activism climate change religion

Is the church failing young people on climate change?

There’s a new report out today that I did some work on. It’s from Tearfund and Youthscape, and it investigates young Christians’ attitudes to climate change. Here’s the headline finding:

9 out of 10 Christian young people are concerned about climate change.

Just 1 out of 10 think their church is doing enough about it.

The report investigates young people’s views on the climate and what they’d like the church to be doing. With the help of some focus groups, it digs into how they understand environmental action as an inseparable part of their faith, along with a concern for poverty, racism and injustice. This isn’t necessarily the case with older church-goers, or at least not to the same degree. It certainly isn’t reflected in the priorities of the church – two thirds of respondents said they’d never heard a sermon on climate change, and half said a church leader had never spoken to them about the topic in any context.

“When the world looks back at the church in two hundred years’ time,” says one participant, “will they think the church helped to stop climate change or were part of the problem? Will they view the church as a positive part of society which is a catalyst of change, or negative and outdated?”

These are questions that church leaders need to ask themselves, as they make new efforts to address the climate emergency, and to listen to their young people. Their relevance may depend on it.

Not that it should come as a surprise. These are questions that young people have been asking about institutions more generally. Many feel that their schools and universities are failing them on climate change. So are politicians and political parties, retailers and brands. Young people expect more. They are disatisfied and won’t accept apathy on the climate any longer.

“Being passive isn’t an option” says one of the focus group participants. That’s true for the church, and for wider society. It’s time to listen, and to act.

You can download the report here.

7 comments

  1. I think this will be a big challenge for churches. Historically, (with a minority of honourable exceptions) they tend to be a decade or three behind where society is moving. But none of us can afford that in this context.

  2. You young people are the breath of tomorrow, and your vision will be the only hope of this planet surviving.
    I commit to pray for you and encourage you. He bold and hope fast to the truth of an equal and fair world that is colour blind and structured through love.
    How can we help?

  3. Can’t help thinking about the dominant Church’s affiliation with the current government–must be one of the reasons?
    There’s an article last month that came out in The Guardian, I don’t know if you’re interested. The title is “The Conservatives think the Church of England can fill all welfare gaps.” Although the discussion was mainly about social welfare, it gave a background on the early ‘partnership’ between the Church and a leading political party in the UK.

    1. To me things seem a whole lot more complex and messy than a dominant church having affiliation with the current government, and that being a factor in ‘The Church’ as a whole not addressing climate concerns? Are you sure there even is a dominant church? The pie chart on this web page seems to suggest not:
      https://faithsurvey.co.uk/uk-christianity.html
      And I thought the Guardian article was more describing how *some* Tories (maybe not all?) might in some ways like to ‘slope shoulders’ onto the church, but Anglican leaders being unhappy about that? Saying the C of E is *no longer* the Tory party at prayer also doesn’t seem to support a strong overall affilation

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