Sharing your church’s environmental story

What is your story? Neon Sign
Photo credit: Etienne Giradet – Unsplash

Maybe your church has just signed up for a scheme like Eco Church or perhaps you’ve been engaged for a while. You might have decided not to register but are still working on environmental projects.  You might be wondering how and why to share the journey with your church members or your community. This blog post aims to begin to help answer some of those questions.

The Bible is full of stories and, as Dave Bookless writes, “The overarching biblical story, from creation to new creation, reveals a God whose love flows ever outwards: in creating a very good world, in tasking humans with bearing God’s image towards other creatures, in covenant love to a lost people and a broken world and, supremely, in entering creation in Jesus to bring hope, redemption and restoration both to all people and to all creation.” [1]

Stories allow us to share information in a more memorable way and help people make sense of a church’s engagement with environmental issues. They also help people engage with issues at a more emotional level.

Why tell your environmental story?

You probably use your church website, printed newsletters and social media to let people know about your services, events and regular activities. Sharing your environmental journey can be part of your mix of social media content in the same way that programmes like Eco Church are designed to include all of church life. Another, very practical, answer to this question is that a number of Eco Church targets involve communications.

Step 1: Who do you want to talk to?

When thinking about telling your story, the first question is who do you want to tell it to? This might begin with just one group such as your church members, you can always add more audiences into your plan later. For each group you need to think about what they might be interested in and what messages you’d like to get across. You’ll also need to think about how to reach those people.

The table below shows what this looks like for my own church.

AudienceAims / messagesKey methods
Church membersEngagement with Eco Church scheme. Awareness of Biblical mandate for creation care. Encouragement to make changes to own lifestyles.Eco Church newsletter (published 2/3 times a year). General church communications – monthly newsletter and weekly emails. Eco Church Noticeboard in the foyer. Website and Facebook page
Other local churches including Eco ChurchesEncourage engagement with Eco Church Networking for mutual support.All social media – this includes sharing what other churches are doing and tagging in relevant organisations.
Environmentally motivated but not engaged with churchBuild awareness of church’s support for, and engagement with, environmental issues.Instagram – which is focused solely on Eco Church and our journey.
Local community – including hirersWays in which church is engaging locally with issues that matter to people. Encourage hirers to reflect on ways to become more environmentally friendly.Facebook – including posting into local community groups Eco Church noticeboard in the foyer and printed copies of the Eco Church newsletter.

Step 2: What stories can you tell about your journey?

What matters to your church and community? Don’t be generic but reflect your concerns and theology. What are your values? Why did you sign up for Eco Church? For some churches that might mean the emphasis is on climate justice, for others it might be creation care or expressions of worship like Forest Church. Does your church lean towards practical action or advocacy and campaigning? Do you have small groups that are engaging with environmentally themed Bible studies?

Think about the passions of your people. For example if you have an active walking group encourage them to share pictures of the nature they encounter or write a little bit about how they encounter God outdoors. If sharing food and hospitality is something your church does a lot, you might want to share where the food comes from or why you choose to use Fairtrade ingredients.

You might also want to link to your church’s priorities or vision. At my church one of our priorities is to be a prayerful church, which we’ve further broken down into a church that provides opportunities for prayer and a church that prays for our community. As part of this our weekly prayer prompts always have one environmental point, we share relevant prayers on Facebook and have environmentally themed prayer resources on our website. As a Methodist church we sometimes reference the ‘Flourish’ commitment in the Methodist Way of Life. Anglican Churches might want to include references to the Marks of Mission.

You might want to think about:

    • Sharing stories that show that environmental issues are important to your church.

    • Sharing stories that show you are on a journey – share your setbacks and challenges as well as successes.

    • Sharing stories from your members about their personal journeys.

Step 3: How can you tell your stories in an engaging way?

Think about the language you’re using and watch out for any jargon. When it comes to churches communicating on the environment, this might be scientific or theological (or both!)

Try and be consistent with your regular content styles. For example, if sharing Bible verses is something you regularly do, you might choose to include more Bible verses about creation. The same goes for sharing prayers, calls to action or invitations to services and events. This will help it feel like your environmental content is integrated with everything else rather than something set apart.

If you’re thinking about using social media then there are some things you can do to make your posts more engaging:

  • Use videos, photographs and graphics.
  • Canva is an excellent free design tool – it comes with lots of templates, graphics and images. You can also upload your own photos. Canva allows you to create graphics that display at the right size for social media posts – this is important as it means users will see the whole image at once and not lose any details.
  • Keep accompanying text snappy – for example on Facebook you want to lose as little as possible after the ‘see more’ line as most people won’t click through. If you need more text than this you can use your first sentence as a summary so that your readers get the most important point, or as a headline or teaser to encourage readers to click through.

If there’s a question around the practical aspects of telling your church’s environmental story or communicating on environmental issues that you’d particularly like us tackle on our blog then do let us know.

[1] Bookless, D. (2021) Creation Care as Mission, Preach Magazine, issue 26

Shelly Dennison is a JRI director and works as the Digital Engagement Officer for CPRE Bedfordshire. Shelly communicates the countryside charity’s message on their website and social media channels, as well as in print materials like their members’ magazine. Her role involves content creation, communications strategy and planning, profile raising and engaging new audiences. More recently Shelly has also begun working with local community groups and campaigners to help them communicate their aims. She is the Eco Church lead in her local Methodist Church and also worships in her local parish church.