Heber Brown, III
Church Composting Programs Can Enhance Youth Ministry
For Earth Day 2022, The Black Church Food Security Network partnered with my home church - Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore County - to relaunch the garden that we helped them to establish prior to the pandemic. The garden relaunch was exciting and brought many church and community members out to celebrate the return to the land.
As part of the event, we led the church in building a 3 bin compost system from wooden pallets that were in the church dumpster. I had the idea to help this congregation to start composting and bring their kitchen scraps to worship with them on Sundays to be collected. A congregational compost program would give all of the members of the church an opportunity to meaningfully connect with the garden - whether they had a "green thumb" or not.
A congregational composting program helps to build up the soil around the church, divert food scraps from the waste stream and heightens awareness of environmental concerns in a digestible way.
Building the 3 bin composting system at my home church, also created an opportunity to engage the young people of the congregation. The children and teens are often my most enthusiastic ambassadors for our garden-related projects. After worship service on Sunday, I usually head to the garden or composting bins - still in my church clothes - in order to drop off my compost. Others take notice. Children come to help me shovel and adult members stop by with intrigue, family stories, and good questions.
My example is inspiring others to follow suit and even support.
Recently, one of the associate ministers of Shiloh, Rev. Dr. Naomi Mackall, had the great idea to buy simple composting bags for church members to help them collect their kitchen scraps. She bought the bags and brought them to church for us to use. Soon, we'll pass them out to members so that the respective households of the church can join in on the composting fun.
I'll start by identifying the children and teens that have expressed interest in composting over the past year. I'll do a lesson with them about the benefits of composting and then we'll review together what items are compostable and what is not. I'll give them the mission to take the lead in their home of collecting the kitchen scraps during their week. Once we get used to it, I may bring some healthy competition to the table; seeing who can bring the most pounds of compost each week and offering prizes to the winning family.
I'll make the children and youth of the church my composting ambassadors at Shiloh. Because I've been tasked with creating the curriculum this year for the church's Vacation Bible School program this summer, I'll also write a lesson that centers the spiritual connections and theological significance of composting from an African American perspective.
I'm excited to continue to watch this youth-centered composting program grow at Shiloh Baptist Church. As we learn from this experience, I'll prepare to help other churches to do the same.