By Kelly Roberson, The South Georgia Conference of The UMC, Director of Conference Ministries/Communications
Overseeing the finances of an entire United Methodist Annual Conference is a high calling.
The Rev. Dr. Derek McAleer has faithfully lived out this calling as the Director of Administrative Services/Treasurer for the South Georgia Conference, where the amount of information and responsibility is constantly growing and the load of financial, legal, and administrative decision making is a large task.
This week, after 8 years of service as the Director, Dr. McAleer announces his retirement effective December 31, 2022.
“It has been an honor and joy to serve the South Georgia Conference,” said Dr. McAleer. “I look forward to finishing out our work together.”
Dr. McAleer made his intentions to retire at the end of the year known to Bishop David Graves, episcopal leader of the South Georgia Conference, back in January 2022. He and his wife, Charlene McAleer, have big plans ahead.
“Charlene and I came to this decision during 2021 after some medical setbacks,” said Dr. McAleer. “We have dreams for our retirement years and do not want to miss out on them. We look forward to traveling and spending time with our children and grandchild.”
Dr. McAleer began his ministry in 1977 as the Director of Youth at Grace UMC in Savannah, his home church and the place where he received his call into ministry. Ordained as an elder in 1984, Dr. McAleer served the congregations of Davisboro, Dudley Charge (Allentown, Danville, Dudley, & Montrose), Ebenezer (Macon), Rincon, St. Marys, and Forest Hills (Macon) prior to becoming the Vice President for Church Relations at The Methodist Home for Children and Youth in Macon. Dr. McAleer served at The Methodist Home for 8 years before being appointed to the Administrative Services Office in 2014.
Over his 42 years of ministry in South Georgia, Dr. McAleer has served the Annual Conference as editor of the Conference Journal, member of CFA where he chaired the apportionments sub-committee, and served on numerous district and conference committees including the Commission on Town & Country Ministries, the Commission on Equitable Salaries, the Conference Futuring Committee and chaired the Savannah District Council on Ministries. He has served on the Board of Trustees of Magnolia Manor, The Methodist Home, and the United Methodist Association of Health and Welfare Ministries (UMA). He chaired the Public Relations, Development, and Marketing (PRDM) section of the UMA. In 2014, he was honored as PRDM Professional of the Year. Dr. McAleer also served on the Board of the National Association of Annual Conference Treasurers.
Under Dr. McAleer’s leadership as the Director of Administrative Services – which also includes serving as the Conference Treasurer, Pension and Benefits Officer, and Statistician - the Conference established a retiree health trust, finished the 30+year journey to pay off its pre-82 pension liabilities, raised the Pre-82 Past Service Rate by 21% (from $660 to $799 per service year), oversaw a conference office move, helped implement a unified conference database, established and funded a financial reserves goal of 3 month’s operating expenses, continued the path of intentionally lowering the conference budget to lower apportionments, expanded online guidance for local churches and clergy, assisted local church offering collections during the pandemic, guided local churches in qualifying for PPP loans, used a comprehensive compensation study from GCFA to guide salaries and benefits for conference staff, shifted to auto-enrollment for clergy in the pension program (increasing clergy contributions to their own pension), implemented the Voluntary Transition Program for clergy exiting the ministry, updated the Conference Personnel and Board of Pensions policy manuals and Standing Rules, established a Human Resources position, and developed the Disaffiliation Policy and an equitable plan for allocating Pension Liability to local churches.
Most importantly, though, Dr. McAleer has proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ in every setting he served, receiving 876 members in 26 years of ministry, 253 on Profession of Faith.
“Since coming to South Georgia 13 months ago, I have appreciated Derek and his good work and leadership to the South Georgia Conference,” said Bishop David Graves. “Derek is well respected by the Southeastern Jurisdiction treasurers and also across the denomination. He has been a great leader in The United Methodist Church. It is not just a loss for the conference but also the general church.”
