5 Steps to Create a Vision for Your Family
By Annie Yorty, Crosswalk.com
A while back, God brought an unexpected addition to my family. No, I did not miraculously conceive like Sarah in the Bible. Instead, our blessing came as a teenager, one with scant knowledge of Yorty family values.
Children born into a family absorb its values and culture almost by osmosis. They may not be able to articulate a family vision, yet deep in their core, they know it. But this child did not have the benefit of years of living under our roof. As I considered how to communicate the tenets of our family, I drew upon my business experience.
Companies pour time, money, and effort into creating the perfect vision statement. They hire consultants, poll employees, and meet ad nauseam to create a few pithy words that succinctly define their identity.
A vision statement in business will define a purpose and outline standards. Once accomplished, it should inform the public, motivate employees, and provide a standard for decision-making. Its function within a family is similar.
I transferred the concept of vision from the corporate world to our family life. As I delved into the process, I soon wished I had written this guide much earlier to apply to parenting my older children.
Why Does a Family Need a Vision Statement?
If you're a parent, you're probably protesting the comparison of offspring to employees. We all know that for years children consume much while producing almost nothing. Nevertheless, just as a business trains employees to communicate corporate values to the public, so too should we teach our kids to reflect our family values.
Most importantly, a family vision statement provides an objective guide to parents for making decisions. When we base choices on the same standards day after day and year after year, our children will feel more secure.
5 Steps to Create a Family Vision Statement
The word vision suggests that we must predict the future. In an ever-changing world, how can we possibly come up with relevant wisdom that will guide us across uncertain years? Fortunately, we don't need to reinvent the wheel. God's Word provides the blueprint. With His design in mind, we then call upon the Holy Spirit to empower our imaginations to apply them to our unique families.
Step 1: Define your family's purpose.
I once heard someone suggest that the Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit—gives us a pattern for our own families. Without unpacking the entire doctrine and mystery of the Trinity, I hope we can agree that God is three distinct Persons unified in One. All parts of the Trinity existed before the beginning of time and participated in creating our world.
On the sixth day, God created the first people.
Then God said, "Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground." So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 NLT, emphasis added)
In this dialogue, the three parts of the Trinity communicated and acted in the unity of thought and purpose. God repeats a particular phrase, "in our image," that instructs us about our primary purpose in life. Whether single or living within a family, He created us to reflect His image.
In the next chapter of Genesis, God goes into more detail about how He created Eve and joined her with Adam. Two became one in the first human family.
This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. (Genesis 2:24 NLT)
God says He created human beings in both male and female form "to be like us." Joining as one, the man and woman create a family that reflects the unity of the relationship of the Trinity. Within this covenant structure, God tells couples to bear children and to govern the earth (Genesis 1:28).
Three purposes for every family emerge from these verses:
- Unified as husband and wife, reflect God's character.
- Raise children to reflect God's character.
- Use the resources of creation to benefit people and reflect God's character.
Notice a theme? Have you ever seen a business station with a powerful searchlight on its property to blaze through the night sky into the heavens to attract attention? It makes me want to visit that place and see what's happening. In the same way, Christian families should send beams of God's image into this world to garner attention for His glory.
Step 2: Discover virtues that exemplify God's glory.
Once we understand our purpose as a family, we consider the attributes that will move us toward achieving that goal. Again, we do not need to guess at the virtues that will reflect God. A quick search of the Bible reveals attributes God desires to cultivate in us.
-truth-telling, honor, justice, purity, beauty, excellence (Philippians 4:8)
-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Ephesians 5:22-23)
-faith, knowledge of God, steadfastness, godliness, diligence (2 Peter 1:5-8)
-respect, humility, contentment
These few verses scratch the surface of characteristics you may choose for your family vision statement. Ask God to guide you as you search His Word and make a list. Study the context to understand the definition of each word as it relates to your family.
Step 3: Brainstorm other qualities you esteem as a family.
Each family reflects God's glory through the unique personalities of the individual members. Once you have God's priorities built into your vision statement, you can flavor it with your preferences and desires. For example, do you tend to be more serious or spontaneous and fun-loving? Do you enjoy working together? How much do you value exploration, achievement, and initiative? Is cooperation or helpfulness a hallmark in your family?
As you consider these characteristics, you may be helped by examining different dimensions of life, such as physical health, spirituality, finances, education, work, recreation, and family life.
Step 4: Communicate your vision to your family.
With the newest addition to my family, I initially sat down to discuss the meaning of the different components and values outlined in the vision. That conversation was just the beginning of our communication. As with any child, our actions must back up our words over time.
For young children, simply act according to the convictions you lay out. They will learn over time through experience. If your children are older when you develop your family standards, they may benefit from a family meeting to review the concepts. Consider posting the vision statement where you all will see it regularly. As they mature to understand and articulate family values cognitively, they can anticipate your expectations and learn to apply the values to their own decisions.
Step 5: Apply the standard of your vision to everyday choices.
Don't think of your vision statement as a "big gun" that you bring out only for truly consequential decisions. Instead, think of the values you identify as guidance for a hundred little daily choices.
-Do you give an allowance? That may depend on what your vision statement says about the value of work.
-How much of your weekend will you devote to recreation? That decision rests on the importance of family fun.
-Should you entertain friends in your home? Your inclination toward hospitality will drive how often you receive guests.
-Will you create a consequence when your child gets up late for school? The answer hinges on how you value responsibility.
-How do you organize Sundays? Your view of rest may impact this decision.
-Will you allow your teen to borrow money to buy a car? What does your statement say about the value of fiscal responsibility?
-Should you initiate family devotions, or will each child make an individual choice? It depends on your vision of spiritual leadership.
A New Vision for a New Year
The concept of a family vision statement may be new to you. Or maybe you have a loose plan in your head, but you and your spouse haven't ever articulated it. Or have circumstances like mine created a need? Whatever the case, the beginning of a new year provides an opportune time to reset.
I encourage you to make time to connect with your spouse and brainstorm. Pray over your ideas together. Then write out the ones you will keep and discard any that don't seem relevant to your family. You don't need to make a cross stitch to hang on your wall, but I suggest you have something visual for your continued reference. I made a graphic on my computer that I framed, but you can choose any method that gets the job done. You might even like to involve your older kids in the process.
Don't give up if you don't have a spouse to join you in creating a family vision. Ask a trusted friend or God Himself to be your sounding board as you think through your family priorities.
Parenting is daunting under any circumstances. But you will find satisfaction and security in this uncertain world when you link your family vision to God's will and the purpose of reflecting on Him.
Annie Yorty uses her writing and speaking to encourage others to perceive God’s person, presence, provision, and purpose in the unexpected twists and turns of life. Married to her high school sweetheart and living in Pennsylvania, she mothers a teen, two adult children (one with intellectual disabilities), and a furry beast labradoodle. Please connect with her at http://annieyorty.com/, Facebook, and Instagram.