Youth Ministry & Creation Care

  • Print

Originally published January 15, 2008.

The Barna Group recently (August 20, 2007) did a study on what adult Americans thought was “absolutely necessary” for the U.S. to address within the next ten years.  The top issues were about securing the future of children followed by some national issues.  The fifth most important issue, which was answered by 60 percent, said it was “absolutely necessary” that Americans make an investment into environmental protections.  This answer tied with securing the state of marriage and families.

Another recent Barna Group survey  (September 17, 2007) asked various adults if global warming was a major problem facing America.  With the adults surveyed grouped into various groups such as age, mainline Protestants, Democrats or atheists, well over 50 percent believe that global warming is of great concern.  The two groups which were below 50 percent were Republicans and evangelical Christians.

Leadership Journal did a cleverly-phrased online poll asked to Christian leaders.  Twenty-four percent admitted that they were green before green was cool.

Another 16 percent said, “I confess: I’m sort of becoming a tree hugger.”  Is Christian tree hugger going to become the next oxymoron?  A total of 38 percent said “Not yet a tree-hugger, but I have a growing concern.”  Only 22 percent said “Don’t hug trees, fell ‘em. It’s all ‘green’ hooey.”


From a survey of just teens, ages 13 to 17, 66 percent say they care more about environmental issues than they did a year ago.  Also, 78 percent say they believe there is still time to repair the damage already done to the environment and 77 percent say that it’s their responsibility to help save the environment.  Eighty-eight percent of Seventeen girls say they are not doing enough and want to do more for the environment (Seventeen, October 2007).

For the Spring 2008 Fashion Week (held in October, 2007), at least three designers introduced their own line of eco-friendly high-end fashion including a trench coat with solar panels (IG’s Trendcentral, October 22, 2007).  For the Christmas season Barney’s New York used as their theme “Have a Green Holiday” with eco window displays and their website which offered customers the opportunity to reduce their gift-giving carbon footprint. For the week of November 4, NBC and Universal Studios did an entire promotion of “Green is Universal” which included turning the NBC logo green and dropping as many conservation facts they could into every aspect of their television programming.   Even McDonald’s is getting into the trend.  Or actually they had made changes long before this was a trend.  Bags, cups, napkins, and almost anything donning the golden arches is now made from 45 to 100 percent recycled material. Also all of their boxes and all of their cooking oil is recycled.  (Source)

Concerns for the environment, global warming, and green lifestyles are definitely a trend.  But I am coming to believe it is also something more.  This seems different than the environmental whacko movement of the 70s.  This is definitely different from the “rebirth of Earth Day” in 1990.  Those were trends–when is the last time you heard Tom Cruise speak on this subject?  I believe “green living” is going to become a way of life more and more in the next few years.  And this is something that Christians and the Church need to pay attention to.  And need to make adjustments on.

For all future reference this which I am talking about will be named Creation Care, which is a name I have co-opted from an evangelical network calling itself Creation Care.   Wild Frontier is not affiliated with them but I believe the term correctly describes our responsibility to earth as Christians and as the Church and is much more specific-purpose than “green living” or “Christian tree hugger.”  I personally am endeared to this term.

In the past and recent past, Creation Care has been shunned by the Church because of the environmental whackos and tree huggers of previous generations.  The topic has been shunned because it has become political and the Church has chosen to not side with that side of the political issue.  Or because the Church hasn’t wanted to side with the whackos who also don’t have a passion for the unborn.  However, caring for the environment is not simply a political issue.  It is obedience to one of the first commands God gave Adam.  Genesis 1:28 tells us “Be responsible for the fish in the sea and the birds in the air, and for every living thing that moves on the face of the Earth.” (The Message) When you study all of the scriptures with this eye, you will see that the Church should have been the leaders in any and all of the environmental movements.  We as Christians have a responsibility to fulfill to our Earth.  We always have.  It’s too late to take the lead on this but we certainly can get involved.

