Discipleship at Home and Work: Action Plan
Policy: We encourage members of all ages, economic levels, ethnic groups, or walks of life to care for creation at home and at work knowing that our habits and practices can make a significant contribution. We seek to foster a closer relationship with nature so that we can live simply and walk lightly upon the earth.
People: Pastors, lay professional leaders, governing body, heads of committees, all as models for the whole community. All will seek to embrace a vocation that will allow their lives to witness to the commitment to justice and care for the earth.
Goals: To make a personal commitment to embrace disciplines that respect the earth community, that seek to restore creation from human degradation, and that enable us to relate closely with nature.
Actions: Here are some ideas to carry out these commitments:
A. Learn about your world:
1. Learn about the ecological state of the world. We get information in such scattershot ways through the popular media of television, newspapers, and magazine articles. Look for books and sites on the environment that give a comprehensive picture of the issues. Unless clean air is an issue, it will be difficult to see in what ways we contribute to it by our lifestyle. Nor can we see what things we might do to contribute to its Earth-restoration. The same is true with clean water, garbage, toxins in the land, food security, and so on. If we do not see the size of the problems, we will not grasp the size or nature of the actions we need to take to address them.
2. Foundations to Care for Creation. Learn about the biblical and theological resources for us to deal with this. Consider the statement of your denomination on ecology and faith. Read about the biblical foundations for Earth care. Understand the nature of the ethical choices we as a culture need to make to address ecological degradations at personal and systemic levels. For resources, see www.bibleandecology.org.
B. Change your lifestyle:
1. Reflect on your lifestyle. Take time to think about your lifestyle—the choices you make or the commitments you have or the habits you practice or the things you own. Try to determine in what ways they contribute to the degradation of nature and in what ways they contribute to the sustainability of nature. Consider changing your values and priorities and commitments in the direction of a relationship with nature that expresses love and reverence for other people and care for all of nature. Consider viewing the video or reading the book, Affluenza by John De Graaf.
2. Adopt a change of lifestyle to “simple living.” We cannot depend on technological changes to make a difference. We must adapt our lifestyles to a radical Earth-friendly posture. There are many resources available for this—either as personal guides or as group study. See this helpful list of simplicity resources.
3. Purchase green. There are many books that help you to purchase products that are friendly to the environment. See the buying guides and catalogs available on these websites:
4. Make a Covenant with Creation: Develop a personal “Covenant with Creation” that lists a variety of actions you will take to lessen your footprint on the Earth.
C. Transform your home and work into Earth-friendly places.
1. Understand the environmental connections of your living space. Our homes are directly connected to every dimension of the environmental crises and the ecological concerns that we face. Just think about what comes into our homes and what goes out of our homes.
● Electricity lines come into our homes from coal-burning plants.
● Water pipes bring increasingly limited fresh water from filtration plants
● Gas pipes bring in natural gas from distant places
● Sewage lines take water and waste out to sewage processing plants.
● Chimneys release carbon dioxide from the furnace into the atmosphere
● Food in the refrigerator has traveled by truck from great distances
● Food has been raised using pesticides and chemical fertilizer
● Meat we eat may be raised at the top of the food chain
● Paper and Wood for furniture depletes the forests
● Garbage trucks take garbage to land fills, perhaps including also toxic waste.
● Cars in the driveway burn gasoline and use oil and emit pollutants into the air
● Lawn mowers and other machinery emit pollutants into the air
● Air-conditioning emits chlorofluorocarbons that erode the ozone layer
● Pesticides and herbicides used on the lawn get into the air and water and soil
● Leather chairs and shoes can be traced to cattle ranches in California or Brazil
● Cleaning products—from laundry detergent to window washing fluid with
toxic substances—that pollute the air and water.
● And the list could go on.
The point is that the choices we make every day in our homes and on our property directly affect global warming, ozone deterioration, air pollution, water pollution, depletion of fresh water reserves, waste accumulation, toxic seepage, the loss of rain forest, and a host of other consequences that affect the quality and now the survival of life on earth. What if we addressed every one of these items in our homes so as to reduce our ecological imprint on the environment. The point is that we can make a difference with each and every choice we make to walk more lightly upon the Earth.
2. Do an environmental assessment of your home.
Use the material available in the Comprehensive Environmental Guide for Churches, Their Buildings and Grounds (download free here). This guide has information for the congregation as well as suggestions for implementation at home and work. Use this material to assess every aspect of your life at home—house, yard, habits and practices of you and/or your family. Over a period of time, work to make your space into a “Green Zone”—an Earth-friendly space and a witness to others. Join with others to take some vision-time to imagine what a green home might look like!
Or take a room and assess everything that makes a negative environmental impact. For example, look at your kitchen in terms of appliances, refrigerator settings and maintenance, paper use, food choices, detergents, cleaning products, certified wood for tables and chairs, natural lighting, fluorescent lighting, water-use practices, means to disconnect small appliances when not in use, comprehensive recycling, food conservation, composting of food wastes, and so on. Then go room by room in your house and make the changes necessary to make a difference. Create an “extreme ecological makeover” of your living space!
