Meet the Rev. Dr. William Bert Neal III - the Foundation's Loan Committee Chair
The Rev. Dr. William Bert Neal III, an ordained elder with The United Methodist Church, retired in 2022 after serving several appointments in the North Georgia Annual Conference. The Georgia United Methodist Foundation recently caught up with Bert, who signs all of his emails with “Boasting only in The Lord! 2 Corinthians 10:17,” to express our gratitude for his faithful support of our ministry.
“Bert is doing a great job as the Foundation’s Loan Committee Chair,” said Jim Pope, Foundation Senior Advisor to the President and Director of Lending. “Bert joined the Loan Committee and Board of Trustees as a member in 2019. With Bill Daniel’s retirement as the Loan Committee Chair in 2022, we asked him to serve in this role, and he graciously accepted. Bert is very engaged with all aspects of the Loan Program and has the desire to lead in a very effective way.”
In this article, Bert provides insight into his family, career, call to ministry, and what inspires him about his work with the Foundation.
My wife, Denise, and I recently celebrated 42 years of marriage. Our daughter, Tiffany, is a Human Resource Business Partner for Target Corporation. She is also the mother of our grandson, Isaiah. Our son, Bert, is a manager with Zaxby’s Restaurants.
I served in the U.S. Army for 21 years, retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, before working as a Deputy Executive Director for the Atlanta Housing Authority from 1994 to 1998 and as a Contract Manager for the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice from 1998 to 2005.
My call to ministry evolved. I grew up in a Christian home. I was always in the church as a child, youth, and young adult. I was baptized at eight years old in Seattle, Wash. Growing up, I spoke in churches, served as the Chaplain of different clubs and groups, and would be asked to pray at various events. While in the Army, Denise and I would always search for a church home regardless of where we were stationed. After I retired from the Army, I attended Ben Hill UMC in Atlanta. I was involved in the United Methodist Men, ushering on Sundays, attending Bible study, and singing in the choir. Then, on Father’s Day 1998, I felt the call of the Lord to full-time ministry. There was a desire in me to use my talents and blessings for the Lord and to do more than I was doing. I wanted to understand more deeply about my faith and tell others about the love of God and the gift of Christ to the world.
I served as Children’s Minister at Ben Hill UMC from 2000 to 2004. I earned a Master of Divinity from Gammon Theological Seminary in 2005 and then became Minister of Outreach and Social Concerns at Ben Hill UMC. In 2006, I was ordained with The United Methodist Church and served as Associate Pastor of St. James UMC in Alpharetta until 2010.
I planted Sacred Praise UMC in Lovejoy and served there from 2010 until 2013. I served as Senior Pastor of Wesley Chapel UMC in McDonough from 2013 until my retirement in 2022. In 2019, I earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.
Just as with answering the call to ministry, I had the desire to give more of myself for kingdom building. As I looked forward to retiring from full-time leadership in a church, I desired to serve the larger church in some capacity. Serving with the Foundation gives me an opportunity to educate church leaders on the availability of additional financial resources to assist in their ministry goals and how to access those resources. It is also an opportunity to approve loans to assist churches in their strategic planning.
As Loan Committee Chair, my responsibility is to lead the Loan Committee as it makes decisions to approve loans in concert with the Foundation’s mission of promoting the growth and development of the church. Additionally, my responsibility is to confirm with the Foundation’s staff that the processes have been met for loan approvals. The Trustees Loan Committee is also responsible for periodically establishing the rates offered for loans. My goal as the Loan Committee Chair is to be consistent and equitable regardless of the size of the loan or the size of the church. My goal is also to be a source of information to educate churches on how the Foundation can assist them in meeting their short- and long-term objectives and emphasizing the importance of a church becoming incorporated. (Please see the General Council on Finance and Administration's resource entitled "A Guide to Incorporation of a Local Church" here.
I am inspired by how the Foundation is proactive in working with churches to assist with their building programs and capital improvement projects or helps churches refinance loans from other financial institutions. It is equally inspiring to observe church leaders and pastors become financially astute in demonstrating financial strength and knowledge to prepare their churches for the future.
There are several reasons churches and nonprofits should consider partnering with the Foundation. First, the Foundation will lend to creditworthy borrowers at rates generally lower than those charged by commercial banks and other financial institutions. Therefore, before seeking a loan from a commercial lender, I would encourage any church or nonprofit organization to compare the rate and terms with the Foundation. Secondly, the Foundation invests according to the socially responsible investment principles of the church.
In addition, the mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As a church’s plan is designed to meet specific objectives of that mission, the Foundation can help with financing that can complement a church’s regular tithes, offerings, or stewardship campaign to meet those objectives. Going through the process of submitting a standard loan application is also helpful because it helps a church evaluate its financial and statistical information and creditworthiness. The needs of each church are different, and its plans to reach those needs vary from church to church. However, the Foundation can help with loans ranging from improving the parking lot to being more accessible, to a renovation project that impacts weekly gatherings and being available to the community at large, to new facility construction. The Foundation’s goal is to assist churches with loans as they identify their ministry objectives to fulfill their mission.
I am blessed to answer this call to ministry and the opportunity to continue serving the church.