From the President

Working with pastoral groups, stewardship

A CIF discussion

CIF President and CEO Scott Achterling, above left, sat down with Senior Relationship Manager Russ Zimmerman, right, to discuss pastor group meetings and partnerships. We hope you enjoy the exchange and can increase your understanding of CIF’s role in Kingdom expansion.

Scott: A belated Happy New Year, and thanks for joining me today, Russ.

Russ: Sure thing, Scott.

Scott: At CIF, we often talk about “majoring on the majors,” being dialed-in to each church’s individual needs and plans. We have both met with many pastors in groups. Can you share how you have seen the focus of their ministries, and worked to better understand their needs and offered assistance?

Russ: With pastors, we both know “the majors” typically involve evangelism and discipleship, expanding God’s Kingdom through service, teaching, prayer and living life together. Some assemble in groups, often called clusters, to support each other, pray and share what’s going on in their personal lives.

Scott: Can you talk briefly about how some things sort of float around in the periphery with church leaders – things that are important but not necessarily an item for every Sunday?

Russ: I would say financial services are in that periphery. Pastors ask about our investments, our campaigns and how our loans work. Some have used us in the past for one service but are still learning about the others. Many take deeper conversations offline, asking us later to run some numbers, offer ministry-focused financial solutions and see if we can provide further help.

Russ Zimmerman, center, speaks to a group of pastors and fields questions as they meet to support one another and fellowship.

Scott: We are no doubt much different from the other financial service offerings that are out there.

Russ: It has been a privilege to delve into that at these meetings, namely the difference between CIF’s nonprofit approach that focuses on more money for ministry versus for-profit institutions that primarily focus on more money for shareholders. When God’s Kingdom wins in the financial aspects of the church, we all win. CIF cares about ministry, so much so that we make it our mission.

Scott: I love how our experience sets us apart from others in the financial marketplace and our unmatched expertise with churches and related ministries. Can you tell our audience how we bring that valuable experience to bear with projects and properties?

Russ: Real estate and construction decisions require sound planning, wisdom and the ability to honestly say that we’ve been there before. For building-related projects, we might talk about how a church can “fill the gap.” This is the difference between project costs and available money, which usually don’t come in equally.

Scott: And we help churches to fill this gap.

Russ: Yes, it is a balance or meshing of sound financial stewardship and project planning. Churches fill the gap by connecting with us to help figure out their options. A project could be phased back by half, for example, with plans to do the other half in a couple of years.

Discussions on borrowing can sometimes be touchy as people can have a variety of opinions about the acceptable amount of debt. So, it is helpful to start talking early and communicate frequently and openly about the church’s needs and how CIF can be a true partner in this journey. Focusing on the church’s mission can help bring clarity when decisions about property and facilities are being made.

Scott: Love it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from churches who appreciate our relational approach and that we are so much more than a funding source. We at CIF see the churches we serve as partners, co-laborers for God’s Kingdom work.

Russ: Yes! These relationships are enjoyable, a blessing and essential to what we do. Whether an in-person or remote meeting, phone call or an email, we can start a conversation.

The pastor groups are great. I love being a part of them and am always willing to connect.

Scott: We work hard to keep the best interests of each church or ministry in mind. CIF is really a unique organization in the financial marketplace, because we are focused on ministry and relationships first.

Russ: Indeed, and there’s flexibility that you just won’t find anywhere else. Like anything, it all comes down to helping people, but along with that, churches take comfort in our shared passion to keep the gospel of Christ front and center, expanding God’s Kingdom and pleasing the Lord.

Scott: Thanks, Russ, for joining me today. All of us at CIF appreciate the important work you’re doing.

Senior Relationship Manager Russ Zimmerman joined CIF in 2022 after serving for 25 years with Cru, formerly Campus Crusade for Christ. At CIF, he consults with pastors and other church leaders across the U.S. to help them with their questions regarding property-related decisions and how CIF can assist and serve them through various financial services. Russ appreciates the Kingdom-focus at CIF and works to put its core values into action.

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