The Rev. Dr. Shane Green, senior pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Columbus and chair of the South Georgia Conference Council of Finance & Administration (CFA), echoes Bishop Graves’ sentiments and praises Dr. McAleer’s commitment to CFA, his work, and service to the Conference.
“We are indebted to Derek and his work on the Council on Finance and Administration and his work throughout our Annual Conference,” said Dr. Green. “It is a loss for our Annual Conference, but CFA is committed to finding the right person to continue Derek’s great work and steadfast leadership.”
CFA, under the guidance of Dr. Green, now begins the process of seeking the next person to fill the role of Director of Administrative Services/Treasurer. The Book of Discipline gives CFA the authority to hire this position. CFA will be utilizing the services of the General Conference on Finance and Administration in the hiring process. Dr. Green will also be in consultation with the Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits (BOP) as this position also supports their work.
The job will be open to lay and clergy persons. More information and a complete job description will be posted on the conference website, www.sgaumc.org, in the weeks to come.
A Personal Note from Dr. Derek McAleer
In 2021, my wife Charlene twisted her knee and had to spend a good bit of the year rehabbing it. Since our vacation involved hiking the Colorado mountains, we were concerned about her recovery (old knees don’t rehab as quickly as young knees do!). Thankfully, she was able to enjoy the hiking, though we did choose less strenuous trails. But it got the two of us thinking. She is five years older than I and already retired after 35 years of teaching. Like most of you, we hope to enjoy active retirement years. Knowing of the age difference, we have long considered that I might retire before my full retirement age and have planned accordingly. The knee injury brought this idea to the forefront again.
In January, I told Bishop Graves of my plan to retire at the end of 2022. You may recall that in January of 2022, we still thought General Conference would meet in 2022, the church would make decisions, and the annual conference would move forward. Retiring at the end of 2022 would put us beyond all that. Retiring at the end of our fiscal year is good for a person in my position.
With all that was going on, however, we determined to delay announcing my retirement until after annual conference met so that the conference could focus on the work before us without distraction.
I share this lengthy narrative to say I have been thinking about and moving towards retirement for some time now. This is not a reaction to this season of United Methodism but rather a choice for this season of my family life. I have worked for the church since 1977, and am in my 43rd year under appointment. I have been blessed far beyond any reasonable expectation by this annual conference. I move towards retirement with a heart full of gratitude. Serving our Lord through this Annual Conference has been and is a great privilege. God truly is good!
Derek W. McAleer
The Georgia United Methodist Foundation joins with the United Methodist Higher Education Foundation (UMHEF) and many others in thanksgiving to God for the life of Bob Forrest, who died on Thursday, September 15, 2022.
Bob was an integral part of the Georgia United Methodist Foundation since 2008, when he first served as a member of the Board of Trustees. His accomplishments were many, including co-founding the Foundation’s Legacy Ministry Program in 2012. In addition, the Foundation will never forget Bob’s passion for making it financially feasible for Georgia United Methodist students to attend United Methodist-related colleges, universities, and seminaries.
Bob’s beloved wife, the Rev. Martha Forrest, is a retired Clergy Member of the North Georgia Conference. When she turned 75, her friends and family held a combination birthday bash and endowment fundraising event that raised $100,000. In 2013, the Martha Forrest Scholarship Fund established at the UMHEF yielded four $1,000 United Methodist Dollars for Scholars (UMDFS) scholarships.
Bob was a tireless advocate in raising funds and believed these scholarships were a perfect way to give back and support Methodist students, churches, and schools. As a result, he and others consistently added to the Martha Forrest Scholarship Fund. Since 2013, more than 100 United Methodist students have benefited from this scholarship endowment.
The Georgia United Methodist Foundation is grateful for Bob’s faithful witness. We ask that you please keep Martha, their children, and grandchildren in your prayers.
