Ideas and Resources for Your Congregation
Template: What is it? Why is it important? How can you use it? + Link to the resource.
Ten Reasons Why Lutherans Care for Creation.
Lutherans have the resources in our history, our beliefs, and our actions to care for creation: a sacramental theology, an ethical concern for the least, a concept of vocation that serves the common good, a legacy of social ministry to the poor and suffering, and more.
We need to know this heritage, especially given the current ecological crises we face. Eco-justice and caring for creation are not add-ons. They are foundational to our faith.
Download this one-page explanation of the reasons “Why Lutherans Care for Creation,” post it on a bulletin board, put it in the newsletter, or make it a bulletin insert: https://sites.google.com/a/lutheransrestoringcreation.org/www/Home/individuals/individuals-why-lutherans.
Foundations for an Eco-Justice Reformation.
“Reflections on a Lutheran Theology of Creation: Foundations for a New Reformation” is an essay that calls for an “ongoing reformation” to embrace ecological justice.
If we are to address the ecological crises of our time, we Christians will need to rethink our theology, ethics, spirituality, worship, congregational life, and mission.
Share this article with your Green Team and create an adult forum around the idea of a thorough Eco-Justice Reformation from a Lutheran perspective.
Adopt a Creation-Care Mission Statement.
Incorporate creation-care into your congregational mission statement with a phrase or line that affirms that creation care is central and integral to your life and mission. Or adopt a slightly longer mission statement, such as: “We affirm our commitment to care for God’s creation. As a congregation, we will incorporate creation-care into our worship life, the educational program, the maintenance of building and grounds, our personal discipleship at home and work, and our public witness. We seek to make caring for God’s creation an integral part of the identity and mission of our life together.”
For a short version and a full-page version of a creation-care mission statement for congregations, go to https://sites.google.com/a/lutheransrestoringcreation.org/www/care-for-creation-mission-statement-for-congregations.
Principles and Strategies for Greening your Congregation.
Here are thirty-two brief reflections on such topics as How to be Visionary, Publicize, Assessing Needs, and Opportunities, Institutionalize Change, It Only Takes a Few, Act Out of Gratitude and Grace, Choose the Right Name for Your Green Team, and more.
Your congregational leaders and green team can be more engaging and effective in theit efforts to green your congregation.
Make these principles and strategies a topic of conversation at a church council meeting or a green team meeting.
Self-Organizing Kit to Become a Green Congregation.
Becoming a Creation-Care Congregation: A Self-Organizing Kit with Guidelines and Resources, prepared by Lutherans Restoring Creation, is a simple, eighteen-page self-organizing kit. This step-by-step program will enable you to establish a green team or strengthen one already active.
This is not a certification program with various requirements for approval. It costs nothing and gives you the freedom to choose how creation-care will happen in your context.
Give copies to the eco-leaders in your congregation for implementation: https://sites.google.com/a/lutheransrestoringcreation.org/www/congregational-kit. .
Eight Strategies to Engage the Whole Congregation in Creation-care.
These suggestions identify processes to engage members of your congregation in care for creation while honoring differing levels of commitment. The suggestions include such approaches as education, consensus building, opportunities based on need, drawing on the assets of members, and opportunities in the community.
A green team is not enough to be a green congregation if only a few of your members are engaged in creation-care. Use these ideas to get everyone involved.
Pass these suggestions to eco-leaders in your congregation for implementation.
“Blessing of the Animals” Service.
Celebrate a Blessing of the Animals service, perhaps around St. Francis Day (October 2) for the pets of members and possibly including animals from selected nearby zoos or farms or police horses and dogs. Hold it outdoors and invite the local community to participate.
Be sure to bless the human animals also so as to emphasize our kinship with creation and our solidarity in Earth Community!
For service options, sermon resources, and links to videos and pictures, visit
Celebrate “The Season of Creation” in the Church Year:
“The Season of Creation” is an optional four-week season of the church year based on a three-year cycle parallel to the Revised Common Lectionary (commonly celebrated during September), celebrated around the world. Resources include alternative lessons, suggested liturgies, commentary on the lessons, suggested spiritual practices, and “care for creation” actions.
