Taking an Eco-Survey of Your Home Church for Earth… | UMC YoungPeople
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February 2023

Taking an Eco-Survey of Your Home Church for Earth Day 2023

By Chris Wilterdink

Back in 2021, Young People’s Ministries released Courageous Conversations for Youth: Climate. If you find yourself unsure where to start a conversation about climate or creation care, that could be an excellent place to begin!

One of the simplest actionable steps you can take part in at your local church is doing an Eco-Survey, led by the young people in your congregation.

An Eco-Survey of your church’s physical building is a straightforward process that focuses on how energy efficient and earth-friendly your building and grounds are. Perhaps this could be an opportunity for a youth ministry gathering where youth and adult leaders survey the building with a checklist, looking for ways that the building or meetings could be made more efficient and friendlier for God’s creation, the Earth. Decreasing material consumption makes sense both in overall operating costs for the church building and in developing an ecological approach to the stewardship of creation.

Before inviting young people to do this survey, think about important pre-activity and post-activity connections.

Possible Pre-Activity Connections:

  • Meet with church staff to learn of any eco-minded groups already at work in the church. Are there other groups you could partner with for teaching, learning, and relationship-building opportunities?
  • Meet with building or maintenance staff to get an idea of where young people could explore in the church as a part of the survey. Invite them to be present during the survey to help unlock doors or provide information about mechanical (and other) systems on site.
  • Meet with a trustee or trustees. Ask them about the current costs to keep the building open and in good repair. Ask them about heating, cooling, electric, and water bills and find out about high-usage times. Invite a trustee along for the survey to listen, learn, and participate.
  • Talk with a supervisor or the senior pastor about the benefits or potential challenges that might arise by having young people explore the efficiency of the church building.
  • Identify the youth who are passionate about earth-friendly causes and invite them into leadership for designing the survey activity or any follow-up.

Possible Post-Activity Connections:

  • Share the results of the Eco-Survey with your youth leadership team and decide if team members would like to propose any building changes to the trustees or the administrative council. Some things — upgrading lights to LEDs or LED bulbs or creating more natural landscaping with drought tolerant plants or good plants for pollinators—may be less expensive than say . . . replacing the church’s heating and cooling system or installing solar power.
  • Share the results of the survey with the trustees and ask them for ideas about how they might like to partner with the youth group on work days (caulking and insulating come to mind!) or on fundraisers for energy-efficient upgrades to the church building.
  • Equip youth to do similar surveys at their own homes, schools, or clubs to see if they can take the creation care lessons learned at church into other spaces in their lives outside the church building.
  • Ask youth what items they would like to research further and find solutions for.

The Eco-Survey Activity

  • Either choose a special time or prepare the survey for a regular meeting time.
  • Introduce the concept by saying something like, “We are going to do an eco-survey of our church building tonight. This includes looking at every space that uses energy, so think about heating, cooling, electricity, water usage, and more. We want our space to be comfortable, of course, and we also want our building to reflect our commitment to being stewards of God’s creation, as we are asked to do in the Book of Genesis. We’re looking for things in our church where we could make changes to use less energy or fewer resources and be more efficient. This activity is not necessarily about fixing or addressing anything that we find. Instead, this activity is about finding opportunities that we have to make a difference. Once we find opportunities to change for the better, we can talk as a group about what we’d like to put energy into upgrading or who else in the church we might need to talk to help us create a more energy-efficient and earth-friendly church.
  • Either walk around as a group or, if a larger group is present, break into supervised smaller groups. If you have a trustee or building maintenance person with you, make sure to introduce them at the beginning of the activity and have them talk about why they think this is an important activity for youth to do.
  • Either make an online public form (through Google forms, for example) or create and print copies of the eco-survey for use during the walkaround. Make sure to leave space for what the issue is, where it was found, and how it is affecting the efficiency or ecology of the church.
  • Take time to walk around the church building and surrounding church grounds, noting places to change or improve energy efficiency or reduce energy consumption.
  • The eco-survey below is an example or starting place for this activity. Feel free to add to or modify the elements to customize the survey for your church building.
  • Once the survey is complete, have your group come back to a shared meeting space to discuss and compare what everyone found.
  • If time allows, encourage youth and adult volunteers to rank items found that your group would like to address by orders of importance, cost, and so on.

Click here to download the Eco-Survey (PDF)

Chris serves as Director of Young People’s Ministries for Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Chris has a BA in English Education, and an MS in Project Management, and over 15 years of local-church youth ministry experience. He is passionate about leadership and faith development in young people and helping ministry leaders understand their value in the lives of young people. A Stephen Minister, Chris is a native of Colorado living in Franklin, TN with his wife Emily, 2 children, and sausage-shaped beagle.