When Susannah and I married we wanted an outlook on our future, some idea of where we are headed to launch us in the right direction. We decided to write a family mission statement. The process was difficult for a variety of reasons but one of the first challenges we faced was figuring out what kinds of things a great mission statement should say. For instance, we decided it was better to be more specific than general. A statement like “The mission of our family is to glorify God in all that we do” sounds great and is not untrue but doesn’t provide real guidance for what our family is going to do on Monday morning.
As we were working through this, Susannah came across the mission statement from a local organization printed on the back of one of their name badges. It actually included three separate statements: mission, vision, and values. She took a picture of the name badge and showed it to me.
The statements on the badge were pretty vague and they were actually indistinguishable from one another. In other words, it was hard to tell the mission, vision, and values of this organization apart. But we decided that the framework they had used could help us structure our family mission statement. Here’s a breakdown of how we defined mission, vision, and values as concepts and some questions to ask if you want to apply them to your own life.
The question we asked ourselves was: What is the purpose of our family’s existence? What is going to be our life’s work? This question is incredibly challenging to answer. A truly helpful answer has to be general enough to remain true for future decades but specific enough to reveal action items that you can start working on tomorrow. Accomplishing that will mean careful consideration of your gifts and tendencies as well as pondering what are really the deepest desires of your heart. What do you want the cumulative efforts of your life to amount to? You will probably not discover the answer to these questions in thirty minutes. Be willing to give it the time that it deserves.
To me, this one is the fun part. Developing a vision is where the mission starts to take on a concrete form that you can see. The vision is your imagination of what accomplishing your mission is going to look like. The key question here is: What is the best possible future for our family that we can imagine? The way I like to think about it is by fast forwarding to the very last day of my life. On that last day, having spent my life for the mission, what am I looking back on? What have I done? What have I built? What of me will be left here tomorrow, when I’m gone?
Talking about family values is where you really get into the daily nitty gritty. This is where you start talking about what kinds of people you want to be as you pursue your mission and vision. This is where you identify some principles that are going to guide your daily decisions. The question to ask is: What are the habits and qualities that will become our trademark?
I imagine not everybody enjoys this kind of thinking the way I do, but I think any family that took some time to think and dream together about the future they want to have could have some fun with it. One important thing to remember is that even though you do want to try to develop a mission statement that will be long-lasting, there is no law that says it has to be permanent, written in stone. You may find that after 3-5 years a revision is in order and that can start the dreaming process all over again.