property. Church members and visitors can go to the church's website to see an energy dashboard of how much energy the solar panels produce as well as consumption and other factors. In addition to the solar array, the church regularly updates its progress toward honoring God's creation and reducing operational costs. As part of their creation care ministry, they also regularly publish tips and articles for the congregation to find ways personally and communally to get involved in caring for God's creation.