Ep. 46 || Intentional Motherhood: Communicating Your Family's Mission

This transcript is edited for clarity.

Emily:  Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Emily Jensen here with my lovely sister-in-law, Laura Wifler. Before we get started, a couple of really quick housekeeping things. If you haven’t taken our survey yet, please hop over to our show notes on risenmotherhood.com, we would love to hear from you. Just some good feedback that would be helpful for us in the coming year as we want to continue to serve you guys well and keep producing helpful content.

Then also, if you follow us over on Instagram, you might have noticed that we have a hashtag, #RisenMotherhood—big shocker right there. [laughs] Laura and I check that pretty frequently, at least once a week or so, and so we love scrolling through and seeing the way that the g4ospel is impacting your life in motherhood so consider using that. It’s definitely really encouraging to us and hopefully to others.

Laura:  Today we’re going to be talking about a family mission statement, family vision. These are things we want to be super clear upfront, that are nice to-dos and not necessary to-dos or need to-dos but we are going to be chatting through that a little bit today. Emily, I don’t know about you but I don’t think I grew up with a true family mission statement. Did you have any phrases that your parents would consistently say that you knew, “That’s a Graham thing to say?” that’s Emily’s maiden name.      

Emily:  For some reason, when I think about this, I can only think about stuff my dad said. I’m sure my mom said things, but I can remember on Saturday mornings, he would drive us to the airport to go watch airplanes take off. He would always look back in the car, because I would complain and he’d be like, “Emily, life is not always fun. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do.” He used that one on me a lot.

There was a few other things that I remember him saying over and over again, but I think a lot of it was just, I want to say subconscious, but probably they didn’t realize they were doing it but over the course of my lifetime, communicated a lot of messages about what my parents valued, and what they hoped that I valued.       

Laura:  I know my dad and my mom would always say, “Remember who you are,” on our way up and, “Don’t worry,” and I was like, “Ta, ta, ta,” but my parents had a lot of catch phrases. I feel like they would say, and I say this all the time to even my husband or my kids, but my mom would say, “See needs and meet them.” She’s like, “You have two hands, so you need to go help. If you see dishes on the counter, go clean them up. If you see that the floor needs mopped, you need to go mop that even if it’s at your friend’s house.” It was very much like, if there is a need, you need to be the one to meet that, which as a kid was tough, but as an adult, I see immense value.      

Emily:  That’s one of things you see yourself turning around and saying to your own children, “I get this now, come on, come on, [laughter] pull your weight around here.”   

Laura:  I thought I’d never sound like my mother, and I sound exactly like my mother. It’s interesting because as we grow up, a lot of times, and maybe some of the listeners can relate to this, but as individual families, we all look different but sometimes there are things that you’re defined by or known by. That’s something that can happen naturally even if you’re not trying to have it happen. The point of this whole family mission statement thing is that—actually Emily was saying this, of talking about it—it helps you be in control of the message that we’re hoping to communicate.       

Emily:  I think I’m like you, PR queen.

Laura:  Yes, I have a background in PR. That’s exactly right. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it. I’ve been removed from the workforce for too many years. We want to encourage you guys in thinking about, “What does our family stand for?” We all want to have a purposeful home, and I think we all would say we have goals for our children, and for our families but they may not have been ever spoken aloud for or really formulated.

That’s what a family mission statement helps you to do. It determines your priorities and your values as a family so that everyone can get on the train and get behind it. Sometimes it comes with a clever catch phrase and sometimes it doesn’t.    

Emily:  Half the battle is sitting down and thinking about it and talking about it, out loud with your spouse, and verbally affirming and getting on the same page. It can happen in formal ways and it happens in informal ways too, all the time. You sit down to make a family decision and it’s like, “Are we going to start our kid in this activity or not?” and then you can back into, “How does this fit into our family?” and, “How does this fit into what’s important to us?”

I think the main thing is being intentional there, like Laura said, and controlling the message, which really means making sure everything is consistent with our biggest mission as parents, which is to pass along the gospel to our children and hopefully raise our children in the Lord, and be showing them what is of supreme value is glorifying God and loving Jesus and not all the things of the world.

That’s definitely not something that happens naturally. I think naturally, our bent is to go the way of the culture. We always have to stop and check that because if not, you do that by default.            

