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Interview with Nathan Elson of CDF Capital

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Tune in today as Katie Allred interviews Nathan Elson of CDF Capital. Nathan talks about how CDF Capital helps the local church get the capital they need to transform a community. CDF Capital is also a sponsor of She Leads Church, a summit for women in church leadership.

She Leads Church

CDF Capital 

 

 

Transcript:

Announcer:

Welcome to the Church Communications Podcast. We want to help you become a church communications expert. We understand it can be a challenging and ever-changing role because we’ve worked in the church too, which is why we built a community with over 25,000 church leaders that are ready to support and cheer you on. Your hosts for the show are Katie Allred and Kenny Jahng, who want to help equip you to reach more of your congregation and community. This is the place where we’ll talk shop with fellow practitioners and professionals about what’s working, what’s not, and what’s next. Are you ready? Let’s get started.

Katie Allred:

Welcome, everybody, to the Church Communications Podcast. So glad to be back with you today. I’m really excited, because we have a special guest. Our friend Nathan is joining us. Nathan works at CDF Capital, and I’m really excited to learn more about Nathan and what he does at CDF Capital. And then also, just about what CDF Capital is, and how it helps churches. Nathan, welcome to the show.

Nathan Elson:

Thank you so much, Katie. I really appreciate you having me on. A little bit about myself, I have the longest title in my organization. It’s a really awesome title. It’s Executive Director of Marketing and Business Development.

Katie Allred:

Yeah, that sounds complicated.

Nathan Elson:

It’s a fancy way of saying that I run marketing. The way I describe my job to people is, my job at CDF Capital is to advance and protect the brand and create opportunities for us to help churches and ministries.

Nathan Elson:

That’s my job. Thankfully, I’m not on the sales side of it, so I don’t actually have to go and find churches to help, or in a sense of closing deals with them. But just advance a conversation about what we do, why we do it, and whom we serve while we do it. It’s just really focusing more on the larger scope of our brand and our positioning, rather than the fine details of what helping a church actually looks like for us.

Nathan Elson:

A little bit about myself before I came to CDF Capital. I’ve been in church marketing and communications and business since 2000.

Katie Allred:

Okay, so you started at some churches in the past?

Nathan Elson:

Yeah. Right out of college, I started working at my church and became an associate pastor there, did youth ministry and college and career ministry. In the midst of that, I got hired by the denomination our church belonged to, and I went and I helped them with a lot of different projects. I ran communications for [inaudible 00:02:18]. I did all the web stuff there for a while. I spent about four years working at a mainline denominational headquarters, just in the communication side of it.

Nathan Elson:

All that entire time, I also went to a seminary, got a graduate degree. I also served in local churches. I’ve had every role you can have as a pastoral person in a local church, except for [inaudible 00:02:37] pastor. I’ve been kids, youth, college and career, associate, teaching, campus, executive pastor, all sorts of different organization. But until about eight years ago, my entire career had been bi-vocational. I had a full-time job and I did full-time ministry.

Nathan Elson:

Over the years I just started doing a lot of marketing, not because I loved it, or I thought it was great, I was just good at it. I could talk a lot. I could write well and I am really persuasive, mainly because I have an undergraduate degree in rhetorical criticism and I was a debater in college.

Katie Allred:

Oh, okay. I was going to say. I was like, “Is that a real major? Did you really study that?”

Nathan Elson:

Yes, I do. I have a major, my degree is in her rhetorical criticism. It’s phenomenal.

Katie Allred:

Is that really a thing?

Nathan Elson:

It is, yeah. At Cal State Long Beach, here in California. It’s part of the Communication Studies Program. I literally have a degree in how to convince people to do things they don’t want to.

Nathan Elson:

That serves me well in marketing and communication, but I’ve had the pleasure of working across a lot of industries. I’ve worked major automotive. I’ve got to work a lot with entertainment industry and also with a lot of creative arts nonprofits and ministries over the years in my consulting and my work side.

