We are all going to die. So, we better start planning for it.
How’s that for an opening line?
God has called us to steward the resources He gives us. For most churches, stewardship teachings provide similar practical takeaways—craft a budget that reflects biblical priorities, make wise spending decisions, and give generously to the local church and other Kingdom-advancing missions.
But there is an area of stewardship that is regularly left out—legacy giving. Why does legacy giving get left out? To start, legacy giving deals with a part of the future most don’t want to think about—their death. Combine a person’s death with their finances and you really have a topic some ministers want to avoid.
But let’s get back that opening line—We are all going to die. So, we better start planning for it.
At some point, every person in your congregation is going to die. It’s guaranteed. And when this happens, the resources with which God has entrusted them will go somewhere. The distribution of those resources will be their final act of stewardship.
Will the distribution bring God glory and advance His Kingdom?
Will the distribution advance the church’s local mission and God’s greater global mission?
Ministers should encourage their members to consider their final stewardship act. Here are a few suggestions on how to get your church to start thinking about legacy planning:
1. Teach about legacy planning when appropriate.
Any time the Bible speaks about stewardship or generosity, legacy planning can be included.
Whether they leave money to the church or not, church members should understand that one of the biggest stewardship decisions they will make is the destination for the legacy resources. This is a decision that God is entrusting them with, and a decision that He will hold them accountable for.
Legacy planning is just as important as paying off debt, creating a budget, and saving for an emergency.
Legacy planning is just as important as paying off debt, creating a budget, and saving for an emergency. So, teach about legacy planning when appropriate.
2. Challenge current assumptions about legacy planning.
When individuals and couples put together a will or trust, the distribution is predictable. Most assume that legacy planning means equally dividing the resources between family members, often their children. Very little thought is given as to whether this is the wisest stewardship decision.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with directing resources toward family members, believers should question whether or not this is the best Kingdom decision. Should all resources go toward family, or should the church receive a portion of the resources? Would giving certain amounts of money to certain family members help or hurt their spiritual life? The church should challenge the current assumptions about legacy planning.
3. Demonstrate how God can use a legacy gift to further His mission.
Your church has probably received a legacy gift in the past. If not, there are churches around you that have. Capture those stories and share them to your congregation. Help those in the church see the Kingdom impact that a legacy gift can have, whether the gift is given to the church or some other Kingdom-advancing organization. Host vision casting events where you talk with your members about the vision God has given you and the plans you have for your ministry to impact future generations. Demonstrate how God can use a legacy gift to further His mission.
Help those in the church see the Kingdom impact that a legacy gift can have, whether the gift is given to the church or some other Kingdom-advancing organization.
4. Provide opportunities for members to learn more.
Most ministers are not going to know the ins and outs of legacy planning. Fortunately, they don’t need to. Ministers are tasked with teaching God’s Word and making disciples, not legacy planning. However, ministers can still help church members take the next step by partnering with a legacy planning ministry or by providing classes taught by reputable and knowledgeable church members. So, teach what Scripture says about stewardship and provide opportunities to learn more about legacy planning.
Legacy planning should look different for Christians. We don’t start with, “How much money can I leave my family?” but “What would God have me do with these resources?”
Get your church to start thinking about one of the biggest stewardship decisions they will make—what happens to their resources when they leave the temporal and enter the eternal.