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Getting to Yes: How to Convince others to Green your Faith Building


Almost every faith community wants to improve their building, lower energy costs and be more environmentally-friendly; but there is also a shared worry that sabotages our desires- the worry we don’t know how to accomplish it all and overcome the naysayers.

You are not alone

Even some of the most successful faith communities that made big, expensive changes to their building had the same worries, but in time, got to a place of ‘yes’.

Installation of Geothermal System

Anglican Church of the Incarnation in Oakville, Ontario went bold when they decided to implement a geo-thermal system to replace a 20-year-old HVAC system. It would cost an additional one-third of the price of a traditional HVAC system; it was an unknown technology to most of the congregation; and no one was sure if the changes were worth the large price tag. It was a risky proposition resulting in a two-year long debate about cost, technology, and necessity, and at times, causing a house divided. It was enough to make most of us run away and hide behind our own deteriorating HVAC systems.

But armed with information, costs, and most of all, the desire to do the right thing for the environment and its faith community, the ‘green team’ at Anglican Church of the Incarnation persevered. They created PowerPoint presentations; had comparison charts; looked at both the pros and cons in a fair manner; brought in experts to talk with the community; and when they didn’t know the answer, they found it. At other times, they simply reflected.

“We always felt it was important to be responsive and proactive with the environment. We have always tried to be a green building,” said Michael Patterson, the priest at Church of the Incarnation. “But we had to decide, are we going to make a short-sighted decision or be long-sighted and take a risk? Geothermal is a far lesser risk than doing nothing about the environment.”

Stare ‘no’ in the face and give it an answer

Incarnation learned you can’t stop at the ‘no’; rather, move closer to it.  Why are people saying no? What are they worried about? Find the answers and help them get to a place of yes by acknowledging their concerns, over and over.

“Yes, I hear what you are saying.”

“Yes, I can provide more information to answer your questions.”

“Yes, let’s get the experts in here to help guide us.”

But this is not a blog about implementing a geo-thermal system in your faith community. It’s about recognizing we all have a responsibility to the environment to do all we can do, including overcoming the discomfort of facing people who want to tell you ‘no’ to replacing the furnace; no to weather-stripping the windows; or no to recycling.  As Michael Patterson states, “We need to be uncomfortable. Maybe we will no longer use plastic water bottles in the building and so we have to wash a lot of dishes and people will complain. Make the decision to change your culture and your behaviour.”

Just don’t walk away from a place of ‘no’. The environment won’t forgive us for accepting ‘no’ as an answer.

Launch of the geo-thermal system at Anglican Church of the Incarnation

Michael Patterson’s top 5 strategies to get to ‘yes’

1. Get your data ready; give presentations how changes will save money and mitigate the use of fossil fuels; people need to believe in what you are doing to support it and give money.

2. Constantly tell your story over and over again and keep communicating; keep people informed where you are along the path.

3. Put together a team of committed people including external advisors and knowledgeable people who will attend meetings and answer more challenging questions.

4. If people say no, have a dialogue with them. Why they are saying no? What are they worried about? Find the answers and work around the ‘no’.

5. It’s okay if meetings get heated! Be proud of what you are doing and stick with it.

Interested in learning about geo-thermal systems?

Listen to the webinar hosted by Michael Patterson and Mac Morrison of the Church of the Incarnation. Click here for the recording and a list of all our webinars.


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