family jumping

Create a family purpose statement

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and is currently traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

This might seem like an odd topic to start our Back to the Basics series. Admittedly, I hadn’t thought of it. I ran through my ideas with my husband a few evenings ago—all the great topics you guys suggested, and asked him what further topics he could contribute.

Out of his mouth, without missing a beat, was, “The first post should be how to manage it all by finding your family’s priorities and ignoring everything else. No one can do it all, so it’s essential to start by finding out what you should do, and which things are okay to ignore.”

I’m married to a smart guy.

He’s absolutely right — so this week, the first step in heading Back to the Basics is to create your family’s mission statement. All the canning, ironing, and meal planning in the world will matter a hill of beans if they’re done out of obligation, or accomplished aimlessly out of not knowing what to do next.

I’m a big believer in following Elisabeth Elliot’s advice, “When you don’t know what to do next, just do the thing in front of you.” But it certainly helps if you have more of an idea of what’s the most important thing to do next.

In the 21st century, many of us respond to the tyranny of the urgent. One of the characteristics of a responsible adult is to recognize the difference between the important and the urgent, and then refuse to be tyrannized by the urgent; refuse to manage by crisis.

Easier said than done. Who hasn’t struggled to start dinner for the family (the “important”), but can’t seem to find the time it takes because of an exploding diaper, a sibling argument, spilled grape juice, and the ringing telephone (the “urgent”)?

But as home managers, we must know the difference. We cannot operate soley in response to the urgent for long — we’ll go mad.

This week’s task:

Create your family’s mission statement. Discover what you’re about.

Who this involves:

You and your spouse. The leaders of the family both need to collaborate and create this together. It’s a joint project.

How long will this take?

It varies. For some couples who have already thought through some of this, it’ll just take a few hours of reaffirming their ideas. For others, it may take a few evening dates over the span of several weeks, going through the questions, writing a draft, whittling it down, and finalizing the result. Overall, this will probably take around 2-6 hours.

The process:

Answer a series of questions, perhaps use some web tools, talk over your answers, pray, and write down your short-but-comprehensive mission statement. For fun, you can inscribe this statement somewhere permanent and display it in your home.

The goal:

A timeless, easy-to-read, holistic family mission statement that applies to everyone in the family. By the end of this week, you should have a decent draft of this statement. This will help you make decisions, feel confident about saying “no,” and be a bit better at focusing on the important instead of the urgent.

Let’s begin.


Photo by Kwanie

Questions

Plan an evening this week to sit down over tea as a couple, and answer a few questions. These questions are not comprehensive — feel free to elaborate on your own, to skip some that don’t seem to apply, and to focus on what’s important for your family. Mostly, these are meant to serve as a springboard to get your thoughts flowing.

1. What are a few strengths of each member of our family?

2. Collectively, we are at our best when we are…

3. Collectively, we are at our worst when we are…

4. If we had a completely free day together as a family, how would we spend it?

5. What are practical ways we can serve each other?

6. What are practical ways we can serve others outside our family?

7. Name three things you think you could do better as a family.

8. What would people say today about our family as a whole?

9. What would we like people to say about our family as a whole in 30 years?

10. If our home could be filled with one emotion, what would it be?

11. Name three adjectives we would like people to use to describe our home environment.

12. If we could name one principle from which we want our family to operate, what would it be?

13. What are the top four priorities we want our family to value?

14. What is the main purpose of our home?

15. What is the secondary purpose of our home?

16. What is the individual purpose in life of each member of our family?

17. What is one way we are unique as a family?

18. Describe the status of our family in 10 years…

  • financially:
  • intellectually:
  • emotionally:
  • relationally with each other:
  • communally in our environment:
  • physically:
  • spiritually:

19. Where are you as a family in 10 years? What does your home look like?

20. What is the purpose of life?


Photo by Cia De Foto

Applying the answers

These are some heavy questions that could seem over-the-top about something as daily as grocery shopping or paying the bills. But here’s my point — unless there’s a motivating reason behind doing our day-to-day chores, we’ll lose heart, and we won’t care about our results.

When, as a family, we are convicted that our home is a tool by which we practice hospitality to others, it makes more sense to keep our home more “ready” to welcome friends. It’s a bit more motivating to keep it straightened.

