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Becoming a Green Sanctuary Candidate
Environmental Justice, Green Sanctuary Program

Once you have formed a Green Sanctuary team, engaged your congregation, completed the assessments, and developed an action plan for your Green Sanctuary projects, you are ready to become a Green Sanctuary candidate. Bringing your congregation to this stage of development prior to candidacy ensures that you understand what will be involved in your Green Sanctuary program and have the support of key people. Both elements are critical to your success.

Preparing Your Application

To become a Green Sanctuary candidate, you’ll need to prepare an application that describes your congregation and explains what you plan to do.  Type your information directly in the document, which can then be submitted electronically. At any time during your preparation work, don’t hesitate to contact the Green Sanctuary program manager ( uua_greensanctuary [at] uua [dot] org) with questions about the process.

Congregation Information and Profile

The first part of the application is a fill-in-the-blank section that asks for basic contact information about your congregation. You’ll be asked to designate one person as the Green Sanctuary contact.

Next, write a brief profile of your congregation in paragraph form -about one page in length, give or take half a page. Start by telling about the size of your congregation: the number of members and adult friends, the average Sunday attendance, the number of children and youth enrolled in your religious education program, and the number and roles of staff members. Also provide information about the demographics of your congregation and community.

The profile section is also the place to provide a brief congregational history. Your history is more than just names and dates; it’s an opportunity to tell the story of what makes your congregation unique. What issues have been significant in your history? What challenges have you faced, and how did you meet them? What have you done especially well? The appreciative inquiry questions you asked during your assessment may suggest stories to include here.

Green Sanctuary Team

In the next section, provide information about your Green Sanctuary team. Include your charter or other statement of purpose. Also list the members of the team, describing their congregational roles and environmental interests.


In the process of completing your congregational and environmental justice assessments , you will have collected a mass of information. Although you’ll want to retain the full details for your files, your candidacy application requires only a summary of the key findings. This summary will probably be about 2 to 5 pages in length, depending on the size of your congregation and the complexity of your situation.

Below are guidelines for writing the congregational assessment and summary. See separate guidelines for the environmental justice summary.

Congregational Summary

  • Include sections for both the professional energy audit and the congregational assessment. If individuals completed personal assessments, summarize those as well.
  • Be sure your summary of the congregational assessment addresses the four focus areas of the Green Sanctuary program: worship and celebration, religious education, environmental justice, and sustainable living.
  • Graphs, charts and measurements strengthen clarity and grounding for your future work. Also, anecdotal stories can be a powerful way to assess and share where your congregation is.
  • Include both positive findings and opportunities for improvement.
  • Provide a list of recommendations. The recommendations may be reflected in your action plan, but not all of them need to be; some might require a longer time frame than the one to two years of your candidacy.
  • Feel free to include any other information that you think is relevant.

Action Plan

In the next part of the application, provide a brief description of each of the eleven projects in your action plan. List each project under the appropriate focus area, filling in the following information:

  • Project Title: Give the project a title (two to ten words) that summarizes its focus.
  • Project Description: In one to three paragraphs, describe what will take place during the project. Include enough information so that reviewers can easily understand what you intend to have happen. Usually a paragraph or two is sufficient, but in some cases you may need to include additional context and a more detailed description. Be sure to explain any terminology or acronyms that might not be familiar to anyone outside your own congregation or area.
  • Timeline for Completion: Estimate how long it will take to complete the project. You may list a projected completion date for the entire project and/or target dates for completing specific phases.
  • Lead: Name the person in your congregation who is responsible for the project.

Communications Plan

Communication techniques are among your most powerful tools for successfully achieving the goals of the Green Sanctuary program. Both within your congregation and in the wider community, you’ll need to share information, recruit participation, and gather resources to carry out your action plan. Therefore, the final section of your application for candidacy is a communications plan. In it, you’ll describe how you intend to:

  • Share practical information about environmental issues and sustainable living strategies with the congregation.
  • Invite participation in your many program activities. Seek ways to communicate that are more likely to invite and include groups of people who have not generally participated in environmental leadership or events.
  • Collaborate with other groups, organizations, or communities within and beyond your congregation.

The communications plan is typically one to two pages long. It will largely reflect current practices in your congregation, but it may also be an opportunity to develop new tools and new expertise that will serve the congregation in other ways. Here are some of the elements you may want to include in your communications plan:

  • Congregational newsletter. You may want to create a “green” column to educate congregants on environmental issues and encourage them to take part in Green Sanctuary projects.
  • Congregational website. Consider adding a Green Sanctuary page that links to Green Sanctuary information on Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), Unitarian Universalist (UU) Ministry for Earth, UU United Nations, UU Multicultural Growth and Witness, and UU Service Committee websites as well as other important organizations like Interfaith Power and Light.
  • Congregational e-mail discussion list or chat group.
  • Online social media, such as blogs, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
  • A bulletin board dedicated to news about environmental issues and your Green Sanctuary projects.
  • An information table at Sunday fellowship hour.
  • Communication with community-wide networks, such as interfaith organizations, secular environmental networks, and local community groups. Such networks are a good way to share information and success stories and collaborate on projects.
  • Local media outlets (newspaper, radio, cable TV, or others in your community). Most of these outlets are always looking for content to highlight local issues and events. Your material could be in high demand! Possibilities include announcements of specific events, feature stories about your congregation’s environmental programs (a good way to attract new congregants), and articles that raise awareness of local environmental causes and activism.

