Focusing on the Family
Thanksgiving and Christmas are traditionally viewed as family-oriented occasions with deep spiritual meaning, but I wonder how many of us miss out on those blessings because we're too busy with the hustle and bustle of the holidays. This year, make a point to have the whole family sit down together and spend some quality time discussing goals, dreams, and the purpose of life - and while you're at it, why not develop a family mission statement!
Many businesses, churches, and schools have mission statements. Creating a mission statement for your family can also be useful. Perhaps the idea of developing a mission statement seems rather lofty and impractical. But consider the fact that your children will grow up with or without a mission in mind. With no plan, it will happen haphazardly. Wouldn't it be better for them to have a purpose to focus on? Since ambitions without goals are merely dreams, one of the most important concepts your children can learn involves having a sense of direction in life.
Many people have trouble deciding what's right or wrong, and have difficulty making choices as to what they should do. Perhaps one of the reasons is because they grow up without clear values and purpose. The foundation of effective decision-making is having a valid mission statement to guide it. Children who grow up with a family mission statement will automatically and subconsciously refer back to it when they become young adults. This will reinforce their values and who they really are, and will help them to make positive decisions accordingly. Of course, as parents, we should be the first to set an example and live by the family mission statement.
A mission statement is like a compass that guides your course. It may include ends (goals) and means (how to go about achieving those goals). These specify how the mission is to be accomplished day by day and into the future. When referred to regularly, the mission statement helps to shape the decisions you make that lead to your destination. By defining timeless values that do not change, it provides direction for strategies that do change. A mission statement incorporates values, principles, and philosophies. It should be positive, uplifting, and empowering.
A mission statement declares your family's vision and purpose, and describes its desired effect upon family members. The mission statement should be one that can be visualized and communicated. It must contain meaningful principles from which no one is exempt. If you write it down and post it where everyone can see it, you will be more likely to live up to its standards. When placed as a focal point on the wall, it will be a constant reminder - and a convenient way to inform visitors - of your family's commitment to the stated principles.
How to Create a Family Mission Statement
The first step in planning a family mission statement is for all members of the family, including children, to sit down together and have a brainstorming session. It is best to choose a leisurely time when everyone is more likely to be in a reflective state of mind. Use a notebook, chalkboard, marker board, or large paper pad on an easel for writing down ideas. At this point, welcome all thoughts and do not allow comments to be made about the validity of any suggestion. Listen respectfully and record everyone's expressions accurately. Be patient, as this process will take time. In some cases, it might take several sessions. While you will have to make allowances for children's differing age levels, it is important to obtain everyone's input. Getting the whole family involved will increase their commitment, since the mission statement is something they must all choose to live by.
As a starting point for your family discussion, consider the following questions: What does it mean to be a family? What adjectives describe our family? What things are most important to us as a family? What are our strengths as a family, and what areas could use some improvement? What do other people say about our family? What are the priorities on which we want our family to focus (e.g., trust, honesty, kindness, service)? What guiding principles and values do we want our family to live by? What would we like to accomplish as a family? What do we see in other families that we would like to see in ours? What competencies do we want to develop (physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually)? What are the responsibilities of parents and children? What kind of home environment do we want? What great historical figures have inspired us? What are our long-term goals and expectations for the future? What is our purpose in life?
Think about the above issues and talk about them. Separate the responses into categories by dividing them into goals (what you are striving for) and action items (things to do to reach the goals). You can shorten the lists by combining similar ideas. Keep going over the suggestions and re-writing them until everyone is in agreement on what your family mission statement should include. Each family member should ultimately agree, since working together toward the same objective is essential for a family to function properly.