3. Reduce, recycle, reuse. Seek to reduce your trash to a minimum. Take a look through your garbage once a month and see what materials might have been avoided, what materials might have been reused, and what materials might have been recycled. Put containers for recycling at key places in your home to remind you and make it easy to recycle. Seek to avoid food scraps by buying and serving only what you will eat and then cleaning the plate! Compost leftover food.
4. Reconsider eating patterns and food choices: Buy locally rather than purchasing food that traveled halfway across the globe. Eat organic and eliminate pesticides and herbicides in your diet. Purchase fair trade products that ensure the value of resources and the people who survive off the land. There are extensive resources on the Web of Creation to learn about and adopt patterns of eating that care for God’s creation. See lifestyle section of the Green Congregation Program at www.webofcreation.org. See the Environmental Guide for further resources.
[Mindful Eating as a Spiritual Discipline]
5. Green your lawn and garden: Find ways to make your yard eco-friendly. There are organic ways to grow a lawn without pesticides or herbicides. Plant low maintenance grass. Use an electric or battery-driven mower, or better yet a hand mower. Put trees in strategic places to lower heating/cooling costs in your home. Make your property a sanctuary for animals. Turn part of your yard into a natural prairie with native species of grass and wild flowers. Find resources online or in print to make your lawn and garden healthy and attractive—and Earth-friendly.
6. Green your Christmas: There are many thoughtful suggestions for gifts and wrapping, for decoration and celebration, for being generous to your family and generous to others. Consider having a live tree that can thereafter be planted in your yard or at the church or in a suppressed area of the city.
7. Observe an Energy Sabbath: Each year, on a Saturday evening in March, the world observes Earth Hour. This is a time when everyone is to “turn out the lights” as a symbolic gesture promoting our need to conserve energy and lower our carbon footprint. Actually, it is a practice we can observe throughout the year. The experience makes us realize how much we unnecessarily leave our electricity on throughout our homes, businesses, companies, and government buildings and grounds. On a regular basis, observe your own Earth Hour or an Energy Sabbath—when, for an hour or a morning or evening or even a full day, you simply turn everything off and enjoy reflective solitude or spend time in conversation with others or take the opportunity to relish nature.
8. Make it a family thing: We are doing all this for the next generations. Be sure to share with your children what you do for God’s creation and why you do it. Make a family covenant to carry out specified Earth-friendly practices at home and away. Place reminders around the home to support these actions. Enjoy nature together. Reinforce what your children are learning at school about the environment. Go together to local parks, nature centers, and natural museums. Engage in activities that teach about the environment. Relate it all to your faith and discipleship. Pray for God’s earth at table grace and other daily prayers. Hold relevant family devotions. Consider using I Love God’s Green Earth: Devotions for Kids Who Want to Take Care of God’s Creation, by Michael and Caroline Carroll.
9. Take your commitment to work: Whatever your work, opportunities abound to make your place of work and your activities more earth-friendly. Make use of the guidelines you used at home to apply to your work. There are manuals to green offices, workbooks for corporations, guidelines for factories and small businesses. This is part of the vocation of a Christian—to express justice toward humans and care for creation in every aspect of your life.
[See the book, The Smart Office by Amy Townsend]
10. Get friendly eco-tips and act on them. Most of us need reminders! There are calendars and daily journals that offer eco-tips for daily living. Use these as suggestions and daily reminders of what you can do. Work through them to change your lifestyle. See The Green year: 365 Small Things You Can Do to Make a Difference, by Jodi Helmer or purchase the “Every Day is Earth Day Calendar.”
11. Stewardship is our purpose in life. Remember the biblical mandate for humans “to serve and to preserve” Earth. We are called to see ourselves as having a vocation to be stewards of God’s creation. Take responsibility as agents of God to care for your home, your property, your neighborhood and community, your larger world.
12. Make every action and decision part of your spiritual discipline. We have no difficulty seeing care for one another as part of our spiritual discipline. Why not see love for and care of God’s creation as part of our religious vocation and our spiritual discipline? Do these daily actions and make these daily decisions mindfully and thoughtfully as people who seek to love creation as God does.
D. Provide support for individual commitment as the congregation.
1. Create an atmosphere of commitment: Seek opportunities in congregational life to make a profound personal commitment to care about the earth, to make decisions and to take actions that are earth-friendly, and to refrain from actions that are earth-harmful. Be creative and intentional about finding individual and communal ways to strengthen and reinforce those commitments in various aspects of the Christian life.
2. Form support groups/ commitment groups/ interest groups: Support for environmental practices and disciplines can serve as a focus for small groups that serve to support the commitment to lead earth-friendly lives. Each session, participants could discuss a different area of commitment to earth-care, practice that commitment for the week or month, and then return to discuss the results and give encouragement. Groups that meet around a meal could learn about food and practice ecological disciplines related to eating. Perhaps the groups could meet during a season of the church year, so as, for example, to be part of a Lenten discipline. See the materials from ENACT, a group set up in some cities in Wisconsin to develop neighborhood groups to enact ecological practices in their homes and work.
