What is your Family Mission Statement?

If we were to ask you the mission of your marriage or family, could you or your spouse or your children clearly articulate it?

Every couple can develop a family Mission Statement by following the four steps outlined below.

Step #1. Determine Your Core Values

What matters to you? What matters to your spouse? Your kids? Core Values are simply those people, activities, beliefs, or things that matter most, ranging from concepts like love and acceptance to something material like a house. Core Values are different for every person.

Some would say that only concepts can be values. We have experienced, however, that values are often expressed by the activities in which we participate or the feelings that a particular place or object might generate within us.

For example, Laura grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, a major metropolitan area where anything and everything is easily accessible. I grew up in Petoskey, Michigan, a classic small midwestern town. For the first three years of our marriage, we lived in Atlanta. Laura thought life was wonderful, but I was less comfortable living in the metropolitan jungle.

It was Laura who suggested we pursue moving to Michigan. It was Laura who first thought that Alma was the town for us. It is now Laura who wouldn’t leave Alma for anything in the world. Her Core Values now include the benefits of small town living. Thus, places and things—while they may not be values in concept—do generate within us feelings and emotions that can be categorized as values.

The first step in developing a Family Mission Statement is to list your Core Values. Now, don’t sit down one night at the dinner table and try to think of everything that is important to you. It’s simply not possible.

Start with a manila envelope or file folder. Keep it accessible and in plain sight. Each day write down one Core Value and place it in the envelope. Sometimes a Core Value will become evident while you’re driving to work or the store or enter your conscious reality through the verse of song or a line in a poem. Discussion of an issue over a meal or date may identify a Core Value. Please don’t rush the process; allow 30 to 60 days to generate as many values as you can.

Now take a Saturday morning, a Sunday evening, or whenever is convenient and dump all the Core Values you have written on a table. Categorize them by topic or any logical category that makes sense to you.

If you don’t understand a particular value that your spouse has written, take the time to have her explain it to you. It may be a value you already share. For example, one value that Laura identified was “fun.” I didn’t completely grasp the meaning until she explained that it was important for her to be stimulated by experiences we would share. Suddenly what Laura had written made perfect sense.

Pay particular attention to Core Values that you both wrote down. They will be a great bridge to build on in step #2.

Step #2. Discover Your Central Core Value

In youth ministry, we played a game with the teens that went along with the focus that night of “priorities.” It was a fun game and gave us some deep insight into what really mattered to them.

We passed out pads and pencils and asked them to list the ten most important things in their life, explaining that “things” could mean anything from people to ideas to material possessions—anything they felt they couldn’t live without.

We strongly encouraged the kids to make choices based on their true feelings and beliefs, explaining that the root of the word belief means “to live by.” Their decisions should be based on what they were prepared to live by, not just what they thought sounded impressive.

Next, we told them to choose two they would give up, decreasing their list to eight itemsэ€For some, choosing was easy; for others, it was a little more painful and time-consuming.

The process was repeated, paring their list down to six, then four, then two, then one. We wanted to find out what was of highest importance in these kids’ lives.

The discussion which followed was prodded by the question “Tell us why you chose to leave behind what you did and why you kept what you did?”

Forever ingrained in my memory are the words.“Why can’t you be more like your sister?” I am sure many of you share a similar memory. My persistent retort echoed, “Because I am not my sister, I am me!” As a result, one of my central Core Values is to be unique. Whatever I do, how I decorate my house, how I dress, how I live my life, I want to be unique. I want to be me!

Hopefully, you’re already a step ahead of us. Write down your top ten Core Values as a couple or a family.

Now comes the process of discovering your Central Core Value. The way to do this is through open discussion asking each other which of these values you could live without if you absolutely had to. Start by paring your list down to eight, then six, and so on until you identify (through mutual consent and support) that single Core Value around which you will build your lives.

This process may be intense. For some, the paring process could take weeks or months of discussion, prayer, and soul searching. For others, it may not be that difficult, as you discover that even though you may express it in different terms, you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to your Core Values. It’s truly a distillation process. A number of years ago, my parents began to suffer from arthritis. Grandma Doyce had joint stiffness so bad in her hands that she couldn’t pick up a carton of milk without pain. Poppa Jim experienced constant pain in his hip from an old skiing accident. They began to research non-pharmaceutical methods to alleviate the pain and discovered reliable evidence that drinking distilled water could provide some relief It sounds too simple to be effective, but since investing in a water distiller and exclusively using distilled drinking water (coffee, tea, ice cubes, juice concentrates, etc.), their symptoms of arthritis have subsided. The reason is that the distillation process removes all the contaminants, it boils, filters, and eliminates impurities. Is it easy to distill four gallons of water a day? No. Is it necessary? Yes, if they want to live pain-free lives.