Why is this important? The church year is based on the life of Jesus (Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter) and the life of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost). Of course, we celebrate God in every aspect of the church year; and yet there is need for a season to focus on God the creator and the created order, especially in light of our current concerns over the state of the planet.
Share these resources with your green team and worship committee to plan this season for your congregation.
Worshipping with Creation Every Week.
Incorporate creation-care suggestions into key moments of every worship service: call to worship with creation; confession of sins against creation, petitionary prayers on behalf of creation, and blessings and commissions for our vocation to care for creation.
Care for creation is not just for special services or seasons. The goal is to infuse every worship service with care for creation so as to make it an integral, central, and ongoing part of the worship life of the community. Over time, the congregation will come to know the ways in which we humans are called to see ourselves and our mission in relation to all that God has created.
For resources, ideas, and “A Theology of Liturgy in a New Key: Worshiping with Creation,” see https://sites.google.com/site/letallcreationpraise/worship-planning-for-the-every-service.
Preaching Creation-Care throughout the Year.
“Creation-Care Commentary” on the lessons for each week in the Revised Common Lectionary is provide by Lutherans Restoring Creation and written by an expert team of biblical interpreters. Lutheran theologians and pastors offer solid exegesis, insights about nature in the Bible, background information, and pointers to the relevance for contemporary environmental concerns.
Congregations need to hear good news about God the creator not just in special services such as Earth Day Sunday, but throughout the year.
For preaching aids and for adult study groups on the lectionary, consult these weekly offerings.
For preaching resources, visit the home page, right-hand column of www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org.
“Caring for Creation” Excerpts for Weekly Bulletins.
Here are 52 brief quotations from the “Caring for Creation” social statement of the ELCA for inclusion in the weekly bulletins over the course of a year.
The statement is the best and clearest statement of a Lutheran approach to ecological justice: theology, ethics, care for the least, respect for environmental science, the nature of the ecological crises we face, and more. We need to keep these insights before our members.
Download the quotations and hand them on to be placed in the weekly bulletins (or newsletter). http://www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org/Home/congregations/bulletin-newsletter-items/quotations-from-the-elca-social-statement-caring-for-creation.
Study the Lutheran social statement on “Caring for Creation”
The Lutheran environmental social statement “Caring for Creation” includes statements about the ecological problems, theological and ethical analysis, issues of environmental degradation and human justice issues, and proposals to address the situation.
Though drafted over a decade ago, it is still the best Lutheran statement on the issue and every Lutheran should know about it. Available from the ELCA website on the Social Statements” along with a study guide and discussion questions
Hold a forum with a presentation, do an adult education series, make copies available to leaders and the green team.
http://www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Caring-for-Creation. For the related economic statement, “A Fair and Sustainable Livelihood for All” visit http://www.elca.org/en/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Economic-Life.
Luther’s Small Catechism Updated for our Ecological Concerns.
Luther’s Small Catechism is revised to encompass God’s love for creation and our vocation for “the care and redemption of all that God has made”—by Pastor Nick Utphall of St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Madison, WI.
Now, more than ever, confirmands and all adult members should know that all creation is in the orbit of God’s love and care.
Download and make use of this resource written by Pastor Nick Utphall of St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Madison, WI.
Earthbound Video Series for Your Educational Program.
Earthbound is a six-part series of 26 minute videos that explains Lutheran theological and ethical foundations for Earth-care with examples from an ELCA college, seminary, congregation, camp, and public policy office. The ELCA sponsored series features Walter Brueggemann, Larry Rasmussen, Barbara Rossing, Terry Fretheim, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, David Rhoads, among others.
This is the best way to introduce members to the Lutheran foundations for care for creation. Excellent for an adult class and youth groups, or as a Lenten educational program. Highly recommended by those who have used it.
You can learn more, view a trailer, and order for half-price at: http://www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org/Home/highlights/videos/earthbound-dvd-educational-series.
Eco-Faith Bible Study.
