Is Your Church Creation Care Aware?

Green is not the latest fashion color – it’s about becoming creation care aware.

I spent the day yesterday at the “Greening America’s Congregations” conference co-sponsored by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Environmental Protection Agency. It was a stimulating, emotional, and deeply moving day.

The day began with a welcome by Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Panel presentations throughout the day were made by representatives of the Christian, Jewish, and Islam faith traditions as well as Administration officials and faith-based environmental groups. The panel topics included:

  • Documenting Stewardship Achievements
  • Motivating Change Through Campaigns and Pledges
  • Stewardship in Our Faith Traditions

The closing call to action was given by Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change and Mara Vanderslice Kelly, Senior Policy Advisor and Deputy Director, White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

The call to action has three components:

  1. Initiate benchmarking for energy usage as a baseline measurement for efficiency improvements
  2. Reduce energy consumption by 20%
  3. Become an Energy Star Certified Congregation

These are challenging – but achievable goals. What’s your incentive as a church? Here’s just one example:

With congregations in the U.S. numbering over 370,000, and energy costs associated with these congregations estimated to be over 3 billion dollars, it only takes simple math to see that over $600 million dollars could be redirected to mission efforts in the communities if the 20% goal could be met.

Probably the most significant first step for any size congregation to take is to raise awareness of the possibilities. And there is not better place to begin than with the EPA’s Congregations division. Go to their website here for a wealth of information on how you can lead your congregation to become a “green church.”

For me, being green starts with a foundation of stewardship – being responsible for all the resources God has blessed us with. As a church consultant, I am committed to helping churches maximize their resources for the greatest ministry impact they can possibly have in their community. I believe that an important part of this challenge is to know how you can immediately improve your existing facilities to make them more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. I also know that as you think about planning your next facility expansion, there are many benefits to thinking green.

Why should Your Church go Green?

  • Churches are community examples – people look to their houses of worship and their spiritual centers for guidance. What happens in these places can have a positive ripple effect across the region as homeowners, businesspeople, government workers and others help their own buildings to emulate the ethical example set by the local church.
  • All churches are good candidates for improvements – Most sanctuaries are large spaces used only periodically throughout the week. Something as simple as a programmable thermostat can save hundreds of dollars a year in utility bills. Most church offices are high-traffic, well-used areas where even small changes like weather stripping, Energy Star appliances, or compact fluorescent bulbs would make a huge difference.
  • Church buildings stand for something – Your building was built to the glory of God, the service of humanity, and the potential of the spirit. Inside these buildings we celebrate Creator and His creation. We build a community, the Church. We should be good stewards of all Creation, caring for the earth and one another.

Bottom line? If your church can be more EFFICIENT in its use of resources, then it will be more EFFECTIVE in its ministry endeavors. I encourage you to enter the dialogue about how your church can become a community leader in environmental issues. It really is getting easier to be green!


Greening America’s Congregations

Today I am in Washington DC, participating in a conference entitled “Greening America’s Congregations. It is being held at the White House and is jointly hosted by the White House office of Faith Based Programs and the Environmental Protection agency.

During this event, senior administration officials will call on faith-based organizations across the country to save energy and strengthen stewardship of the environment by improving the energy efficiency of their houses of worship with help from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program.

The event will also feature discussions among Administration officials and leaders of the faith community about how congregations across America are already achieving significant carbon emission reductions by incorporating energy efficiency into their broader mission. The first worship facilities that have achieved ENERGY STAR certification will be recognized and special attention will be paid to interfaith, state, and local initiatives, and the role of stewardship in faith traditions.

Jerry Lawson, director of the EPA’s Congregational Division, is a long-time friend and a wealth of knowledge for churches who want to know more about how they can benefit from the services of the Energy Star program. I have known Jerry for many years, and he works tirelessly to get the message of environmental stewardship out to churches. I highly recommend that your leadership team look into what his department has to offer.

I became involved in the “green church” movement in the spring of 2005 when I made a presentation to the Virginia Baptist Church Building Conference. Later that year, I expanded the presentation at the first WFX Conference and Expo. Since that time, I have been privileged to speak over a dozen times in national platforms, write several articles on the topic, and provide consultation to several churches who were interested in “going green.”

Even though my current role at Auxano is not directly related to the green church, I maintain a high level of interest in it.

I will do a follow-up report at the end of the event – in the meantime, look for some reposts of previous “green church” writings I have done.