“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17
Table of Contents:
Building a stewardship plan is critical for successfully integrating creation care into your institutional culture. A stewardship plan defines your institution’s creation care goals and describes the long-term vision forgetting there. It should be comprehensive, yet achievable.
The best stewardship plans are fully integrated across all institutional levels.
A strong institutional stewardship plan should:
- Clearly communicate your institution’s creation care goals and values.
- Inspire, challenge, and give language to the cause.
- Engage all stakeholders on key creation care topics.
- Address sustainability issues of particular importance within your institutional context.
- Establish timelines and guidelines for initiating, evaluating, reporting, and recognizing next steps and successes.
- Identify the institution’s current strengths and weaknesses in areas related to creation care.
View Garrett-Evangelical’s stewardship plan.
Creating a sustainable campus requires cultural change across an institution and therefore benefits greatly from participation and investment from all departments. From the president or dean to the newest student, from tenured faculty to the custodial staff, the goal is for creation care to become second nature. Ideally, the Stewardship Team will reflect the institution as a whole and have access to the administration at the highest level. The 7-step process below is designed to help you get started.
Step 1: Form a planning group
The planning group should be composed of three to five people who are genuinely invested in the success of the stewardship team, and should ideally include at least one higher level decision maker (such as a vice president or dean). Including the right people is crucial — in particular, those who are already invested in creation care principles, practices, and teaching, and those who can provide appropriate guidance for officially forming a new seminary team/committee. The planning group will likely require several meetings to discuss and determine details about the stewardship team; the group should try to accomplish this within one to six months. The primary goals of this planning group will be to determine what, who, and how.
Step 2: Determine the stewardship team’s scope of responsibility (what?)
The first, and perhaps most important, step in the planning process involves determining what the stewardship team will do. The scope of the stewardship team’s responsibilities can vary greatly and might include such elements as event planning and coordination, curricular development, institutional guidance and leadership, and co-curricular program design. Ultimately, what the stewardship team will do is up to each individual seminary, and should reflect appropriate institutional goals and structures. What is important is that the team has a clear set of goals and the authority to act. Listed below are some possible areas of responsibility for the stewardship team. At a minimum, the Seminary Stewardship Alliance recommends focusing on at least the first four sections.
- Identifying key areas for institutional action on creation care: This first step involves assisting other institutional departments, offices, and personnel in identifying creation care opportunities within their area.
- Recommending institutional policies based on creation care principles, such as:
- Purchasing policies (with particular emphasis on paper products, electronics, and appliances with Energy Star ratings)
- Grounds keeping practices (including areas such as pesticide use and treeremoval and replacement guidelines)
- New construction policy (for example, building only LEAD certified new structures or requiring a net zero additional energy use for any construction adding to overall campus square footage)
- Socially responsible investing (integrating social and environmental concerns into existing investment protocols)
- Overseeing the institution’s sustainability metrics and reports: Measuring institutional progress toward creation care goals is vital for making and reporting on improvements in environmental sustainability on your campus. Many valuable tools exist to assist with this process and to provide outside accountability, including AASHE’s STARS program, the ACUPCC President’s Climate Commitment, and the Global Reporting Initiative.
- Advocating for creation care on campus: Advocacy can take many forms, but generally involves promoting visibility, support, and understanding of creation care issues among diverse institutional constituencies.
- Planning and/or overseeing creation care events, programs, and activities: This area presents opportunities for collaboration with a number of departments, particularly student, community, and spiritual life programming staff. While the department staff might plan the logistical details of such events, the stewardship team can provide expertise and vision for such programs, and can help tie them into broader institutional creation care initiatives.
- Providing educational opportunities, materials, and training for faculty and staff: Many seminary personnel may be interested in creation care but feel uninformed about important issues or unsure of how to get involved. The stewardship team can provide professional development opportunities, faculty/staff retreats, informational sessions at faculty and staff meetings, and creation care resources. Many of these opportunities could be accomplished in partnership with the Dean’s office, human resources, and other seminary departments.
- Assisting student organizations with creation care goals: Partnering with student organizations can both expand the reach of the stewardship team and provide a base of student volunteers for implementation of programs. In return, the student organizations can benefit from the expertise and long term perspective of stewardship team members.