For Bible study resources, see “Love God, Love Your Neighbor, Care for Creation: The Human Vocation according to the Bible,” a reflection identifying eleven key biblical themes with supporting quotations that explain our vocation to care for creation. Ideal for leading a Bible study or an adult education class. For preaching and Bible study, see “Guidelines for Reading/Preaching Care for Creation from the Bible,” a chapter from The Season of Creation by Norman Habel, David Rhoads, and Paul Santmire.
We need to know the biblical foundations for creation-care if we are to act out of our vocation to “serve and to preserve” the Earth.”
Develop an adult Bible study or hold forums for the congregation. Do a sermon series.
Bible Quotations for Weekly Bulletins
Here are 52 Bible quotations for the weekly bulletins from different parts of the Bible expressing God’s love for creation and encouraging us to experience our kinship with the rest of nature.
The Bible provides the foundation for creation-care because it sees all creation as created by God, redeemed by Christ, and sustained by the Holy Spirit.
Place these quotations before the congregation as a weekly reminder of our calling.
Vacation Church School.
"ReNew," a "Green VBS" program from Sparkhouse, a subsidiary of Fortress Press is available for three different age groups: preschool, lower elementary, upper elementary. If you have a community garden at your church, incorporate hands-on experiences.
As we prepare the next generation, we must begin early to cultivate a love of God’s creation and to develop habits of caring for creation.
Place this opportunity into the hands of your education committee. http://store.augsburgfortress.org/store/productfamily/158/ReNew-The-Green-VBS?domainRedirect=true.
Comprehensive Environmental Guide for your Buildings and Grounds.
“Checklist for Environmental Care for Church Buildings and Grounds” is a handy four-page checklist for eco-friendly maintenance of buildings and grounds and congregational best practices: Energy Use; Paper and Wood Products; Water Use; Cleaning Products; Indoor Air Quality; Recycling and Waste; Coffee Hour, Potlucks, and Other Congregational Events; Worship, Education, and Office Practices; Food Choices; Nature Inside and Out; and Transportation.
Unless you take a comprehensive environmental approach to the care of your church property, your efforts will be scattershot and incomplete.
Task the Property Committee with going through this checklist and taking actions: http://www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org/Home/congregations/building-and-grounds/buildings-and-grounds-checklist.
You may download the full manual, “Environmental Guide for Churches, Their Buildings and Grounds” http://www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org/Home/congregations/building-and-grounds.
Energy Stewards Initiative: A Program of Lutherans Restoring Creation.
In response to the ELCA call to reduce our collective carbon footprint as a denomination, have your congregation or camp join this LRC program designed to lower energy usage and costs and shrink your carbon footprint. Energy Stewards Initiative (ESI) is a one- to two-year national program of Lutherans Restoring Creation. The program, which costs $10 a month, helps congregations track your energy use on an online platform, lower their carbon footprint with the help of an action plan, and free up funds for other ministries.
The program offers bi-monthly webinars, making available the wisdom of experts, program leaders, and other participants. You will also find ample testimony to the effectiveness of the program from those who have already participated.
Learn more and sign up.
Green Your Church Office.
Checklist for Greening your Church Office offers a checklist to audit and take green actions around heating and air conditioning, lighting, electronics, paper, recycling, food and drink, best practices, and more.
The office is the most used and most frequented place in the church building. Greening it can make a big impact on greening your congregation.
Greening the office provides an opportunity to take many creation-care actions that not only help the environment but also provide a model for members at home and work. http://www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org/greening-your-smo-office
Get an Energy Audit.
Energy audits are often provided free of charge by your local energy company. Energy audits can cover lighting, weatherization, and heating/air conditioning. In addition to putting LED bulbs in all frequently used lighting, the quickest turn-around and payback usually comes from retrofitting and replacing fluorescent lights. Many electric companies and government programs offer rebates and incentives for changes that will save energy.
Getting an energy audit and following the recommended actions can take a huge chuck out of your electricity bill.
Have your property committee do a walk around the buildings and property and identify all possible energy saving projects, inside and out. Then work with the person doing the energy audit to look at the items you have flagged and make recommendations for priority actions.
