Creating a Positive Family Culture: How and Why to Create a Family Mission Statement

by Brett & Kate McKay on August 21, 2013 · 39 comments

in Fatherhood, Marriage, Relationships & Family

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Getting married and having kids are some of the biggest events in our lives. And yet we largely slide into these significant turning points. Sure, there is a big event accompanying them – the wedding, the birth – but what’s surprising is how quickly the novel and disruptive becomes the ordinary and everyday. Even though you form a new family unit, you usually don’t have to give it much thought beyond keeping it generally functioning from day to day.

For this reason, you may never have contemplated the question of why. Why get married? Why have a family? The importance of each individual having a clear purpose is often stressed these days, but few of us will travel this life alone. We’ll make our way through the world as part of a family. Thus it is not enough to know your own purpose — who you are and where you are going. You must also determine the purpose of your family unit. Why does it exist, what does it stand for, and where are you going, together?

If you’ve never taken the time to answer these questions, or even contemplated them, it’s time to draft a family mission statement.

What Is a Family Mission Statement?

“A family mission statement is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about — what it is you really want to do and be — and the principles you choose to govern your family life.” -Stephen Covey

A mission statement is just what it sounds like – a description of an individual’s, company’s, or, a family’s, raison d’être – its reason for existing. A family mission statement encapsulates your idea of the good life and lays out your family’s purpose, goals, and standards. All members of the family have a hand in articulating these values and all agree to live them.

Companies often use mission statements to direct their decisions and operating procedures, but their utility is even greater for families. After all, instead of manufacturing widgets, you’re molding children, making memories, and constructing the very best stuff out of which life is made.

Why Should You Create a Family Mission Statement?

As we talked about in our first post in this series on creating a positive family culture, loving, supportive, outstanding families don’t just happen. They take a lot of intentionality.

As a man you probably have a deep desire to be a provider, and this is a role that extends far beyond the conventional definition of simply bringing home a paycheck. If we look at the etymology of the word “provide,” we learn that it actually means “to look ahead, to act with foresight.” In other words, being a provider means having a vision.

It’s often the case that a father only finds reason to think about his family’s values and what he wants his family to be like after something has gone wrong. By then it’s usually too late – things have already begun to unravel, and it will take much more time and effort to right the ship.

The best time to begin creating a family culture is as early as possible (like right now!) – when things are still fine (but you want them to be even better). A family mission statement lays out a vision for your family of where you want to go together and how you want to get there. It provides a path and guideposts pointing the way ahead and illuminating the curves and bumps along the way. “Without this vision,” Stephen Covey argues in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, “kids can be swept along with the flow of society’s values and trends. It’s simply living out the scripts that have been given to you. In fact, it’s really not living at all; it’s being lived.”

Having a shared vision – a shared sense of values and purpose – bonds parents and children together. It guides your parenting decisions and offers your children clear ideals to strive for and guidance in what choices to make. A mission statement also articulates the standards by which each member of the family can evaluate each other’s behavior, and children and parents will ideally check and encourage one another as they make their way down this agreed upon path.

Yet another benefit is that a family mission statement serves to distinguish your family from others – providing its members a sense of meaning and identity and giving your children the feeling of being part of something important and special.

How to Create a Family Mission Statement

Before You Start: Understand the Process Is More Important Than the End Product

Before you start thinking about your family mission statement, decide together that you won’t get hung up on whether it “sounds good” or “looks right.” In reality, the end product isn’t as important as the process – this task of creating your family mission statement is where the real magic happens.

During the drafting process you’ll have a chance to have deep, meaningful conversations with your wife and kiddos about what’s really important in life.

You’ll have a chance to bond and connect as a family as you empathetically listen to each other.

As you share your vision for your family with your wife and children as well as the values and principles you think should guide the family, their confidence in you as a husband and father will increase. And vice versa, your confidence in your family will increase as you hear them share their ideas.

Simply having the discussion about values and principles as a family will guide your children to start thinking about these things in their daily lives, which, in my opinion is a big win itself.

