As you work to create your own family mission statement, here’s my family’s own mission statement, with a line-by-line reflection on how each piece helps to shape our family life.
by Heidi Indahl
If you have been following along with this column, I hope that you have begun the process of developing a mission statement for your family. (If not, you can find posts about making a family mission statement here.) It will take time to work out exactly what you want your mission statement to include, what it will look like, and how you will implement it. While you are working, I thought it might be useful to include a line-by-line reflection and explanation of the Indahl family mission statement as a guide.
I hesitate to offer my family as some sort of example of the way to do things correctly because we are far from perfect. In reality we have good days and less good days, the same as every other family. Sometimes what we strive for is not a very good match to our reality. On our best days, what works for us might be a disaster for someone else. Yet I often find that hearing the thought process behind other people’s choices helps me clarify my own, even when we ultimately go in an entirely different direction.
In this family,
The emphasis is on the word this. All families do things differently. We like to emphasize this in a way that makes it easy to say, “We do it this way because we are a part of this family; other families do things other ways.” Works great for explanations of why other families do or have something that we do not without unintentionally sounding critical of the choices others make.
We honor God through faith and service.
We try to emphasize (with varying degrees of success, like any family), that the first and most important thing in all of our activities is that we are bringing honor to God. That includes our daily activities, school, work, relationships, intentional acts of faith (prayer, Mass attendance, devotions, living the liturgical year), and service. We probably apply this particular line more often than any other as we make choices with our children about activities and events that our family will participate in. (See Do You Play Sports the Catholic Way?)
We think before we act.
This refers largely to checking to see if our actions are going to bring honor to God. If the answer is no, then we need to rethink our choices. While always thinking before we act is the goal of this statement, the reality is that having this in our mission statement gives us concrete, familiar language to use when we have to talk about choices that didn’t bring honor to God. I also find that this is an area of the mission statement that my husband and I work hard to model, stepping back to discuss a particular action or difficult circumstance before taking action.
We work together.
Our catch phrase for this year is, “No one is finished until everyone is finished.” If you finish your bedtime chore, school work, or other task and someone else isn’t quite done yet, then, as a member of this family, it is your responsibility to help the other person out. This way everyone is finished with work more quickly and can enjoy our playtime together. We have been really emphasizing the difference between “doing for” and “helping” with our older kids as they help the younger ones. The short-term result of “doing for” might mean finishing faster, but the long term result of helping is that the younger person can eventually do it for themselves and they might even finish before you do!
We show respect for others and ourselves.
If we succeed in the first sections of our mission statement, then this one might seem a bit redundant. In some ways it is; if we are thinking before we act and honoring God then we should also be, by default, behaving in a respectful way. On the other hand, a little extra reminder doesn’t hurt. We live in a diverse world and a lot of the choices that our family makes are not the same choices that other people make. We figured a little extra reminder that we shouldn’t treat others differently as a result doesn’t hurt. We also wanted a reminder that all of these great things apply to ourselves as well. Respecting ourselves by respecting our bodies and caring for our own physical, mental, and spiritual health is a way to bring honor to God that we want to make sure not to overlook.