Today we hear so much in the news about what’s wrong with today’s young people: they’re selfish, apathetic, and easily distracted. They spend all their time on their phones, and little of it in nature.
Recently, my husband, Matthew, and I had the privilege of spending a few days in Colorado with several hundred college and seminary students who give the coming generation a good name. These students are part of A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP). This summer, they will be leading worship services on Sundays in national parks, serving as chaplains to visitors and staff while also working for the park concessioners.
Blessed Earth’s partnership with ACMNP began seven years ago when our friend, Spencer Lundgaard, became their executive director. A Christian Ministry in the National Parks is a grassroots, student-led ministry that started in Yellowstone National Park in 1951 with the dream of providing Christian community for the people working in, living in, and visiting the first national park in the world.
Today, ACMNP lives its mission by sending 200 ministry team members into 75 locations in 25 national parks from Alaska to the Virgin Islands. Over 30,000 people worship together in ACMNP services every year, experiencing the glory of God by seeing it firsthand.
Several years ago, Spencer invited us to meet with his trustees and advisors. Specifically, Spencer wanted us to help cast a vision for intentionally integrating creation care with their ministry. Our hope was to help ACMNP share a Christian interpretation of the awe and grandeur of God’s creation.
In April, Matthew and I had the honor of formally commissioning nearly 100 first-ever stewardship advocates. These young people are tasked with connecting the Creator with his creation as a foundation of all they do. It was a moving ceremony, full of the Holy Spirit’s presence, as well as a clear affirmation of Blessed Earth’s capacity to multiply through synergistic partnerships.
If you visit a National Park this summer, I hope you will make it a point to attend the Sunday worship service and encourage these young ACMNP volunteers. They are the future of our church. And from everything we experienced in Colorado, that future looks bright!
Nancy Sleeth is co-founder and managing director of Blessed Earth, a nonprofit that “inspires and equips people of faith to become better stewards of the earth.” She is the author of Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life and Go Green, Save Green.