So as you work through the steps outlined below, don’t get discouraged if you think it’s taking too long or isn’t going exactly how you wanted. In those moments when you feel like giving up and retreating back into default mode, just focus on the process. Remember, the important thing is that you’re intentionally starting a conversation on what it means for your family to live the good life. This is a life-long, multi-generational discussion. Don’t get discouraged by a single bad family mission statement meeting.

Step 1: Call a Special Family Meeting

While your role is to initiate and guide the process of drafting your family’s mission statement, every member of the family should have a say and be part of its creation. So the first step in creating a family mission statement is to hold a family meeting where everyone can take part in the discussion.

Covey recommends making these meetings special occasions. Maybe you can take a family vacation and set aside a day to brainstorm a family mission statement. You don’t even have to go far from home. Rent a hotel room nearby, order pizza, get everyone in their PJs, and start the discussion. The key is to make the occasion different from any other “family meeting” or night of the week.

Kate and I like to go camping at a nearby state or national park for our family mission statement pow-wows. We’ve been doing it at least once a year since we’ve been married, and I can still remember each of the conversations we had during these trips. Our most recent one was at the Ouachita National Forest in southeast Oklahoma. We spent the day hiking, but then spent the evening by the fire talking about what kind of family culture we wanted. There’s something about the crackling fire and poking burning embers with your poke-stick that stirs deep thoughts.

Family Mission Statement Meeting Guidelines

To ensure a positive and productive family mission statement meeting, keep in mind the following guidelines:

Make sure everyone gets a say. As the family leader, don’t let a single person monopolize the discussion. Make sure everyone has a say. Remember, where there’s no involvement, there’s no commitment.

Listen empathetically. Even if you think your six-year-old is just spouting off weird six-year-old-things like “Our family loves pizza!”, really focus on listening to them. Kids, like any other human, want to feel like their contributions matter. If you don’t have kids and it’s just you and your wife doing this exercise, really pay attention to what she has to say about what she imagines the family being like. You may discover that while you’re on the same page on most things, you might be in completely different books on other matters.

Write things down. Make sure someone is capturing all the ideas that get spit out during your family mission statement jam session. You’ll need to review the notes when you actually sit down to write out the statement. If you have older kids who can write, elect one of them to act as scribe and write down ideas on a dry erase board or easel pad so everyone can see. If those aren’t available, create a special “Family Mission Statement Journal” to capture ideas.

You don’t have to do this in one sitting. The last thing you want to do is to turn creating a family mission statement into a chore that your kids find unbearable. Having a marathon mission statement meeting will do that, especially if the kids are younger. Remember, the process is the most important thing, and you don’t have to crank out a completed family mission statement in one sitting! It’s okay to take it slow.

If you have younger kids (4-10 years old) try to keep your meetings between 15 and 30 minutes; if they’re older than 10, 30-45 minute sessions are probably best. If you have toddlers (18 months to 3 years old) you may consider waiting until they’re older before they take part in the family mission statement meeting. If you want to include them, don’t worry if there are interruptions, and try to explain to them what’s going on in terms they can understand.

Step 2: Ask Questions and Discuss What Your Family Is All About

Once you’ve got everyone gathered, it’s time to start talking about what your family’s mission is. As mentioned above, this is probably the most important part of the process. This is your chance to communicate with your children about your values and hear what they want their family to be like.

The easiest way to get ideas going for your mission statement is to ask questions that will foster a healthy discussion. Here are some suggested questions from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families to help you do that:

Questions to Ask for Families of Two

Even if you don’t have children, that doesn’t mean you can’t (or shouldn’t) create a family mission statement. If you’re newly married, I think the exercise can be immensely beneficial. Marriages are made up of two different people who have different ideas or scripts on how a family “should” work. Maybe your wife comes from a family where both husband and wife are expected to contribute to household chores, while your family split tasks along more traditional gender lines. Or maybe your family rarely vacationed and never left the state when they did, while she comes from a family of globetrotters and can’t wait to take your future kids on their first trip to Europe.

If you want to avoid conflict early on in your marriage, you and your wife need to get on the same page when it comes to values, goals, and role expectations. Creating a family mission statement will help you do just that. Instead of living by the family scripts you saw as a child, you and your wife can create your own.

