Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” James 1:17
God is the source of all we have. God breathed life into us. Through His Son, He forgives us, renews us in grace, and promises us eternal joy in His Presence. Our talents and skills, the relationships that bring us joy and meaning, and our worldly possessions and the wisdom to use them rightly—all these come from His hands. They are given to us in trust, to use with care and gratitude. We use them best when they help us and others to do God’s will, to bring hope and justice to a broken world.
Jesus told a story about a man who had great wealth but failed to consider the future. He built “barns and bigger barns” to store what he could never use. And then, long before he ever expected, his life came to a sudden end. ‘God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20-21).
Planned giving is an invitation to become “rich toward God,” to “lay up treasure” not for yourself but for the ministry of the Church, which will continue in doing God’s will long after your life has ended. It’s an invitation to wise stewardship of the gifts you have received, a call to express the gratitude you feel in recognizing that all you have is “from above.” It creates a meaningful legacy that expresses your faith by giving back to the One who has given so much to you.
Many parishes have benefitted through the years from significant bequests from members devoted to their church property and to God’s work carried out in that space. Increasingly, as church membership has remained static or declined, many parishes have become reliant on those resources generously left by those who have gone before us. At the same time, the practice of including our church in our estate planning may not be as common today as it was previously.
Types of Planned Giving
Planned gifts made through bequests in wills, through life-income gifts, insurance, retirement accounts, or other types of gifts hold enormous potential for Episcopal communities of faith. Establishing and maintaining an active planned giving program is a vital ministry that offers church members the opportunity to make a final testament about the importance of their Christian faith, and can help ensure resources will be available in the future to do the important work of the Church.
In general planned gifts are made through:
- A Bequest in a Will
- A Life Income Gift such as a pooled income fund, a charitable gift annuity, or a charitable remainder trust
- Gifts of Special Assets (real estate, closely held stock, life insurance, retirement accounts)
- Has your parish historically benefitted from estate bequests and other forms of planned giving?
- Have you celebrated and recognized those gifts?
- Do you periodically educate your members on ways to make planned gifts to your parish?
Educational Campaigns are Essential
With the increasing competition for philanthropic resources we cannot assume that our fellow parishioners will make provisions for their church in their estate planning absent appropriate periodic reminders.
Planned Giving is a good way for your church to say
- We believe in the future of this church.
- We want to be guided in our stewardship by the belief that everything we have is a gift from God.
- We want to build a sense of permanence in what we do.
- We want to be good stewards as a church family even as we expect each member to be a good steward.
- We want to go the extra mile in providing services and programs that formerly were only dreams.
- We want to continue a heritage that future generations can celebrate as joyfully as we celebrate our rich heritage today.
- Make the spiritual connection: All that we are, all that we have, comes from God and will one day return to God.
- Make the historical connection: Appropriately describe the historic mission and witness of your parish.
- Identify Leadership
- Develop the plan and assemble educational materials
- Facilitate the process (Pro Bono professional resources)
- Create a Legacy Society
Where Can I Find Help?
Bibliography of resources:
The Episcopal Church Foundation is the main resource for planned giving for Episcopal parishes and organizations. They can be reached directly by calling 800-697-2858 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or view their website: www.episcopalfoundation.org
Episcopal donor planned giving website: www.episcopalgifts.org
United Church of Christ (United Church Funds) www.ucfunds.org
Presbyterian Church USA (Presbyterian Foundation) www.presbyterianfoundation.org
We are stewards of God’s bounty. Caretakers. For a brief period we are given time, energy, and resources. What we do with these gifts ultimately defines the character of our life and the depth of our spiritual understanding.