The following guest post is contributed by a high school friend of mine, Kira Dacanay. She is passionate for maintaining a global environment that is as clean and healthy as possible for everything that lives in it. This post contains some of her many ideas for how youth ministries can do their part. The best part is, most of them are very easy to do and will still have a very significant impact.
- Community tree-plantings: municipal parks, side-walk shade trees, urban tree plantings, etc.; also flower gardens
- Trash pick-ups: local parks, “Adopt A Spot” public-right-of-ways, stream banks, etc. Always wear protective gloves!
- Flower or Veggie garden: community designated spot or church property
- Connect with local and state authorities; NGO’s or wildlife refuges for activity ideas or jumping on board an established one. NGO’s and wildlife refuges always welcome volunteers and are often planning events themselves.
- Always get explicit permission from the municipality if public lands involved.
- Check out Americorps, the “domestic Peace Corps” where I served. Trained personnel are available at no charge to help plan your own project or get you involved with one of theirs.
- Donations: Large companies have budgets for “social responsibility” requirements. Search their web pages or talk to the store manager. Giants like Home Depot and Lowes are will be able to provide you with lawn/leaf bags, plants, shovels etc., also grant money for larger projects. Contacting the store manager for simple items like lawn/leaf bags. Ask for donations from local “mom and pop” garden centers, too.
- Other local businesses may contribute if you have a set plan and give them proper credit for their contribution. By telling other members of the community that this local business supported a community project, it sends a strong message about that business’s commitment to the well-being of its customers.
- Fostering Stewardship: Set the example! You, as a youth leader are responsible for feeling a strong sense of stewardship in the first place and passing in on to your group. Not everyone may bite, but guaranteed you’ll at least a few who really latch on. Do background research on the project and similar projects, and give examples to your group about successful projects elsewhere and how that community has benefited. Before/after photos are especially helpful! Also, keep track of the process. If you are doing tree plantings for example, take photos before, during, after, and waaay after to show your group and new members how your trees have grown. Talk about difficulties encountered and how it makes each person feel to see the positive changes they’ve contributed to their environment.
Schedule activities on a yearly basis (i.e. every Earth Day have an activity). Or every October have one just because. If it becomes and annual event, you are more likely to keep youths interested and involved, and new ones will see that the older kids think it’s cool too. Eventually, parents and other church members will become more supportive of your efforts as they see their children looking forward to “this year’s event.” You can also solicit the general public to volunteer at an event as well. Ask them to bring a non-perishable food item too.
Also, connect with the spiritual side of embracing the world around you. Take some time to reflect on the day’s activities. Put your palm on the trunk of an old tree or young sapling. Think about the many years that old tree has “seen” come and go, how it has weathered the impacts of humans on earth, “seen” changes in it’s landscape, and been powerless to defend itself in a changing environment. Think of how this new, young sapling has so much life to live, and could very well outlive you. Give it hope for a long, healthy life by promising to do your part by keeping the air, water, and soil it needs to live clean. In turn, that tree will help keep the air, water, and soil you need to live, clean, too. We’re all connected in one-way or another. God put us on this earth to do great things, and He gave us a magnificent planet to work with. Respect the earth and care for it as God would have you nurture your own children.
I would love to share ideas with you, I have many!! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kira Dacanay is a Master’s Candidate at the University of Rhode Island in the Department of Marine Affairs, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Management from Rutgers University, NJ. She completed 1700 hours of community service work with the AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Ambassador Program in 2007 and worked nearly 2 years with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection prior to beginning her Master’s degree. She enjoys connecting spiritually with the natural world and strives to improve her stewardship of the great resource that God has provided.
Posted on April 21, 2009