Below are some questions geared towards families of two to help you figure out what sort of family culture you want to create together:

  • What kind of marriage partners do we want to be?
  • What is the purpose of our marriage?
  • How do we want to treat each other?
  • How do we want to resolve our differences?
  • How can we both support each other in our respective goals?
  • How do we want to handle finances?
  • What kind of parents do we want to be?
  • What principles do we want to teach our children to help them prepare for adulthood and lead responsible, caring lives?
  • What roles will each of us have?
  • How can we best relate to each other’s families?
  • What traditions do we bring with us from the families in which we were raised?
  • What traditions do want to keep and create?
  • How do we want to give back?
  • Are there things from our respective family histories that we’re happy or unhappy with? How can we change them if we’re unhappy?

Questions to Ask for Families of Three or More

  • What is the purpose of our family?
  • What kind of family do we want to be?
  • What kinds of things do we want to do?
  • What kind of feeling do we want to have in our home?
  • What kind of home would you like to invite your friends to?
  • What embarrasses you about our family?
  • What makes you want to come home?
  • What do we want to be remembered by?
  • What kind of relationships do we want to have with one another?
  • How do we want to treat one another and speak to one another?
  • What things are truly important to us as a family?
  • What are the unique talents, gifts, and abilities of family members?
  • What are our responsibilities as family members?
  • What are the principles and guidelines we want our family to follow?
  • Who are our heroes? What it is about them that we like and would like to emulate?
  • What families inspire us and why do we admire them?
  • How can we contribute to society as a family and become more service-oriented?

Step 3: Make a List of Your Family’s Core Values

After you discuss and write down answers to the questions above, generate a list of your family’s values. You shouldn’t create a list of values you think you “should” have. These days with so many of us having a public, online identities in addition to our “real” lives, it can be hard to shake the feeling that you have an audience watching whatever you’re creating. Even if you have no intention of sharing your mission statement on Facebook, you may unconsciously try to create one you think others would “like” and be impressed by. But as author and business consultant Jim Collins argues, “If you come at this whole thing as ‘we should have value X’ and you don’t, the process will fail.”

Instead of imagining what you think other people would approve of, or what you’re “supposed” to value as a family, focus on those values and principles that truly resonate and inspire every member of your family. But how do you know if a value is really “core” to your family? Collins sets this standard:

“A core value is something so central you would say, ‘Even if it’s harmful to us, we would still hold on to this value. Even if we had to pay penalties, even if we had to punish our children for violating it, even if we had to deny them something that would bring them pleasure, we would still hold to it.’”

Make your list of values as big as you want – you’ll pare it down later. Here are some ideas to jog your thoughts:

  • Adventure
  • Creativity
  • Discipline
  • Education
  • Faith
  • Fun
  • Health
  • Honesty
  • Humor
  • God
  • Integrity
  • Kindness
  • Service

Step 4: Think of Phrases that Capture What Your Family Is All About

In addition to coming up with a list of values and principles that guide your family, Bruce Feiler, author of The Secrets of Happy Families, suggests brainstorming a list of phrases that really capture the goals and mission of your family. For example, Sean Covey’s (Stephen Covey’s son) family chose a line from the animated film Meet the Robinsons that captures their goal as a family: “Keep Moving Forward.”

Feiler’s family chose, “May your first word be adventure and your last word love,” as one of their catchphrases (I really like that one).

Your phrases can come from books, movies, poems, or speeches. Or they can be catchphrases you completely make up yourselves.

As die hard Friday Night Lights fans, Kate and I picked Coach Eric Taylor’s famous “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose” saying as one of the McKay family’s maxims. We even put that motto in vinyl lettering above the door out to the garage (a moral reminder!) so we see it when leaving the house.

Step 5: Decide on 10 (or Fewer) Big Ideas

You’ve now probably amassed a giant list of values/phrases/goals/ideas that could be included in your mission statement. While it’s temping to include every good value you can think of, a huge, unwieldy, and generic list that no one can remember will be meaningless and defeat the whole purpose of the exercise. So work to whittle your master list down to 10 (or fewer) “Big Ideas” that encapsulate your family’s mission.

