Energy Stewards Initiative: History and Description

About Lutherans Restoring Creation (LRC).


Lutherans Restoring Creation is a grass roots organization devoted to promoting care for creation throughout the organizations and institutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. LRC hosts a website with resources and information for Lutheran congregations, pastors, synods, seminaries, colleges, outdoor ministries, social service organizations, public policy offices, and youth organizations. LRC offers training for synodical and congregational leaders. LRC is supported by a grant from the Lutheran Community Foundation and the Tithing Foundation at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. For information about LRC personnel, visit the website at www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org.

 

Summary of the Energy Stewards Initiative


In response to ELCA calls to lower energy use throughout the ELCA, Lutherans Restoring Creation is launching a two-year pilot Energy Stewards Project designed to assist congregations in lowering their energy use and lessening their energy costs, thereby freeing up money for ministry. The program offers a step by step process with other congregations, a training program with regular conference calls and webinars, and an online platform to track history and changes in energy use, for the minimal fee of $10.00 per month (for online services provided by Rapid-Improvement). For ESI administrative expenses, grants have already been received from the Lutheran Community Foundation and from the Tithing Foundation.

 

Background: The ELCA Challenge


At the 2009 church wide assembly of the ELCA, a memorial passed the assembly that mandated the ELCA develop a plan to enhance energy efficiency and to reduce the use of carbon-based fuels throughout the ELCA and its congregations. This led to the formation of the Lutheran Climate Change Coalition (LC3), an informal group working to develop a proposal for the ELCA to address this mandate.

 

Background: The Response to the Challenge


Resolutions. LC3 and LRC worked closely with ten of the 65 ELCA synods to pass resolutions in 2010 directing their congregations to reduce their energy use and carbon footprint. Additional synods passed similar resolutions in 2011. These synodical resolutions led to the passing of a national resolution presented at the ELCA church-wide summer assembly, 2011. After this time, LC3 was disbanded and absorbed into LRC.


Training for Synod Leaders. Meanwhile, Lutherans Restoring Creation held an event to train four to seven leaders in five synods: Oregon, Southeastern Minnesota, Greater Milwaukee, New England, and Northern Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast. The participants received training in worship, education, buildings and grounds, lifestyle at home and work, public witness, and community action as preparation to introduce congregations to creation-care and to hold a networking event. This event has now been replicated for five synods in the Eastern US, two synods in Minnesota, with plans for another training for the synods of Pennsylvania.
 

The Development of the Project.


The ELCA has an interest in charting the progress of congregations in reducing the use and cost of energy for their buildings. The synods that passed the Energy Resolutions are developing plans to reduce energy use by 25-45% in the next decades. Many congregations are suffering with older and inefficient buildings. Congregations have a desire to receive practical advice on these matters and to be able to monitor and report progress in energy reduction to their members.


Nature of the program. As a response to this need, LRC developed the Energy Stewards Program (ESP). This LRC program works in conjunction with a national secular organization, Rapid Improvement, to make the Energy Stewards™ online platform available as a means to encourage, record, and report congregational energy-reducing activities and progress: Visit www.energystewards.net. This organization has a record of working successfully with churches in southeast Wisconsin to reduce energy consumption in houses of worship. LRC is adapting this program for use by congregations throughout the ELCA.


Goals for the project. LRC's vision for the Energy Stewards program is that it will inform, motivate, and empower congregations to save money and redirect those resources for other areas of ministry and, at the same time, reduce their use of carbon-based fuels as an expression of their care for creation. The goal is to reduce, on average, 5% of energy for each year of the two years that congregations are engaged in this program. This is equivalent to tithing 10 % of energy and redirecting it to ministry. The ESP program will seek to provide the resources and encouragement to help make this happen.

 

The Scope of the Project.


In the fall of 2011, LRC initiated the Energy Stewards Program to eleven interested congregations on a low charge basis for a two-year trial period. This program provides a web-based means for congregations to monitor and understand the energy performance of their building(s) to help reduce energy use and operating costs. It also provides access to experts who can help guide them to improve operations. Participation will involve data collection on building energy, evaluation of that data, and recommendations on building energy performance targets as needed, along with advice to achieve these targets. Training on what data is needed and how to set up your buildings will be provided through webinars, conference calls, and personal consultations.


Energy Star benefits. The LRC Energy Stewardship Program web-based platform is linked automatically with ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to provide online data, graphs, and checklists to evaluate and report performance. The site will also contain an action table and a forum for questions and issues to be raised. By participating, property committees, building managers, and maintenance staff will have tools to track, evaluate, and improve the performance of their buildings against their benchmarks and in relation to the ENERGY STAR rating. The program will also include similar features to chart water usage.

 

Organization of the Energy Stewards Program.


  • Director of the Program: David Rhoads
  • Manager of online information: Warren Gaskill
  • Consultants: Justin Yotter and George Davis
  • Energy Steward point person in each participating synods
  • Energy Steward in each participating congregation

 

Energy Stewards program proposal goals

  • Launch program in November, 2011. This has been accomplished. The first year willl be completed as of January 2013.
  • Bring 11 congregations from five synods into the program during the first year.  
  • Provide congregational Energy Stewards with the necessary training and resources to implement care for creation initiatives and energy saving actions.
  • Realize significant reductions in energy use among participating congregations.
  • Develop and maintain tools for promoting and tracking LRC Energy Stewards goals and activities
  • Develop plans for the next set of congregations to participate. New group to begin in January 2013.

 

Elements of Training, Qualification, and Resourcing

For Energy Stewards


  • An understanding of Lutheran theological foundations for care of creation.
  • A workable knowledge of energy and conservation as related to physical plants—church facilities and property.
  • The ability to understand the financial and environmental costs and savings charted online.
  • Knowledge of and relationship with the energy companies active in their local area, including programs and incentives for reducing energy use.
  • Knowledge of grant foundations or other sources of support for their local program.

Description of the collaborative partnership

Lutherans Restoring Creation and Rapid Improvement


Rapid Improvement Associates, LLC (For their home page, see www.energystewards.net).


  • Develop print and online resources, including platforms for reporting and tracking congregational activities and progress.
  • Provide training for the synodical energy stewards. Serve as ongoing consultants for the needs of energy stewards.
  • Participate in evaluation of the program and make adjustments and improvements.

Lutherans Restoring Creation.


  • Design the overall program, including the selection of synods and synodical energy stewards.
  • Provide an LRC program director.
  • Assist with the organization and development of the program.
  • Provide theological and organizational training for energy stewards.
  • Serve as ongoing consultants for the needs of energy stewards.
  • Provide for evaluation of the program and make adjustments and improvements.

Together, seek financial support for this program (grants and gifts) to:


  • Compensate leaders and contract staff in LRC and provide for Rapid Improvement costs.
  • Cover costs of print and online resources.
  • Work with each synodical energy steward to procure local financial support for training and energy reduction costs within participating congregations.