Next, arrange the list of thoughts into an orderly composition. Putting a mission statement in writing makes it stronger, emphasizes its importance, and reinforces commitment. Other than that, a mission statement does not have to conform to any set of rules. It may be in the form of prose or poetry. It can be a phrase, a sentence, or an entire page. It may incorporate a picture, symbol, or motto. A family mission statement may be based on a Bible verse or other suitable quotation. Just don't copy someone else's mission statement in an attempt to make it yours. Their mission statement reflects their unique style and point of view, as yours must reflect your own. Your mission statement will remind you of the discussions you had on each topic, so it will have a special meaning for your family that goes beyond the meaning it would have for anyone else.
Try to keep your family mission statement simple. Each word should be meaningful, clear and concise. Whether it is short or long, the mission statement must be one that everyone understands and will remember. A mission statement has to be written in the heart and mind as well as on paper. When family members have internalized the principles of the mission statement, they can sense the appropriate practices that pertain to each situation. Thus, a well thought-out family mission statement will help to ensure a happy and secure family environment, by incorporating important principles which all family members choose to live by at all times.
Once you have drafted a family mission statement, you and your children must follow it. The mission statement can direct the family's day-to-day activities, decisions, and expenditures. Keep in mind that while we can control goals, we cannot control results. If used properly, however, the mission statement will help you stay on the right course. By comparing your actions to the mission statement, you can tell if you are straying off the path. If you have difficulties, the mission statement motivates you to make course corrections and get back on track. Any time a member of the family does something contrary to the mission statement, instead of criticizing the person, simply ask them to check whether their action is in line with the mission statement or not.
A wise man once said, "If you want to see the strength of a nation, look at the strength of its families." By placing a family mission statement in your living room or other prominent place where the family gathers, it will be a constant reminder of your family's purpose and principles. Your mission statement should be a living document. Don't just file it away-use it, review it, memorize it. Look at it often and regularly consider how you are conducting your life in accordance with the mission statement.
Did You Know…?
Bible verses relating to family mission statements include: Deuteronomy 6:5-9, Deuteronomy 11:18-20, Joshua 24:15, Psalm 119:33-34, Proverbs 1:2-9, Proverbs 3:5-6, Proverbs 4:1-13, Proverbs 6:20-23, Proverbs 10:1, Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 24:3-4, Proverbs 29:15, Proverbs 31:10-31, Isaiah 54:13, Malachi 4:6, Ephesians 6:1-4, I Corinthians 13, Philippians 4:8-9, Colossians 3:20, Colossians 3:21, Colossians 3:23, I Timothy 4:11-13, Titus 2:1-5.
Teens, singles, stepfamilies, and family businesses have their own specific challenges and requirements when it comes to developing an effective mission. Please see the websites below for advice on creating mission statements for each of these circumstances. (And even if you participate in creating a family mission statement, you may want to make your own personal mission statement as well.)
First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy, by Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill.
How to Develop a Family Mission Statement (The Seven Habits Family Leadership Series), by Stephen R. Covey (Audio Cassette).
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families: Building a Beautiful Family Culture in a Turbulent World, by Stephen R. Covey and Sandra Merrill Covey.
The Path: Creating Your Mission Statement For Work and For Life, by Laurie Beth Jones.
www.parentingteenagers.org/pages/p3_miss.htm ("The Art of Developing a Family Mission Statement" by Rob Kurz, pastor of Foothills Fellowship in Albuquerque and father of three teens; order an audio tape for only $5, print out a family mission statement worksheet, and view his own family's mission statement.)
www.new-life.net/parent04.htm (Developing a Family Mission Statement, with examples.)
www.homemakingcottage.com/family/fmission.html (Family Mission Statements.)
http://sfhelp.org/06/mission1.htm (How to make a Stepfamily Mission Statement.)
www.franklincovey.com/missionbuilder (Create your own Personal Mission Statement online by answering some simple questions.)
www.franklincovey.com/cgi-bin/teens/teens-msb/part01/ (Online mission statement builder for teens.)
www.family-business-experts.com/company-mission-statements.html (Vision and company mission statements for a family business.)
www.allprodad.com/6defineavision.asp (Help define a vision for your child's life.)
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