If one of our main goals is to live simply and free from the burden of others, it makes sense that we live debt-free and not accumulate needless clutter. This greatly helps us make financial decisions — do we go in to debt to buy a plasma TV? Do we charge a luxury cruise vacation on our credit card, or do we save money and forego eating out for a few months, so that we can rent a lake house a few hours away and spend a quiet week together?

When we’ve made deliberate decisions about what we’re about as a family, certain choices become a no-brainer. Even fun. You’re at peace with the choices you make, because they align with your priorities, and they just make sense. You can sleep at night.

So here’s what to do with your answers:

1. Look at your responses and see if there’s a theme. If you repeatedly talk about making a difference in your community, perhaps God has given you that passion collectively with your spouse. Or if your priorities seem to point to being good stewards of the environment, maybe a priority for you is to leave the earth better than you found it.

2. See if you and your spouse differ on any answers. That could be a big deal, or it could be nothing. Either way, it should spark some discussion between you two.

3. Highlight a few of your repeated themes, and find a few descriptive words to encompass them. For example, if your answers repeatedly deal with being frugal, with not living among clutter, and having plenty of free time as a family, perhaps one of your descriptive words is simplicity.

4. Tweak some of your answers to be more timeless. For example, if your answer to the question about one principle from which your family operates (number 12) is “patience as we live through the baby and toddler years,” you could talk about whether patience is a theme that’s significant to both of you long-term. Perhaps one of your guiding principals is forbearace, which means patient endurance and self-control.

5. Start crafting a draft of your family mission statement by way of your answers to these questions. There’s no right or wrong way to write this, but I recommend keeping it short, timeless, and applicable. If it’s too vague, it won’t really help in your day-to-day decision making. If it’s too specific, it may needlessly paint you into a corner you never intended. And if it’s too long, it’ll be difficult to remember.

You could try a skeleton like this:

We, the [family name], believe that our purpose as a family is to [general mission statement]. We will accomplish this by:

• valuing [principal] and [principal] as our main guiding principals
• making our home a place of [adjective], [adjective], and [adjective]
• prioritizing [value or action] above lesser values
• interacting with each other in a spirit of [adjective]

Let me emphasize that everything here — the questions, the outline, and everything in between, are just ideas to get you started. Be creative and original! Let your statement reflect who you are as a family.

Most of all, let your statement be one that guides you as you make future decisions — let it serve you as a family. It’s a tool, not an altar where you worship.

As you create your mission statement, you can create sub-points that can be a bit more immediate. For example, if one of your main points is that you will “value simplicity as a family,” you can jot down some ideas of what this looks like for you in the next year. For example, this could mean:

• We will operate from one income, so that I (the wife) can stay home and have adequate time to manage our family effectively.

• We will only allow outside commitments three nights per week, so that we have enough time at home as a family.

• We will eat out once every other week, so that we have enough funds to take a small vacation each year.

As you think through the implications of your family mission statement for the next year, you’ll be able to see how certain home management tasks will be a priority, while others won’t be as important. It’ll wipe away some needless guilt about “doing it all” (which is not possible, by the way), and will free you from a burden you were never meant to carry.

It’ll also motivate you to hone certain home management skills, so that you can better serve your family.

And if you’re really excited about your results, you can print and frame your statement. I also know of a family whose children wrote their statement with permanent marker on an inexpensive plate. They display their plate on a shelf in their living room.


Photo by Gordana Adamovic-Mladenovic

Your assignment:

Plan a time this week to sit down with your spouse and talk through some of your answers. Perhaps you can individually answer some ahead of time, so that you can compare answers and get right to the meat.

Steven Covey has an incredibly useful tool on his website, where you can create a family mission statement (and a personal one) online, for free. Maybe each of you can use this tool in your spare time, print your results, and then compare them over dessert and coffee one evening.

From your answers, create a mission statement draft. Just write something. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be a start.

Share your first draft on your blog, and write about your experience working through these questions and topics. Then link here on Friday, where I’ll also share our family’s results.

Alright, I’m eager to hear your thoughts on this. Do you see the value of starting with a family mission statement? What questions could you add to this repertoire that could help us develop our statements?

