Like many families, I often get caught up in the endless activities available for my children and our family. From extracurricular opportunities to education and community involvement to volunteering, there is always plenty for us to do. But saying yes to everything isn’t good for me or my kids. Running here and there gives us little time to enjoy our time together and teaches my children to over-commit before they’ve even reached adulthood. Plus, it sets all of us for burnout. The problem is deciding which activities to keep and which ones to cut.
The key to focusing our family’s time and activities is creating a clear mission statement to focus our efforts and make sure we stay on track with our values and priorities. Although mission statements are generally fairly brief, it takes careful reflection and refinement to write a strong one.
While each family’s mission statement should reflect the unique attributes of the individuals that make up the family, there are some common themes that a mission statement should cover. Here are five areas to address as you craft your family’s mission statement.
Defining family identity. The first area to consider is family identity. Ask yourself and your family members: Who are we? What makes our family special and different from other families? You might brainstorm a list of attributes from family heritage to religious beliefs or common interests. Once you have a list, begin to choose a couple that really set your family apart.
Creating a sense of belonging. A family is a group of people bound together by a common thread, often marriage, adoption, or birth. Regardless of what binds your family together, each member should feel a sense of belonging within the group. On a basic level, this may be seen by identifying members by a common last name. On a deeper level, each person needs feel he or she has a place and a contributing role to create a sense of belonging, a “one of us” attitude.
Casting a vision. Perhaps the most important aspect of a mission statement is its ability to envision goals and purpose for the family. Developing a vision for the family may include questions like: Where are we going? Who do we want to be when we grow up? The vision should take into account the season of the family, such as the number and ages of the kids, and the specific hopes and dreams of the group.
Being intentional. Once the family vision has been clearly articulated, it is time to add specific details that allow the family members to intentionally choose one path over another. This serves as a guide to provide direction in evaluating opportunities and making decisions as a family. It also prioritizes certain types of activities over others so each family member knows what is most important to the group.
Articulating values. A mission statement is not complete without a description of core values. Of course, there are many values to choose from and they are all worthwhile in specific ways, such as independence, integrity, frugality, cleanliness, helpfulness, honesty, education, nature, health, and many more. The key here is to choose about three values that are most important to your family. These values should be incorporated into your mission statement and will serve to inform family decisions.
There are many ways to format the family mission statement. It can be done in simple sentences for each area, as an acrostic with the family surname, or as one succinct paragraph. Remember to keep it short and simple so it is easy to refer to regularly. I suggest framing it and displaying it in a prominent place in your home. As you check your schedule when new opportunities arise, the family mission statement will remind you of what is most important for your family and help you determine what activities to say yes to and when to say no.
If you want to try out an online mission statement builder, here is a great resource to check out: http://www.franklincovey.com/msb/
Please share your insights! How do you keep your family’s schedule on track? What would you include in your family mission statement?