Step 3: Select key players for the team (who?)
This begins with identifying key stakeholders – those who will be most impacted by or involved in stewardship team actions. The questions below can help determine important stakeholders:
- Who has the necessary expertise regarding the above areas of responsibility?
- Who will be most heavily involved in the types of actions taken by the stewardship team?
- Who will be most invested in the creation care goals of the stewardship team?
- Who can most effectively implement the above action items?
Stakeholders will vary among institutions but should at a minimum include representatives from the faculty, student or residence life, and physical plant/maintenance. It’s also helpful to include student representatives and an upper-level administrator – such as a vice president, dean, or associate dean – on the team. Be sure that the structure is flexible enough to accommodate individuals who might not fit into key categories, but who have valuable knowledge or skills to contribute. Try to include all key constituencies, but avoid overloading the team with more than twelve team members. In many instances, members of the planning committee will continue to serve on the stewardship team.
Step 4: Determine the stewardship team’s reporting structure (how?)
Another element of the stewardship team’s success involves how it is integrated into the structure of your institution. Two recommended approaches include making the team a standing committee of the faculty or having the team report directly to an executive administrator. The advantage of creating the stewardship team as a formal committee lies in its official standing and participatory nature. Standing committees encourage broad participation and are widely accepted as important contributors to decision making processes and educational initiatives. Possible downsides to this approach may include less decision making power and control over membership.
The greatest advantage of having a stewardship team that reports directly to a supportive executive administrator is access to high level decision making. Recommended policies and practices can be implemented more smoothly and quickly with top level support. A possible downside is less broadly based buy in should the faculty be divided or uncertain regarding specific creation care initiatives.
With either approach, having a supportive administrator to champion the team’s activities and keeping the faculty well informed are both critical to the team’s success. Another important element involves linking the stewardship team to student organizations and co-curricular programming staff, as mentioned above.
Step 5: Follow logistical protocols
Follow structural protocols necessary for formally establishing whichever structure is determined most appropriate for the stewardship team. Be sure that important constituencies are consulted in the process, including those who might serve as roadblocks. Including such potential opponents in the initial brainstorming process can often defuse their objections and help get the stewardship team off to a strong start. If possible, advocate for a stewardship team budget from the outset, even if it’s a very small allocation. It’s often easier to create a budget line along with a new initiative than it is to add one later.
Step 6: Formally launch the stewardship team.
The processes for doing this will vary from school to school but will generally require some sort of approval from the faculty, a faculty committee, the dean, and/or the president. This will be the last action of the planning group before launching the stewardship team.
It may be valuable to consider kicking off the establishment of the stewardship team with a major event, such as a conference, campus wide Earth Day celebration, creation care emphasis week, or key lecture. This will help bring publicity to the team and signal its importance to the institution. It will also help create momentum and enthusiasm toward accomplishing important stewardship team goals.
Step 7: Communicate visible support
Ask the president and other executive officers to demonstrate their support for the stewardship team by highlighting it in appropriate places, such as institutional publications, faculty and staff meetings, and Board of Trustees communications. This support will help establish an institutional culture that is supportive of creation care.
- Review the SSA covenant with key stakeholders and begin identifying ways to integrate sustainability into the mission.
- Appoint one to three SSA Liaisons to lead stewardship initiatives on campus and to represent the institution in the SSA.
- Assemble a Stewardship Team by:
- Forming a planning group
- Determining the stewardship team’s scope of responsibility
- Identifying key members of the team
- Determining a reporting structure
- Following logistical protocols
- Officially launching the stewardship team
- Communicating visible support for the team
The stewardship team will then:
- Develop a stewardship plan
- Assign individual responsibility for sections of the plan
- Establish timelines and goals
- Implement the stewardship plan
On a regular basis, the stewardship team will:
- Review the stewardship plan
- Assess progress
- Revise the stewardship plan as appropriate
- Rotate new members onto the stewardship team
In many instances, appointment of a sustainability coordinator will be a long-term outcome of the stewardship team. This staff member will have sustainability as his or her primary daily focus and will be committed to supporting the team on an ongoing basis.