Report: United Church of Christ Ranks High Among Faith-Based Providers of Nation’s Senior Housing

The United Church of Christ, despite being a relatively small Christian denomination, ranks sixth out of 18 U.S. faith traditions for the number of residences provided to older adults by church-related health and human service institutions, according to an analysis released this month by Ziegler, a major Chicago investment firm that specializes in health care.

The ranking was based on a market-rate analysis of the “LeadingAge 150,” which represents the 150 largest not-for-profit multi-site providers in the country.

With 10,504 market-rate residences provided by UCC-related institutions, the United Church of Christ ranked in the top tier of faith traditions compared in the survey.

The top providers, according to their denominational heritage, include:  #1 Lutheran (49,165 market-rate residences); #2 Presbyterian (34,502); #3 Methodist (25,009); #4 Non-Denominational Christian (17,764); #5 Baptist (11,571); and #6 United Church of Christ (10,504).

With a membership just under one million people in 5,100 churches, the UCC ranked above traditions with a much larger membership, including #7 Roman Catholic (5,650), #10 Jewish (4,865) and #13 Episcopal (3,766). (The study did stress, however, that Catholic provider counts are expected to be higher in subsequent reports as more have evolved into larger institutions previously not included in the “LeadingAge 150” list.)

The Ziegler report only looked at market-rate facilities, not subsidized or affordable housing which actually accounts for the bulk of UCC-related residences. According to the UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries (CHHSM), UCC communities collectively house just under 27,000 people total in subsidized, affordable or market-rate housing; operate 2,933 assisted living units for the elderly and people with disabilities; and care for 2,242 children in residential treatment facilities.

But UCC health and human service leaders still the see the report as significant, because when people desire to live in UCC-related housing, as opposed to for-profit facilities, it points to the strong reputation for quality that faith-based organizations have built over centuries of service.

“If we’re able to serve the least among us, it’s only natural that we would become known for our level of service for all people,” said Denise Rabidoux, president and CEO of UCC-related EHM Senior Solutions, based in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“I feel that the United Church of Christ historically provided skilled nursing care to seniors who otherwise might not have received it and, in the process, we established such trust and rapport with the broader public — because of the welcome and excellent care we provide – that people began to look to us to provide that same level of service and professionalism for people across the economic spectrum,” Rabidoux said.

The Rev. Kenneth V. Daniel, president and CEO of United Church Homes, based in Marion, Ohio, said the report demonstrates the changing nature of faith-based non-profits, which often formed to address a specific need but have evolved over time to meet additional needs.

“German Mission Houses, which are a significant part of the UCC’s health and human service tradition, started as needs-based ministries, addressing poverty, loneliness, neglect and social injustices,” Daniel said. “Then these residences began to branch out and offer infirmary services, then nursing homes with the advent of Medicare-skilled rehab. That led to communities with continuing care, assisted living and market-rate residences for middle-income families.”

“Faith-based organizations boast histories of changing with the times and for seeking out opportunities to serve the greater community,” Rabidoux emphasized. “The need to serve the wider community and to serve beyond the church’s walls calls us to offer a broad array of services, to grow our services so that more and more needs are being addressed.”

In total, faith-based affiliations account for 85 percent of all non-profit housing providers, the Ziegler study noted.

“In the not-for-profit sector of senior living, no one can dispute the significant role that faith-based organizations have played over the decades in providing housing and services to older adults,” said Lisa McCracken, Ziegler’s senior vice president for senior living research.

“Many of these initial senior communities were spearheaded by local churches, orders or congregations,” she said. “Faith-based not-for-profits play a significant role in the history of our sector and continue through today.”

“While it’s definitely not a competition, what is made clear by this report is the amazing heritage of the United Church of Christ and our longstanding commitment to affordable housing and senior health care services as central, not tangential, to the mission and ministry of the church,” said Michael J. Readinger, CHHSM’s president and CEO.

Readinger also pointed out that many of the faith traditions listed above the UCC are as much as 10 times the UCC’s size. “This is illustrative of our church leaders’ disproportionate passion, both past and present, to giving birth to and greatly expanding these important ministries.”

UCC-related housing and services are made available to anyone, without regard to church membership, affiliation or religious beliefs.

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