Just one of the cool things about churches is they can make anything happen if everyone pitches in.
- A couple in the congregation wants to adopt a child? Everyone gives a few dollars, and the costs are covered.
- A family’s going through a hard time? Send around the sign-up sheet, and they’ll have meals brought to them for weeks.
- A building in the community needs to be spruced up? The youth group’s got their paintbrushes and yard rakes ready.
The same principle applies to environmental initiatives.
Projects that seem overwhelming become easy when you get your church involved, and positive changes that seem almost inconsequential end up making a huge difference when multiplied by members of the entire church.
Below are a few ideas to help you get started.
Seventeen Steps toward an Earth-Friendly Church
1. Change the lightbulbs in the church building to energy-efficient ones.
2. Set up a box to collect church bulletins as people exit the church, so the bulletins can be recycled. Even better, encourage people to share bulletins so fewer need to be made each week.
3. Does your church serve coffee before or after the service?
Make the switch to organic, shade-grown coffee.
Yes, it does cost a little more, but you will be saving agricultural land from erosion and pesticides in addition to helping the workers who tend and harvest the coffee. Encourage people to bring their own mugs, and replace the stack of Styrofoam cups with ones made out of recyclable materials.
4. Organize a church garden. Start small and invite volunteers to help plant, weed, and harvest.
If your church sponsors a soup kitchen, fresh produce will be a welcome addition. If not, you can probably find a local charity that would be glad to have the food. A church garden is also a great way to get people outside the church involved with your congregation.
5. If your church doesn’t already have one, start an exchange program. Just having a bulletin board in the lobby where people can indicate what they need or want to give away can prevent a lot of unnecessary purchases. It’s also a good place for people to post about tools and vehicles they’re willing to share – table saws, weed whackers, snow blowers, or pickup trucks.
6. Encourage your church to get an energy audit. Many church buildings can save substantial amounts of energy through simple changes, such as more insulation, roof fans, and curtains. If the church is heated during the winter or cooled in the summer, just a few degrees on the thermostat can save a lot of energy.
7. Hold a church yard sale. The money raised can be used to make the church more energy efficient or can be given to church outreach, missionaries, or charities.
8. Invite an outside guest to speak to the church about environmental issues, or see if there’s anyone in the congregation who can speak on stewardship.
If your church does adult Sunday school or other small groups, talk to a leader about sponsoring a class on God-centered environmentalism and what group members can do to reduce their impact on the ecosystem.
9. Hold prayer meetings for the people most affected by the environmental changes occurring today. Do some research ahead of time so that you have specific places or situations to pray about.
10. Plant trees. Get saplings for around the church, or see if there is a local park or other public place where new trees would be welcomed.
11. Organize carpools to and from church. If many people come from one area (such as a college campus or retirement home), see if the church can arrange a van or bus to bring them all to church together.
12. Share your church building with other organizations. With a little flexibility and planning, multiple congregations can even share a single church building on Sundays. Soup kitchens and community lectures can be held during the week. As long as the building is there, it might as well be put to good use.
13. Turn off the electronic devices in the church when they’re not in use. Don’t leave computers, electronic musical equipment, or lights on all week. This includes refrigerators: if your church has fridges that are used for church suppers or special occasions but are otherwise empty, unplug them. Prop the doors open so fungus doesn’t grow, and simply plug them back in when they’re needed.
14. Set up recycling boxes in the church kitchen. Label them clearly and put a notice on them describing what is and what is not recyclable. Make sure to empty them regularly.
15. Get all the hyper seventh graders in youth group together and see if you can light the whole church for a year by playing the “who can pedal the most on the electric generator bike?” game. (Just kidding. But I bet the youth group leaders would like the idea.)
16. Make sure the cleaning products used at the church are safe for the environment (no phosphates).
Also, use paper towels and toilet paper made from recycled paper, and install water savers for the toilets at the church (placing a few bricks in the toilet tank is a low-cost solution).
17. Have everyone in your youth group think about giving up something for Lent. Many technologies that increase our energy consumption also distract us from our relationship with God – Facebook, Twitter, TV, and cell phones, for example.
Obviously, you can’t make all these changes on your own. You will need the approval of your pastor and other superiors in the church in order to execute many of these plans. But you will also need the support of the congregation and, more importantly, your friends.
It is not your pastor’s generation that we need to change. It is not the generation before him. It is our generation that needs to care about the environment from God’s perspective.
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Which of these earth-friendly alternatives can you envision implementing in your church? Think about who on your church staff is the go-to person for making some changes and give them a call!