Below: Discernment Resources Tips for Dabblers Tips for People who Want to WIN
Figuring out where the Spirit is leading your group will be the hardest part of this challenge for many people. Many churches find these resources useful:
Listening to youth and young adult interests
- What do your group members fear most?
- What topics bubble up naturally, bring energy to room, make your group smile?
There is no rule that says the entire youth or young adult group has to do this. Participants can work as a full group; in small groups on different projects; or as mentor-mentee pairs.
In some cases, adults may have a plan, but the youth are really not interested in it. In that case, don’t drag them along by their ears, just do it! Just because we don’t have age-appropriate incentives for you doesn’t mean you won’t accomplish something important, make new friends, boost your endorphins and/or save money. You just might! Please register your group and tell us about your project even if Gen Z is not involved.
Listening for God’s calling
- What connections do you see between a project that interests you and the teachings of Jesus? Other scriptures?
- Is it effective? Working with a carbon calculator (see list below) can help you think through whether the action you take will make a difference. Driving an SUV 10 miles to pick up a 10-ounce package of paper cups so you do not need to use Styrofoam is an example where the planet is not coming out ahead.
- Is your community of faith supportive? Watch for signs of the Spirit in their responses.
- What does your church do best? Why is that so? How can you build on it?
- Does moving in a given direction feel joyful and lifegiving to you?
Discerning your scope
- Yourself: changes individuals can make
- Church buildings and congregational habits
- Members’ homes or members’ collective action
- Your schools and community
Discerning faith-based learning opportunities
The Energy and Spirit Challenge is more than an opportunity to learn about environmental issues and behaviors; it is an opportunity for all sorts of faith-based learning. For example:
- Linking faith and practice: This is a chance to think practically about how what we talk about in church intersects with our day to day behaviors and priorities.
- Modeling curiosity and the power of questions: Some say that change begins the moment we ask our first question. Modeling curiosity and concern goes a long way even if you don’t have answers. Answers don’t mean much if they aren’t rooted in people’s questions.
“I wonder if Jesus ever faced dangerous heat while walking across Palestine?
“I wonder what kind of water heater is most efficient for a church building where we mostly use water once a week and don’t take showers.”
“How do people in this neighborhood access healthy food if they don’t have a car?”
- Showcasing many gifts: All sorts of vocations have a climate tie-in. Can this exercise enable you to recognize members of the body of Christ whose gifts are not always noticed–or engage students who do not shine in a theological discussion? Can it reveal the spark that turns a job into a vocation? We all need to see ourselves as a part of something bigger than ourselves.
- Advocacy and church processes: How can you model the best way to get things done in a social setting? This is a chance to learn diplomacy, tactful assertiveness, the value of diverse opinions, whom to talk to about what, how church structures function.
- Anabaptist Climate Directory: This is a listing of what Mennonite-related organizations are doing related to climate change. It could be a jumping-off point for a discussion, or it could give you ideas about where you might find support for an idea or a speaker who would interest your group.
- Breaking the Silence Around Climate Change. Each session includes a short video as well as a lesson plan, due out fall of 2023 from the Anabaptist Climate Collaborative.
- Carbon Calculators: A little math and science is a valuable tool. Governments, businesses and nonprofits use carbon calculators to determine the best course of action; individuals can do the same within their sphere of influence. Here are two good examples:
- Cool Climate Network calculator
- Just Energy calculator: quick and easy
The best way to use climate calculators with young people might be to punch in a hypothetical person (or yourself!) and then play around with different numbers to see what actions make the most difference. You can get across the idea that tracking utilities and mileage is important to do in the future without having actual records in hand.
- Climate Action for Peace: Mennonite Central Committee’s current emphasis.
- In Deep Waters: Spiritual Care for Young People in a Climate Crisis, by Talitha Amadea Aho. The author spoke at MCUSA’s Youth Climate Summit in July 2023. Wise pastoral advice from an experienced chaplain and youth sponsor.
- Project Drawdown: A science-based big-picture guide to what actions make the most difference in addressing climate change. Some will surprise you! Most of the solutions they list are beyond the scope of a short-term project, but even these might inspire career choices. In other cases, the short essays will help you see how important widespread adoption of a choice you are able would be.
- Think About Single Use Plastics: A Bible Study and Discussion Guide
Wendy Janzen, Ecominister for Mennonite Church Canada Eastern Canada, designed this one-off session.
Tips for Dabblers
Everybody can do something. To paraphrase Anne Marie Bonneau, the Zero Waste Chef, we don’t need a handful of people addressing climate change perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly. If your leader can fill out two forms and you can manage a couple of Christian ed sessions on climate change and/or a one-day action step, you’re a part of the Challenge!
The following suggestions on the project page could be one-day options:
- A carbon Sabbath
- a letter-writing day
- a fund-raiser
- a trash clean-up
- Helping an environmental organization with something they’ve got going.
- Reading your utility’s website and inviting your church to sign up for energy-saving options.
Tips for People who Want to WIN
- Read all the Energy & Spirit pages on this website, including the judging rubric and the list of what the final report will request.
- Aim for longer term impact: Choose a project that will have a life beyond the weeks or months you are working on i. Or plan for how the work will continue after your group moves on. For example, if a youth group plants a pollinator garden, who is going to tend it after they go to college or move away?
- Turn actions into habits. If your project includes learning new skills, provide multiple opportunities for practice so that the skills become habits, not quickly forgotten novelties.
- Judges will be looking for significant Gen Z leadership, not just participation in a project driven by older people.
- Ask for help. Think carefully about who has the skills or knowledge that you need. Many people are honored to share, especially with young people. Specific requests are easier to grant than vague ones. See if firstname.lastname@example.org has a suggestion.
- Tell your story well. The evaluators are not around to watch what you are doing; they will base their decision on your narrative.
- Take pictures of your group in action
- Document what you did as you go along. It is easier to edit out unneeded details than to remember them later. If you have a larger group, assign a group reporter and a group photographer to help with these tasks.
- EXTRA CREDIT: Up for a BIG challenge?
- Rebuild broken community: It’s hard to work for the common good when people are isolated due to conflict or see each other as enemies instead of allies. Can your project heal a rift?
- Go global: Work with the Mennonite World Conference’s Creation Care Task Force and its Young Anabaptists group to create a global network of young adults concerned about climate change. Implement and fund the communication platforms they need to communicate with each other. If this network had a shared goal, what would it be?
- Militarism and the environment: The link between the historic Anabaptist peace position and environmental devastation needs more development in Anabaptist faith communities. Study this issue, find out who knows what, compile and share useful resources, identify realistic action steps and try them. Meet with denominational leadership to share your findings. While you are at it, end the war in Ukraine and clean up military superfund sites. 🙂