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Comments

  1. Please check these pages out and delete my comment afterwards if you’d like:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principal
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle
    Your article is inspiring, I’ll have to let it sink in for a while…

  2. Very nice, I think this can really help organize busy families, I will work on this, this week and see how it goes!

  3. Your husband IS a smart guy!

    We haven’t defined a family mission statement per se, but we have very clear priorities that mostly come from my husband’s work fighting child sex trafficking and exploitation in SE Asia.

    I do have a personal mission statement, which is to “empower, educate, and seek justice for children.”

    I will give time to your thought-provoking questions this week, Tsh, and see about more specifics for our family!

    Jamie

    steadymom´s last blog post…What Do You Think? – Summer Memories

  4. This is my first time to this blog and this is exactly what I needed! My husband and I are expecting our first addition to our family in October and we have really been searching for help on good questions to ask ourselves in preparation for a whole new family experience. We talked about a mission statement but didn’t know how to get started… thanks! I’ll be back!

    Lindsey´s last blog post…Happy Happy

  5. I can’t think of a better start. Thanks for the homework.

    Aimee´s last blog post…Cornmeal Red Currant Pancakes with Red Currant Syrup

  6. PERFECT!! Your husband is not just smart he is BRILLIANT!!! I have never thought of anything like this and I think it will change our lives forever. I’m ready to get started! :)

  7. I haven’t even read the whole post yet, but already I like it. We had some friends that had a family mission statement and even a family cheer. They were so “on purpose” about their family.

    I’ve always wanted to do the same–thanks for bringing it back to my memory!

  8. avatar
    michelle says:

    This is great; hank you for all this. I just read a great article in Newsweek about the value of marriage and how it supports the family in the most basic way. You have presented a tool to both strengthen a marriage and a family.

  9. Having gone through a rough first-half of this year, this is a great way for my husband and I to reset our priorities and make the rest of 2009 better for us.
    Thanks for the information and the idea – I especially love the way you’ve laid-out the plan to create a mission statement. AWESOME post!

  10. I have the privilege of parents who not only prioritized their family mission statement, but have gone back year after year to identify anything they could improve upon. My dad still asks my hubby and I …are you working on your mission statement? :) What a generational legacy/gift we give our children by knowing our purpose, defining it, living it and also humbly admitting to them when we have gotten off purpose. :)

    Jen@Balancing Beauty and Bedlam´s last blog post…What do I make with all this squash?

  11. Wow, if this is the first step I can’t wait for the rest of the series! Thank you for spelling out such a wonderful plan! I already sent the link to my husband and will find some time this week to get started!

  12. This is fabulous. I am so excited to tackle this with my own family… such great, thought provoking questions.

    Angie @ The Creative Mama´s last blog post…Interview – Marta Locklear.

  13. I completely agree with the idea of starting with this post! I can get so bogged down with the urgent. The truth is that there are a lot of urgent matters! But I can see that having a family mission statement would be a steady foundation and give clearer focus on what’s important. I’m lookikng forward to this!

  14. avatar
    Candice Kingston says:

    I can’t believe your post today. Just this morning while lying in bed, I was crying to my husband about feeling so overwhelmed! I work full time, yet want to exercise, do crafts with the three boys, help the 7 year old get a grasp on reading, etc. etc. And do you know what my smart husband said? Prioritize! Why is it the guys get this? :) Thanks so much!

  15. avatar
    Stephenie says:

    I love this! What a great way to unite a family. I would also love to see some mission statements that others have created.

  16. I love this. I’m so ready to tackle this…just have to get my husband on board. He usually roles his eyes at these sort of things — he thinks it’s very “oprah.” LOL

    • That’s funny! I actually get really annoyed with Oprah, too… but I never thought of this as Oprahish.

      • I was actually thinking the same thing… I would drop everything tonight, and sooo go through these questions, and hope to come out with some definition- BUT, the hubby. How to get him on board? lol.

  17. Thank you! I’ve been feeling a pull to let go of many great activities for the next school year in order for me to refocus/prioritize. My husband and I have a good sense of our core values and goals but still, narrowing it all down and figuring out where to expend our time, money, energy can be challenging. What a wise way to begin your new series, Tsh. I found your site this past winter and have been blessed in so many ways by it (and you!). I am thrilled that you are using your giftings to make a positive impact on so many other women & families.

