By John Rivas

Recently, I was asked to officiate at a funeral for the mother of a close friend. I was honored to be asked, of course, but never had the privilege of personally knowing his mother. What would I say that would be meaningful, yet authentic?

I was tempted to rely on pre-drafted material for the occasion, but somehow that just didn’t seem right. Instead, I took the opportunity to have a deep conversation with my friend about what his mother meant to him — her values, priorities, stories about her upbringing, and what she hoped to leave the world that would bring purpose and meaning to her life.

I asked questions such as:

  • What memories do you have of your mother that you would want your grandchildren to know about her?
  • What are some things she thought really mattered that you hope would matter to your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren?

Through this conversation and many others like it, I have learned that there are things in life more precious than the assets we leave. When we think about leaving a legacy it’s not just a matter of preparing our assets for our family, it’s preparing our family for our assets.

What the Bible Says About Passing on Beliefs and Values

As followers of Christ, we see a mandate in the Bible for passing on beliefs and values to succeeding generations. Psalm 78:5-7 illustrates this best:

He established a decree in Jacob
    and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
    the children yet unborn,
and rise up and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God,
and not forget the works of God,
    but keep his commandments;

Like my friend’s mother, we should model and teach values guiding our lives so that our children, grandchildren, and succeeding generations will know that not only were we a believer, but why our relationship with Jesus was so important to us.

According to Jewish tradition, the Passover celebration starts with the youngest child asking, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” It is essentially a request to retell the story.

The Importance of Telling Stories and Estate Planning

Part of values transmission is helping our loved ones know and understand family stories. It is vital to tell grandkids stories such as how you met your spouse and what it was like when their parents were born. It’s also important to share what it cost to get to the place you’re at in life now and record the stories that keep the legacy going.

Beyond storytelling and sharing, it’s vital to plan your estate adequately so you can avoid unnecessary taxes and pass your estate on to your children and grandchildren with wisdom. Make sure you have the right tools in place — whether that’s a will, trust, or transfer-on-death provisions. Life insurance, IRAs, and 401Ks should all have the proper beneficiary designations.

Why it is Important to Create a Legacy

Everyone leaves a legacy — either by default or by design. It starts with a vision for flourishing individuals who remain connected to the bigger story and purpose of the family. That vision spurs on the important work of planning and communicating a legacy that help make it a reality.

If starting or further building a family legacy ignites a spark in your heart and mind, two new additions to ENCORE Ministry Foundation’s toolkit of resources may help:

  • GiftLegacy, a free monthly enewsletter sent out by ENCORE Ministry Foundation to assist you in preparing your wealth for your family AND your family for your wealth. To see the latest issue and to subscribe, click here.
  • To take a deeper dive into the resources and options on ENCORE Ministry Foundation’s website that are available to individuals and families creating or building a legacy, click here.

If you would like to have a conversation about how to be intentional in leaving your legacy, please call me at 615-660-3509, or email me at I am standing by to assist you in reaching your goals of sharing your values and stories, and how to wisely utilize generosity to make a difference in the lives of your family and those who are dear to you.

John Rivas is the Executive Director of the ENCORE Ministry Foundation.