David Green on “How can I build a family legacy?”

The release of “Joy Giving” has invited deep and thoughtful questions from givers. Many givers have asked how they can encourage their families toward giving and create a family legacy of generosity.

David Green, is the founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, a large American retailer, and the author of Giving It All Away… and Getting It All Back Again. David spoke at our Celebration of Generosity in Hong Kong just a few months ago and has been a great friend to Generosity Path.

David once wrote a short piece entitled “Five Keys to Building a Family Legacy.” This piece answers our friends’ questions beautifully. Since we cannot find this piece online anymore, I offer this summary. (Leave a comment below if you’d like a scan of the full piece.)


Five Keys to Building a Family Legacy

Healthy families are God’s plan for humanity. God knows families are the building blocks of society, and he cares about them deeply. As families thrive, society thrives.

If your only goal in life is to build a family legacy, you won’t have a family legacy.

God has blessed me with a wonderful family—three children, ten grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren (and counting!)—and I love having them in my life. Over the years, as the family has both lived together and worked together to build Hobby Lobby, we’ve learned a few things about family. There are five keys to building a healthy family legacy that I’d like to share with you.

1. Remember Your Story

Every family has a unique history and its own story to share. We need these family stories now more than ever. When we step back and remember our family story, we see that God has a bigger picture. He has a plan that goes beyond our personal lives. Our lives will affect others for generations to come.

For the Green family, our family legacy has been filled with faith. My grandfather was a preacher, and my parents met at a tent revival. My parents later became pastors, and all my siblings went into full-time ministry.

Knowing my family’s history has shaped who I am and how I run my business.


If you could recount three memories about your parents to your grandchildren, what would they be?

Action Step:

Have a family story night, and make it fun! Order pizza, make a family trivia game, and let your children compete to answer questions about your family history.


2. Stay Grounded in God’s Word

Jesus says, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Be careful about the voices you allow into your children’s lives (and your own). Before you listen to voices that entertain, make sure you’ve listened to the Voice that will sustain.

Moses said, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). God wants his word to saturate every aspect of our family life.

Before we can ever hope to impress them on our children, we must make sure they’re on our own hearts.


What can you do to make God’s Word part of your daily routine, both personally and as a family?


Combine God’s Word with something that you already do every day. For example, start reading a Bible story as a family before you go to bed or before you eat dinner.


3. Prioritize Each Other

Put your family first. This seems simple, but I’ve seen so many families drift apart simply because they fail to spend time together. People put their career above their spouse, and healthy marriages end in divorce.

God’s economy isn’t one that puts career or status first. God puts love first.

God shows that families are his priority. Over and over, he uses family to describe his relationship to Israel, the relationship of the Trinity, and our relationship with God. He promises to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6).

For our family, we celebrate holidays, take group vacations, and have monthly gatherings. We find ways to be in each others’ lives. Granted, this has gotten more complicated as our children have grown up and now grandchildren and great grandchildren have entered the picture.


If you were to ask your family what your priorities are, based on how you spend your time, what would they say?


Spend time together regularly. Pray with your kids each night. Eat dinner as a family. While you’re together, be intentional in finding out about your children’s worlds and listening to what’s important to them.


4. Work Hard

Don’t rescue your children from work. It can be tempting to step in and save the day when you’re watching your children struggle, whether they’re up against a science project deadline or a mortgage payment. As a parent, you want to serve your children by giving them everything they need for success.

But remember: work is God’s will. When God put Adam in the garden, before sin even entered the world, God told Adam to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). Work is part of God’s perfect world. We do our children a disservice when we take this privilege away from them.

Work is also one of God’s primary means to help our children discover their gifts and calling. Personally, I had no idea what to do with my life until I started working in retail.

Give your children this same gift. Let them explore their own calling, and work as a parent to support them but not to rescue them or cripple them by providing things they should earn.


How is your own work ethic setting an example for your children?


Help your children come up with financial goals (paying for a portion of summer camp, buying a new game, etc.) and deadlines for meeting those goals. Break the amount down into how much they need to earn each month to meet their goals. Then brainstorm ways they can earn money.


5. Live Generously

Family is important, but it’s not everything. If your only goal in life is to build a family legacy, you won’t have a family legacy. You’ll come up empty. I see so many families prioritize family to the point where they become unhealthy. Their entire life goal is their family. Their happiness depends on their family.

Family is good, but ultimately God has to be number one. The only antidote for an ingrown family is generosity. Generosity keeps us from becoming overly focused on ourselves. It reminds us that we are put here on this earth to glorify God and to serve others.

One of my life goals comes from 1 Timothy 2:7” “This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth.” Like Paul, I want to bring truth to those who have never heard, whether it’s through printing gospel pamphlets for children in other countries or putting full-page newspaper ads about Jesus in every newspaper in America on Easter Sunday.

As our family has given resources to accomplish this goal, it’s brought us closer together than if our only goal was to grow close as a family. As we’ve served together and come up with new ways to tell people about Jesus, we’ve become part of an adventure greater than anything I could have built on my own.


How can your family be more generous with your time, money, and resources?


Come up with ways to serve together as a family, such as cleaning your church, volunteering in your city, or cooking a meal for a neighbor.


To bring more joy to your giving, each post at joygiving.org takes a giver’s question (Situation), offers biblical guidance (Scripture), and, based on our thousands of interactions with Christian givers around the world, offers action items (Steps).

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