  18. Those are great questions to get me thinking. Thanks for taking the time to write them.

  19. Hiya
    I hope you dont mind me barging in here, I have thoroughly enjoyed your site and would like to know if you would link up to mine. I ask because I am about to embark on a study course of the old 50’s book Fascnating Womahood by Helen Andelin. I figure that many of your readers would also enjoy too.

    As the book is very old school and goes back to basics and to introduce where I come from in all of this homemaking deal please feel free to visit my personal blog: http://lifeasme.typepad.com.

    Naturally I will be happy to link back to anyone that links to me too!

    And I shall be back here, like I said, I think you have an amazing site!! :)

    Debs

    Debs´s last blog post…What is Fascinating Womanhood all about?

  20. This is great! We actually have a family mission statement and centered it around Mind, Body, and Spirit. It probably needs some updating so thanks for the reminder. Our family mission statement has a been an amazing tool for us and has been a guide for us as well.

    Tara B.´s last blog post…Maddy Goes To Vegas!

  21. New reader here…found you through Tara B. at Family Traditions. Can’t wait to read through your archives.

    My Sunday School class read and worked through the Covey book back in 2006 and I loved it. Since then, I spent the better part of 2007 and 2008 very ill, we moved, and my family has grown by 3 more kids since then. So I think it’s time for our family tune up on our mission statement. Thank you for the timely reminder.

    Jamaica´s last blog post…New arrival!

  22. wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. that’s all i can say.

    tsh, i have no doubt that you and your blog are led by the Holy Spirit. you are wise and concise and encouraging and uplifting with these posts. my spirit is stirred whenever i read anything you’ve posted!

    you’ve mentioned your family’s mission statement several times since i’ve been reading, and i’ve been wanting to draft one for our family. this is an a-ma-zing plan to help your readers get started! my husband, a youth pastor, is at summer camp this week, but i think we may have time to sit down friday evening & saturday some time to work on this a bit. we may be a bit behind, but i fully intend to participate!

    thank you so much.

    Sarah´s last blog post…this is what we call, "givin’ ‘em the hairy eyeball…"

  23. I have to agree. This is where it all begins. If we have no direction for our family, we are headed aimlessly to nowhere fast. It’s hard to simplify when we don’t sit down to figure out what’s most important, first.

    Ironically, I am right in the middle of doing this very thing. But I think these questions will help even more! Thanks so much!

    Christin´s last blog post…Coffee Chit Chat

  24. I have seen mission statements so many times in my professional life and have learned of their importance. I think it is funny that I never dreamed of applying the same principal to my family who is much more important! Thank you for the wonderful post. Praise God for your gifts (and your husband’s)! You are a blessing!

  25. I’ll be doing this tonight!

    Christine´s last blog post…Happy Birthday Mom

  26. I have been meaning to do this since I first read about it on your blog. I’m going to print out this post and work on it tonight. Actually, I’m going to print 2 copies so that my husband and I can do it separately and then put our answers together. Thanks, Tsh.

    Tara @ Feels like home´s last blog post…Homemade Fruit Butter

  27. Thanks for this post! I’m also going to print this and possibly bring it on our 5 hour car ride this weekend. It will be a great way to really spend some time talking about this!

    Donna S´s last blog post…Hope you had a Happy Independence Day!

  28. I’ve been wanting to do a mission statement but wasn’t sure where to start. I’m going to plan sometime this week to work on ours.

  29. avatar
    krakatoa says:

    how about understanding that life is not a mission statement but just a statement? not everything fits into a box, and not everybody wants to hear about it! Cheers.

  30. Wow! Thank You so very much for sharing this wealth of ideas and inspiration. We can’t wait to get started!

  31. Just recently subscibed to your blog and love all the great info and ideas. My husband and I have already come up with our family mission statement we call it our philosophy on food; our philosophy on raising children; love; life etc. I still think I will have a cup of tea with my husband and discuss our philosophy on life it will only make us stronger. Thanks again. Be Well. Maria

  32. I believe small miracles happen to us. Its god’s way of showing us the path forward and helping us understand something. I can relate numerous incidents when I stumbled across something or a conversation that I had with somebody or a book/page/para/website that I came across that seemed to “pop”out of the nowhere and seemed to be “communicating” with me.

