By Jim Jewell and Rusty Pritchard, co-founders, Flourish
[This article is from our series of weekly ministry ideas called Cultivating Community.]
Flourishing churches are those that draw people to God, encourage balanced spiritual growth, grow healthy families, care for their communities, and communicate the gospel to those outside the faith. A big part of flourishing is stewardship. In recent years, strong financial ministries have encouraged churches and families to be good stewards of their money, and have provided advice, tools, resources, and practical tips for them.
We think churches need similar help in the area of environmental stewardship. Some churches doubtless pursue environmental action because they are merely following the culture. But for Christian ministries, being green is not a fad or a fashion. It can’t be about politics or posturing. Biblical environmental stewardship must be about caring for creation in a way that’s deeply rooted in faith and that testifies to the Creator himself. Here are eight ideas for your church:
Start with Scripture, not with a focus on political issues or even environmental problems. Politics and science are constantly changing, but God’s word is constant. Read what the Bible says about caring for creation and the people who depend on it.
Plan a church emphasis around creation care in the Thanksgiving season, when churches have historically celebrated with gratitude the harvest of crops. Peter Illyn, of the Christian environmental ministry Restoring Eden, says “Thanksgiving is a much more natural time to focus on God’s good earth than secular holidays like Earth Day.”
Keep the Sabbath
Perhaps the most radical thing a church can do in the area of environmental stewardship is to commit to keeping the Sabbath. The scriptures about Sabbath-keeping make constant reference to rest and care for the land as well as for people. God rested on the seventh day of Creation to enjoy His good handiwork. Spending time with family and friends and enjoying the free outdoors is an act of resistance to the pressures of materialism and consumerism.
Along the same lines, encourage the children (and the adults) in your church to spend at least an hour a day outside. Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says, “Christians should take the lead in reconnecting with nature and disconnecting from machines.” Inspire families in your church to turn off the TV, computer, and video games and to help their kids have more “green time” than “screen time”.
Pick a local park, stream, or streetscape littered with trash and vandalism, and have a cleanup day. You can find a link on our website to a network of Christians in Conservation called A Rocha (Portuguese for “the rock”); among other useful resources, they have a downloadable guide for how to organize a community clean up. By joining together, they say, “we can visibly demonstrate to our communities that God actively cares for his creation and so do we.”
You may never have been to an Earth Day festival, but the unchurched people in your community have. It’s the fastest growing secular holiday, and it’s a great outreach opportunity. Visit one this year, and make plans to have an outreach table next year, witnessing to the Creator who made the good earth the attendees are celebrating. We can help with a guide to tabling at such an event. Or host a film viewing at church for the local community, with a great nature film or a film about food, health, or sustainability. We help provide discussion guides for films.
Do a church energy audit
Let the youth group help do an initial church energy audit (we can help provide a guide), based on your last year’s utility bills and a facility inspection, and let them use next year’s cost savings for their summer mission trip. Or get professional help, like Prestonwood Baptist Church, a megachurch in Plano, Texas, which did a major energy overall and saved more than $1 million on utilities and water.
You can meet other pastors and church leaders who are growing their ministries and caring for creation by connecting online. Sign up for our monthly newsletter, which bring you the best of Flourish magazine and our online content, and take time to become a member of Flourish. Your support enables us to continue building a network of churches who are caring for creation and their neighbors, and who are restoring the witness of the 21st century church.
Jim Jewell and Rusty Pritchard are the co-founders of Flourish. A version of this article appeared in Ministry Today magazine.