I've mentioned Tsh Oxenreider in a few blog posts now, but one of the things that drew me to her the most was her concept of the family purpose statement. She touches on it just briefly in her recent book, Notes from a Blue Bike, but the detailed version of the why and the how are here on her blog. Basically, a family purpose statement is like a company or school's mission statement. It's a statement that identifies a family's core values and serves as a compass during times of decision making.
I think I was drawn to it because Nate and I are in a new phase of life where we simply need to be more deliberate about the choices we make. When we first got married nearly ten years ago, our priorities were basically to survive. Pay our bills on time, finish my degree (for me), make it through a first grown-up job (Nate) and figure out how to be married. Now we're at a place where survival is no longer our priority. We have two kids, half of us are in our thirties (I will not rob myself of my last seven months in my twenties!), and we are starting to set down roots for the first time, so I was searching for something that would help ease my transition into this new stage of life. Nate and I decided to give this family purpose statement a shot.
We started talking through the questions on Tsh's blog in September, and we just finished our purpose statement last night....but have no fear, it would not take a "normal" couple three months to complete the process. We worked on it for thirty-sixty minutes each night for a week and then had to take time away from it while we directed our efforts towards our home remodel. While it was time consuming, the questions sparked great discussion. For a few months now I feel like Nate and I are on two totally different islands when it comes to our priorities simply because the move and the transition to a new town/new jobs has been so time consuming that we haven't had lots of opportunities to touch base, but after talking through these questions, I was happy to learn that we are not on different islands. Our answers often lined up, which was affirming to me. These discussion questions also forced us to think about the future in a practical way. I have always been a bit of a dreamer; while this characteristic helps me to see opportunities that others may not, my dreams and aspirations are often unrealistic. On the contrast, Nate is pragmatic in every sense of the word, so it was beneficial to talk through both of our hopes for our family's future and decide which hopes and dreams we'd pursue. Talking through these questions just made sure we are on the same page.
We used Tsh's template for generating a family purpose statement and modified it a bit. Our family purpose statement turned out to be:
We, the Helzer family, believe that our purpose as a family is to serve and honor God by being good stewards of the gifts we have. We will accomplish this by:
--valuing healthy relationships with one another as our core value
--making our home a place of respite
--prioritizing simplicity above excess
--interacting in a spirit of graciousness, patience, and love
How We Will Use It
I'd like to get this purpose statement fancied up and printed so we can hang it in our house as a visual reminder. We'll discuss this purpose statement with the kids revisiting it as they mature to help deepen their understanding of it. This statement will be a compass for us as we make decisions--big or small. Our decisions will need to align with the purpose statement we've written together. I'm sure over time we may need to revisit it and revise, but what I like about what we've written is that this is who we are at our core. Even while we were in survival mode in our first few years of marriage, I still feel like we had the same values that are implied in our purpose statement now.
I'd recommend this process for anyone--married, single, with kids, without kids.Too often our culture gets swept up in trends and leaves people searching for something to cling to after the trend has passed. Creating a purpose statement allows a person to intentionally identify what it is he/she stands for.