    I dated my guy for 7 years and have been married to him for 9 years now.We have two beautiful daughters…..last two days we have been having an argument..not the everyday trivial ones but of profound ones over fundamental beliefs..I was particularly upset this morning…and I stumbled across to your site. Thanx so much for sharing this…I think I know now what to do :) I am bookmarking your site and will be backcThanx for making a difference in my life today !

  33. This is a very timely post for me as our family is in the midst of revewing our relationships and developing our family mission

  34. Love it love it LOVE IT! What a great idea to really focus the attention of the family and work out what’s really important and what’s not. We are about to welcome our 4th baby into our family and so this idea will really help me to stay focused on what’s important – not on the piles of dirty laundry and messy toys around me!! Thank you for sharing.

  35. Wow — this is just what I’ve been looking for. My husband and I have had a “what matters most” LIST going for over a year now, refining and modifying along the way. We’ve just gotten it the way we think best fits our family but have been wanting it in the form of a MISSION type of statement for a month or so now. This way of questioning leads right down the path we were on, but now I see that we just didn’t finish the process. Now we can… and we will :-) Thank you for this!

  36. What a wonderful post! We came up with our family mission statement or “Family Handbook” (as we call it) a couple of years ago when my daughter was little. It might be time to revamp a few things and go over it again. I love your list of questions. Looks like you and your husband really care about the value of family. Thanks for sharing.

  37. Congratulations and very well said. My family was in a state of dissaray and going down quickly a few years back. I wanted to fix us so bad, but didn’t know where to start. To kick-start my effort, I spent time answering many of the same questions you posed above, then compared my answers to my wife’s.

    After we identified our priorities, we took it a step further and created a vision, starting when our kids are eighteen and working backwards, trying to figure out the key traits and characteristics we wanted to develop in our kids. Just doing the exercise helped put everything in perspective, but there was one more important step…

    We decided to observe our family for a while in the context of the priorities we identified, then figure out where we could use improvement or emphasize various elements of our vision. I created a “Family Constitution” that added clarity and consistency around the things that were most important to us.

    It made a huge difference. You can get a copy of our Family Constitution at http://www.yourfamilyconstitution.com.

    Thanks for taking on such an important subject.

  38. This is EXACTLY what I’ve needed. We have re-visited the topic of a family mission statement a dozen times over the last few years and I loved going through the 20 questions. I’m going to have my husband fill it out separately and come together to figure out the perfect mission statement for us. THANK YOU for making this so easy and for re-lighting the fire under my tail!

  39. Thank you for sharing this. It’s something I’ve been thinking of but I hadn’t figured out how to go about doing it. We are going on a family vacation soon & my hubby & I should have time to start on it. Thank you!

  40. This is what I love about technology, it can make life easier. I have seen the Franklin Covey mission planner (actually I used it a while ago for business). It made making a mission statement easy and with your article I think making a family mission statement makes sooo much sense. Thank you for your wonderful article.

    Laura´s last blog post…How Do You Find Life Balance?

  41. I love this!!! I have not finished reading the article, but I already know that this is now at the top of my To Do list. Thank you for the great resource.

  42. I love this. We are about to have our first child, and I love the idea of starting early with what our family is about. Thanks for the questions and ways to apply them; they’ll make the process less stressful and more fun. And I’m definitely going to visit regularly now. Before, I loved what you had to say, but now it resonates so much more now that I’m about to be a mom. Can’t wait to visit again.

  43. Thanks Tsh, I can’t wait to do this. We have done a what’s called a life-filter statement for our family, but I like the idea of a more practical mission statement.
    .-= Nicole aka Gidget´s last blog ..May, June, July Memory Verses =-.

  44. This is AWESOME! Just visited your blog for the first time and already love the first post I read. I printed it out and will use it as a framework when I plan with hubby this week. Thanks for sharing!
    .-= LilBear´s last blog ..Top 10 Reasons I Love My iPhone =-.

  45. I just read your piece in the ProBlogger email and clicked on the link to this post. Very thought-provoking, and we are just coming up on our first wedding anniversary! It’s fascinating to see ways that we already have priorities around certain things, like keeping our house in order so we can entertain whenever we want. But I love the questions and this is a great conversation starter for us to assess how we’ve done this year and what we want to do (or not do!) in the coming year and onward. I look forward to getting to know your site better!