Set up a Comprehensive Recycling Program.
Develop a comprehensive recycling program for the church buildings. Begin with the usual items for activity within the congregation: plastic, aluminum cans, glass, office paper, card board, among others. Many churches also set up a small recycling corner for members to recycle items at church that they might otherwise throw away at home: cell phones, printer cartridges, household batteries, plastic bags, CFL light bulbs, eye glasses, and more. Arrange for transport or mailing of these items to recycling locations.
Waste is a huge environmental issue. We need to foster opportunities and engender habits among members to recycle everything that can be recycled.
Identify special days for members to bring these items when they come to church. Provide information for local safe disposal of electronic items and toxic waste.
Check at www.Earth911.com for suggestions on ways to recycle specific items.
On community programs to reduce waste, see the Zero Waste Alliance at www.zerowaste.org.
Invite Members to Make a Personal “Covenant with Creation.”
A “Covenant with Creation” offers a list of practices for members to adopt that express their commitment to creation-care covering life at home and work, one’s relationship with nature, and public commitments to Earth-care, along with a brief ritual for making the covenant in the context of a worship service.
We need to make a pledge of our commitments to care for creation so that we see them as part of our spiritual discipline and Christian vocation.
Incorporate it into your stewardship program or do it at an Earth Sunday celebration or as part of a Lenten discipline. Posting it at home and being part of an Creation-Care Support Group, say during Lent, will give accountability to the effort.
Earth Gospel: A Guide to Prayer for God’s Creation, edited by Sam Hamilton-Poore (Nashville: Upper Room, 2008), is an excellent collection of scripture passages, hymns, prayers, blessings, and quotations for forty days of devotions. Consider also Earth Prayers From Around the World, edited by Elizabeth Roberts & Elias Amidon (HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), which includes inspirational poems, prayers, and reflections from many cultures and religions.
These resources keep nature in our thoughts and prayers day by day.
Recommend to members for personal and family devotions, for devotions at meetings, and as inspiration for sermons, talks, and brief devotional services. As a discipline for Lent or Advent, invite members to adopt a common devotion such as Stewardship of Creation: A 30 Day Discipline.
Kindle your Congregation’s Love of Nature with a Retreat.
Plan a congregational retreat for your congregation, your council, or your green team. Renew your appreciation for the natural beauty of the area in which you live. Invite a naturalist to acquaint you with the flora, fauna, geological formations, and natural history of the area. Hold worship and meetings outside in nature.
We must bond with nature. We will not save what we do not love.
See Reconnecting with Nature: Finding Wellness Through Restoring Your Bond with the Earth, third edition, by Michael Cohen (Lakeville, MN: Ecopress, 2007). A resource from Northwest Earth Institute will also be of interest: Reconnecting with Earth http://www.nwei.org/. For materials for a retreat on “Awe and Mystery” from the United Church of Canada, see http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/retreat-on-awe-and-mystery. For summer devotional materials, see: http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/summer-devotional.
Covenant Groups for Lifestyle Changes.
See “What is an eco-faith recovery group?” at www.ecofaithrecovery.org. EcoFaith Recovery, based in Portland, OR, collaborates with faith communities to support eco-spiritual recovery from consumerism and the devastating effects it is having on life on Earth.
Studies show that people change most dramatically when accountable to a support group. The small groups also strengthen bonds of congregational members as they work together to care for creation.
Northwest Earth Institute at www.nwei.org offers excellent resources for groups on topics such as Simple Living and The Ecology of Food. Adopt Earth Ministry's program Simpler Living, Compassionate Life www.earthministry.org. Resources to promote simple living among members of the congregation can also be found at www.simpleliving.org.
Creation-Care Training for Members.
As a congregation, you can hold brief training sessions or a workshop 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, and connection with nature. This can be done in a Sunday morning forum, Saturday workshop (perhaps with many churches), or some other venue. Draw on the resources of your congregation and community for leadership.
We need guidance to take a comprehensive approach to creation-care if we are to change our lifestyle.