3. Group Study: Foster the formation of groups around an educational course on Simple Living or the Ecology of Food. Consider these educational materials for small groups:
Northwest Earth Institute [www.nwei.org]
Earth Ministry's Simple Living, Compassionate Living [www.earthministry.org]
4. Take cooperative congregational actions: Choose congregational actions that make personal commitments easier—sell compact fluorescent light bulbs as a fundraiser; do cooperative buying of recycling bins for the home; provide a recycling center where people can bring hard to recycle items such as plastic bags, household batteries, and printer cartridges; sell fair trade coffee and other fair trade products; distribute devotional material. Put environmental tips in the bulletin and newsletter.
5. Hold an eco-fair. Find out what needs people have in their quest to be green and hold an eco-fair at church to make these products and resources readily available.
6. Ritualize your Covenant with Creation: Provide members with a “Covenant with Creation” that lists a variety of actions to be taken by the members of your congregation. Make this covenant part of a worship service with a brief liturgy within the service and to give it as an offering. Participants check the practices they agree to follow. Then give one copy in the offering and keep another to post in their apartments/homes.
7. Creation-Care Training: You can hold brief training sessions for members as a means to encourage people to develop earth-friendly habits and choices in their personal lives: simple living, food choices, recycling instructions, paper guidelines, energy conservation, devotional practices, connections with nature. Perhaps these training sessions could be coordinated with the items in the Covenant with Creation or with the Environmental Guide. This can be done in a Sunday morning forum, Saturday workshop (perhaps with many churches), or some other venue.
8. Witnessing/Sharing: Make use of meetings of the Green Team, worship services, and other gatherings to allow members to make announcements and to share with others their personal environmental practices and disciplines.
9. Website and Brochure: Be sure to have your commitments and accomplishments regularly updated on a website. Make a brochure that outlines the personal commitments involved in being part of a Green Congregation.
E. Get in touch with nature.
1. Kindle your love of nature: If we are to care for creation, we need to cultivate our relationship with nature. Know that Earth is full of God’s glory. Just as you may see God in the faces of others, so also see God in the presence of other living things. Let all creation praise God. The Bible says that the seas are to “roar” and the trees “clap their hands” and the fields “exult.” Next time you worship, think of Earth around you as the sanctuary in which you are worshiping and imagine yourself part of an earth community that is praising God by their existence. De-center yourself and other humans by thinking of your property or your neighborhood as a piece of earth you share with other living things. How can you get to know the trees and bushes and flowers and animals to see yourself as part of Earth community? A good source is Anthony Westin, Back to Earth.
2. Look to nature as a source of renewal and healing: See the following resources:
- Eco-Therapy, by Howard Clinebell shows how nature is a source of healing.
- The Last Child in the Woods names the loss of a connection with nature as “nature deficit disorder.”
- Reconnecting with Nature: Finding Wellness by Restoring Your Bond with the Earth, by Michael Cohen
- Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World by Joanna Macy.
3. Devotional materials: There are devotional materials available for Earth-keeping. When you pray, consider including prayers for geographical regions or eco-systems that are at risk, endangered species, and environmental degradations that most affect the poor. Consider using these books:
- Earth Gospel: A Guide to Prayer for God’s Creation by Sam Hamilton Poore
- Earth Prayers from around the World, edited by Elizabeth Roberts.
- Earth and All Stars” Reconnecting with Nature through Hymns, Stories, Poems, and Prayers from the World’s Great Religions and Cultures edited by Anne Rowthorn.
- Stewardship of Creation: 30 Days with Nature at [www.webofcreation.org/Worship/devotions/CreationCare.pdf]
F. Support the community environmental actions.
1. Join an environmental group. There are many environmental groups that need your support and participation. National groups such as the Sierra Club have local chapters that are active at local, regional, and national levels of commitment. Find out the local environmental organizations in your area and promote these among members.
2. Local opportunities for action: Arrange for members of the community to participate in public efforts to restore a habitat, clean up a beach, rally for clean air, protest a polluter, do write-in campaigns for environmental legislation, and so on.
3. Carbon Offsets: You may want to consider some responsible and effective programs to which you might contribute as a means to offset your use of carbon-based fuels at home and in travel, for example, by planting trees or other actions that absorb carbon and help to purify the air.
4. Green contributions and investments. There are many local and national organizations, some faith-based and others secular, that are certainly worthy of support. Consider membership or regular contributions to such organizations. Also, there are many green mutual funds and green investment opportunities that harbinger the future of an ecological age. Invest now! Learn more about green investing.
5. Change the systems. Vote for green candidates and advocate for Earth-friendly policies and laws. We can make all the personal changes we want and fail to address the large systemic forces that drive our degradation of Earth. Involvement in social changes should be integral to our personal lifestyle. Make it part of your discipleship to be informed about local, regional, and national issues and to be engaged in the actions and processes for social transformation to a sustainable society. For more information, see the next section of the action plan under Public Witness and Community Action.