To help you connect with local media consider using UUA-developed resources.

Remember that your communications strategies are not ends in themselves, but tools to make your program more effective. Using a variety of both proven and emerging communications tools will go a long way toward helping you build the kind of dynamic community that will support and motivate congregants to stay the course. Continually rethinking your communication strategy will also allow you to adapt and make use of new technologies as they become available.

Submitting Your Application

Before submitting the completed application, some teams ask their congregation to vote to apply for candidacy. This is not a required step, but it can be one way of gauging a congregations’ commitment and solidifying support. On the other hand, there is some risk in asking the congregation to vote at this stage. A negative vote or a very weak positive vote, reflecting hesitancy about the program or resistance to making a strong commitment, may tie your hands and preclude moving forward. Anticipate the likely outcome and choose your strategy accordingly. (Note that a vote is required later in the process, before applying for final accreditation. By that time, the action plan has been completed, so the congregation will almost certainly be fully committed to the program.)

If you choose to ask for a vote before applying for candidacy, it’s a good idea to keep the wording of the motion fairly general. As you move through the program, you may find that you need to make adjustments to your original plans. Less restrictive language will leave your options open.

The application form includes instructions for submitting your completed application by e-mail. If you cannot submit electronically, please contact the Green Sanctuary program manager for alternate mailing instructions. You are asked to pay a one-time application fee of $100 to support the Green Sanctuary program. Instructions for submitting the fee are also found on the application form.

Receiving Feedback and Modifying Your Action Plan

Your application for candidacy will be forwarded to one of the Green Sanctuary review teams. These teams are volunteer congregational leaders who have themselves been through the Green Sanctuary process. After the review meeting, the program manager will send you an email providing feedback about your action plan. Based on this feedback, as well as any changing circumstances, you may then modify your action plan as needed. You are also free to make any additional changes that you consider necessary as you go along. There is no need to send your revised plan to the UUA unless you have a question about whether it meets the program requirements.

Carrying Out Your Action Plan

Once your application is accepted, your congregation is officially a Green Sanctuary candidate. With your destination clearly spelled out, the path cleared, a map in hand, and many companions gathered, you are set to continue your journey.

Allow about one to three years to complete the projects in your action plan. It takes at least a year for everyone to get on board with the program. It may take a year to develop relationships in a community open to collaborating with your congregation to make positive change in an issue connected to environmental justice. It may take a year or more for changes in congregational practices to become well established, and for participants to integrate the learning and commitment into their lives.

As congregational environmental and justice teams work to carry out their plan, it sometimes happens that major changes in the life of the congregation (like losing a minister or long term leader, or having to move to a different site for worship) can derail the Green Sanctuary process. If this happens, it can be really tough to lose momentum (in addition to all the turmoil of the loss itself). Please feel free to get in touch with the program manager or your coach for support and ideas.

Maintaining Energy and Motivation

Some may approach this work as if it is simply another task to get done. A vision that narrow can make it difficult to stay interested and engaged. Others may approach this work as an urgent mission to save the world, but a view that expansive is likely to be overwhelming. As you implement your action plan, try to balance both perspectives. A task orientation keeps you organized and gives you milestones to celebrate along the way; a sense of mission inspires you to stretch beyond your usual comfort level and reach for a higher goal.

Celebrate Successes! Remember, one of the best ways to maintain energy and enthusiasm during your Green Sanctuary journey is to celebrate your accomplishments along the way. Each project completed is a milestone that deserves recognition and celebration.

Documenting and Reporting Progress

As you complete the projects in your action plan, be sure to compile documentation and photographs. You’ll need these to accompany your final application for accreditation.

Perhaps you will write a regular newsletter for your congregation. If you do, consider using those as a basis for your record-keeping, adding any metrics or stories you think will help explain where you were, what your congregation did, and the impact it had.

Specifically for the environmental justice work, a tracking tool is available as a short hand way to record what you do over time. You will need to add more details to this tracking tool to create a complete enough picture for the review team, but it can provide a good scaffold.

Once a year, candidates submit a brief report to let the staff know what you’ve accomplished, whether you’re on track with your time line, and whether you need any assistance.

When you have completed all the projects in your action plan, a special celebration is in order! After that, the next step is to prepare for accreditation.

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