Last month we looked at what activities churches actually do with creation care. This week we look at what they would like to learn more about. In other words, what do churches wish they could do more?
1. Respondents are interested in learning about several key areas of creation care.
Respondents believe their churches are most interested in two general categories of creation care.
First, people want to learn more about how creation care can be more integrated into biblical understanding, and their worship practices (items shown in blue in this table) (with the exception of prayer, perhaps because this is not viewed as something that is ‘learned’).
Second, respondents were interested in what is most effective at living in a way that reduces impacts on the earth (items shown in green).
When asked what resources they use, people most often think of using a variety of writings, including online resources. In addition, many people highlighted 1) the important role of a variety of creation care organizations in providing good resources, and 2) the importance of their human resources – key individuals who are strongly motivated and/or have expertise in areas that can help the church.
"We have people with the professional and technical expertise who can help us with giving talks and spreading ideas for taking action," says Martha Moreno member of Iglesia Evangélica Mononita “Jesús el Buen Pastor”, Guyaquil, Ecuador
2. Respondents who report more impacts of climate change are more interested in learning about creation care.
For all categories except prayer, there is a strong correlation between how interested people are in learning about a topic, and how many environmental problems they have noticed in their own context. This makes sense – people who are experiencing, or are aware of, environmental impacts are more likely to be concerned about these issues. This suggests that churches can motivate members by increasing their awareness. It also suggests churches will want to learn more and more about these issues as the impacts of environmental issues grow.
Do people who report being aware of environmental problems also actually engage in more actions in response?
The answer is yes, but with a caveat – this relationship is less strong. In other words, people that are more aware of environmental issues were much more interested in learning about the issues, but only somewhat more likely to engage in actions.
Work with churches should provide resources for learning, but should work toward helping churches translate these into actions.
3. Churches were somewhat less interested in learning about public activities.
We see once again this month evidence that respondents were less interested in engaging at the civic level, such as engaging in political advocacy, or engagement with community initiatives (purple and yellow items in the map below). However, these interests varied more with region; for instance, interest in advocacy was notably higher in Africa and North America. Churches appear to be more focused on their own church or local communities rather than engaging more broadly with government, businesses or organizations.
Faith communities are increasingly vocal as they recognize their important moral voice, and how working together creates changes that multiply local actions. As Anabaptists/Mennonites, we should consider broader engagement as an opportunity to share our voice and to effectively make changes at the system level.
“As a church, we should carry our responsibilities to teach our members to understand the value and importance of learning more about nature and climate change. We should learn how easy it is to change our lifestyle, and how it is going to create danger if we are not aware of it. Some changes in our lifestyle can have a big impact on our future,” says Emmanuel Mahendra, Kanker Mennonite Church, India.
“Don’t just focus on personal responsibility. Individual change is important, but it’s not enough. We need to learn about the systemic nature of it,” says Kyle Penner, pastor at Grace Mennonite Church, Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada.
As illustrated by the two quotes above, people need to feel their actions are effective. When they see the effects directly, or when they feel action leads to larger systemic changes, they are encouraged to press on.
Engaging both individual behaviour change and systemic advocacy is important. We are most effective when we work together as a community to faithfully work at creation care on multiple levels.
Getting involved in systemic change is often easier than we think! It can be a key way of bringing faith communities together in new ways as we care for creation.
Advocacy can be a part of a church’s spiritual practices and can contribute to spiritual growth as part of peacemaking. It can also be a way to amplify the actions churches are taking on other levels.
Mennonite Central Committee has a toolkit for advocacy that can be adapted to your specific country contexts.
Welcome to a series on environmental problems and the global church.
These stories illuminate
a) how Anabaptist-Mennonites are affected by environmental degradation,
Story #5: How do churches practice creation care?