At the family’s request, gifts may be directed in Bob’s memory to the Martha Forrest Scholarship, United Methodist Higher Education Foundation, PO Box 340005, Nashville, TN 37203 or gifts may be directed online here: https://www.umhef.org/remembering-umhef-trustee-bob-forrest/
Bring a team from your church to the two-day Better Together Conference: When Two or More Churches Join Together for Missional Impact. You'll experience how churches can join together in a hopeful and healthy process through one of these proven models: strategic mergers, partnerships, restarts, launching satellite campuses, or a cooperative parish. Keynote Speaker will be Dr. Jim Tomberlin, co-author of the book "Better Together."
The Georgia United Methodist Foundation, in partnership with Candler School of Theology, Gammon Theological Seminary, and the United Methodist Connectional Federal Credit Union, is proud to serve as a sponsor of the Better Together Conference.
By Mathew A. Pinson, Georgia United Methodist Foundation President and CEO
Take a few minutes to think about the best volunteer experiences you have had in your lifetime. These outstanding experiences were likely the direct result of leaders’ unwavering focus on the organization’s mission. This focus, careful planning, responsive evaluation, and a carefully cultivated volunteer and donor base are a few elements that lead to healthy and sustainable nonprofits, including churches. Importantly, all of these elements are the direct results of a good governance model.
Good governance models are essential to elevating and advancing the mission of all organizations. Because of this, I spend time each week focused on the governance model of the Georgia United Methodist Foundation. On any given week, topics related to governance are front and center. But what exactly do I mean?
The Foundation’s purpose is to partner with churches, nonprofits, individuals, and families in direct support of the ministries and mission of the church. In this way, the Foundation is a ministry partner as we seek to live out our mission to provide faith-based financial solutions for investing, lending, training, and planned giving. Undergirding the Foundation’s purpose and mission is a governance model that is key to the organization’s overall success. Below are a few examples of how I focus my time on topics related to governance that directly elevate and advance the purpose and mission of the Foundation:
- Direct dialogue with colleagues is inspiring. I do my best to spend time with colleagues talking about their work, projects we share, and life in general. These times almost always give way to moments of gratitude for the work we share as the staff team of the Foundation—work that is entirely focused on elevating and advancing the mission of the church. A strong and cohesive staff team is essential.
- Routine, direct engagement with members of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees is equally important to the time spent with staff colleagues. For me, this includes a weekly conversation with the Chair of the Board and regular communication with Committee Chairs. I also do my best to send regular communications to the entire membership of the Board of Trustees. These engagements (some by phone, some in person, and some via email) deepen relationships through the sharing of ideas, hopes, concerns, and aspirations. I find time spent with members of the Board of Trustees to be vital to the work I do each day. It is important to make time for direct, regular engagement with volunteer leaders.
- Budgets, financial controls, and audits make the list of what many think about when the topic of governance is introduced. Each week, my colleagues and I review and discuss all aspects of the Foundation’s financial life. We accomplish this work in partnership with a strong Finance and Audit Committee and a trusted external audit firm. The Foundation continues to be financially sound and is experiencing growth largely because of the attentiveness of the expert staff and Board members. The routine work of staff is reviewed annually through an external audit process overseen by the Board of Trustees. This audit process confirms that there are no management, governance, or material accounting errors. In addition, the Foundation always publishes the Independent Auditors’ Report and Financial Statements online. Budgets, financial controls, and the annual audit should be among the categories at the top of the list of key governance themes.
- The ultimate beneficiaries of good governance models are the people served by the mission of the organization. For the Foundation, this means that we are able to deliver trusted investment solutions for churches and nonprofits through the work of the Board’s Investment Committee. The Investment Committee stewards funds entrusted to the Foundation by churches, nonprofits, families, and individuals who establish managed fund accounts, endowments, donor-advised funds, charitable gift annuities, or charitable remainder trusts that provide funding for scholarships and ministries across the State of Georgia and beyond. Likewise, the work of the Foundation’s Loan Committee makes possible a trusted Certificate Program, which provides an investment option that earns higher returns than similar instruments and enables the Foundation to underwrite loans to United Methodist churches and nonprofits in Georgia. In addition the Foundation’s unique Loan Program offers expert counsel, lower costs, advantageous terms, and competitive loan rates. These positive missional outcomes are the direct result of a good governance model.
