Why are you here on earth? Depending on your age, you’ve probably wondered that before. And, it makes sense for each of us as individuals to reflect on our purpose or as my friend Dr. Daniel Lee says to “Do What You’re Built For”.
If you haven’t asked yourself that question then I suggest that you do spend some time thinking about it. It is important to have a sense of who you are as a person and how you will leave the earth a better place than you found it. I honestly believe that this is what we are on earth for.
I advocate that each of us adopt this purpose-focused lens to assess your meaningful contribution to your community (both potential and accomplished).
For example, my personal mission statement is to “transform family life through healthy relationship building”. One can readily see from my mission that family is the focus, transformation is the goal, and relationship building is the process to get you there.
When you read my blog posts at HaroldArnold.com or listen to my “Leading You Home” podcast or read my book, Marriage ROCKS for Christian Couples or hear me speak on leadership you can readily see that everything points back to my mission statement. In a real sense my mission statement is a guidepost that keeps me setting goals and strategies that move me in the direction that I am “built for”.
Even if you haven’t personally put your mission statement on paper, most of us see the value of having one. But, what about the importance of a mission statement for your family.
If you accept the importance of our individual mission statements then what happens when you think about your entire family—a collection of personalities, talents, and interests. A mission statement is just as important for your family as it is for you. But, few families ever go through the process of figuring it out.
It is important because such a mission statement can become the guidepost for your family—especially if you are able to construct it while your children are still in their formative years. Best selling author Stephen Covey has a helpful resource for developing a family mission statement here.
There are 5 steps and multiple benefits involved in developing a family mission statement for your family.
Regardless of whether you’re a single person, a couple without children at home, married with children in the home, or parents of adult children it is never too late to work on a family mission statement. Though I will admit that its impact may be greatest if completed when your children are younger.
Here are the 5 steps to develop your own family mission statement. For illustrative purposes I will use the one that my wife, kids, and I agreed upon for the Arnold family.
Step 1: Seek Family Buy-in (Explain to the family what you are doing and why)
GOAL: Gain full family participation in the process
The first step is getting buy in from the family. This is important because you want everyone to participate and feel like they are represented in the construction of the mission.
Here are some tips to enhance your chances at getting buy-in:
- Outline the benefits that you will relate to the family (e.g., “together time”, values uniqueness of each person, enhances listening skills)
- Propose the idea to the other adult(s) in the home first
- This helps you present a unified front to the kids who may be a little resistant initially to the exercise
- This is especially important if you live in a blended family arrangement, have contrarian teens, or do not have a pattern of working on projects together as a family.
- Introduce the idea when family relationships are at a relatively good or stable place
- Attach a special reward to the performance and/or completion of the process (e.g., family night out at the movies)
Step 2: Ask each person to individually write an answer to two questions.
GOAL: Help each person to project beyond their day to day transactions into what they want to see as their core identity
Children who are really young and cannot yet think abstractly can skip this step. If your child cannot write the response yet, allow them to dictate it for you to record.
- “When your time on this earth is done, what do you want people to remember about you?”
- “What will you do during your lifetime that will cause them to remember you that way?”
I answered these questions as follows:
- I would like people to remember me as a person that lived with godly integrity, pursued excellence in everything, and genuinely cared for people
- People will remember me this way through my consistent transparency, honesty, trustworthiness, and perseverance in prioritizing godly character and relational investments in my home, academia, writing/speaking venues while also challenging others to do the same
Step 3: Brainstorm the giftedness of each family member
GOAL: Affirm the value and special contribution of each person
Starting with the youngest person, have each family member share a non-judgmental, affirming description of how he/she sees that person by filling in the blank to the following three sentences.
- When I think of your special gifts, I think of _________.
- If you were not part of our family, we would be less ____________.
- What makes you unique is your _____________.
[For each blank, fill in as many words as come to mind]
Continue until each family member has responded to these questions for the youngest person. Be sure to record all of the responses. Then, continue to the next youngest person in like manner until all family members have been affirmed.
In our family, what I might say for my son Quilan is:
- When I think of your special gifts, I think of [dancing], [charisma], [adaptability].
- If you were not part of our family, we would be less [artistic], [humorous].
- What makes you unique is your [dance achievements].
Step 4: Self-appraisal of each family member
GOAL: Synthesize the family and personal perspectives
Again, starting with the youngest person read all of the family perspectives identified in Step 3.
Then ask him/her the following question:
- “Considering the way your family views you along with your own self view, what 3-5 words best capture who you really are?”
Have each family member answer this question. Younger children may need help with identifying their 3-5 words.
For example, my daughter Kyrsten might identify the following five words:
- Writer, Miracle, Leader, Loyal, Emotional
Step 5: Develop family strengths and mission statement
GOAL: Devise a family mission that captures the uniqueness of each family member
The final step is the most difficult as it requires the ability to consolidate the strengths of each family member. You should not expect to get it “right” in your first step. In fact, there is no “right” answer. It is a process of refining and guiding your family toward its core identity.
You may choose to try to work through this together as a group or to have one family member develop an initial draft. For my family, I developed the initial draft and then asked each other family member if they felt represented in the mission statement.
Here are a few tips to help you with the process:
- Review the 3-5 words for each family member in Step 4
- Look for common ideas or themes across family members (in our family, repeated ideas were God-focused, leadership, excellence, and artistry)
- Attempt to have a focus, process, and goal in your mission (See our example below)
- Ensure your mission statement can stand the test of time—ask yourself will this statement be just as relative 20 years from now as it is today
- Consult with each family member to confirm that it represents them. Even if you have to explain how it represents them, it should make sense to them with the explanation.
- When finalized, print, frame, and display it as a guidepost for the whole family
Here is what we came up with for the Arnold family mission:
- “Modeling excellence as a discipline for experiencing God in creative ways”
You can see the following elements in our mission:
- Focus (“creative”) – captures our artistry in writing, dancing, speaking
- Process (“modeling excellence”) – captures our daily pursuit to do things with a spirit of excellence
- Goal (“experiencing God”) – captures our aim to use our gifts to direct ourselves and others towards our Creator
Developing a family mission statement may be one of the most beneficial things you can do to direct the long-term progress of your family. I hope that it is a useful process for your family.
Please leave your comments with how you’re progressing through the steps and definitely post your own family mission statement when you’ve completed it.
I can’t wait to see what you come up with.