MC USA youth invited to participate in Energy and Spirit Challenge with $1,000 scholarship incentive


by Sarah Werner, originally published by Mennonite Church USA and can be found here

Participants at the Youth & Young Adult Climate Summit, July 7, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo.

Mennonite Creation Care Network is challenging young people to actively care for the planet through its Generation Z Energy and Spirit Challenge, which runs through April 2024. Jennifer Halteman Schrock, director of Mennonite Creation Care Network, describes the challenge as “a friendly competition to embrace our Anabaptist calling as earth keepers, reduce our carbon footprints, nurture environmental leadership, and utilize and bless the gifts of youth and young adults.” The challenge is primarily aimed at young MC USA constituents born between 1997-2012, known as Generation Z.

“Climate change, biodiversity loss, plastic pollution, chemical spills … Now, more than ever, all creation is groaning,” said Halteman Schrock. “But we are not powerless, and we are not alone. God loves to work with us and through us!”

Between now and April 15, 2024, young people are invited to respond to environmental needs in one of two categories: energy and Spirit. An example of an energy-oriented project is to reduce carbon emissions in a church building, congregation or local community and measure the savings. Examples of Spirit-oriented projects include creating a pollinator garden, addressing a food desert or helping to clean up after a natural disaster.

Participants can include youth groups, young adult groups, mentor-mentee pairs and other intergenerational combinations involving at least two people. Although all ages are invited to participate, only teams with at least one Gen Z member are eligible for prizes. All projects must be submitted by April 15, 2024.

One or two exceptional projects in each category will receive cash prizes toward an outdoor experience that nourishes participants’ relationships with creation. Ideas include: a camping trip in a national park, hiring an environmental educator for a day of guided hiking, or a church camp experience. Amounts will range from $500-$1,000, depending on group size. Since travel has a carbon cost, prizes will be limited to experiences within 200 miles of the participants’ church.

Participants who will graduate from high school in the classes of 2024, 2025, 2026 or 2027, and who are accepted at one of the following MC USA-affiliated schools will receive a $1,000 Energy and Spirit Grant as part of their financial aid package.

Participants enrolling in college for the 2024-25 school year must be registered by October 15, 2023, to be eligible for the grant.

Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, the MC USA denominational minister for Peace and Justice, said, “This project recognizes that we all share the responsibility to protect our planet and its resources in order to create a sustainable and equitable future for all of us.”

The deadline to register is October 15, 2023.

For more information, visit the Gen Z Energy and Spirit Challenge website. Register here.

Mennonite Creation Care Network is a peace and justice ministry of Mennonite Church USA (effective August 1, 2023), with support from Everence. Read more here.

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