The very first responsibilities given to people at the beginning of time was the care and protection of the Earth. God built our job description into the very act of creation, right in the first chapter of Genesis, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’”
Our origin is God’s image, and our job is to manage God’s creation responsibly. As worshippers of God, Christians ought to be the shining light on the hill, the beacon of love for others and love for the creation that has been given to us to tend. Churches can lead the way by introducing creation care into their congregations this year.
Here are some clever and simple ways to raise your fellow Earth-tenders’ awareness about this great big beautiful planet we inhabit together.
Bike (or Walk) to Church Sunday
So many of us drive to church every Sunday; what would happen if we all decided to go a different way this week? Churches in small towns or cities can challenge their congregants to walk or bike to church once a year, quarter, or month… or make it a habit and part of your Sunday morning routine!
Small rural churches or churches in sprawling suburbia can put the pedal to the metal by biking or offering ride sharing. What’s the fewest number of cars and most people in the pews you can get on a Sunday?
The Pathways for Justice ministry at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in midtown Sacramento coordinated four activities, including a Bike to Church Sunday, to connect more people with the value and importance of caring for creation.
Take Church Outdoors
We care for what we love, and one of the most effective ways to inspire people to care for creation is to help them develop a love of nature. Take your church service outdoors to remind your fellow believers of all the beauty and wonder of God’s creation.
Take Communion in the Wilderness
Reconnect the elements of eucharist with the elements of the earth by holding a special communion outdoors. Invite congregation members to meet at a local park, hike into the woods, or ask a local farmer or vineyard owner if you may hold communion on their property (best if someone in your church has a farm or vineyard).
Go Local with Communion
Buy local bread and wine/grape juice. When you practice intinction (the dipping of the bread into a chalice of wine), you eliminate the need for all of those little plastic communion cups. If you pass the communion plate, consider using reusable cups.
Conduct an Energy Audit for Your Church
How much electricity and gas does your facility use each month? Are there ways you could reduce your energy consumption? Cool Congregations by Interfaith Power and Light offers a handy energy calculator so you can start tracking your church’s energy consumption.
Raise your church’s awareness about their paper product consumption and reduce waste when you fellowship by inviting congregants to bring their own reusable plates and utensils. Or break out the real dishes, silverware, and cups that are tucked away in your church’s fellowship hall. Everyone prefers eating on real plates anyway.
Bring-Your-Own-Mug Coffee Station
Reduce or eliminate plastic and paper cups on Sunday mornings by encouraging members to bring their own mugs (with a lid, please—let’s save the church’s carpeting while we’re at it). You could do away with paper cups altogether if you give new members a fancy shmancy branded church mug when they first visit, and have extras on-hand in case people forget.
Move to a Paper-Free Sunday
Make this the year you save your administrative assistant their weekly headache by doing away with bulletins and other costly Sunday printouts. Look for other ways your congregation could reduce its paper consumption and see what alternatives are available.
Study God’s World and God’s Word Together
If you’re ready to go deeper with your congregation into the matter of creation care, integrate caring for creation into your church’s teaching, sermons, liturgy, and more. Let All Creation Praise offers many suggestions, resources, and reasons for bringing creation care to the forefront of your congregants’ minds, including liturgy to celebrate the Season of Creation, or Creation Time, which can be celebrated at any time of the year but has been commonly celebrated for four Sundays between Creation Day on September 1 and St. Francis of Assisi Day on October 4.
One of the greatest critiques of the church by younger generations is the unwillingness to engage with scientific research. Break down that barrier by offering youth and adults the opportunity to study God’s Word and God’s world, together. The BioLogos Foundation offers Integrate, an incredible curriculum for young adults, to bring science and faith together into healthy dialogue. Explore these and all of their resources for pastors, youth groups, small groups, and more on their website.
You could also offer a book study about the subject of creation care. Byron Borger, from the Hearts and Minds bookstore, offers this long list of creation care titles, all of which can inspire your congregation to read and consider for themselves the importance of and calling we have to care for the earth.
What ways do you plan to incorporate caring for creation into the culture of your church this year?