Nathan Elson:

I’ve spent some time with Faithlife when they were still Logos Bible Software. It all came together and I was at my first job where I was a full-time pastor and a full-time person is when I got asked to go down to Rock Church in San Diego and served on the executive team there and oversaw production, Sunday, communication, marketing, PR, social media, and worship, so the creative side there. It was a great experience there. Fantastic church, fantastic people.

Nathan Elson:

Then from there, I tried to move on, and went back to consulting and that wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be. I’ve been at CDF capital about five years ago.

Katie Allred:

What drew you to CDF Capital?

Nathan Elson:

Really simple. I love the local church. I really do. That’s why my entire career as an adult, I’ve done both. I’ve done local church and I’ve done work. So it’s the opportunity for me to go help a lot of churches instead of one church.

Katie Allred:

Yeah, that’s fantastic.

Nathan Elson:

For me, it was just, hey, this organization’s helping hundreds of churches, let me go help them.

Katie Allred:

Right. I guess the question is now for our audience who may not be as familiar, what is CDF Capital and what do they do for the church?

Nathan Elson:

In technical terms, CDF Capital is what they call a extension fund. A lot of the church denominations have these funds associated with them that allow them to be a funding arm for church growth. In a sense of issuing loans and issuing grants and different things. Almost every major denomination has one or more of these funds.

Nathan Elson:

We are an independent fund, which means that we are not tied to a denomination. There’s a handful of us that operate around the United States that operate as an extension fund where we’re not tied to denominational structure. The good side is we can help more churches. The downside is, is that we don’t have the finances and the organization of a denomination behind it.

Nathan Elson:

In broad terms, what we do is we help churches primarily through lending. Rather than going to a bank or going to a credit union, a church can come to us and we can help them with their loans. But beyond that, we do a lot more and we have our mantra we call transformational capital. What we believe is that every human being is on spiritual journey, and the best place for that spiritual journey to happen, is in the local church. We exist to help get local churches the capital they need to transform the community.

Nathan Elson:

For us it comes in three forms, but financial capital, which is the investments that we use to fund our lending and the lends themselves; what we call leadership capital, which is pouring into the lives and the ministries of the individual leaders in these ministries that we work with; and spiritual capital, which is pouring into spiritual lives. We break it down this way, financial capital, we do investments and loans; leadership capital, we do cohorts and events; and for spiritual capital, connecting in prayer. We have a massive prayer network of almost 35,000 people that we use to pray for church leaders.

Nathan Elson:

A great example of the power of that network, and this is where the heart behind CDF Capital, in California, a few years ago, there was fires, a lot of fires in California, and there’s a town called Paradise. That almost entire town burnt down. In fact, the big church in town was a church that had a loan from us, and the only thing left in the entire area of town that wasn’t burnt, was the cross on their stage.

Nathan Elson:

The was the name of the church was called Hope. Through our prayer network, we were able to mobilize churches across the country to send resources and help. But what was really amazing is that there’s a church up in Southern Washington, Northern Oregon, that was struggling financially. They decided that they were going to do a sacrificial giving for Hope because one of the key members of their church used to go to Hope in Paradise.

Nathan Elson:

When they did it, they’re giving double that week. The next week, they didn’t do another sacrificial giving, but they’re giving double again. This church went from being struggling financially, to in a period of a month, they’re giving quadrupling and getting stability in there. It wasn’t that we did anything special. We just connected the dots. We just got this church that knew about us in Oregon and this church that knew about us in Paradise, and got them connected to each other in prayer, and it had a net positive effect for both churches.

Nathan Elson:

For us, that’s what we do. We do the nuts and bolts. You need a building? We can help finance. You want to redo your facility? We can help you do that. You have a bad loan with the bank? We can refinance. That’s the big, broad things we do. But what comes with that is the interconnectivity of tens of thousands of people and hundreds of churches working together to see churches be better in the United States. That’s what CDF Capital does.

Katie Allred:

That’s awesome. On that note, you talked a little bit about what this church did to pivot during COVID and then obviously wildfires and those kinds of things. What about churches? How do you think COVID has affected the church in the last year?