Such a workshop could be coordinated with the items in the personal “Covenant with Creation” at http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/covenant-with-creation-long-version.
Advocacy and Protest.
Identify an environmental issue in your community or region that is destroying human health and degrading the environment, and join in solidarity with those who are victims of ecological injustice or environmental racism and advocating with them on their behalf.
Personal experience of the negative impacts of our human activity on people and all of nature are transformations in outlook and commitments to action.
Become familiar with the ELCA resources on advocacy at www.elca.org/advocacy. Consult your state Lutheran Public Policy office for advice and support:
Partner with Local Environmental Groups.
We can do more together than alone. Identify the environmental organizations in your area, either national or local groups. Make information about these groups available to your congregation and encourage them to participate as citizens.
Network with these groups, learn their mission and activities, engage them as speakers in your congregation, cooperate with them to provide hands-on actions for parish members such as restoring a natural habitat, or arrange to partner with them in sponsoring an event in your community such as a lecture or a conference or a powerful eco-documentary. Consider co-sponsoring an eco-fair that promotes local green products and services and that includes workshops on “greening your home” or “greening your business.”
Such cooperation is a witness to your community about your commitment to creation care.
Sign up for ELCA Action Alerts:
Encourage members to sign up to receive e-mail action alerts from the ELCA e-Advocacy Network regarding laws and policies concerning environmental and other issues. These e-mail alerts will include an explanation of the issue, a suggested e-mail message, and invite you to click your approval to a message that will automatically be sent to the appropriate legislator in your location—making the process informative as well as quick and easy to do.
This is a critical way we can address the systemic ways in which our society contributes to ecological injustice and environmental degradation.
Promoting this action alert service among members through your congregational website, newsletters, and with sign-up sheets.
Start a “Green Congregation” program in your community.
Initiate an interfaith coalition of communities of faith committed to ecological justice. The idea is to meet together regularly with representatives of these communities, share greening efforts with each other, and learn about environmental efforts in your community.
Working with other communities of faith offers inspiration, accountability, and collaboration.
For one model about how to do this, see the Green Congregation Program in Racine, WI that is spearheaded by Lutheran Congregations at www.racinegreencongregations.org.
Fair Trade Products and Community Supported Agriculture.
Purchase and sell fair trade products such as coffee, chocolate, and other products that are produced under good ecological and safe conditions, that come with a commitment to fair wages, and that seek to reduce the role of “middle-men.” As a congregation, manage food needs of your church programs or religious school with “Community Supported Agriculture”—so as to minimize transportation and to support local farmers, especially those growing organic food. If you have a garden, contribute to food banks and start your own Farmers Market.
These are major ways in which we can support food producers who contribute to economic and environmental sustainability.
For fair trade products, go to http://fairtradeusa.org/. For a list of Farmers Markets by state, see www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/map.htm. Information on Community Supported Agriculture can be found at www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/csa/.
Join the Greenfaith Certification Program
Greenfaith is an outstanding interfaith organization dedicated to bringing greening into religious life and institutions. They have an excellent two-year certification program for congregations that will enable you to save money through energy conservation, attract members with news stories and programs that involve the entire community, receive invaluable guidance, resources, and support, and join a growing interfaith movement.
Lutherans Restoring Creation a partnership with Greenfaith and a coach for Lutheran congregations in the program: http://www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org/GreenFaith-Certification.
This program helps to organize and provide accountability to a congregation serious about greening.
For a story about United by Faith Lutheran Church in Evergreen Park, IL, a small congregation that has been transformed by this program, go to: http://www.elca.org/Living-Lutheran/Stories/2014/06/140702-United-By-Faith-goes-green.
Steward Your Church Property as an Earth-Community.
“From Church Property to Earth-Community” is a theological reflection and practical guide about what we ought to think about the land on which our congregation is located and how we ought to treat it so that all of life there will thrive together.
Unless we see our land and all forms of life that inhabit it as sacred ground, we may not adequately treat it with reverence in our decisions and practices.