If some of the things you listed are just two words describing the same idea, combine them.

Put a star by the values/phrases/goals/ideas everyone feels sure about.

Then take the concepts that you feel are important, but aren’t sure if they’re top 10 material, and put them in pairs. Think about two of those values side by side, and ask your family which of the two is more important. Then eliminate the other. Keep pitting the survivors against each other until you’re down to 10 or less.

One effective and democratic way to hone your list was described in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families: 

“We put all the words on a big flip chart and gave everyone ten votes. They could use up to three votes per item if they wished, but they could not spend more than ten votes in total. After the vote, we were left with about ten items that were important to everyone.”

Step 6: Write Out Your Family Mission Statement

Once you have your list of Big Ideas, it’s time to synthesize them into a single mission statement. Brace yourself – this can be difficult. Don’t expect to crank it out in a single sitting. As you write out your mission statement, keep in mind the following guidelines:

Keep it short. Mission statements work best if they’re kept short, because short is memorable. If you turn your family mission statement into something that rivals Ulysses in length, it becomes utterly useless. Give yourself a low maximum word count. Writing always turns out better when you place constraints on it because it forces you to really think about what you put down. Try to keep your mission statement under 100 words.

Make it collaborative. Your family might decide to delegate the writing process to you. But you can also suggest doing it collaboratively. For example, task each member of the family with writing phrases for 2-3 of your Big Ideas. Then have them present their work for family discussion and approval.

Even if you do most of the writing yourself, get plenty of feedback from the other members of your family and give them a final vote of approval.

There isn’t one right way to write a family mission statement. Some families write out their mission statement essay style; others create a bullet point list of the values that they strive to live by. Both are fine, as well as any number of other creative formats. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, Covey mentions a few families that even wrote their mission statement as a song. That’s cool. A little too Osmond-y for my tastes, but hey, to each their own.

Take as much time as you need. Write, edit, and re-write until everyone is happy with the final product. This is something you’ll look to for years and years, so it’s okay if it takes a few weeks to get it just right.

To give you some ideas on what a family mission statement could look like, here are two examples from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families:

Our family mission is to:
Value honesty with ourselves and others.
Create an environment where each of us can find support and encouragement in achieving our life’s goals.
Respect and accept each person’s unique personality and talents.
Promote a loving, kind, and happy atmosphere.
Support family endeavors that better society.
Maintain patience through understanding.
Always resolve conflicts with each other rather than harboring anger.
Promote the realization of life’s treasures. 

Our family mission:
To love each other…
To help each other…
To believe in each other…
To wisely use our time, talents, and resources to bless others…
To worship together…
Forever. 

I liked author Bruce Feiler’s family mission statement (which was drafted with input from his five-year-old):

May our first word be adventure and our last word be love.
We live lives of passion.
We dream undreamable dreams.
We are travelers not tourists.
We help others to fly.
We love to learn.
We don’t like dilemmas, we like solutions.
We push through. We believe!
We know it’s okay to make mistakes.
We bring people together.
We are joy, rapture, yay!

Finally, here’s the current version of the McKay family mission statement:

We love and serve God. 
We strive to make our home a refuge from the cares and troubles of the world.
We do hard things.
We’re creators, not consumers. 
We stay hungry and humble. 
We face adversity with stoicism. 
We show kindness to our family members and others. 
We help each other reach our potential. 
We’re devoted to life-long learning.
We know that sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.
We face life with a sense of humor and a lot of laughter.

(Yeah, there’s 11 things in there – so sue me!)

Step 6: Hang Your Family Mission Statement in a Prominent Place in the House

Once your family is happy with the mission statement, consider printing it up on some high falootin’ fabric paper, framing it, and then hanging it up in a prominent place in the house. Now you have a constant visual reminder of what your family is all about and what you’re striving for together.