Nathan Elson:

I think it’s affected it in a lot of positive ways. Actually to be honest, I love where church is going because it caused every church of every size to rethink what ministry was to begin with.

Nathan Elson:

We’re a vendor. We’re a nonprofit, we’re a qualified ministry, but we operate by lending churches money. For us, churches and buildings is a good thing. But what COVID did, it really forced every ministry that we work with to rethink the why and the how of the purpose of having a building in the first place.

Katie Allred:

I agree.

Nathan Elson:

I think that cannot be understated in this environment because far too long, and I’m part of this, and I did this, and I’ve done this at churches, we’ve tried to just attract people to where we are.

Nathan Elson:

We have this capital investment. It’s this great facility. Katie, you work with churches. How many times have you heard it? If we can just get them in the door.

Katie Allred:

Exactly. But we don’t want them at the door. We want you out the door. We want the church out the door.

Nathan Elson:

That’s what this has done. It’s forced the church to stop being a building, start being a people.

Nathan Elson:

There’s some big churches that have survived. There’s some big churches that have thrived, but there are some little churches that that amazing things as well. We have a church that we work with in Arizona, Pure Heart. When COVID happened, we were able, and this is an actual situation, where we’re able to defer over $4.5 million with the payments of our churches last year.

Nathan Elson:

We just went proactive and did it. We didn’t wait till they asked for it. We just said, “hey, you’re in good standing with us. This is what we want to do with you.” So Pure Heart took that and they took every penny with they saved with that deferment, and they put it towards providing mental health services for their community. They became on the largest mental health providers in Arizona, that they became a church.

Nathan Elson:

They felt the need and they went and did it. That to us, we did our job. We put them in a financial situation where they can go and be the church to their community. I think that’s really what COVID does. COVID forced organizations to stop worrying about how many people are coming through the door on Sunday and start worrying about how many people in their neighborhoods, in their communities are being brought the message of Christ. To me, that can not be, no matter what happens. It’s a tragedy to see all the death. It’s a tragedy to see everything that’s happened.

Nathan Elson:

But if God’s a God of redemption and He’s redeeming this to get His message out there to ways that He hasn’t been able to do in decades in the United States. To me, that’s terribly exciting.

Katie Allred:

Yeah. It was definitely a wake up, oh, sleeper kind of feeling. Let’s figure out what’s next so that we can move forward and do it better. I think what we saw really was maybe the next part of the reformation of giving the ministry back to the people, right? Giving the ministry back to who it belongs to, which is our people, not just our buildings.

Nathan Elson:

That’s beautifully said, I love that. I’m going to steal that.

Katie Allred:

What do you think the future of the church looks like now that we’ve pivoted this way? I know a lot of churches are doing some online. Some obviously are not doing stuff in person. What are you hoping it looks like as we move into 2021?

Nathan Elson:

I think that’s interesting. I would say I have absolutely no clue what the church is actually going to look like when this was done. If anyone who thinks they do, haven’t been talking to you or Kenny enough.

Katie Allred:

What do you hope?

Nathan Elson:

What I’m really hoping for in this is that the church start to devalue big gatherings and start to value community organization. What I mean by that is that there’s nothing wrong with getting together and having a celebration. But go do it at a park. Don’t do it at expected places. Keep doing it online.

Katie Allred:

In the community.

Nathan Elson:

Yeah, and just take a step out and say, yeah, we have this fantastic facility, but what can we use it for other than trying to draw everyone here? What can we do that brings the community here while we’re out there?

Nathan Elson:

I think that’s going to be the interesting part for me, is to see how many churches really pivot to this, hey, wait a minute, we don’t need to be here Sunday morning, every Sunday. We can go do something else, and it’s okay. Quite frankly, the giving numbers in churches, bear out that it’s possible.

Nathan Elson:

We’ve seen an increase in the churches that we serve and their monthly giving through 2020, over 2019. They’re not meeting a person. They’re not doing nearly as much. But they’re doing it more effectively, and they’re getting the support. I’m really excited to see what new models come out, because I frankly have no idea. I’m really glad I’m not working in a church trying to figure it out right now.

