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 Will they view the church as a positive part of society which is a catalyst of change, or negative and outdated?”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.