First Third Conversations

Youth and an Earth Ethic

A blog post by Rich Holleque

I have been pondering a question lately as I have continued to write my senior paper for the CYF program here at Luther Seminary: “What would it mean in youth ministry to proclaim the message of the gospel with an intentional focus of Christian stewardship of the earth?” In other words, how do we incorporate the message of steward, not consumer, within the whole of youth ministry?

Right now, our youth culture forms its identity around being a consumer. Books like Born to Buy by Juliet B. Schor illustrate this alarming truth. As ministers, we are called to challenge this notion of youth as purely consumers. God has called us to give to the planet, not only take from it. This ethic goes far past mentioning stewardship in a bible study at your church or devoting a night in your curriculum to creation care. Even though those may seem to be covering the topic, they do not get at the large issue at hand.

That issue is our reckless actions towards our community’s sustainability and the earth that was given to us by God. We need to teach our youth that we are rooted in our ability to give to the whole community, not take or consume. We need to let them know that our identity is founded in relationships with others and the God that we love; not more things that we use, quickly get tired of, and then end up in a landfill.

Our youth are growing up in a culture that is now, more than ever, feeding a message to buy more, more, more. This line of thinking leads us farther and farther away from true community and the Gospel. True community is rooted in our ability to give to each other and the environment we share. We give our time, talents, passion, and compassion to our communities. The Gospel is a message that calls us to the action of sharing our gifts with and for the world.

To be stewards of this earth that was given to us, we cannot be fooled into thinking that consumption on its current scale is our right as human beings. We need to keep our focus on what we can give to each other for the glory of God. We need to teach our youth that when we engage in practices like composting, recycling, bike riding, or supporting sustainable eating practices we are giving back to the community, to each other.

We need to help teach them that recycling one more plastic bottle will not automatically solve the problem of environmental degradation, but it is pointing to something greater than us. It’s a witness to the Gospel. It is a witness to a God who cares deeply for us and the creation that all of us share. As a community we witness to a world where we don’t focus on the next thing that we can consume but a world where we give to each other out of concern for the world that our neighbors of future generations will inhabit.

Because of this truth, we must hear this call to action. I am left with the words that spoke to me while reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s sermon at the Fano conference in Denmark, “What are we waiting for? The time is late?”

Author Bio:
Rich Holleque is currently an MA student studying Children, Youth, and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary. He also enjoys walking alongside youth as the Youth Minister at Cambridge Lutheran Church.

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