10 December 2022

Young Christians worried about climate, but ministers wary of topic 

Climate change is a major concern for most young Australian Christians. Picture: Supplied.

Stephen Cauchi 

24 April 2022

Most young Christians are concerned about climate change, according to an extensive study of young Australian Christians’ attitudes towards climate change. 

And many young want their church to take action on climate change, with steps such as reducing waste. 

Nearly all church leaders are concerned about climate change according to the same study, by Christian relief and development agency Tearfund.  

But many leaders were reluctant to preach about it or otherwise take action, the study found. 

Named They Shall Inherit the Earth the study has been billed as “the most comprehensive study to date” of young Australian Christians’ attitudes towards climate change.  

It examined opinions of climate change held by Christians aged 18 to 40 and church leaders. 

Tearfund Australia chief executive Matthew Maury said 97 per cent of church leaders surveyed said that they believed Christians had a responsibility to care for the environment. 

Mr Maury said that while this was an encouraging result, there was a disconnect between that support and the number of ministers who were talking about it from the pulpit. 

“Younger Christians in Australia … have said that climate justice is a big issue for them. They are concerned by their view that leaders in general, but certainly in the church, are not doing their part in speaking up and addressing this issue,” he said. 

“The survey report found that many ministers actually are not making [climate change] a focus of the way they preach.” 

Mr Maury said only 26 per cent of church leaders said they viewed caring for creation as an essential part of church mission. Another 26 per cent viewed caring for creation as part of mission, but said other mission activities were more important. 

A further 40 per cent did not regard creation care as mission, but instead as a responsibility. A minority – 5 per cent – said care for creation should not be a priority at all. 

Nearly half agreed that the local church was not doing enough on climate change. Thirty-four per cent the local church was doing enough, and five per cent said it was doing too much. 

The report also found that 35 per cent of senior church leaders said they rarely preached on environmental matters. 

Mr Maury said church leaders were often reluctant to preach on climate change because it was viewed as a very polarizing issue. Many also did not feel equipped to preach on such issues, as it wasn’t an issue during their study. 

Mr Maury said it was concerning that younger Christians might be feeling less connected to church, because of its lack of action on climate change. 

But he said the upside was that the church had a huge opportunity to speak up about something high on the priority list for young Christians. 

The study also showed that the younger the Christian, the more likely they were to be concerned about climate change.  

Furthermore, young Christians believed Christians aged over 40 didn’t care as much about climate change as what they did. 

Young Christians were asked in the study what activities they wanted their church to do to reduce climate change. 

The top answer, given by 73 per cent, was reducing waste. Switching energy provider or using solar energy came in 53 per cent.  

Young Christians who attended church at least monthly named their top three issues of global concern as pandemics, climate change, poverty, terrorism and racial division. 

In other findings among 18-40 year-old Christians: 

  • 80 per cent were willing to take action to tackle climate change in the next 12 months. Most acknowledged that the world’s poor would suffer from inaction. 
  • The younger the participant, the more likely they were to have donated money, signed a petition, and spoken to friends or colleagues about climate change. Those under 30 were significantly more likely to have voted in an election based on climate policy, and posted on social media about climate change.  
  • 86 per cent thought that climate change was happening and two-thirds of those thought that humans were largely causing it. Christians under 30 were significantly more likely to think climate change could be attributed to human activity. 
  • 48 per cent thought immediate action was needed to address climate change, while 38 per cent thought action was needed in the next five years. The younger the participant, the more likely they were to favour immediate action.  
  • 64 per cent thought that church denominations had a responsibility to act on climate change. 66 per cent thought that local churches had a responsibility to act on climate change.  
  • Only one in ten thought local churches or denominations had no role to play. About a quarter were neutral or unsure.  

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