Many faith leaders have stood before congregations who are knowledgeable about the changing environment and how human behavior impacts it. This may be partly thanks to the creation care rhetoric that you feed to your congregation.
But did you know that beyond the walls of your place of prayer and worship, lives citizens who are uninformed? In fact, 87 percent have no knowledge of the evidence which supports the idea that humans have caused climate change. The way to reverse the perceptions of most citizens is to discuss creation care beyond the pulpit.
What is Community-Based Advocacy
Community-based advocacy means building on the priorities, awareness, and abilities of local people. Most communities desire to flourish, are aware of the issues that hinder their progress and are full of talented people who can instigate change. As a faith leader - enlightening the community is accomplished by first starting a dialogue. Then, you can influence the community to take action.
How Do I Start the Dialogue?
There are many ways to start a dialogue on climate change and advocacy. One effective way to start the conversation is to simply to be present in the community. Other ways include:
- Hosting community events
- Speaking at community events
- Engaging with other community leaders
- Partnering with other congregations for a bigger impact
Starting a dialogue within the community informs citizens and allows the community to inform its leaders. Faith leaders particularly can benefit from understanding what issues the community faces that could interfere with their ability to aim for climate solutions. Dialogue promotes inclusiveness and teamwork. It is the innovator for community-based action.
How Do I Lead the Community to Action?
Action is a direct outcome of sound community-based advocacy. A community that knows about climate change and is affected by the impacts and cares about the issue - will aspire to do something about it.
Some community members may be hesitant. This can be due to lack of belief in climate change or doubt that it affects their community. There are a few ways in which you can influence those hesitant community members.
Lead by example. Just as you walk firmly in your faith each day, you must be dedicated to creation care. Showing how your congregation has contributed to climate solutions may inspire members of the community to follow in your footsteps.
Do your research. Some people in the community do not follow a faith and may need a different form of evidence to support your claim that climate change is a substantial issue. In this case, providing statistics and literature on the subject could help them to understand and want to get involved.
Prepare for criticism. As a faith leader, you know that some people will question your beliefs and even dismiss them altogether. Starting a dialogue about climate change is no different. Prepare yourself for the community members that will dismiss your information.
Once you venture beyond the pulpit and embed yourself into the community to engage with them and share your knowledge, you are a climate advocate. By getting the community to align their beliefs and aspirations with yours, they become climate advocates too.
Nichole Tucker earned a Master's degree in Media & International Conflict from University College Dublin to help improve global issues, like climate change. Prior to joining Blessed Tomorrow, Nichole worked with the advocacy team at World Vision International.