Family is one of, if not the, most important arenas of life. Our families are little societies, communities, cultures of their own. They help shape who we are, what we value, and how we see the world. They are where we are meant to feel most secure, most known, and most cared for. But this isn’t always the case. Family is also one the biggest sources of anger and emotional scarring. Life with other people is hard. If we’re not careful, we can waste or ruin the opportunity of family.
The best way to ensure family is all that it can be is to cast a vision for your family. Just like any organization (a business, a church, a country club), family follows the framework of life. It is the most intimate and vulnerable organization we’ll ever be a part of. It is the most important entity we’ll participate in. And just like every good organization needs to define their mission, so does a family. Here are four steps to get you started:
1) Shared Ownership
As you get started with a vision for your family, one thing that is important to consider is the value of shared ownership. For your family vision to be most effective, ALL members of the family have to take a shared (not equal, but shared) responsibility for it.
This should start from the very beginning. Parents, include your kids in the discussion. Even if they are toddlers! Help guide and lead the discussion. But give them a voice. It will set a precedent and it will help empower your kids to own the vision. If they have a voice in developing it, they are more likely to participate.
There are two questions to consider when contemplating a family vision. What matters to us? Why do we exist as a family? Your answers to those two questions will lead you to a vision. All you need to do is get the answers down to a slogan. Our family vision is one word: “UNITY!”
The key here is to get excited. Parents, kids, wayward uncle who lives in the extra room. For the vision to be real, to survive and be effective, it has to be something everyone can commit to. Not begrudgingly, but cheerfully. The very last question should be “Are we excited about this vision?” If it doesn’t excite you, it won’t drive you. We love the vision of unity. It thrills us to do life together (once we have teenagers, there might be some pushback – but, even so, we can help them see that they want unity, that unity isn’t conformity, and that their rebellion is about being their own self rather than wanting to get away [individuality actually thrives in unity]).
After you have your slogan (or word), it is important to know you are not done. Many businesses make this mistake. They go on a weekend retreat, come up with great-sounding, pithy, and exciting mission statements. But then head back to the office and nobody talks about it for twelve months until the next retreat shows up on the calendar.
Don’t let this happen to your family. Communication is the kindling on the fire. It helps vision burn and build momentum. Talk about the vision. Do an art project with the kids making signs with the vision and put it on the fridge. If your vision truly is what your family cares about and the purpose for the family, it ought to be talked about. So many families are in decay because we don’t talk about anything that matters. Everything significant is buried. The whole point of a vision is to empower your family to realize its greatest potential. Good visions lead to inside jokes and repeated slogans.
Lastly, for a family vision to set, you have to celebrate it. This is the pinnacle of communication. We repeat what we celebrate. Frame internal and external achievements as a manifestation of the family vision. Call it out when you see it.
Lord knows, we need more proper celebrating in our families. We either celebrate the wrong things or nothing at all. The reality is, what you celebrate is your family vision, whether you mean it to be or not. It’s time to be intentional about it.