I often take long bike rides through the agricultural regions around Santa Rosa. The vineyards are beautiful, and I’ve noticed frequent signs stating, “This is a sustainable farm.” Not having farming roots myself, I wasn’t sure exactly what sustainable farming practices entailed. I assumed things like efficient water usage, crop rotation, and letting the ground lie fallow periodically so as to allow the soil to build up its nutrients.
Indeed, those are all part of the equation, but when I looked up sustainable farming I discovered much more. The descriptions below appeared in a paper on sustainable farming published by the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis. Take a look at some of these statements and consider how they could also apply to churches and ministries. The church parallels are in bold:
“Sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Ministry cannot just be about meeting needs now, but also about developing leaders for the future.
“In sustainable systems, the soil is viewed as a fragile and living medium that must be protected and nurtured to ensure its long-term productivity and stability.” For any long-term sustainability, churches must stay connected to the Holy Spirit and maintain healthy DNA.
“Sustainable farmers… maximize reliance on natural, renewable, and on-farm inputs.” Rather than trucking in outside experts, we need to look first at the resources we already have present in our local congregations and tap into those.
“A systems perspective is essential to understanding sustainability. The system is envisioned in its broadest sense, from the individual farm, to the local ecosystem, and to communities affected by this farming system both locally and globally.” Good ministry isn’t just about the church—it’s about the impact on the wider community also.
Take a look at this list of general sustainable farming practices– also from the article cited above— and see how they can apply to ministries and churches. I’d love to see your parallels in the comments section.