Katie Allred:

I think it looks a little different, smaller. I hope that we don’t stop doing online church. Exactly the same thing that you said, I just hope we don’t go back to the way things were, because I feel like that’s not what God wants us to do. We should move forward.

Katie Allred:

Okay. My next question, final question. You were a sponsor of She Leads Church and we’re so grateful. Thank you so much for sponsoring She Leads Church. Especially a project of mine that came about with just growing up in the church and just figuring out leadership as a woman and those kind of things and figuring out what God has called me to. We appreciate the fact that you partnered with us to help women in their leadership roles at churches. My question here is how has CDF partnered with women in churches as well?

Nathan Elson:

For us, it’s really fascinating because it being such a fractional issue in the evangelical church of what is appropriate, what’s not appropriate. We aren’t interested in that conversation. What we’re interested in is developing leaders, wherever they are and whoever they may be.

Katie Allred:

I think we are in agreement on that. That’s exactly how we feel. Theologically, it doesn’t matter, it does matter probably to your church, but we really want to just empower the leadership, wherever it can [inaudible 00:15:42]. We just want to make sure that we’re allowing women to rise to the level that they’re called to.

Nathan Elson:

Absolutely. Throughout the years, we have women that are in leadership positions within our organization. Senior leadership positions. For us, it’s not a matter of that. It’s a matter of where are the push points? Where are the fulcrums that leadership is resting on and where are the wrinkles and the places that others aren’t pouring into, and others aren’t recognizing as clearly and maybe as rapidly as need be. Because at the end of the day, we just want to see church be great. That’s it.

Nathan Elson:

We want to see the church thrive. In regards to what we think theologically, it’s not going to thrive on the back of only [inaudible 00:16:29]. It’s going to thrive on the communities coming together and leadership coming together, whatever it looks like, whatever race, creed, ethnicity, gender looks like.

Nathan Elson:

First time we had an opportunity to partner with She Leads; it’s fantastic because it’s an opportunity for us to say, hey, we believe in what you’re doing. That’s just pour into people as you’ve been poured into. But over the years we’ve done everything we can to be as broad as we can in how we approach it. We don’t look at it as a gender issue, we look at it as a pragmatic issue, to be honest with you. If the culture and the church is embracing the role of women in leadership at whatever level theologic comfort is there, we want to be there too, because we want those churches to be great. For us, if the questions is why? Why not? Why aren’t more people supporting She Leads or other conferences like it because it’s worthwhile doing. That’s just not for us.

Katie Allred:

Yeah. Thank you. We appreciate it. I think that’s all my questions for today. Do you have anything you would like to promote or add? How can people find you?

Nathan Elson:

Really simply they can go to cdf.capital/sheleads and get information about us. Sign up to get more information about who we are. It’s a place where you just give us your information and you get 50% off of one of our digital products for going there. I promise I don’t spam people on the communication side of things, so you won’t get a ton of emails from us. But you will learn about us and who we are. If you want more from us, you’d stick around. If not, you can unsubscribe, but that’s going to be the easiest place, cdf.capital/sheleads.

Katie Allred:

Awesome. You heard it from Nathan: cdf.capital/sheleads. That’s an awesome domain name by the way. Way to go.

Nathan Elson:

Thank you.

Katie Allred:

Thanks for joining us today. I really appreciate you hanging out and just what you’re doing at CDF Capital. What an amazing mission and just helping the church. I’m so grateful for it. Thank you so much.

Nathan Elson:

Thank you so much, Katie. I really appreciate all you do for the church and your organization, and I’m a big fan. Thank you for having me.

Announcer:

Thanks for listening to the church communications podcast with Katie Allred and Kenny Jahng. If you liked our show today and want to learn more, you can join our Facebook group with over 25,000 church leaders. Simply search for Church Communications on Facebook. If you liked today’s episode, please consider subscribing and leaving us a review. It’s the most impactful way you can help us reach more church leaders and equip them to become better communicators for the church. Finally, don’t forget to check out our website at churchcommunications.com. Thanks for listening.

 

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