With budgets facing ongoing strains, saving money isn’t a tough sell in most congregations these days. We’re all looking for ways to be better stewards of what we’ve got.
But what about the gifts that don’t come with dollar signs in front of them—especially the raw materials that God has given us “dominion” over?
Today lots of congregations are seeking ways to be more responsible with God’s gift of creation (see pp. 34-37), though they might admit it can be a challenge to get everyone on board. We asked congregations who applied for the denomination’s 2009 Green Grant—$500 of seed money to help a church “green their corner of the CRC”—what creation care practices they’d tried so far, and what advice they had for others. Here is some of their collected wisdom:
- There’s strength in numbers. Start by finding out who is “on your team.” Is there a farmer, professor, landscaper, vegetarian, college student, or a master gardener who might have some passion, expertise, and extra time to share? Maybe a home-schooling mom, a heating-and-cooling specialist, or an accountant in your congregation is looking for a meaningful ministry opportunity and can impart some wisdom. Try announcing in the bulletin that all are welcome to a meeting for coffee and conversation about how to care for creation.
- Pray. Your group might have great ideas—but God might have better ones. When we forget to pray, it’s easy to see creation care as a project rather than as a ministry or a spiritual discipline that stems from a grateful heart. A prayerful walk around your church’s space might open up new ideas. For instance, some churches have discovered that their buildings are located near the mouth of a threatened salmon stream. What an opportunity! God calls each church to be and do something unique. Prayer helps us see how our heart for creation care fits in with God’s unique call for each church as a whole.
- Be worshipful. It seems the dearest truths in our lives are the ones we lift up in worship through song. Is there a way to integrate themes of creation care into your church’s hymns and praise songs? Or might you make a point to pray together for environmental issues? Would your pastor consider a sermon series on being earthkeepers? Creation is one of God’s most lavish gifts, worth remembering and giving thanks for through our Sunday morning worship.
- Find and include all stakeholders. Is your pastor the gatekeeper to real congregational change? Is it the coffee committee? The deacons? The custodian? Once you have an idea of where to begin (maybe switching to non-toxic cleaning products, for example), discover who has been lovingly caring for that part of the church’s ministry. Invite those people to learn and grow with you, rather than demanding change. It’s easy to see why someone would resist washing 200 mugs every week based on the no-more-Styrofoam demands of a new group that never seemed to care about the logistics of coffee fellowship before.
- Don’t get discouraged! Changes, even seemingly small ones, are difficult for churches. Take your time and encourage one another. Celebrate small victories—a 6-year-old switching off the lights in an empty room, a rousing second verse of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” someone who brings their own mug to coffee after the service. Thank people for those small efforts; make it fun to join the cause. After all, being named as caretakers of God’s creation is a gift, not just an obligation, so work on being a gracious recipient of that gift.
For more ideas, helpful hints, and success stories, see the Creation Care page of the CRC’s Office of Social Justice: www.crcna.org/pages/osj_creationcare.cfm.