I’m a fun girl, really. Like all children’s ministers, I like playing games outside, making slime, and getting smeared with shaving cream. But I have a dark side, too. In my spare time, I watch documentaries on Netflix. My husband shudders every time I watch a new one and get convicted. Lately, I’ve been asking some hard questions about children’s ministry and social justice.
Take, for example, the lovely annual Easter Egg Hunt. We order hundreds of plastic eggs and plastic toys for our hunt. We have tables (covered in plastic disposable tablecloths) with prepackaged crafts from cheap online companies. After we’re done, all this plastic will go into the trash and end up maybe in a landfill where it will take 400 years to rot. Or maybe float around in an ocean.
Let’s go a little further. Where did these products come from? Indonesia? Bangladesh? China? Certainly somewhere where overhead is low enough to produce cheap disposable goods for Americans. Many workers in these countries are not paid living wages and work in unsafe working conditions. The production of the items often produce pollution which harms the people who live and work there.
Life was easier when I didn’t know these things. Ecclesiastes 1:18 says “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” It truly grieves me that people suffer, especially for my convenience, for my easy disposable lifestyle. I can’t be a follower of Christ and not be concerned about our brothers and sisters around the world. The prophet Isaiah (1:17) tells us, “Learn to do good; seek justice; correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” When we buy cheap goods from these companies, we are supporting oppression with our dollars. When we live with mounds of disposable goods, we are contributing to pollution. Make no mistake, pollution and environmental issues are elements of social justice, too. Poor people pay the bulk of the price for our choices. You generally won’t find rich people living near trash heaps or drinking from polluted water sources.
If you haven’t thought about this issue until right now, let me reassure you: hyperventilating is normal. Sometimes, I feel crippled by the weight of my conscience and the challenge of doing ministry different. But this can be a teachable moment, too.
I’ve had age-appropriate conversations with my kids about where our stuff comes from. Who makes it? How does it make us feel when we buy something new? How long does it take until that feeling goes away and we want to buy something else? Maybe we are trying to fill a hole in our hearts with “stuff” when only God can fill it up. If we’re honest, we will see that we live a consumer lifestyle that thrives on our constant “need” for entertainment, convenience, or just something new. I hope my kids learn sooner than I did that peace comes from Jesus and not a purchase. I hope they’ll choose to live simply and give generously.
So what have I done to help with this problem? We recycled our Easter eggs this year (parents and kids could turn them back in to reuse next year). We don’t do prizes at church or have goodie bags. We try to use recyclable paper products or use real plates if the group is small enough. You can even find biodegradable eating utensils on Amazon and they’re not expensive. Baby steps, y’all.
VBS is coming up next. Lord, have mercy on my brand-new environmental soul! I’m gonna do my best. I’m sorry if I made you hyperventilate and I’d like to reiterate that I am, indeed, a truly fun girl.
I would LOVE to hear what you do in your ministry to avoid unethically made products or reduce your waste? Let’s help each other out!
Ecclesiastes 1:18 says “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”
Connect with Amy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.