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4 Ways to Leave a Legacy That Counts

September 25, 2017
What kind of legacy do you want to leave to those who follow after you?


I’m not talking about the transfer of money or wealth. Money is not a lasting legacy. Scott, my friend and a financial planner, says the financial inheritance families receive, whether large or small, is gone in an average of 17 months. Steve Green, founder of Hobby Lobby, in his book Giving it All Away, stated only about 30% of family businesses survive into the next generation. 


So we’re not talking money or business and physical assets. True wealth is found in our values, in our families, in our spiritual impact on those around us and those who come after us.


I’m at the stage where I’m re-examining that issue very studiously. How will I be remembered by my kids and grandkids?  


Will I be remembered for leadership positions I’ve held? Not impressive.


Will I be remembered to my years on the radio?  Possibly.


Will I be remembered for sermons I preached?  I doubt it!


There is meaning and value in using our career or ministry to change lives. I recently retired as president of Reach Beyond, an 85 year old ministry focused on radio and medical care. When I came to the position, it was obvious this vintage ministry had some historic, legacy-type ministries that were no longer relevant or sustainable. I felt that God was directing me to prepare this organization to survive and thrive for the next generation of ministry.


That meant changing values. Adjusting strategies. Selling assets. Stopping activities no longer needed or effective.  I joked that my legacy was going to be “the president who closed things down.”


There was a lot of second-guessing and criticism during that time. But in order to “right-size” the ministry, it was necessary to re-adjust priorities and make significant personnel decisions if the ministry was going to survive, much less thrive. As John Maxwell wrote in his The Twenty-one Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: “A legacy is created only when a person puts his organization into the position to do great things without him.”


Thankfully, my successor is generous in thanking me and crediting me for doing the “heavy lifting” so Reach Beyond could fly. Good or bad, that’s going to be a big part of the legacy in my last job.  


However, prior to that I served for 40 years in Christian radio. Part of that legacy is in the listeners whose lives were changed.  Another enduring legacy from that is younger leaders who have thanked me for the influence on their lives. (In fact, I’m surprised when those comments come.) Other legacy moments come when I see some of the “kids” I mentored or encouraged along the way taking prominent leadership positions, or when I speak to various professional or ministry groups, and share my Top Ten Life Lessons I’ve learned in my ministry career. It feels really good!


We’re in a unique period of time where scores of baby-boomer leaders are retiring and passing the baton to the next generation. It’s important when leaving a legacy to those who follow us to do so in a healthy, godly, generous manner.  


Okay, that’s the business side, the ministry side, the career side. But in the end, we don’t really want friends and families to praise us for all the time we spent at the office, do we? Nor do we expect to hear the Lord say, “Well done, for your good and faithful work” in any of those. Any worthwhile legacy is really about our faithfulness to Him. And much of that is about how we related to others.


How about family? Have I taken time to invest in my kids?  Am I able somehow to impact my grandkids?  What am I doing intentionally to make a significant mark on their lives? Obviously during child-rearing years, we have opportunity to directly shape the values of our children.  But what about when they become adults?  What about impacting our grandkids?  


Unfortunately for many in this highly mobile society, grandkids can live hundreds, even thousands of miles away. How do we from a distance leave an impact on their lives?


Here are a few ways I’ve found to do that:


1. BE INTENTIONAL To begin with, we must be intentional about staying in relationship with our grown children and to continue to model faithfulness, integrity, love, and generosity.  Find ways to create occasions where you can have an influence in their lives.  


2. ENGAGE W/THEM USING TECHNOLOGY  Text messaging, FaceTime and Skype are  today’s tools for staying in touch. Kids have busy lives with school, church youth group, sports, and a thousand other things. It’s not always easy to stay connected with them. Even sending a text message without getting a response can be a connection or leaving an encouraging message on their cell phone.


3. CELEBRATE THEM Holidays and birthdays are big deals to kids and are a great opportunity to encourage them or to say something that will leave an impression. I’ve done a couple things along this line. 


This past summer, my family and I worked and worked to find a time all fifteen of us could get together for a long weekend in the mountains. Between VBS, Christian camp, missions trips and sports events, we finally landed on a weekend.


We rented a house in the mountains where all of us could eat and sleep. We watched old videos of the grandkids growing up. On the first morning, I gathered the entire group and shared from my heart about my story of how God has directed and protected me.  I shared about career successes and disappointments, and I shared in detail how my wife Norma, their grandma, had suffered with cancer but peacefully passed from this broken world into the very presence of Jesus. I didn’t know how many opportunities we would have for all of us to be together, but as part of my legacy I wanted to share my journey with the Lord. They were very quiet as they listened. I pray it’s something they won’t forget.


4. PASS ON YOUR FAITH Another thing I’ve been doing, which I started when my daughters graduated from high school, is reading through the Bible, underlining and making margin notes as I read. When the girls graduated, I gave each of them the Bible with my markings and comments. I hope it’s a legacy they will treasure. My daughter laughingly refers to it as the Wayne Pederson Study Bible.


Now I'm doing that for each of my grandchildren though not the entire Bible.  I plan to give each of them their Bible when they graduate from high school. I pray that they will cherish it and know that their grandpa was a man who loved Jesus and studied God’s word.



So what’s your legacy?  Are you building your own empire that will crumble when you’re gone, or are you investing in the future and eternity of your loved ones? You might want to take time and write down some of the most important values and memories you want to leave to those who follow after you.



It’s never too late to start leaving a legacy that counts!