Stage 1: Team Building and Congregational Education 

Part of Green Sanctuary

In this stage, you’ll (1) create a Green Sanctuary team and charter, and (2) educate and engage your congregation around the Green Sanctuary process.

Also, when the team is ready, create a congregational account on Create Climate Justice.

There you will fill out and submit “Congregational Profile”. Once submitted, your team will receive all important communications and will be invited to become part of a supported cohort of congregations doing similar work. Download the profile template.

Developing a Green Team and Charter

Sometimes the Green Sanctuary Team forms first, then educates the Board and the congregation; other times an exploratory group brings the program to the Board, and the Board charters a Green Team. In addition, for congregations in which the minister is responsible for programs to enact Vision and Mission, it may be the minister or ministerial team that will determine the process. The team’s formation should reflect how your congregation does its best work.

The team could be an Executive Team that coordinates the work of many sub-groups; a committee composed of the chair of every other committee; or a team of two or three Board-approved people charged with coordinating congregational activities and the application process. The size of the Green Sanctuary team will depend on the process or governance that works best in your congregation.

The purpose of this team is to manage the entire process. The Green Sanctuary team could be called a committee, ministry, or whatever term is customary in your congregation. The team can invite the possibility that climate change work be suffused with a UU sense of possibility, love and celebration of life, and understanding and strategy deeply rooted in the intersection of race, class and climate. In other words, the team can bring a UU Faithful Response to the urgency of this climate crisis.

  • Roles: The entire congregation is responsible for completing the Green Sanctuary projects. The team leads the effort by conducting assessments (or charging committees with specific aspects of assessment). With help from the congregation and minister(s), the team oversees each campaign addressing the three goals of mitigation, adaptation and resilience, and justice. The team assists with providing resources and logistical support, communicating with other leaders and staff, and preparing required documentation. The team’s key role is to act as climate and climate justice cheerleaders, encouraging participation.
  • Selecting Team Members: It’s not enough for the Board to assume the team will consist solely of the people who suggested earning Green Sanctuary accreditation. Although most or all of them may want to participate, additional team members may be needed. It is also true that many people who care about this issue will not be able to be on a committee so that it will be important to make tasks clear and invite broad participation.
  • Varied Expertise: Identify a variety of talent and expertise from within the congregation to perform various tasks: communication, worship and celebration, sustainability expertise, social justice expertise, etc. When it’s time to define the three campaigns (focused respectively on mitigation, adaptation and resilience, and justice) and the component projects, seek input from the whole congregation or committees, and recruit additional expertise.
  • The Charter: Usually, the authority granted by the Board to the Green Sanctuary team comes in the form of a charter stating the team’s purpose and some rules of operation (for example: “...organizing and facilitating the Green Sanctuary process.”). For some congregations a charter is less important than a public Proclamation or signing onto one of the many powerful campaigns such as Green New Deal.

Educating the Congregation

Present to the Board: Typically, the initial organizers make a presentation to the congregation’s Board of Trustees (or other governing body) explaining what the Green Sanctuary program is, and its benefit to the congregation. If the board members agree the idea has merit, they authorize the group to start a Green Sanctuary program.

If your congregation operates under Policy Governance, the direction for this work will come in partnership with the Executive staff team (Minister, Justice Minister, Religious Education [RE] Director, etc.). Find suggestions about this here.

Introduce Green Sanctuary to the Congregation

At this point, it is likely that only a small number of people are aware the Green Sanctuary program started. However, the process cannot be successful or meaningful without the participation of the entire congregation.

  • Objectives: In the beginning, the team’s objectives are to raise awareness of the climate crisis and the capacity of the program to help congregational response. It will be critical to work with the Justice and Faith Formation teams to build understanding of the intersectional core of this work. Also important is generating a sense of possibility for a collective impact to build a sustainable and just world. Teams are more likely to succeed when they create a tone of support and enthusiasm for the congregation, and work to inspire commitment and active participation.
  • Methods: Every congregation has their own style of engaging congregants in important issues or programs. It can be particularly helpful if the team brainstorms with the congregation after sharing some of the information they have gathered.
  • Worship: Many choose to introduce Green Sanctuary during a Sunday worship service, since that is the best opportunity to reach the majority of congregants. Ideas on how to introduce Green Sanctuary during worship are listed here.
  • Coffee hour: Staffing a Green Sanctuary table at coffee hour is another way to get the word out, and facilitate participation in assessments and action plan activities.
  • Communications: Throughout the process, make use of all effective communications: announcements, newsletters, the congregation’s website, committee presentations, and so on.