"A New Body: From One Generation to the Next"
The First United Presbyterian Church of Loveland
“A New Body: From One Generation to the Next”
Rev. Amy Morgan
May 2, 2021
9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.
10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.
11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.
15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.
16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.
17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Interview with Mark Weihman, chair of Stewardship and Finance
Amy: We all reach a point when we no longer need our money and our things. At that point the good fruit we have born in our lives can be shared so that it nourishes those we love and care for. The good fruit of our lives can outlast us through legacy giving, it can continue to nourish and strengthen the Body of Christ.
This is a really critical moment for that in the life of the church, Mark. Do you want to talk about some of those critical factors?
Mark: It has been estimated that in the next ten years will be the largest intergenerational transfer of funds in American history. It is likely that at least two hundred billion of these dollars will be transferred within Presbyterian families. Add to this the fact that this generation is possibly the last one with a strong sense of “Presbyterian identity, of denominational loyalty,” and it creates a moment of unique opportunity.
A recent study showed that less than half of Americans identify as members of a faith community. These trends are not likely to reverse. Support for all institutions, including churches, has been in decline for some time. The church must innovate new models for sustainability and ministry. But in order to do that, we need to undergird that shift with support from the generations who have so faithfully sustained the church throughout their lifetimes. The generations that still identify strongly with the church have the opportunity to help it make the challenging but exciting transition into the church of the future.
Amy: But should people feel good about giving their money to a dying institution?
Mark: That’s just it: the Church isn’t dying. Some churches are dying. But the capital-C church isn’t dying. It is and always has been and always will be the Body of Christ. And that Body is alive and well. But it is going through some enormous changes. Maybe even a kind of resurrection. Legacy gifts will nourish that body and fuel that resurrection.
Amy: I love that idea. And, you know, legacy giving isn’t just about the church and what the church needs. Our legacy gifts speak to how we lived. Just like you said last week.
Mark: That’s right, legacy giving is an expression of faith as well as generosity. I love that we were able to utilize the gift from the Spearman’s legacy this year to purchase this beautiful piano. It reminds us, every single Sunday, of their faith and love for this church, of their musical gifts and love of music. And this piano, because it is a really fine instrument, will help our church make that transition into the future as we welcome more concerts and community activities into the church. It isn’t just for maintaining the church as it is, but it will help us become who God is calling us to be in the future.
Amy: So, Mark, we’ve talked about some of the reasons we’re excited about legacy giving, the ways that it nourishes the Body of Christ and is an expression of our faith. So let’s end by talking about some of the ways we can make a legacy gift. Obviously, we can name the church as a beneficiary in our will. That can be a specific amount of money or a percentage of our estate. But what are some of the other ways we can praise God from one generation to the next? Are there some things we might not think of right away?
Mark: There are lots of ways to leave a legacy gift to the church: gifts of securities, life insurance, charitable gift annuities, property, and, as you mentioned, a bequest in a will. A legacy can be something other than money – think of the legacy you leave when you care for one another, mentor young people, spend time with older folks, serve the community – as a church we can be a beacon of light and hope in our community, today and into the future. But money is a tangible way we can leave a gift to the church and nourish its ministry for the next generation.
Amy: And the size of the gift doesn’t matter, right? You may think you’re not legacy material because you’re not leaving behind millions of dollars – but legacy doesn’t depend on size. Jesus used the example of the tiny mustard seed that grows into a large bush, able to provide beauty, shade and life sustaining sanctuary. Every gift counts; collectively many small gifts can add up to a lot of ministry.
Mark: If you’d like to leave a legacy gift, but you’re unsure how much you might give, make it small enough so that you are comfortable. The point is that if we were all to leave a gift to our church, we demonstrate together as a community our faith in God and in God’s vision for this congregation. These gifts become a statement from our generation to the next. Trust the future version of this congregation to cherish your gift and use it well. They might even be encouraged by your generosity to leave a legacy for their descendants.
Amy: I heard a story of one couple who shared their logic in leaving a legacy gift. They have three children, all of whom are doing well. This couple decided to tithe their will. 10% of their estate will go to the church, right off the top. That leaves 90% to their three children. Their decision to tithe their estate means each child will receive 30% instead of 33% of the estate. They are still caring for their children while expressing confidence in the church of the future.
Another woman found a unique way to leave a legacy for her church. When she was a little girl, her father took out a life insurance policy for her and paid the premiums faithfully. When she turned 21, her father turned over the policy to her to do with as she pleased. She decided not to cash it in but continued to pay the small premium each year. When she came to a time when she wanted to provide a legacy gift to her congregation, she made the church her beneficiary. She chose to pass on the legacy she received from her father to the congregation that she loved.
Mark: Those are great stories and great ideas. I’m so glad we’re beginning to talk about this, and I hope folks will feel comfortable talking with me or with any of the members of the Finance and Stewardship Team about legacy giving. If you’ve already designated our church as a beneficiary in your will, thank you. Also, please, please let us know about this. It will help us a lot to know what your plans are, and we would like to help make sure your legacy gifts are honored and directed in the way you desire. Being intentional about leaving a legacy helps us to make the kinds of gifts we really want to give, and to honor the relationships we cherish: with God and with our congregation.