Stage 1 Action Steps: Building A Team and Educating the Congregation about Green Sanctuary

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.

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. 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 comprised 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 and ensure the required steps are completed. The Green Sanctuary team could be called a committee, ministry, or whatever term is customary in your congregation.

  • 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), planning projects, providing resources and logistical support, communicating with other leaders and staff, and preparing required documentation. The team’s key role is to act as environmental 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.
  • 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 design specific projects, seek input outside your team, 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.”).

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 is 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, only a small number of people are aware the Green Sanctuary program’s 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 program, generate support and enthusiasm, and inspire commitment and active participation.
    Generally, the congregation is asked to formally approve Green Sanctuary participation at a later stage. In some cases, the Board or congregation may call a congregational vote at the start of the process. If this happens, it is still the team’s first task to build awareness and support before asking for approval.
    It can be particularly helpful if the team brainstorms with the congregation after sharing some of the information they have gathered.
  • Methods: Every congregation has their own style of engaging congregants in important issues or programs.
  • 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.