Leaving a Legacy: Past. Present. Future.

September 5, 2017 by Presbyterian Foundation

After receiving three fairly significant bequests in 2006 — all between $200,000 to $400,000 in value, the First Presbyterian Church of Jefferson City, Missouri decided to allocate funds to three areas.

First, they paid off their mortgage and long-term debt. Second, they set up a fund to grow new ministries and support existing ones. The final third they put into a fund for non-traditional and future worship. Past. Present. Future.

Then the church received notification that they are the beneficiaries of two more bequests.

“This is an amazing thing — a good thing,” shared Pastor Rob Erickson, who has been at the church since 2010. These gifts, he suggested, have come because of seeds planted long ago — seeds that are now bearing fruit.

“It reminds me of Paul — it is not fruit that I’ve planted, but fruit that other pastors have planted over time and other sessions and trustees — it has created an attitude within the church that is truly amazing,” shared Erickson. He himself has included the church in his will. “Because that’s what we do here.”

But the sowing of such seeds is not something that they have left only in the past.

Recently the church hosted a program called “Our Last Legacy” in which they covered the topics of planning funerals, planning how we care for ourselves, and how to live life fully. The presenters were all from the congregation — a nurse, a Stephen Minister, a lawyer, and pastor Erickson.

They expected that, as in the past when they had brought in an outside speaker to cover such topics, they might have 10–12 people. But instead they had more than 50.

“I think it mattered to have people who were known to them — people they trusted,” shared Erickson. For his part he walked them through his own funeral — what songs he wants, what scripture. “We even laughed as we were talking about the various parts,” explained Erickson, pleased with the response.

Other topics included how to create a financial and legal legacy that is done in a way that helps those who are left to implement one’s wishes, but also how to live strong and well and healthy in the last quarter of life.

But for Erickson, it is personal relationships that are the key.

“People in your congregation are going to be giving to things they care about — to their alma matter, to other good causes in the community,” he said. So why not let them know about those good causes that are also in the congregation?

FPC Jefferson City had a carillon that broke after 40 years and it needed to be replaced. Erickson talked with a man in the church whose wife, who had loved music, had passed away. The man talked with their son and daughter and together they were able to contribute the new carillon to her memory. “Now they remember Virginia every time they hear that carillon play.”
Another individual in the church who spent his life traveling and has grandchildren that are in the church’s youth group decided to contribute to a bus — not when he died, but now, so that he can see it put to use. “He gets to see pictures in the newsletter of the bus being put to great use,” explained Erickson.

They are also quick to celebrate such gifts — making sure that it is known within the congregation that the ministry is happening out of generous donations.

Would you like to host a ’Leaving a Legacy’ program at your church? The Presbyterian Foundation can help you talk to members about estate planning in meaningful, natural ways. For more information, contact your regional Ministry Relations Officer (MRO) today. Call 800-858-6127 option 3 and we’ll put you in touch, or search for your MRO at presbyterianfoundation.org.

Unexpected gift

When First Presbyterian Church of Jefferson City, Missouri, received a number of sizable bequests, they put the money to use in three ways – to the past, to the present, and to the future. The future in this sense was a fund allocated for a new worship service – something they assumed might bring in younger people. The service was planned for the evening.

“What has happened is that we wound up with something that has drawn in families with young children – and also those who are without housing,” explained Pastor Rob Erickson.

“It is a curious first-century version of the church we have going on here,” he continued. It was not what they had envisioned when they put the funds from a bequest to use – but it is what God seems to be doing among them.

“We planned – but sometimes God does something different with our plans than what we had imagined.”

The church has a ministry with the Salvation Army during the week, preparing and serving meals for the residents of Center of Hope (homeless shelter). One night those folks just started showing up. “They come because it is a more casual service – and we have dinner,” explained Erickson.

The first time the folks from the Salvation Army ministry showed up, Erickson was already pressed for time and wondered what to do to incorporate the new guests who had arrived. But when he looked around he saw that those who were already there had begun to welcome the newcomers, to get them food, to make sure they had a place at the table. “They welcomed those in their midst – the stranger in their midst – and it was a glimpse of the kingdom.”

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