If we don’t intentionally pass on a legacy consistent with our beliefs and values, our culture will pass along its own.

No matter who we are, where we live, or what our goals may be, we all have one thing in common: a heritage. That is, a social, emotional and spiritual legacy passed on from parent to child. Every one of us is passed family legacies. Also, we live out a family legacy. Then, we give a family legacy to our family. It’s not an option. Parents always pass a legacy to their children.

A spiritual, emotional and social legacy is like a three-stranded cord. Individually, each strand cannot hold much weight. But wrapped together, they are strong. That’s why passing on a positive, affirming legacy is so important and why a negative legacy can be so destructive. The good news is that you have help. With God’s help, you can decide to pass a positive legacy on to your children whether you received one or not.

Today, if we don’t intentionally pass a legacy consistent with our beliefs to our children, our culture will pass along its own, often leading to a negative end. It is important to remember that passing on a spiritual, emotional and social legacy is a process, not an event. As parents, we are responsible for the process. God is responsible for the product. We cannot do God’s job, and He won’t do ours.

The Emotional Legacy
In order to prosper, our children need an enduring sense of security and stability nurtured in an environment of safety and love. Also, parents have the unique opportunity to develop healthy conversations surrounding emotional and mental health within family legacies.

The Social Legacy
To really succeed in life, our children need to learn more than management techniques, accounting, reading, writing and geometry. They need to learn the fine art of relating to people. If they learn how to relate well to others, they’ll have an edge in the game of life.

The Spiritual Legacy
Often the Spiritual Legacy is overlooked. But that’s a mistake. As spiritual beings, we adopt attitudes and beliefs about spiritual matters from one source or another. Furthermore, as parents, we need to take the initiative and present our faith to our children.

The 3 Types of Family Legacies

For each family, these legacies might look different. Remember, that the goal isn’t to compare your family to others. Rather, there are opportunities to look at other family legacies to create unique habits in your own family. As you explore each type of family legacy, ask yourself key questions about your own family. Also, be honest. Then, prioritise how you can have meaningful conversations with your spouse, children, and other family members about your family legacy.

The Emotional Legacy

Sadly, many of us struggle to overcome a negative emotional legacy that hinders our ability to cope with the inevitable struggles of life. But imagine yourself giving warm family memories to your child. You can create an atmosphere that provides a child’s fragile spirit with the nourishment and support needed for healthy emotional growth. However, it will require time and consistency to develop a sense of emotional wholeness. Yet, the rewards are immense.

Aspects of an Emotional Legacy

  • Provides a safe environment in which deep emotional roots can grow.
  • Fosters confidence through stability.
  • Conveys a tone of trusting support.
  • Nurtures a strong sense of positive identity.
  • Creates a “resting place” for the soul.
  • Demonstrates unconditional love.

Which characteristics would you like to build into the legacy you pass along to your children? Even if you don’t hit the exact mark, setting up the right target is an important first step.

The Social Legacy

In order to prosper, our children need to gain the insights and social skills necessary to cultivate healthy, stable relationships. As children mature, they must learn to relate to family members, teachers, peers and friends. Eventually they must learn to relate to coworkers and many other types of people such as salespeople, bankers, mechanics and bosses.

Nowhere can appropriate social interaction and relationships be demonstrated more effectively than in the home. At home you learned — and your children will learn — lessons about respect, courtesy, love and involvement. Our modelling as parents plays a key role in passing on a strong social legacy.

Aspects of a Social Legacy

  • Respect. First, begin with your kids level of respect within your family. Then, demonstrate respect to others.

  • Responsibility. Secondly, help your children foster respect for themselves,. Then, cultivate responsibility by assigning children duties within the family,. This will make them accountable for their actions and give them room to make wrong choices once in a while.

  • Unconditional love and acceptance by their parents, combined with conditional acceptance when the parents discipline for bad behaviour or actions.

  • The setting of social boundaries concerning how to relate to God, authority, peers, the environment and siblings.

  • Rules that are given within a loving relationship

The Spiritual Legacy

Parents who successfully pass along a spiritual legacy to their children model and reinforce the unseen realities of the godly life. We must recognise that passing a spiritual legacy means more than encouraging our children to attend church, as important as that is. The church is there to support parents in raising their children but it cannot do the raising; only parents can.

The same principle applies to spiritual matters. For example, parents are primary in spiritual upbringing, not secondary. Also, this is especially true when considering that children, particularly young children, perceive God the way they perceive their parents. If their parents are loving, affirming, forgiving and yet strong in what they believe, children will think of God that way. God cares. He is principled. Above all, he loves our children better than we ever could.

Aspects of a Spiritual Legacy

  • Ask yourself, does our family acknowledge and reinforce spiritual realities? Do your children know, for example, that Jesus loves everyone? That God is personal, loving and will forgive us?
  • Do we view God as a personal, caring being who is to be loved and respected?
  • How often do we make spiritual activities a routine part of life?
  • As a family, how can we clarify timeless truth?
  • Incorporate spiritual principles into everyday living.

Final Thoughts on Family Legacies

Family legacies are central to the development of our children. Furthermore, family legacies are important within the Bible’s wisdom involving parenting. As your children continue to grow up, tinker with how your family approaches its legacy. Remember to engage in age-appropriate conversations focused on key topics that are relevant to your family’s legacy.

​© 1996, 2022 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Adapted from Your Heritage © 1996 J. Otis Ledbetter and Kurt Bruner. To order a copy of the book Your Heritage go to heritagebuildersglobal.com.

Otis Ledbetter and Kurt Bruner

J. Otis Ledbetter holds a Doctor of Ministry degree and is an author, conference speaker, and the Lead Pastor at Sonrise Church. He and Gail have three grown children and twelve grandchildren. He has written numerous articles for magazines and specialises in Heritage Builders workshops nationally and internationally, which teach parents and grandparents the spiritual, emotional, and social components of the heritage they are passing to the next generation. His books include Your Heritage, Family Fragrance, Family Traditions, Extending Your Heritage, Spiritual Milestones for Your Children, and The Greatest Gift, a compilation with other authors and his latest 2019 release, Soul Hunger: Satisfy Your Heart’s Deepest Longing. He has been featured on numerous radio and television broadcasts. His book Your Heritage was distributed as a premium offer on Billy Graham’s Hour of Decision.

Kurt Bruner has a Master’s Degree in Theology and worked with Focus on the Family for twenty years as Group Vice President over all media and communications and authored 3 dystopian novels authored in collaboration with Dr. James Dobson. He then became Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Lake Pointe Church near Dallas where he pioneered the HomePointe strategy for creating a culture of intentional families. He then became Chief Operating Officer for Open Doors International, a ministry serving persecuted Christians worldwide.

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