Given todayís serious environmental challenges, both
locally and globally, it is appropriate to make stewardship of the
environment a much higher priority than in the past. This is an excellent
opportunity to talk with youth about situations that impact their lives on a
For nearly a century, Lutheran Laity Movement for
Stewardship assisted, inspired and trained congregations in important ways.
LLM ceased operations on May 31, 2003, but the
Stewardship of Life Institute is proud to continue its work by making its
web resources available to a new generation of stewards.
Confirmation Emphasis: Environmental Awareness
By The Rev. Mark D. Gibbs
One aspect of the Christian life that often gets little attention in
most Lutheran confirmation programs is environmental stewardship. Granted,
most programs will touch on this subject when discussing the first article
of the Apostlesí Creed. Yet, given todayís serious environmental
challenges, both locally and globally, it is appropriate to make
stewardship of the environment a much higher priority than in the past.
This is an excellent opportunity to talk with youth about situations that
impact their lives on a daily basis. Faith in God can have a major
influence on how we treat our environment.
Six Session Program
Following is a six-session program that concentrates on how each
individual person interacts with his or her surrounding environment. The
program has three basic goals; an awareness of how many resources it takes
for each of us to live, an awareness of the amounts and kinds of waste
each of us generates, and an awareness of our human and Christian
responsibility to steward the use of Godís creation. I suggest that this
program include a lot of field trips, as well as home surveys and hands-on
Session No. 1 - Introduction
The purpose of this class is: to introduce basic Christian principles
about creation and stewardship; to frame environmental concerns as
stewardship concerns; and to provide an overview of this program.
Encourage parents to attend this session, since their participation will
be necessary for future sessions.
Begin with an introductory discussion. Ask the students if they know
which power plant supplies electricity to their homes, how their homes are
heated, what happens to the exhaust from automobiles after it is released
into the air, where their garbage goes, etc. Indicate that this program is
designed to help students discover the answers to these questions. Next,
introduce a short discussion about why Christians should care about
environmental concerns. Discussion should lead to thinking about creation
as a gift from God and about our responsibilities for preserving it for
future generations. A good resource for this discussion is
About Stewardship of the Environment,
available for $1.15 each from the Channing L. Bete, Co. (800-628-7733).
Finally, end this session with an introduction to the remaining
sessions. Each student should be asked to complete some type of
environmental awareness project during this program. Ask the parents for a
commitment (financial and time) to help their son or daughter with this
project. Prepare a hand-out with suggested projects: planting a tree or
shrub, installing water-saving devices in the home, beginning a recycling
program in the home, building a compost pile, etc. Give students the
opportunity to come up with their own projects as well.
Session 2- The Problem with Garbage
The objective of this class session is to help each student become aware
of the enormous amount of garbage generated by the people of their
community. Schedule a trip to the closest, open, garbage landfill in your
area. Try to schedule the trip during operating hours. Make sure the
person from the company who gives the tour provides information about cost
of dumping, landfill construction, environmental regulations, and what
will happen when the landfill gets full. Provide ample time for students
to experience sights, sounds, and smells. If time permits, stop by an
automobile junk yard on the way home. As a homework assignment, ask each
student to monitor how many bags of garbage his or her family generates
Session No. 3 - Making Water Clean
The object of this session is to help each student understand just what is
involved in generating clean drinking water and cleaning up the waste
generated by the community. Schedule a tour of the local water and sewage
treatment plant. Be sure to ask the manager about operating costs, sources
of water pollution, how clean is the water we drink, from where does it
come, and how clean is the water. As a homework assignment, ask each
student to estimate how much water his or her family uses each week. The
facilitator may have to provide average usage rates for various fixtures
(showers, sinks, toilets) and equipment (washing machines, dishwashers).
However, water bills are the best source of usage information.
Session No. 4 - Making Electricity
The objective of this session is to help students
become more aware of what is involved in generating and delivering
electricity to their community. Schedule a tour of a local power
generating plant. Ask the manager what type of fuel is used, how long the
plant will last, where will electricity come from when it is closed down,
what kinds of pollution does the plant generate, and how can individuals
conserve electricity in their homes. Be sure to plan this trip carefully
since the generating plant could easily be one or more hours away from
your congregation. If the distance is impractical, consider having a
speaker from the power company visit your church (and make sure he brings
a video-tape of a power plant!). As a homework assignment, ask each
student to determine the usage of electricity in their homes by using
Session No. 5 - Down on the Farm
The objective of this session is to help students understand the
environmental costs involved in providing healthy, low-cost food for our
country. Schedule a field trip to a local farm. If possible, utilize a
farmer from your congregation, since this will give the students a chance
to see a Christian they know striving to be a good steward in his or her
everyday life. Be sure to pick a farmer who is educated in and who uses
environmentally-sound farming techniques. Ask questions about soil
erosion, alternative planting methods (low-till, no-till, organic
farming), fertilizer use, herbicide and pesticide use, disposal of manure,
and wetland protection. Again, give students ample time to experience the
sights, sounds, and smells of the farm. Make sure the farmer gives a good
Session No. 6 - Pulling it all Together
The purpose of this class is to put into focus all that has been
experienced and learned. Revisit the questions discussed in the first
session. Are your students better prepared to answer these questions now?
I am sure they will be. Discuss each field trip. Find out what surprised
the students, what they liked, what they disliked, etc. Ask each student
to spend a few minutes discussing or demonstrating what they did for their
hands-on project. Finally, close this session with a brief overview of
Christian stewardship principles, and most important, send your students
off with an exhortation to be good environmental stewards throughout the
rest of their lives.
The Rev. Mark Gibbs is a pastor in the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America, was serving Holy Trinity Lutheran Church,
Lafayette, Ind., when he wrote this article for the 1996 issue of
Faith in Action.
© Copyright 1996, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
This essay first appeared in the Spring1996 issue of Faith
in Action. Articles in Faith in Action may be reproduced for use in ELCA
and ELCIC congregations provided each copy carries the note:
Copyright 1996, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Reprinted with permission.