Warren Memorial UMC Pastor Encourages Churches to Make the Foundation Their First Call
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.