Step 7: Refer to Your Mission Statement Daily & Use It

A family mission statement is useless if you don’t use it. As you go about your day-to-day life, be intentional (there’s that word again!) about finding teaching moments in which you can refer back to your family mission statement.

Step 8: Re-Draft When Appropriate

Families change as the years go by — kids get older and life-changing events occur. Feel free to adjust your mission statement when you think it’s appropriate, but don’t make it a frequent occurrence. It should be like amending the U.S. Constitution — rarely and with reservation.

For example, Kate and I plan to revise our mission statement as Gus (and his sis) get older and can add their input to it.

Read the other posts in the series: 
Fathering With Intentionality: The Importance of Creating a Family Culture
Creating a Positive Family Culture: The Importance of Establishing Family Traditions
60+ Family Tradition Ideas
Creating a Positive Family Culture: How to Plan and Lead a Weekly Family Meeting

We hope you feel inspired to create your own family mission statement. If you do, please share it with us; we’d love to read it!

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cody Widdershins August 21, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Great post, my family has always had a family motto “He who hesitates is lost” However perhaps a redraft is needed and we should say He or she.

2 Airman August 21, 2013 at 8:23 pm

As a single man, while making my personal mission statement would it be presumptuous to make a family mission statement as well, to cast vision for my future wife and children?

3 MG August 21, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Oh Jeez…if my family did this, I’d be out the freaking door. Your family is not your team at your corporation. It doesn’t work that way. It’s an organic, growing thing that can not be boxed into a set of parameters.

Here’s a rule for your family: Unconditionally love your children and treat them equally. Make it clear that everyone inherits the same no matter what and everything is split equally. That will save a family because there will be nothing to fight over.

And most importantly – again – love all your children – no matter what they turn out to be – especially the ones that aren’t your idea of “manly” (or feminine) as the case may be.

4 Yong Lin August 21, 2013 at 8:54 pm

I knew Stephen Covey would pop up when I read the title of this article.

5 Sam August 21, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Forgetting Family in those family values…also I would have to include truth, not the same as honesty, and prudence would be high up there as well

6 jerry August 21, 2013 at 9:11 pm

To be assets and not liabilities…by valuing truth and hard work while desiring the best for the family.

7 SGil August 21, 2013 at 9:20 pm

“And his sis”?? Congratulations!!
I’ll be interested to see the rest of this series as it unfolds. Thanks for the work you do.

8 Steve August 21, 2013 at 9:46 pm

And whatever you do, don’t forget to put your cover sheet on the TPS reports.

A family mission statement? Really? Has corporate BS infected us to the point where we have to write down minutia like “love each other”?

Might as well write “We resolve to be the best of breed family, espousing only the most noble and positive of goals, while striving to maximize harmony, enjoyment, learning and growth. We will meet these objectives by leveraging our diverse synergies and aligning our core talents with our values.”

9 C Jackson August 21, 2013 at 10:00 pm

This is a great idea. I’ve worked for a company for almost five years now that is intense about its “Guiding Principles”: They’ve threatened push ups if you can’t recite it! So it makes perfect sense I think to have a family’s morals and goals spelled out. I believe a solid article to spell out what our focus should be as a family is a great counter-measure to an American culture that continues to push relativism to extremes. Each one of us could do our part to affirm the bedrock of this great nation: family.

10 Josh D. August 21, 2013 at 11:10 pm

This is a great thing for a family to do…like you said, less for the actual written statement, but the process of getting to it. My wife and I discussed that we wanted to make one, then separately came up with what we thought should be in it. Then we had a date-night at one of our favorite restaurants where we brought a pad of paper and worked it out together. That was a way better conversation than if we had not been intentional about it. It really reflects our shared purpose as a family, and gives us something to remind us when we see it.

11 Jay C August 22, 2013 at 1:45 am

To MG:

I hear where you’re coming from (a family isn’t a corporation, of course) but I want to suggest that you might be overlooking the value of this exercise.

I grew up in a family without anything close to a mission statement. It was “organic” alright, but it also wasn’t very good. My house felt like the place I slept in after school, not the nexus of anything special or significant beyond just getting by each day. I guess there’s something to be said for that, but it felt empty back then, and as an adult in his mid 20′s now, I read articles like this and wish my parents tried what Brett is advocating.

