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Six reasons why every church should consider net zero in mission planning

Book your free tickets for our next mission planning conference entitled Good news for all creation

When we think about the terrifying reality of climate change, we can easily become overwhelmed. It's such a huge problem, and all our actions seem tiny in contrast. But there are actions we can take, and when 8 billion people take small actions every day, that adds up to a huge difference. God is transforming the world and invites the church to join in with this transformation - we call this mission!

The Methodist Church has set an aspirational target of becoming a net zero carbon emissions church by 2030. In other words, by 2030 we won't be responsible for adding to the problem of climate change. Every Methodist church can do its part in reaching this goal, and every Methodist church has the potential to lead the way in its community, changing minds, hearts and habits in order to keep our world safe for the coming generations. We know that many churches are feeling stretched and tired, so here are six reasons why you should consider net zero when you're mission planning:

 

1: Aiming for net zero helps us share faith.

Many people who are unaffiliated with the Christian faith already care deeply about climate change and are making steps toward net zero themselves. By taking net zero seriously, we have a point of connection that can lead naturally to faith-sharing. 

Three Methodist Way of Life practices can help us here: SHARE, LIVE and TELL. We can SHARE faith through eco events and practices where we’re overt about our faith based motivation. By LIVING out our care for the planet, we draw people to the God who inspires us to action. And we can TELL of the love of God by explaining why Christians care about the planet.

2. Net zero is a justice issue.

Globally, those who contributed least to the problem of climate change are paying the highest price. So if we're a church that's passionate about justice, we should be passionate about fighting climate change too.

Three more Methodist Way of Life practices can help us here: CHALLENGE, FLOURISH and SERVE. We can CHALLENGE the injustice of climate change by writing to MPs and local authorities and organising boycotts. We can care for the FLOURISHING of creation by becoming an eco church: making climate care part of our worshipping life, community engagement, building discernments and personal lives. We can SERVE the natural world through practical action, such as conservation work and litter picking.

3. Net zero can shape the 8-step process.

As we engage in the eight-step mission planning process, rather than adding in a consideration of net zero, instead we can allow creation care to shape the way we do mission planning.

Decide on a process. Could we hold some meetings online, to save the emissions from travel?

Do a community audit. Which groups are already active in creation care in our community? How could we join in with them?

Conduct a church review. What do we already do that promotes creation care? What do we do that could be more sustainable?

Dream together. What would we do to get to net zero if we knew we couldn’t fail?

Choose priorities. Could net zero be our mission focus, shaping our evangelism and our social action? 

Identify actions. Perfect is the enemy of good: everything we do and use has a carbon footprint, and there are no perfect solutions. But we can and must do something.

Consider the fruit. What might fruitfulness look like? Greater awareness of climate change? New disciples? An Eco Church award?

Review regularly. If we already have a mission plan in place, how could we consider sustainability?

4. Net zero can be woven into many existing church activities.

Let's think about what we already do, and how to make these activities more sustainable. Here are just a few examples of common church activities, along with suggestions for making them more sustainable:

  • Coffee morning: avoid paper cups; offer conversation starter cards with a creation care focus.
  • Knit & natter: commit to using recycled materials, e.g. unused fabric at the backs of people's cupboards or yarn from charity shops.
  • Food bank: source food from supermarkets that would otherwise be thrown away.
  • Clothing bank: promote this as a way of reusing and recycling (as well as saving people money).
  • Messy Church: use recycled materials for crafts; regularly have a net zero theme.
  • Christmas fayre: have stalls that offer second hand Christmas gifts.
  • Enquirers’ course: serve veggie food; talk about Christian activism as well as Christian beliefs.

 

5. Circuits have a particular role in net zero.

There are two important ways in which circuits can contribute to net zero:

  • Consider buildings.

Generally speaking, fewer, better insulated buildings with more people using them means greater sustainability. However, in rural areas especially, driving distances and accessibility also need to be considered. For this reason, make discernments about buildings at circuit level so that you can ensure you keep the buildings you need and upgrade them (insulation, solar panels etc.) where necessary.

  • New Places for New People (NPNP) and Church at the Margins (CaM) discernment

Could you begin a new Christian community for unaffiliated people with a creation care focus? Lots of people unaffiliated with the church care deeply about reaching net zero. Circuit Leadership Teams are in a position to allocate resources, including staffing, to areas where a New Place for New People with a creation care focus could work well. 

6. You don't have to aim for perfection.

We've said it already: perfect is the enemy of good. We all have areas, both as individuals and as churches, in which we struggle to reduce our carbon footprint. But if we wait for perfection, we'll wait too long. Let's do something now. 

Further links and resources

Download the Six Steps to Net Zero for churches leaflet.

Access resources to help you understand the issues around climate change, to help you pray, and to help you take action at methodist.org.uk/climate-change.

Watch the one-hour documentary Climate Change - The Facts presented by Sir David Attenborough on BBC iPlayer.