It is essential to make time to consider the governance model that supports the missional aims of an organization. By focusing appropriate amounts of time on topics and activities related to governance, leaders will build a strong and cohesive staff team, establish, deepen, and grow relationships with volunteer leaders, and ensure that the organization’s reputation is strong. Most importantly, a good governance model will elevate and advance the mission of any organization.
During his 43 years in ministry, the Rev. Leon Matthews has provided leadership at the local church, district, and annual conference levels. He remembers the people who mentored and coached him and considers it a blessing whenever he can give back and help others in return.
In June 2018, Matthews was appointed senior pastor of Warren Memorial UMC in Atlanta. Last year, the church obtained a loan from the Georgia United Methodist Foundation to renovate and update its facilities. Matthews felt it was important to share his testimony working with Jim Pope, Foundation senior advisor to the president and director of lending, in case it helps other churches with financial or construction needs.
Q: Why did Warren Memorial UMC need a loan?
The Rev. Matthews: The loan from the Foundation is enabling us to construct two new bathrooms, renovate the current bathroom space, and enhance the internal structure of the church with new security, audio-visual equipment, and fire alarm capabilities.
Q: Why did Warren Memorial UMC choose the Foundation as its lender?
The Rev. Matthews: We get the Foundation’s quarterly newsletter and have read testimonials and stories of how the Foundation was instrumental in helping other churches reach their goals. So, we approached the Foundation to see how they could guide and direct us in meeting our objectives.
Q: Jim Pope, Foundation senior advisor to the president and director of lending, is an experienced banker with over 40 years in banking. What has your experience been like working with Jim and the Foundation?
The Rev. Matthews: The professionalism of Jim Pope and his thoroughness in walking us through the process was invaluable and a blessing. Our trustees and I were impressed with his sensitivity, care, directions, and guidance. He has a wonderful blend in terms of the financial and banking aspect and also combines a good balance of the ecclesiastical aspect of ministry in the church. This is not my first building project as a pastor, but it’s the first time I felt my desires as a minister and what I want for the church where everything has been God-centered. The Foundation encourages me and helps me stay grounded in the ultimate mission and goal of the church.
Q: How would you describe the partnership between Warren Memorial UMC and the Foundation?
The Rev. Matthews: Warren Memorial had a limited investment relationship with the Foundation prior to me coming to the church. Once we got into the renovations and new construction, the relationship advanced. It has been a rewarding experience. When we talked about the possibility of borrowing from a commercial lender and putting up the property as collateral, people felt antsy. Our previous experience with the Foundation and Jim Pope’s approach to leadership put the people at ease. We are in ministry and partnership together and have established a good, wholesome relationship that the people feel good about.
Q: What are the benefits of partnering with the Foundation, a not-for-profit United Methodist agency, versus a commercial lender?
The Rev. Matthews: We did some comparisons with other financial institutions and their interest rates were one or two points higher. The Foundation’s rates are very, very competitive. The follow-through and hands-on relationship approach from Jim Pope has been very good. The Foundation offers more from a holistic approach. Our trustees and finance committee have been blessed by the Foundation’s seminars that strengthen our church financially from a biblical perspective.
Q: In what ways does the Foundation help Warren Memorial UMC fulfill its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ through leadership, worship, and service?
The Rev. Matthews: One of the things that Jim Pope asked initially was, “How can the Foundation advance your calling and your commission, which is to go and make disciples for the transformation of the world?” It wasn’t so much how can this be a financial blessing but a spiritual discipleship approach. The Foundation wants to help you advance what God has called you to do. When we reach persons with the good news of Christ, we want our facility to be user-friendly, inviting, accessible for the membership and the community, and a place where people can rest and park their souls. We want to make sure things are up to 21st century standards and that we are able to reach all generations.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
The Rev. Matthews: I would encourage any local congregation, faith-based organization, or 501(c)3 looking to advance God’s kingdom while at the same time reaching your financial and construction goals to please make the Foundation your first call. It will be your last call.