Now, we are not about to say that discovering your Central Core Value will eliminate pain from your marriage or family. It will, however, provide a basis for celebration, direction, and joy. After discovering that Central Core Value, you will be ready for the third step.

Step #3. Devise Your Family Mission Statement

Growing up, we all have our favorite subjects in school and those we could definitely live without. For me, geometry proposed too many formulas for my mind to grasp, and though Mr. Swenor was a likable teacher, the subject content fell on deaf ears.

To successfully devise your Family Mission Statement, we recommend a formula. It is not the end all, be all, but it does provide a solid foundation for you and your family to build a mission statement that is poignant, pregnant, and bursting forth with truths to live by.

First, review the Core Values on your top ten list and find the final three to five. These additional Core Values are what we call Subsequent Core Values. They are not your Central Core Value, but are of extremely high importance to you. If you examine them closely, they may support or parallel the achievement of your Central Core Value.

Following is the Laffoon Family Mission Statement that you can use as a sample.

Our Family Mission
To encourage others to become like Christ through loving relationships, healthy lifestyles, and stimulating experiences.

The formula is quite simple and reads as follows: To (insert Central Core Value here) by [or through] (insert three to five Subsequent Core Values here). Sounds too simple, doesn’t it? Formulas can’t be that easy—or can they?

Let’s look at our Mission Statement again. Our Central Core Value was encouraging others to become like Christ. This surpassed our immediate family to include the people that we encounter in Alma every day, and through many speaking and workshop settings across the country. We accomplish this through our Subsequent Core Values of loving relationships (with our family and friends), healthy lifestyles (balancing all areas of life), and stimulating experiences (a phrase which encompasses Laura’s idea of “fun”).

In the space below, fill in the words of the Central Core Value you’ve identified and any Subsequent Core Values which support it. After writing it, say it out loud and see if the words ring true in your heart and mind. We’ve seen this process produce believable results and we hope you’ll find this too.

To________________________________________,

Through ___________________________________

__________________________________________

__________________________________________.

Developing a Family Mission Statement will help you step off the treadmill and begin to move in the direction the Lord has given you. Focusing on the values you hold dear in your life will help you stay on course and not allow you to stray back to the treadmill.

After Jay and I completed this process, I had to evaluate my activities and decide whether they were keeping me on the treadmill or facilitating the accomplishment of my mission. While they were all worthy causes, I now had the freedom to say “no.”

Step #4. Develop Positive Personal Habits

We will discuss how to change our habits in chapter 6, but suffice to say each one of us is 100 percent disciplined to the habits that we practice. That’s right, 100 percent as disciplined as we will ever be. We’re 100 percent disciplined to the good habits in our life and 100 percent disciplined to the bad habits in our life. That’s depressing! The key is to develop positive personal habits to live by.

Some people call them rules, and while it may only be semantics, people don’t like rules. Most of us see a list of rules, turn our back, and run because we know we can never live up to the standard of perfection we have set for ourselves.

We believe that no one is perfect and as a result, we challenge people to focus on progress, not perfection. It is amazing what this small paradigm shift can accomplish. As people focus on their progress toward positive habits, they feel a sense of accomplishment and success rather than imperfection and failure. So, while the following may look like rules of the house, trust us, they are habits of the house.

Your final step in the Family Mission Statement process is to give you and your family a framework in which to live out your mission. Again, this may seem too simple, but the best way is to review the Core Values your family recorded in the file folder. These can ultimately be expressed as habits you and your spouse or family desire to practice. Here are the Laffoons’ 25 Habits of the House:

Habits of Our House

We obey the Lord Jesus Christ.

We love, honor, and pray for each other.

We tell the truth.

We consider one another’s interest ahead of our own.

We do not hurt each other with unkind words or deeds. We speak quietly and respectfully to one another.

When someone is sorry, we forgive him.

When someone is happy, we rejoice with him.

When someone is sad, we comfort him.

When someone needs correction, we correct him in love.

When we have something nice to share, we share it.

We take good care of everything God has given us.

We do not create unnecessary work for others.

When we have work to do, we do it without complaining.

When we open something, we close it.

When we turn something on, we turn it off.

When we don’t know what to do, we ask.

When we take something out, we put it away.

When we make a mess, we clean it up.

We arrive on time.

We do what we say.

We finish what we start.

We say please and thank you.

When we go out, we act as if we are in this house.

When necessary, we accept discipline and instruction.

Now you possess power and freedom you may have never experienced before. The reality is that these documents—both the Family Mission Statement and the Habits of the House—are “Living Documents.” They are not etched on tablets of stone and may need to be reviewed and revised from time to time, but they do provide guidelines to build a home filled with celebration.