UCBMA is the United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance. Our mission is to provide direct support to authorized ministers and lay church employees of the United Church of Christ whose circumstances call for compassionate responses and to offer specialized initiatives and insightful witness to promote sustainable ministry within the church. Through the generosity of generations of members and friends, the UCBMA is able to make a tangible difference for those who have served, and are serving, the United Church of Christ.
UCBMA was founded in 1885 to provide relief to clergy and their spouses/partners in retirement when there was no federal Social Security and personal annuity/retirement accounts were uncommon. The Pension Boards (PBUCC) was formed in 1914 to help clergy to plan for their own retirement, rather than having to rely on the charity of the UCBMA. Consequently, the UCC Constitution holds together this dual purpose of the Pension Boards: to provide ministerial relief activities and a system of employee benefits programs.
UCBMA is a subsidiary corporation of the Pension Boards with its own Board of Directors, some of whom are Trustees of the Pension Boards. The Pension Boards offers an array of benefits programs for active and retired authorized ministers and lay church workers, and UCBMA serves as its charitable arm, offering compassionate responses to those who need assistance and programs to enhance and empower the vitality of ministry in various settings of the church.
As early as the 17th century, church members recognized that there was little safety net for their clergy - much less for their widows and children if the minister died young. Consequently, relief societies were organized to provide for the basic retirement needs of clergy, and their widows and children. UCBMA, the corporation that combined many of these earlier relief efforts, was established in 1908. Each of the four predecessor bodies that gave birth to the United Church of Christ in 1957 had national or regional entities ensuring this vital safety net. Today, UCBMA is the central resource in the United Church of Christ for those in need of assistance, and also provides new programs to ensure the vitality and well-being of those who serve the Church.
UCBMA provides direct assistance and program support to active or retired authorized ministers and their spouses/partners as well as lay church employees. There are seven grants that offer direct support to those in need: small pension supplementation; health benefits supplementation for retirees; emergency grants; grants for annuity or health insurance for new church start pastors; grants for retired or disabled clergy/lay employees; scholarships to children of disabled or deceased clergy; and the tradition of providing "thank you" checks at Christmastime to lower-income retirees and their spouses/partners. Additionally, UCBMA underwrites and oversees two programs that provide care and sustainability in ministry: the Annuitant Visitors, who connect with more than 6,000 annuitants each year and the Next Generation Leadership Initiative (NGLI), which seeks to equip, energize and empower younger UCC ministers to build up vibrant congregations that change lives and further God's mission in the world.
While retirees most frequently benefit from its assistance programs, UCBMA is committed to the well-being of all of those who serve in the United Church of Christ. That includes direct assistance to active authorized ministers, lay church employees in certain circumstances, and spouses/partners of all of the above.
Leaders of Conferences and Associations are often in the best position to be aware of assistance needs, so communication between UCBMA and these leaders is a vital aspect of this ministry. Often, needs are communicated from regional leaders; UCBMA is then able to directly respond to individuals. Some Conferences and Associations have their own funds for ministerial relief and UCBMA works with these entities to ensure adequate support is shared. It is through these covenantal relationships that assistance to those who need it most is achieved.
The Directors of UCBMA and the Trustees of PBUCC are acutely aware of the changing nature of ministry in the United Church of Christ and the need for local church pastors who are fully and faithfully equipped to be transformative leaders in this highly demanding calling. Believing that an investment of resources in those just beginning their authorized ministries would not only contribute to vibrant congregations that change lives, but create a generation of resilient, happy, and healthy leaders, UCBMA created NGLI and continues to contribute its resources as a timely and essential offering to the wider church. A video that introduces NGLI can be viewed here.
Annuitant Visitors are retired authorized ministers who call on retirees to provide an intentional and direct connection with PBUCC and its programs, answer questions about benefits and options, and maintain a consistent and helpful relationship with those who have served the church. Annuitant Visitors are ambassadors of the wider church family, affirming that the service of retirees continues to be valued and appreciated. There are about 180 Annuitant Visitors across the country, calling annually on some 6,000 annuitants and their spouses/partners.
The Christmas Fund for Veterans of the Cross and the Emergency Fund is one of the four annual Special Mission Offerings of the United Church of Christ. Gifts to the Christmas Fund support four of the direct assistance ministries of UCBMA (small pension supplementation, health benefits supplementation for annuitants, emergency grants, and Christmas Thank You checks). For more than a century, congregations across the United Church of Christ have received the offering during the Advent or Christmas season, responding in love to the needs of those who have served. Gifts to the Christmas Fund are welcomed throughout the year. CLICK HERE for more information.
Each year, UCBMA is funded by gifts to the Christmas Fund, direct contributions by individuals to specific UCBMA programs, the interest on legacy gifts given to the organization over the years, and by a portion of the UCC's national offering, Our Church's Wider Mission. In 2015, about $3 million was disbursed as direct support and about $650,000 was utilized in programs that support those who serve the church.