Make this reflection available to members. Use it as the basis for a worship service and a forum. Let the property committee discuss it as a basis for decisions about landscaping and maintenance. Ask a naturalist to talk about the life you share on your natural space.
Reflection on Ecological Stewardship.
“Stewardship of Creation: A Theological Reflection” sets out the problems and possibilities of seeing our relationship with creation on the model of “stewarding.” Consider the biblical, theological, ethical, and practical aspects of stewardship of creation.
This reflection will help guide congregational steps to incorporate care for creation into your congregational stewardship program.
Use it as a basis for study and reflection by the council and the stewardship committee.
Video on Caring for Building and Grounds
Erik Backus is council president of Hope Lutheran Church is Annandale, VA and Engineer Planner at George Mason University. This (16-minute) inspirational presentation with power point illustrations starts with the theological and biblical bases for Earth care and then outlines the importance of taking care of the buildings and grounds of our congregations.
Exercising sustainability in our church maintenance is a responsible expression of our care for creation; and at the same time it is a theological witness we make as Christians.
Excellent conversation starter for an adult education program and for your property committee.
You can also see it on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTk-XqqIWbA).
Rain Barrels and Drip Irrigation for Your Congregation
A testimony from Greg Blatt, member of Faith Lutheran Church: One way to lessen your water bill is to install a rain barrel. A rain barrel is connected to a downspout and will collect the water during storms. Near the bottom of the rain barrel is a spigot that you can connect a hose to for watering flowers and plants. Installing a rain barrel can be fairly simple and it does take some tools. Local groups offer workshops on how to install rain barrels. By attending one of the workshops you may be able to receive a discount to purchase a rain barrel or possibly even getting one for free. Home improvement stores offer rain barrel and they range from $100 to $400 depending on the size and style. The sizes contain between 35 gallons and 250 gallons. The payback on a rain barrel can be 2-5 years.
Another option to save on watering your landscaping is a drip irrigation system. The conventional method of watering your plants (a hose connected to a spigot or using a sprinkler) is only about 65% effective due to evaporation. A drip irrigation system is between 90-95% effective. A drip irrigation system has tubing that runs just under the surface of the ground and delivers water and nutrients closer to the roots. Home improvement stores sell drip irrigation kits for your garden for $20 to $60. They are very easy to set up. Just connect the tubing to a spigot and run it through your garden just under the dirt or mulch. There are additional accessories that can be bought for a drip irrigation system such as an attachment that can add nutrients to the water system or a timer. Payback on a drip irrigation system can be as little as 1 year.
Plant a rain garden to protect your local watershed
A rain garden is a shallow depression that is planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses designed to absorb rain water deep in the ground rather so as to stop the water from reaching the sewer system and going into the local watershed. Rain gardens capture this runoff with pollutants like oil, salt, fertilizer, pesticides, pet waste, transportation chemicals, sediment and all sorts of other things that contaminate our waterways.
Your local watershed support organization may have grants, plants, and people who will help you set up a rain garden on your church property. This is a witness to care for creation.
For more information and directions for planting a rain garden, consult the Rain Garden Network at:
Install LED lightbulbs (Light Emitting Diodes)
LED light bulbs save the most energy and last the longest. Do not wait until incandescent bulbs burn out. Just go ahead and replace them. Discard the incandescent bulbs. Do not wait until the CFLs burn out. That will be years you could be saving money and lowering your carbon footprint. Go ahead and replace them. Contribute the CFLs to a local food bank for distribution and continued use.
LEDs last up to 20 years. You can discard them safely. You do not have to worry about the trace amounts of mercury that are in CFLs.
You will save a lot of money by installing LED bulbs. They cost more but the payback time is short. If you cannot afford to install them in all light sockets at once, start with the lights that get the most use.
For a chart that compares Incandescent bulbs, CFLs, and LEDs and the environmental impact, see here:
View “The Story of Stuff”
The Story of Stuff is an animated short film about the lifecycle of the goods we buy. From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world.
Excellent opportunity for an adult forum to challenge the consumer dimensions of our culture and our lives.