Kyle Meyaard-Schaap ’12 is the national organizer and spokesperson for the Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA), an organization that includes more than 10,000 young people.
For how committed he is to this movement,it may come as a surprise that for much of his young life he was a bystander to the issue. He describes being raised in a “beautiful community” that taught him “how to love Jesus, how to love the gospel.” But he admits that climate change was never on the radar.
Then, in 2007, his brother went on a study-abroad program to New Zealand through Calvin. There he studied the confluence of theology, ecology, and biology, and what it all meant for Christians and how they are called to care for the world.
When his brother returned, Meyaard-Schaap’s skepticism turned to intrigue.
“We had lots of really in-depth and important talks, and he started to share how these commitments grew out of his commitment to the gospel and what he and I were taught in our household, in our community.
“It was because of the commitment that my church, my school, my family instilled in me to the gospel, to loving God and loving my neighbor, that I discovered I needed to do something about climate change.”
And so he enrolled at Calvin. There he was surrounded by a community asking important questions about the connection between faith and justice issues. From witnessing the devastating effects of mountaintop removal on a local community during a service-learning trip to West Virginia, to attending lectures and panels representing a range of ideological view-points, to reading books and having discussions with professors and peers, Meyaard-Schaap’s Calvin journey cultivated his passion, deepened his understanding, and inspired him to action.
“Calvin taught me to own my faith, to not be ashamed of it, but to think rigorously about it. And to make sure I could represent it well in the public square and could contribute to the common good as I engage people that think differently than me,” he said.
In 2012, Meyaard-Schaap took a one-year position with the Office of Social Justice (OSJ) for the Christian Reformed Church. Given the Christian Reformed Church of North America’s recent endorsement of a strong climate position, his portfolio at OSJ soon focused on creation care and climate issues. This saw him traveling to Washington, D.C., where he built relationships with people and organizations in both the Christian creation care and non-faith-based environmental movements.
In 2013 he started volunteering on YECA’s steering committee, and in 2016, he stepped into his current role, which often finds him speaking on college campuses across the U.S.,meeting with legislators, and engaging national and international media all in the service of his primary mission: to effectively and winsomely communicate why young evangelicals take climate change seriously, precisely because of their faith and not in spite of it.
“Research says people aren’t moved by science or statistics, they are moved by values—someone who shares their identity inviting them to do something,” said Meyaard-Schaap. “We are the best messengers to reach our community on why this matters to us as Christians, why climate action connects to a life committed to the gospel.
“I don’t think just learning about the science or about the issue of climate change would’ve motivated me enough. If my faith would have remained divorced from my engagement with this issue, I’m not sure I would’ve had the tools to integrate them myself. I needed a place like Calvin to do that. And because they are so deeply integrated now, I can’t imagine doing anything else as a faithful follower of Christ.”