  46. My mom was so sacrificial in her love and care for us growing up. I pray that I emulate her in my mommying.

    Thanks so much for this chance to win!

    PS your book has changed my life. No joke.

  47. Hi, Tsh!! I read this post back when you published it, got “Organized Simplicity” for Christmas and just today, FINALLY sat down with my hubby to craft our family mission statement!!!! :) We recently downsized and reprioritized and are set to move into aa long-term house in the next few months, so as we pack and unpack, make new friends and add more “busyness” to life, we wanted to make sure things didn’t spiral out of control like they tend to do!! Coming up with four bullet points and what we want our home to be like and what we value was a wonderful exercise we BOTH enjoyed! I feel like we can move into the next phase with so much intentionality!! I love it! Thank you–I know I’ll be referring back to your book a LOT in the next few months! (and I finally printed my daily dockets and cleaning list to start this week, too! Hooray!)

  48. Thank you for reminding me of when my children were young. We lived in the mountains and our mission statement was “climb the mountain” which isn’t always easy. Good things are worth reaching for.
    Here’s a poem I wrote putting the family in place of We the People. Thanks for sharing lots of good ideas.

    The writers of the Constitution
    Never would have thought
    The family institution
    We’d turn our own backs on

    What could be more stable
    Than the family and the home
    Where children grow up able
    To self govern and raise their own

    The family can promote
    “The general welfare”
    By being home to note
    Who is in need of care

    As in the day to day
    Parents ” establish justice”
    Reeinforcing always
    The light for good within us

    Being known to honor
    and “pursue happiness”
    Each takes their place as patriots
    “To provide for the common defense”

    The family, being moral
    “Secures the blessings of liberty”
    Wanting “a more perfect union for all”
    Ought we not protect the family?

    The generations past
    Knew how to sacrifice
    Perhaps to them our eyes should cast
    For they know freedom’s price

    Our country is being torn
    In half by divorce,
    By entitlements we’ve formed,
    And the way our courts discourse

    A return to the family
    To the bonds we have known
    Will help us pursue happily
    Liberty- home grown

    “We the Family”
    Makes a nation strong
    Through matrimony
    With commitments made lifelong

  49. Hi there – I am hosting a celebration of family on my blog September 9-23rd. On the 12th, we will have a link-up about writing family mission statements. I’d like permission to share your list of questions with my readers to help them write their own mission statements. Please let me know if this is acceptable to you. I will be sure to site you! Many thanks, Jocelyn Christensen

  50. avatar
    Linda Scarbrough says:

    I just found this post (12/8/2011) WOW! This Christmas I am trying to give home made and meaningful gifts. I would love to print this post out for each of my grown children. Do you have an easy to print version? Also, this is the First Step to Getting Back to Basics, how do I find the rest of the steps?
    I have pinned your page so I will be comming back to read more!

  51. Thank you for the inspiration. Our family purpose statement, and a link to this post, can be found at http://traininghappyhearts.blogspot.com/2012/01/our-family-mission-statement-makes-me.html

  52. I googled “family mission statement” and your website came up first. I got the idea of a family mission statement from a class at church I am taking … called “spiritual parenting” through many trials and tribulations over the last 10 years of my life I am so blessed to have found direction for my family my changing and growing family. I am recently remarried and have 2 stepsons, 20 years old & 10 years old and then I have a 18 year old daughter from my 15 year marriage to her father. When I married Fred on 12/31/10 we were for the most part childless. Nick the 20yr old moved to Arizona, Jaxon the 10yr old has always live in another state with his mother and would come to visit for holidays and summers, Noel my 18yr old lives in the same town but primarily stays with her dad. 6 months into our marriage Jaxon’s (10yr old) mother committed suicide. I am now a full time parent to a elementary age child. Life has brought on my changes once again, and I can only manage through my faith in Jesus. Thank you once again for creating this website.

  53. Excellent post. I am researching background material in order to critic mission statements of various state wildlife agencies and found more good info here than at the Harvard business school.
    It also has inspired me to do the same with my family. We will “arrive” somewhere without a map, but it sure makes sense to create and use one.

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