Laura:  It’s a lot like the whole New Year’s resolution thing or one of those things you’ve gotten off track with. A mission statement or a vision statement can help you come back around to say, “These are the things we determine that are important to us.” I feel like maybe we need to give an example if you’re not familiar with these. My husband and I, we created ours by force. Our small group a few years ago literally forced us to make it or else we would be the weirdoes that didn’t participate.

We were like, “It sounds really cool,” but when the rubber hit the road, it was a little harder to do. My husband likes to joke about the Wifler way—things that are included in ours are beyond a high level; we exist to glorify God and some of those things. We will have examples in the show notes you guys. If you’re like, “What the heck are you talking about?” there’s going to be a lot of how-tos in the show notes. Underneath that, some of them are our personal family priorities, our hospitality and service and giving. We talk about how does that play out in our lives, and how does what the Wiflers do every day, how does that include our family mission statement.

One great thing about a mission statement is it helps you to say no to things like, “No, our kids are in too many activities,” or, “Those activities don’t serve us.”  When you’re asked to be in a lot of commitments, it helps you say, “These are what we’re saying yes to, these are what we’re saying no to, because we have talked about in a clear-headed situation where we’re both wanting to stay focused, we’ve talked about this. We know what is most important to how we can live out the gospel with the unique characteristics and traits that God has given us.'         

Emily:  Laura actually had this great quote she pulled out which I feel like I’ve read before from Stephen Covey. He says, “A family mission statement is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is about, what it is you really want to do and be, and the principles you choose to govern your family life.”

I know if you have little kids, they’re probably not contributing to the conversation. [laughter] We did not sit our kids down. In fact, I think we did ours several years ago before we even have all the kids we have now. Still, I think it’s something exactly like he expresses, it’s something that the whole family can rally around and know, if nothing else, these are the things that we value.

That obviously can be communicated in a lot of ways but I think to tie it back to scripture, because obviously, we don’t want to go rogue here, [laughs] this is definitely something that we see. It’s not a path but an example that God has set. He set the course for his children and his kingdom and his family. He gave the greatest commandment, which is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself and then he gave us theGreat Commission. Both of those things are functionally mission statements. They’re things that we refer back to over and over again, and they’re things that define who we are and what we care about most as Christians. Keeping that in mind, missions statements are something that really is biblical if the point is to point your family to Christ.          

Laura:  The gospel’s essential to a believer’s family vision or what a believer’s daily life looks like and so it definitely, for us as believers, it’s going to look way different than a non-believer's. All we have to do, based off of what Emily was saying about how you flip open the Bible and you can see the mission statement that was given by God. Then how that plays out is in the entire Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament. You can look anywhere.

A few examples from even Paul’s writing. Ephesians 4, “Leading a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called in all lowliness and meekness with patience, forbearing with one another.” Romans 15, “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good to edify him.” Romans 12:10, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfishness or conceit but in lowliness count each other better than yourselves.”

We can look through the Bible of how does this play out in family mission statements or vision statements. I feel like we are using it interchangeably, but I don’t know which one’s the correct term. These things are backed up by scripture so you might have a few bullet points out of, “We want to be hospitable so where is that found in scripture and what does that look like played out in the Bible? What is the way God teaches us or Jesus showed hospitality?"

That’s another way that you formulate that, is you want to obviously as a believer, have the gospel essential and undergirds everything in that mission statement. Talking about, what type of people do we want to be and who do we hope our children become? That is all entirely shaped out of the overflow that God has done for us.                        

Emily:  Our mission statement is kind of wonky, [laughter] I feel like I need to say that. It’s an acrostic but it’s not like a normal acrostic where our last name forms the first letter. We just poked the letters [laughter]. One of our statements is about worship—that our family would know everything we do is worship. The heart of that statement is that our kids would know, “Whenever you are cleaning or you’re playing or you’re doing an activity or you’re at church or at school or whatever it is you’re doing, you are always valuing or treasuring something.”

Reminding them, “Is what you are doing something that you are doing to worship God? Are you thinking about it as a means to glorify God and a means to serve others and live out this purpose?” I think that’s one example of what Laura is saying; the gospel undergirds some of the statements in our mission and then we can communicate to our kids, “How does that apply to our lives and why is that important?" Just one example. I don’t know how many letters are in our last name off the top of my head, but we have that many little statements. [laughs]    

Laura:  The one thing too is that a family mission statement can change but remember that it flows from the top down, so right now, most of you listeners, your kids are probably, as Emily said, too young to really contribute. Some of you do have older children that can probably say, “Here’s what I value. Here’s what I’m interested in.” Know that the gospel‘s essential, it’s the foundation and it is what everything revolves around, but those little spokes to the wheel, I suppose, can change and will change as your family changes.

