Taking Creation Care One Month at a Time

[Ed. note: This article is part of our weekly series of church activities, called Cultivating Community, published on Thursdays.]

Goldfinches at a bird feeder in winter.

Take creation care "bird by bird."

Bird by bird.” That’s the key phrase in Anne Lamott’s book by the same title, which is a guide to the alternately messy and exhilarating experience of writing—and living.

The phrase emerges out of a story from Lamott’s childhood when her older brother was struggling—and quickly growing overwhelmed—with a report he was writing on birds at the last minute. Lamott writes, “…[H]e was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”

Creation care can feel a bit like staring an overdue class project in the face. Phrases like “save the planet” and “Earth Day every day” can make our responsibility seem overwhelming and cause us to be “immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead.”

But God’s intent for our stewardship is delight, care, cultivation, and shalom. Most of us have to embark on a life of creation stewardship little by little in order to experience delight instead of pressure, especially when we’re working within the large and complex community of a church.

So take a deep breath and start on this month-by-month series of suggestions for incorporating creation stewardship into the life of your church. “Bird by bird.” In fact, let’s start with birds:

January – Feed the Birds
Install a bird feeder on your church’s property. The set up is easy, the care is minimal, and the benefit—of taking care of creation and of learning more about the creation surrounding you—is huge. Check out our instructions on installing and maintaining bird feeders to get started with the right feeder for the birds you hope to attract.

February – Change a Light Bulb
How many Christians does it take to change a light bulb? Not many. Making the switch from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs or light-emitting diodes is one of the easiest things your church can do to save energy and money. Learn how to best make the change to energy-efficient lighting at your church.

March – Bring Your Own
The church coffee or hospitality hour is a community-building tradition that shines a lot of light into what can otherwise be a very lonely, isolating society. That’s why it’s particularly unfortunate that the coffee hour produces so much waste in the form of Styrofoam, paper, and plastic cups. The easiest solution to this problem? Encourage church members to bring their own mugs or thermoses to church each week.

April – Save the Rain
Rain barrels are making a comeback, and they are even starting to show up at church. For a fun, community-building activity that makes good use of the water resources God provides, follow these instructions for installing a rain barrel at your church.

May – Swap Some Plants

Plants potted in old toilets.

Don't let extra plants go to waste...host a plant swap! (cc image courtesy (nz)dave via flickr)

Share your love for creation with your larger community by opening your church’s doors to host a plant swap. Gardeners near and far will flock to this opportunity to grab some new species, and they just might learn a thing or two about how much the Creator loves his creation in the process. Check out this guide for hosting a plant swap at your church to get started.

June – Get Some Fresh Air
When the weather is right, there’s nothing better than worshiping God in his great outdoors. Whether it’s through a worship service, a Sunday school, or a small group, encourage your church to more fully experience who God is in his creation. Here’s help for making worship in the outdoors run smoothly.

July – Have a Safer Car Wash
Ah, the time-honored tradition of the youth-group-mission-trip-car-wash fundraiser. The service is great for your community and the community your youth group will travel to serve, but is it great for creation? It can be. Follow this guide to holding a car wash that will be safer for your youth, the cars they wash, and the land they wash them on.

August – Church Picnic
A church picnic is another easy way to get outside more often as a church family. Encourage picnickers to bring their own re-usable dishware, and serve foods that are in season or local to your area.

September – Drop Those Books …
…right at your church’s door! Collect old books and send them to new homes, saving them from the landfill and putting them in the hands of people who can still use them. Find out how to host a book donation day.

Hikers in long grass on a sunny hillside.

Do a nature hike as a church family--you'll learn something new about your home.

October – Take a Hike
Learn about your local ecosystem and you’ll love it better! Gather together as a church family, get some exercise, and discover new parts of the creation surrounding you. Make the most of a hike by learning where to go and what to look for along the way.

November – Give Thanks
Thanksgiving is the real Earth Day because it directs our praise to God for what he has made. Remember creation at Thanksgiving by worshiping with prayers and songs that give God thanks for what he has made and entrusted to us.

December – Do Christmas Differently
Take one step as a church—whether it’s committing not to shop on Black Friday or pledging to buy more fair trade gifts—to celebrate Christ at Christmas, instead of greed.

Related Posts at Flourish
Your Creation Care Calendar for 2011

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