Do you want your church to engage deeply with creation care? Where can you start?
One approach is to gather a team of committed partners, sometimes called a “green team.” The good news: many have formed green teams before, and there is much to learn from their experiences. The more challenging but still exciting news: you and your team must discover the path that God may intend for your church’s journey.
Community Reformed Church of Manhassett, New York, found its way. It became the first church in the Reformed Church in America to undertake a certification program sponsored by Green Faith. Your congregation will likely have a different journey.
The following six steps can help your church start on the path toward better stewardship of God’s creation.
1. Cast a vision.
If you don’t already have support from your pastor and other congregational leadership, nowis the time to seek it. Make the case for a green team. Be prepared to encounter resistance or at least curiosity (demonstrating the financial benefits to the church never hurts!). It may be helpful to have a few people already in mind for the team.
2. Form a team.
Whom should you invite to your green team? Most teams have three to five members. Some might not hold any church leadership positions. Others might serve in leadership, teach Sunday School, work on the building and grounds committee, and so on. All the members must share passion and commitment for this cause. Members should agree to encourage and implement steps to help the congregation become a better steward of God’s creation.
Once you have a team, meet to make some initial decisions. Decide on a name, how often you will meet, how people can join your team, and how and when to communicate with the congregation’s leaders and members (e.g., through a newsletter, bulletin board, briefings, etc.).
3. Set your priorities.
To succeed, your team needs to be clear about its mission. Develop a 30-word or less mission statement to guide your green team’s efforts. This is also helpful for explaining the team’s purpose to the rest of the congregation.
Additionally, develop one or two specific goals per year. Remember, the goals are for the whole congregation, not just the green team. Your team is facilitating the work, but you can set goals that involve the participation of others.
Share your mission statement and goals with congregational leaders, including the pastor. Make sure you have their support to proceed.
4. Do the work.
Over your first year, take steps to accomplish the goals you’ve set, whether that’s swapping out lightbulbs, planting a rain garden, or advocating for a more comprehensive recycling program in your city. Lead the church with carrying out the annual plan. Involve other church committees and attenders whenever possible.
5. Evaluate your efforts.
At least annually, reflect on how your green team and your congregation have carried out the plan. Are there ways to do things better? What worked and what didn’t?
If you haven’t completed your goals, decide whether to continue to pursue them or to switch gears. Either way, set some goals for the coming year.
6. Share your story.
Don’t keep the good news to yourselves! Identify, share, and celebrate your accomplishments with the entire congregation. This could be during the regular church service or in a special event at another time.
Spread the news more widely, too. Share the details of your church’s green journey with other congregations. Don’t forget to share with the local media and policy makers, too.
Want to get started?
Check out these two resources for enriching your green team experiences:
Kim Winchell is a deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She lives in Freeland, Michigan, and serves on the Reformed Church in America's Commission on Christian Action as a ecumenical representative from the ELCA.