It is a great privilege to work for the United Church of Christ!
I had an unusual day recently. Churches contacted me regarding:
A poorly managed incident in a day care program;
The termination of a lay staff member for misconduct;
Conflict over endowment spending, and a
Payroll administration problem needing a legal and diplomatic solution.
I didn’t make much progress on other tasks! I hope I provided competent support while recognizing the limits of my own expertise. (First, do no harm!) Let’s imagine that the four churches felt well supported by the Conference that day. No, actually, most of the members of each church had no clue that the Conference provided any support for their congregation. There may have been a handful of people, or only one person, who felt well supported. Furthermore, there were 230-something other churches in the Conference that I didn’t do much to support that day. I know that many people view administration as a diversion of resources from mission. But didn’t I have a positive impact that day?
I tell people that the work of the Conference staff is worthy of support. I am confident of this. We help churches to be more spiritually vital and financially viable. We help churches to have a greater impact on the world. I know some people are disappointed that their contributions to the Conference are not translated more directly into charitable relief efforts – feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and other good and necessary work. This is no longer our mission. Churches engage in this essential work directly. We help churches to have greater impact.
There are days when I think I might be more effective working on the “front lines.” Basically, we (myself and many other Conference staff) are in logistics. I comfort myself that more battles have been won through superior logistics than acts of individual heroism or brilliant tactics, but still… I confess that there are times when more direct engagement in ministry is appealing.
I know that there is one Spirit, but many gifts. I have gifts for management and administration. I help keep the financial affairs of the Conference in good order. I help my colleagues on the staff and at churches in lots of ways. Yet for all the work I and my staff colleagues do, there is only so much we can do to help churches avoid problems and to be their best selves. (Every Conference staff member dreams that congregational folks would first hear and then, after reflection, actually act upon our counsel! Some do. Some don’t.)
It is a great privilege to work here. The work can be meaningful and rewarding, but sometimes it can also be frustrating. I imagine many others working for the church in some capacity, especially clergy, feel the same way. Let’s support each other!
Charlie Kuchenbrod is the Executive Associate Conference Minister for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
Many Voices, One Mission is a regular series highlighting the ministries of the
CT, MA, and RI Conference of the United Church of Christ.
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