Many faith facilities are trying hard just to keep the lights on (often the problem), making creation care initiatives something they intend for the future when things level out. As Ethics Daily writer and editor, Zach Dawes learned while suggesting a switch from styrofoam plates to reusable dinnerware at his Wednesday night Bible study, resistance is initial. With arguments of cost being presented, Dawes went to his calculator. After tallying the costs, he realized that over time, reusable plates would be cheaper. This swayed the opposition.
From this anecdote, we may draw two lessons:
1) Money does matter, even in religious practices. People are genuinely concerned about overhead as congregations dwindle, taking their collection plate donations with them.
2) Creation care initiatives must be economically sound to garner the support necessary. While some creation care initiatives are costly up front, the trajectory of their implementation will save money over time. Demonstrate this to your congregation if they are averse to change.
While economic appeals are imperative to a successful creation care initiative, I find myself turning back to the words of Frank Morris in his Patheos article, Justice and Peace Through Integrity of Creation: "Money talks – but the Voice of God speaks stronger." Nothing sways people quite like the human heart.
For ways to save your congregation money and care for God's creation, visit Blessed Tomorrow.
Zach Dawes for Ethics Daily
I learned a valuable lesson during my time in pastoral ministry.
Soon after arriving at one of the congregations I served, I noted the use of Styrofoam plates at Wednesday night Bible study.
I suggested to a key church leader that we should use the washable dinnerware and industrial dishwasher instead.
He responded negatively, which I should have expected given that change proposals are typically resisted.
Yet part of his response – "it has to be cheaper to use disposable plates" – provided insight about implementing creation care initiatives.
I did my research following this conversation, calculating the costs of each disposable plate contrasted by the cost to run the dishwasher (factoring in the price of water and soap, the number of wash cycles needed, and assuming volunteers would supply the labor).
My findings? Washable dinnerware, in addition to being eco-friendly, would save the church money.
I considered presenting these findings at the next deacons' meeting, but given this man's influence and my newness, I let the matter go. You pick your battles.
Despite my failure, I became aware that, like it or not, it is easier to motivate folks to recycle and live more sustainable lives when there is a financial incentive to do so.