Adoption wasn’t necessarily in our family plan way back when we wrote this, but it has changed as God has changed our hearts and grown that in us and now we know it’s a part of our lives. That is a main piece of our family mission statement—orphan care. That’s another way to know that this isn’t set in stone. This isn’t a forever thing, just the gospel is forever.            

Emily:  I am already looking forward to rewriting ours and simplifying it. If you are like, “I would like to try to write something like this,” or, “I think this would be cool,” don’t feel any pressure. If you are informally having these conversations with your husband and you are informally basically communicating to your children that these are the most important things, then you’re already doing it.   

Laura:  You’re better than we are sometimes because Emily and I were talking about this and we were both like, “We need to dust ours’ off and actually look at it.” [laughter] So go you, if you’re informally doing this.

Emily:  If you want to write this, and if you’re in a small group at your church, you may elbow people and be like, “Let’s do this as a group.” We all got it done and it was a fun exercise to do with some of our good friends and other couples and we had that good accountability. We’ll put some resources in the show notes because really, it can look a lot of different ways. It doesn’t have to be a goofy acrostic, it doesn’t have to be this long paragraph, it can be a short sentence with bullet points, it can be one sentence, it could probably be a few words even, if you can be that concise. [laughs]        

Laura:  There is this one, I’ll link to it in the show notes, but they said, I think it was something like, “Inward, outward, onward, upward.” The family knew what that meant and then they could say it like a password, like something cool and the kids knew what it meant. It had a very robust neat meaning. I’ll link to that in the show notes but that’s an example of how skinny it can be.     

Emily:  My husband and I have the most conversations about this stuff in the car, when we’re on long car trips. When you put in your movie in the DVD player and you get everybody settled like, “Okay, we’re going to talk about all this family business things,” probably depending on the age of your kids but think of creative times like that. Maybe you can go out to coffee one morning and say, “Hey, let’s formalize this or let’s get on the same page.”

It’s definitely something that doesn’t have to take a super long time and it can exist for a while. Even ours gets a little dusty, but it’s still there and it’s still in the back of our minds and it’s still informing what it is that we are valuing as a family and the decisions that we’re making in terms of where we’re spending our time, where we are spending our resources, and all that.    

Laura:  Exactly. What do you do with it? We touched on it all over the place in this show so far but some people frame it. We have a family crest you guys because our small group made us make a family crest. Can you believe that? It’s not very good—I didn’t frame it, but we have a family crest. You can make beautiful artwork out of this. Some people in our small group did that and it’s on their wall. Ours is framed but it’s not currently on our wall, oops.

Refer to it. Maybe pull it out every January or when you’re making a hard decision, you can refer it out. Again, this is if you want to be more formal with it. Like we’ve said, we don’t want to add a lot of pressure or another to-do or a scary thing for you to do but it can be helpful, if you’ve taken time to write this down, to remember what it says. Some people have their kids memorize it, like I gave the four words earlier where their kids know what that means.

My husband and I joke about the Wifler Way but we hope that our kids someday will be able to say, “Hey, is this the Wifler Way?” because we want them to remember, “This is what I stand for. This is what I’m about. This is what my parents taught me and they didn’t teach me to do that.” We do want there to be meaning in what is starting out as a joke. We want there to be a reminder of, “Hey, this is what matters to the Wilfers but more than that, it’s what matters to God,” because that’s how we shaped this.         

Emily:  If you are in new year’s mode, this is a great time to stop and think about, not only what’s most important to us individually, but what’s most important to our family and sit down, formalize it if you want, and communicate it. The family mission statement is definitely an awesome thing. We will have a lot of resources for that in the show notes if you’re like, “How do I do this specifically?” There’s a lot of good articles out there that can give examples. Anything else Laura?  

Laura:  No.

Emily:  Again, you can find all of our show notes at risenmotherhood.com along with our survey or you can keep up with us on Instagram @RisenMotherhood, #RisenMotherhood or Twitter and Facebook. Thanks again for joining us.