This is the simple truth.  God created the Earth and the Earth is quite tough.  Until those Last Days, I believe Earth is always going to survive.  It always has.  If you visit Epcot Center at Disneyworld, in the Land building there is an actual attraction of how the earth is recovering from past pollution sins from the current 100 years and how we are better off now than we were 30 years ago.  And that’s the Disneyfied version.  Another redemption story is about a fire that happened this past May (2007).  A brush fire engulfed 4,500 acres of Santa Catalina Island.  Due to a massive coordinated response from mainland firefighters, the Navy, and the Coast Guard, little structural damage was done.  That was not the only good news from this fire.  Because of the fire, there is new hope for the native plant life found on the island.  Large amounts of these plants had been lost from goats, bison and deer feeding.  All of those animals are not indigenous to the island.  The goats were removed a few years ago by conservationists which caused enough brush to grow back to fuel a fire.  That is good news, believe it or not.  And now that a major fire has scorched the ground, rains will germinate a crop of dormant seeds that have lain in waiting for who knows how long–waiting for the intense heat of a fire to trigger their little natural mechanisms to grow because that is how they were made.  Scientists and botanists are expecting strains of plants and wildflowers previously unknown to be awakened from their slumber. The island could blossom with added rain into a historic paradise.  All because of a fire.  This is how the earth works.  Nor is this an exceptional story.  This is how the earth works.  It is also wonderfully made.

Global warming is the environmental concern for the moment.  The earth is heating up and the polar caps are melting but how do we not know that this is just a cycle the earth goes through.  Maybe every 1,000 years or every 876 years or every million years, the earth does this as a way of strengthening itself.  Science doesn’t take us far enough back to answer this question so it is a possibility.

Even though the earth is tough, it does not relinquish us from our God-given responsibility which is to be responsible for Earth.  Especially now since our world has changed so dramatically since the 1940s.

That Builder Generation of the 1940s lived in modest houses which were one-half to one-quarter the size of today’s homes.  They did not require his and her walk-in closets and could fit all of their clothes into one bureau.  (What’s a bureau our teens ask?)  A family of seven felt blessed to have one indoor bathroom.  (Can you imagine a house with one bathroom these days?)  They did not travel distances the equivalent of five transatlantic trips annually in their cars.  Any traveling done was a lifetime treat.  Today we have gadgets that only existed in comic books which we now “can’t live” without.  Not only do these gadgets create previously not considered landfill problems, amazing amounts of energy are spent to keep them with power.   Speaking of landfill problems.  Do you remember the days when we didn’t have water in bottles?  We got along just fine without it.  Now where do you think all that plastic bottle waste is going?

With all of our new knowledge and technology, we have a responsibility to use it to care for Earth.  And because I believe this is an issue many youth are concerned about, you have a responsibility to at least talk to them about their responsibility in creation care.  Teach your youth to ask these questions of themselves:

  • How can I live a more godly, equitable, and meaningful life?
  • How can I help people today and in the future?
  • How can I be less materialistic?
  • How can I live a more charitable life?
  • What would happen if I led a slower-paced existence?
  • What is the spiritual prescription for depression, anxiety, and anger?
  • How can I become a better steward of nature?

I “borrowed” these questions from the personally challenging book, Serve God, Save the Planet, written by a Christian doctor who takes his stewardship of Earth seriously. As you can see from the questions, they are grounded in the basis of how to live this Christian life so you can help your youth create a biblical worldview.  You can still do your core mission of teaching a biblical worldview while practicing creation care.

In further study of creation care (you do study other trends, so why not study this one too) you will learn that to be a world changer all it takes is for all of us to make small adjustments to our lives.  You don’t necessarily have to save the polar bears in place of saving human lives.  As a youth leader, your life can be a living example and you can purposely do some things as a youth group to be responsible as Christians to Earth.  Some of those small things youth ministries can do are:

  • Become a recycle center, use the earnings you make to support your missions.
  • Don’t use so much styrofoam when serving food.
  • Practice picking up other people’s trash when you are walking to and from locations.
  • Make a practice of consuming less.
  • Make decisions to drive less.
  • Include environmental redemption stories on your website and in your newsletter.
  • Include conservation statistics such as “Recycled paper saves 60% energy vs. virgin paper” on your website and in your newsletter. (Wild Frontier has been doing this since 2007.)

Bringing your church and youth ministry near and direct to creation care is a youth ministry issue.  Our teens are becoming more and more passionate about this.  So are the ever-so-slow-adapting adults.  Typical of adolescence, teens become passionate about many things that don’t transfer into their adult years.  However, I believe with a proper approach to creation care we can address that passion and teach lifelong habits about our responsibility to “every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”  Basically we can teach about proper creation care and “kill two birds with one stone.”  The two birds are addressing a passion and making it a part of a biblical worldview about our responsibility for Earth for this generation and the next generations.  Until the Lord returns.