In 2016, almost 800,000 was left in legacies across the Diocese of Bristol, contributing to parish income, financing mission projects, helping to maintain beautiful church buildings and growing faithful communities.
For many people, leaving a gift in their will is a final opportunity to make a lasting gift to God, and leaving it to the church that has blessed them in life is the natural thing to do. But the amount being given has started to fall behind other organisations which have seen huge increases in legacies over the past few years.
As a diocese, we want to help PCCs take practical steps to encourage this area of giving with some practical resources.
The Church of England recently produced Why Christians Should Have a Will, a leaflet which gently outlines the excellent reasons for making a will, and we would encourage churches to make use of this at life events and regular giving events.
Making sure that a person has written a clear will can be of great benefit to their own family, but it can also help to put their own mind at rest as they prepare for the end of life. So we should see this as part of our ministry.
Get Prepared for National Will Aid Week
Every November, during Will Aid Week, participating solicitors waive their fee for writing a basic will. Instead, they invite clients to make a voluntary donation to Will Aid. Appointments become available from September onwards, and there is a national marketing campaign. You can find out more at willaid.org.uk. You dont have to wait for this; there are other options available, but it makes sense to make use of the heightened awareness around this time. But is your church prepared?
Does your Church have a PCC Legacy Policy?
Most people will only leave a gift in their will if they think their church will use it for projects which will make a real difference to the future of the church and community. A legacy policy allows the PCC to prepare and discuss how they would wish to see a gift used. It can also help to reassure those interested that the PCC has a policy in place.
PCCs should agree a policy on how potential legacy income will be spent, and then communicate it to the congregation. It is also advisable to encourage unrestricted gifts since the needs of a church will change over time.