Not saying it would have worked exactly as he says…but I would have loved the chance to find out. And I fully intend on trying it with my eventual family.

12 Hal August 22, 2013 at 5:03 am

Every time I see a mission statement I’m reminded that few people actually read these things. And fewer could tell you what the company mission statement is once it is hung on a wall somewhere.
I’ve seen families that tried gimmicks like this and not one lasted very long. Raising a family is not a business. It is ever morphing and growing, rapidly changing as the kids grow. And the parents grow with the kids.
The worst way to raise a family is using a bookish idea that all families are alike. A family culture will come about naturally if left unfettered with too much structure.

13 BD August 22, 2013 at 6:24 am

Our family’s mission statement is: Simple. Separate. Sacred.

We strive to live our life this way and go over our mission statement once a year on our anniversary. We go out to a nice dinner, reflect on the past year, and think of what we can do to keep ourselves focused.

14 Paul August 22, 2013 at 7:03 am

I LOVE the idea! I would only add this thought – the best way to influence your family is through consistent behavior, and this type of document will be incredibly influential when what is written reinforces Dad’s example. However, it will be counter-productive to have a phrase in your statement “we are the height of physical fitness” if Dad is well-known for laying on the couch all day covered in potato chips.

15 Janine August 22, 2013 at 7:15 am

I love this. We started doing this a couple years ago and then ran out of steam. I think it’s time to revisit the process, and really pull it together. I know that I, personally, have a pretty clear idea of what MY goals are for the family, but I would love it to be not just about me, but about what we all value and want to strive for as a family. Thanks for the post!

16 Kevin August 22, 2013 at 8:23 am

Without any thought of calling it a family mission statement, my wife has recommended we adopt the phrase printed on the backs of the t-shirts at our local YMCA:

“Work hard, play hard, pray hard.”

17 Manuel August 22, 2013 at 10:00 am

Regarding the questions for families of two:

“What is the purpose of our marriage?”

Shouldn’t you have asked this question BEFORE getting married??! It seems to me this is exactly the reason why so many marriages fail; people never stopped to consider WHY they were getting married in the first place. It just seemed like the next logical step.

18 Doug Davis August 22, 2013 at 10:53 am

“we’re creators, not consumers”… Love that. This is the central theme of a book I recently read- “Cognitive Surplus” by Clay Shirkey. His thesis is that the Internet (usnig Wikipedia as an example) has spurred millions of people to stop sitting and consuming (TV, radio) and to make and share knowledge and products. I think maybe Youtube, in spite of all the crap in it, is the best example of people using a still or video camera to share skills that they have or show how they solved a problem that they had to confront. Passive consumption lifestyle is a mind and body killer.
Thanks for the great ideas. My young ‘un is going on 12 but these are ideas worth building on for her future. Many thanks for them

19 C Jackson August 22, 2013 at 12:37 pm

@Hal

I agree that there are those companies out there that got the latest HR lady to whip up a fancy phrase and slap it on a wall hoping it’d make the CEO proud when he walks in. But: I work for one that has a mission statement, takes it seriously, means it, and lives it. The point is: intentionality.

I don’t think Brett’s point here is to suggest that all families are alike. In fact, the cool thing about this process is just how unique and custom it can be for your family. It relies on your personalities, individual goals, and dreams. Again, it’s more of the process of asking meaningful questions of your family and doing life on purpose. Some parents do grow with the children, in a sense, but I would disagree that this happens naturally. As a parent I have to give intentional thought to my daily words and actions. The more I go on auto-pilot, the more I end up regretting at the end of the day. I think a lot of people are like this.
Again, I know what it’s like to feel jaded by corporate robots, believe me, and I’d hate to subject my family to that kind of leadership. I suggest that if you take that out of it and make it yours, it might enlighten you.

20 Matthew August 22, 2013 at 6:52 pm

This seems like a very effective exercise. Despite the “corporate” feel, I think that within the context of a family, mission statements (getting the values that you live by on paper) are much more sincere than an ambiguous paragraph hanging up on the bulletin board that copy/pasted from another company. If you can get your family to buy into it, it is definitely valuable.

