Tree graphic with leaves that look like hands, painted on burlap
Photo credit: Pixabay_GerdAltmann

One body? Nurturing Common Good within the denomination

By Jennifer Henry

“As it is, there are many parts, but one body…If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” 1st Corinthians 20, 26

How could congregations across the country directly benefit from the resources a national organization has access to? How can the strengths of one part of the church help another part? Are there some services or functions that, if handled more efficiently, can free up time and resources for local ministry?

These are some of the key questions the General Council Office is exploring under the strategic objective entitled Common Good. Nurturing the Common Good: Equity and Sustainability in Resources is one of six strategic objectives that make up the General Council Office’s Strategic Plan (2023-2025).

While interested in very practical issues like improving efficiencies, resource-sharing and financial sustainability, this objective has an important theological root: the image of the Body of Christ. Here, the church is challenged and inspired by the vision of working together as a body, each contributing to the whole. This requires us to be connected across our diversities as our vision statement, adopted by the General Council in October of 2021, says: …The United Church seeks be to a bold, connected and evolving church.”

The Common Good Objective: 

Significantly increase denominational capacity and will to make decisions on properties and resources focused on the ministry of the whole church, enhancing equity, sustainability, right relations and administrative efficiency and effectiveness.

The Common Good objective invites us to be the body of Christ, working together to support each other in all that we do.

One initiative under Common Good is the denomination’s new self-insurance program: UCC Protect United. While the rushing of the program rollout created some administrative hurdles, the program has already saved congregations $2 million in premiums. Our choice to be “all in it together” is paying off as we continue to reduce risk and claims—and therefore premiums. This program harvested the capacity that only a national organization of our scope and scale could muster, and has turned it into savings for local communities.

Another example is the popular monthly webinars that provide guidance and support to congregation treasurers. Taking our cue from their success, we are now looking at how this model could be expanded to provide additional support to other technical roles and functions, such as the congregational role of staff employer or governance best practices. Under this objective, there is also significant work related to strengthening the efficiency and effectiveness of the General Council Office and its functions.

The Common Good is led by the Executive Officer of Philanthropy and Foundation President, Sarah Charters, and a team of national and regional staff who are dedicated to stewardship, information technology, planning and legal services. See Our Call and Vision  or more information on the overall Strategic Plan or the specific areas under the Common Good Strategic Objective.

Jennifer Henry is the Executive Minister for Organizational Development and Strategy.