YOUNG PEOPLE might leave the Church because of its inaction on climate change: only one in ten young Christians think that their church is doing enough to respond to the climate emergency, a study by Tearfund and Youthscape Centre for Research has found.
A survey of Christian young people, Burning Down the House: How the Church could lose young people over climate inaction, launched last June, found that 90 per cent of respondents were concerned about the climate crisis, but only nine per cent believed that their church was doing enough to respond to it. Two-thirds said that they had not heard climate change mentioned in a sermon, and only one third said that they thought Christian leaders were concerned about the issue.
The survey questioned 630 Christian young people, aged between 14 and 19, and a separate series of focus groups interviewed 23 Christian climate activists and young black Christians aged between 16 and 23. In one of these, respondents said that their own climate activism was motivated by their faith. Eighty-six per cent of those surveyed said that their faith motivated them to care about injustice.
Respondents said that they wanted their church to show them how to make a difference in the world, and also to offer them opportunities to press for change, the study said.
Rebekah Wilson, aged 21, a medical student in Glasgow, who took part in the research, said: “By ignoring climate justice, or placing it lower on our priority lists, we are overlooking the very real concerns, livelihoods, and lives of God’s children across the globe, who are currently harmed by climate change.”
She said that urgent action was needed now to care for those affected. “It may be too late to reverse what we’ve done to the earth, but it’s not too late to show the just love of Jesus to our neighbours.”
The director of global advocacy and influencing at Tearfund, Dr Ruth Valerio, said: “This survey is clear: young people want the Church to listen and act now. If it does not, it will fail the living planet that God loves and calls us to protect.
“Churches must use their platforms to listen to their young people and stand up for the most vulnerable in the world who are facing the climate crisis head-on with life-threatening consequences, like droughts, famines, and more severe weather events.”
The climate emergency ranked second among the concerns that Christian young people had about the world — behind racism, sexism, and homophobia — but many of those interviewed made connections between racism and the climate crisis.