21 Nathan August 22, 2013 at 10:16 pm

People seem to be getting hung up on the “mission statement” aspect of this. This is a great idea for finding a common purpose, common values, and for making sure that the family culture your family develops is one of value.

I think a good thing to call this would be a family covenant.

If you just let your family culture develop, unfettered then what develops may not be very good.

22 Steve August 23, 2013 at 10:46 am

Thanks Brett! I’ll be teaching a Family Life merit badge course soon. This article will help flesh it out. It does seem amazing that so many spend so much time planning and preparing in areas of life that are pure minutia, but neglect to prepare for something we are all involved in — family.

If you don’t have a plan for your life (or family’s); some one does. Probably marketers, policy makers, and media. Yikes!

23 Chad August 23, 2013 at 9:16 pm

A few years ago, I felt as if, we as parents, weren’t being intentional enough with our children in helping form there character and point them in the direction in the way they should go. The leaders in our church, at the same time, were talking about casting a vision for where our church was going, based on the proverb that reads “Where there is no vision, the people perish”. A book that expanded on that verse and principal was “The Power of Vision” by George Barna. My wife and I both worked on elements that we thought would define on what being a “Russell” meant. We had 2 boys under 3 at the time, a daughter that had passed away halfway through a pregnancy a year earlier, so we had very sensitive hearts at the time. We came together and came up with this while on a trip out of town with one of the goals to come back home with a rough draft, that turned out to be our family mission/vision statement today, to the letter: “The Russell family are Jesus followers, who swim up stream, all the way showing Fruit, to glorify God.”

Without exhaustingly breaking the above down, the elements were easy for the boys to remember, and we even came up with some hand gestures that go along with it, keeping in mind we had small children who we were teaching this to as a lifestyle. We felt like this was something that went deeper than behavior, but the identity of who they are, that when they are away from us (both as small children, and adults one day hopefully). We realize that they could grow up and reject this and not have a faith of their own, but our job as parents (having a Biblical world view) is to “Train a child in the way he should go..” Perfect, no. A formula to systematically follow, not really. Just a foundation to return to when we lose our way, our vision.
Great article, and I agree with the above comments about not treating our children and family as a business, but if we have no target, we’ll hit it everytime.

24 Gustavo Solivellas August 24, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Don´t forget either the power of Surnames! You can also look for your heraldic shield (Coat of Arms) because they can inspire you. In my case, Solivellas means “Little Olive Tree” in catalan (a languaje used in a region of Spain) and it shares the wonderful meaning of the Olive Tree http://www.triumphpro.com/olive-tree-mystery.htm and the Olive Oil http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=124&chapid=1482 (I guess Brad sure knows the biblical ones) http://www.oliveoilmani.com/index.php/en/symbolism.html And, back in Spain we have our own Oil Brand! http://www.olisolivellas.com/ :)

25 Native Son August 25, 2013 at 10:58 am

First, the concept of having a philosophy and general plan of action/behavior is excellent. The problem I see with that excellent idea is two-fold. 1st, It couches the theory in the jargon of the corporate consultant. That milieu doesn’t admit of love or a morality beyond being profitable and staying within the letter of the law. 2nd, a number of folks seem to be conflating a statement of core values/intentions with a motto.
The “mission statement”must state a motto and include a brief, broad statement of how to achieve the motto.

26 Joel August 25, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I want to thank Brett and Kate for this post. I believe a Family Mission Statement is both a good exercise and a great reminder/guide for a family. My wife and I will be referencing your article as we prepare our family’s.

27 Sara August 25, 2013 at 11:15 pm

Thank you. That was wonderful!

28 Frank August 26, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Family Mission Statement: “We do hard things”

29 TR August 27, 2013 at 9:19 am

I couldn’t have read this at a better time. I’m struggling to find the strength to be a leader and know how to balance my energy as a father/partner/worker/friend. This was inspiring and positive, much needed. Thank you.
Congratulations on the new addition!

