By Jenny Mathews, contributing writer
Family-PlanIf you think about it, families are a lot like businesses. One or two people kind of run the show, overseeing each department but keeping their focus on the big picture, while each person has their unique and important role to play. The whole is working together toward…..what exactly? Does your family need a “family mission statement?”

Imagine each family member is on vehicle in a caravan. The route is lined with enticing detours and distractions: “scenic byway,” “historical site,” or “the world’s largest candy corn.” If there is no ultimate destination or common meeting place, the party could very easily be separated and/or lost. In Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, he relates family life to a journey, “When your destination is clear, you can keep coming back to the plan time and time again. In fact, the journey is really part of the destination. They are inseparably connected. How you travel is as important as where you arrive.”

My first reaction to the idea of creating a family mission statement was that it sounded “cheesy.” However, the older I get, the less “cheesy” it seems. At www.childdevelopmentinfo.com, Jay Davidson writes that the process of creating a family mission statement, “engenders a sense of belonging to the group, as all the members work toward the same goals.”

He suggests gathering the family to define their goals, discuss core values and outline ways that each member might help the family succeed. He states, “Keep in mind that the earlier these values are discussed and established within the family, the easier they will be able to follow as children grow into their teenage years.” Aha moment! How can we expect our family to achieve our goals and adhere to our values if they’ve never been clearly articulated?

Ok, so how do we get started? An image search of “family mission statement” reveals that there is no ONE way to do this. Image after image of anything from one line statements to abstract art to many pages of detailed content. Your imagination is the limit. Here are some simple suggestions for structuring your mission statement:

  1. Ask your family a series of questions: What words best describe our family? What is most embarrassing about our family? What are our strengths? What are our weaknesses? What makes you want — or not want — to come home? What would you like others to say about our family? And so on…
  2. Think categorically: After you have outlined your family’s core values, you can structure the mission statement using those values as paragraph headings or categories. Expound and set goals for each category.
  3. Express your creativity: Have each member create artwork that depicts their ideology. You can either display these as a collage or use them to design a more cohesive piece. Have a poet or graphic artist in the family? Let the members of the family contribute however they do best.

Consider including some of the following categories in your family’s discussion.

  • The importance of education
  • The way money will be saved and spent
  • The amount of family time you will spend together
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Maintaining the home and each members’ responsibilities
  • Volunteer and service endeavors
  • Church or spiritual practices

Don’t be surprised if you learn a lot about your family during this process. Herein lies another example of where knowledge is power. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, I says, “…The more any organization knows about itself, the better it’s able to deal with life.”

Pick a spot where your mission statement can be seen often. Display it proudly – cheesy or not, in the end, as Stephen R. Covey said, “The goal is to create a clear, compelling vision of what you and your family are all about…This process will help unite your family around a common sense of purpose and mission. You’ll strengthen your children and family members in a turbulent world.”