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Passing the Whole Baton

November 21, 2023

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For the past few years, nonprofit organizations and churches have been hearing about the upcoming generational wealth transfer. Estimates range anywhere from $60 to $90 trillion dollars that will be passed from Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation to their heirs and the causes they care about over the next 30 years.

Since churches tend to lag nonprofits in the philanthropic arena, many are just now awakening to the need to find inclusion in the planning documents of their church members. Since 80% of America’s wealth has been created by its holders, church members who have stewarded well and have abundance are struggling with how to pass their assets to the next generation.

This creates a discipleship opportunity for church leadership.

Since most people lack a strategic plan for en vivos and end-of-life generosity, churches would do well to focus on the discipleship questions that surround contentment and security. Only then can givers effectively plan how to transfer the appropriate amount of wealth to their heirs and potentially give catalytic gifts to Kingdom causes.

Transferring our valuables to our heirs is an important responsibility. But what about transferring our values? To establish a fully formed legacy, givers must bring both their values and valuables together. Otherwise, givers are simply handing out money without meaning.

There is a curious verse found in Judges 2:10, which reports, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” In short, the values obtained through the miraculous exodus from Egypt and the possession of the Promised Land lasted one generation. The Israelites transferred the valuables but did not successfully transfer their values.

In their book, The Great Dechurching, Jim Davis and Michael Graham point to current research that suggests a similar pattern today. They report that in 1972, only 5% of Americans claimed no religious preference. By 2021, the share was approximately 30%. The data shows that there is little evidence that colleges and universities are driving secularization. In fact, the more education one has, the more likely they are to stay in faith. While education does not necessarily deserve a hall pass, it certainly isn’t the sole cause of this statistic.

The focus on the coming wealth transfer is usually framed from the top, where the older generation will bequeath funds to the younger. But what is being done to prepare the Next Generation to receive it? According to the study, it appears that parents are struggling to fulfill their responsibility to pass the entire baton to their children in our ever-changing culture.

How can we help those within the sound of our voice parent their children well through values transferral?

First, Christian parents must ground decisions in their values, not circumstances, to create agency and protect against situational ethics. We live in a world that is filled with people building their lives on the shifting sand of postmodernity instead of the solid rock of truth.

Second, parents need to provide positive role modeling. According to Davis and Graham, the Baby Boomer generation is currently leaving the church at the rate of two to one compared to millennials. Positive role modeling includes making transparent the things we do every day that may be invisible to our kids, as well as paying attention to what we’re not doing, but wish we were and what we’re doing that we wish we weren’t. You can’t transfer something you haven’t instilled within yourself.

Next, parents need to be intentional about creating a strong family culture. Family culture is developed through the combination of priorities, habits, beliefs, traditions, values, and choices. Families may choose to form a family mission statement and core values to solidify their identity in Christ and navigate their relationships with one another.

Fourth, parents should give children and adolescents permission to grow by allowing for questions, failure, and mistakes early in life rather than when they become more independent in college or early in their careers. Values are best transferred when parent is used as a verb and not a noun. Perhaps it is better to serve as safety nets versus protective umbrellas.

Finally, help your children discover their own voice organically on their timetable. The challenge of being a member of a family unit while simultaneously being an individual within a family unit can be difficult to navigate. Understanding the balance between the two may be the key to our children growing up versus growing away. Proverbs 22:6 states that we are called to help guide our children to follow their bent and pursue God according to his design, not ours.

These concepts are merely suggestions, designed to draw attention to a critical discipleship need that is being neglected in every church.

By raising literate heirs, parents can leave a legacy of significance and pass the entire baton.

Guest Author: Tim Deatrick, Director of Giver Engagement, MortarStone

CCCU is proud to provide a Christian banking solution that is rooted in the principles of Biblical stewardship. Join thousands of Christians across the U.S. who have decided it’s time to bank with their Christian values at CCCU.

This article was written in partnership with our friends at Christian Stewardship Network. To learn more, visit them at christianstewardshipnetwork.com.

This article should not be considered legal, tax, or financial advice. You may wish to consult a tax or financial advisor about your individual financial situation.

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