30 Michael August 27, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Great Article! My wife and I recently started climbing the “self Improvement Mountain” Looking through the comments I get the feeling some people confuse having a goal and being intentional with the all encompassing “evil cooperation” (which not all are evil) This is a great way to Connect on a deeper level with your family.

31 Brian September 3, 2013 at 10:11 am

Excellent! If more families (and men) would take this initiative, then the drop out rate could be minimized. It gives a framework for decisions to be made within the priorities of the family. It shows when we’re off course. It shows when we’re hitting our targets.

I think the resistance to the idea is a fundamental aversion to accountability and ownership. “Hey honey/Dad, remember our family mission statement says that we should help each other reach our potential? Well, I’m not feeling supported in XYZ.” XYZ may change over time, but the support and encouragement shouldn’t (unless that value changes in prioritization).

32 Justin September 20, 2013 at 3:16 pm

My wife and I borrowed ours from the CHP and then modified it, glad to see other families are doing this, we developed ours years ago, and I burned it onto a wood plaque.

“We do not lie, we do not cheat, we do not steal, we do not tolerate those among us who do, we are the good guys, we do what’s right, we’re here to help, We’re Tracys. God is our strength.”

33 Patrick September 23, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Thank you for this article! I’ve been meaning to do this for some time now with my wife and daughter but just never got to it. Thanks for the inspiration!

34 Michael September 28, 2013 at 2:47 am

Thanks EG!

This is my mission statement:

Unconditionally love your children and treat them equally. Make it clear that everyone inherits the same no matter what and everything is split equally. That will save a family because there will be nothing to fight over.

And most importantly – again – love all your children – no matter what they turn out to be – especially the ones that aren’t your idea of “manly” (or feminine) as the case may be.

35 Hugh November 26, 2013 at 9:23 pm

I’m considering doing this. Why? Not really to solve any problem, but because it’s a great idea.

I like this series about “family.” I read first about traditions, and happily found that we have many. I brought it up with my 9 y.o. son and he identified a few “traditions” that I just took for granted.

When I described the idea of a family “mission,” he immediately got it. “Like the mission of capturing a flag, or blowing up a bridge.”

We’re not religious, so we don’t have the tradition of a Sunday church visit to focus our decisions around, but “right” and “wrong” are strongly taught ad hoc.

We’ll see how the discussion goes, but I’m earnestly interested in how my family, including my wife, and my kids would approach the idea of a “mission.”

None of us have a corporate association, so there’s none of that baggage. It’s just an interesting starting point for a discussion.

36 David Omollo February 10, 2014 at 10:53 am

I think this is great idea. am getting married on two months time i need to do this on time.

37 Del February 16, 2014 at 10:06 am

Our family is dysfunctional. My daughters told me that so I guess if they think we’re dysfunctional, we are. My husband has an inability to communicate – he doesn’t talk much. We are an interfaith family – Catholic and Muslim – he reneged on his promise to let me “take the kids to church” if we gave them Arabic names. That was the extent of our planning prior to marriage. Religion is for the most part not mentioned in our house. I organized a family meeting to discuss starting a family mission statement. 3 of 5 of us were leaving (as usual -kids in ballet 20+ hrs/week, husband in retail, works 80 hrs/week and watches TV and sleeps the rest of the time. ). The meeting lasted 2 minutes. I did all the talking and asked everyone to voice their opinion. One daughter said “I’m happy”, another daughter had nothing to say, 3rd daughter said “it’s OK” and my husband said “I’m OK”. We will meet once/week. If our family can do this, I think anyone probably can. I will hope for the best!!

38 RLC March 11, 2014 at 10:07 am

To people that think this is a bad thing: the intent is not to form your family as a business, it is a model to plan a good family around. We all know that ‘if you fail to plan you plan to fail’ and that is a truth evident in so many failed families…

39 Sherri Allsbury April 1, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Family Id is a ministry that specializes in helping families put their purpose on paper. We have a workshop that walks families step by step in creating their family vision and mission with their core values. We also offer have a small group video series.

So fun to see like minds on this important subject!

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