Ron Steinke Honored for 22 Years of Service to CEF upon His Retirement5 min read

Ronald L. Steinke was born and raised in Big Rapids, Michigan, and grew up in the Lutheran church. He majored in business at Ferris State College, and his first job was management trainee at a local bank. In 1979, he joined a real estate company where he later obtained his broker’s license and became office manager.

In 1984, Steinke’s career moved back into banking when he became branch manager at First of America (now PNC) in Muskegon. In 1991, he was appointed to the post of Regional Bank VP and Senior Retail Lender for all of western Michigan—44 branch offices in all—a regional job function based out of Grand Rapids. That same year he was elected to the CEF Board of Trustees.

In 1994, a fellow member of the Board of Trustees suggested he apply for the CEO position at CEF. Steinke describes his thought process at the time: “I was on a fast track at the bank, happy with my life. It had never really occurred to me to pursue a new job on the other side of the state. [But] as I prayed about it, I felt God pulling at my heartstrings. And I realized that, a lot of the time, we don’t understand where our life path is taking us. We have to trust that it’s a God thing. So I threw my hat in the ring.”

Steinke was chosen by the CEF Board of Trustees to be the new President/CEO and relocated to Saline with his wife Peggy and their sons. Following is a Q&A published by the CEF newsletter NewsNotes.

NN: What did you find when you arrived at CEF?

Steinke: Then, as now, CEF had a strong, stable balance sheet. At that time, we were very busy making loans. Many churches built in the ‘40s and ‘50s were undergoing narthex additions and adding first-floor restrooms or elevators to accommodate the new Americans with Disabilities Act. A lot of schools were also being built and enlarged. In fact, we were busy with new loans until 2008, when the economy took a downturn.

NN: What were some of the changes you made?

Steinke: Primarily, I focused on offering new products that were attractive to investors. We created Extension Plus, similar to a money market account and accessible with checks or a debit card. We also expanded our menu of loan products and introduced step-up rate investment notes. But most important was what didn’t change. We never lost sight of the fact that CEF is a ministry, and we constantly reminded our consumers that their investments were being used to build churches and schools for the expansion of the Gospel.

NN: Looking back at the past 22 years, what are your greatest satisfactions?

Steinke: There were very, very few mornings when I wasn’t eager to get to work. I’ve found great joy in working with congregations on their building projects and helping to grow our total assets from $93 million to $275 million. God called me to this place, and I believe we’ve made an impact on His kingdom through the work of CEF.

NN: What are your hopes for CEF in the years to come?

Guests sing the Doxology at the conclusion of Ron Steinke’s retirement celebration

Steinke: For over 100 years, CEF’s mission has been to build churches. Our role now is also to help build up churches. “Churching” today is vastly different than it was when I grew up. New buildings don’t necessarily have stained glass or steeples. They’re multi-functional. These days, many churches have enough square footage. Their task now is to repurpose that space for innovative ministries and to explore new ways of reaching the communities they serve. Today, congregations as a whole are reinventing themselves, and CEF needs to find new ways to support them as they accomplish their ministries.

NN: What are your plans for retirement?

Steinke: It’s time to turn the watch over to someone else. But even though I’m retiring from CEF, I’m certainly not retiring from life. My wife and I have a good number of items on our bucket list. We’ll be moving to the western part of the state. We’ll be spending time with our four children and their families. We plan to travel. And then we’ll see where the Lord leads.

The Church Extension Fund thanked Steinke for his 22 years of service as President/CEO and celebrated his retirement at a dinner held in his honor on Sunday, November 27, 2015 at Weber’s Inn in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Steinke’s official last day at work was November 30, 2015.

Photos courtesy of Elisa Schulz Photography

Meet CEF’s New Leaders

saalfeld-jimCEO James Saalfeld

A native of Nebraska, Jim relocated to Grand Rapids after receiving his law degree from Northwestern Law School. His first position was with Dykema Gossett, one of America’s largest legal firms, where he specialized in litigation and business transactions. For over ten years, he worked as general counsel for Meritage Hospitality Group before launching his own law firm. Jim spent the last three years as Bissell’s first Director of Corporate and Commercial Affairs while also serving as Kent County Commissioner. A lifelong Lutheran, he recently completed a 12-year term with the CEF Board of Trustees, which he chaired from 2009 until 2015.

john-batesPresident John Bates

John attended both Lutheran and public schools in his hometown of Ann Arbor before heading to Indiana, where he received a business degree from Valparaiso University. He later went on to earn his MBA from Eastern Michigan University. In 1984, as a newly-minted graduate, he accepted a bookkeeping position in the CEF business office but, within weeks, found himself doing double-duty as office manager. In 2001, John was appointed CEF’s Chief Financial Officer. Six years later, he was named Senior Vice President. As a member of the executive team, he was responsible for all financial functions as well as IT and human resources.


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About the Author

This blog was published by the Communications Department of the Michigan District, LCMS.

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