Last week, we had an amazing six-day family retreat led by our dear friend and spiritual director who also happens to be a priest. We tucked ourselves away in a little cabin on the coast and quieted our souls with time away from ministry, early morning walks on the beach, evening swims and night time crab hunts. We dotted the days with the once in a life-time experience of whale watching and a bit of surfing.But the real purpose of the time away was not only to relax (although that was necessary to get to the next part) but to refocus on who we are and what we are about as a family.
You see, we have to walk a fine balance in our family. We are missionaries and non-profit founders and that could easily morph into our family identity. But the truth is our family is not our non-profit or our ministry. It is a much, much grander vision than that, and it is important for us to define who we are a family, including our mission, but not limiting it to that.
The results of our retreat were a family mission statement, a daily schedule, and some priority goals for our family. We had a mission statement that we had done a few years ago, but the boys were much younger then and our ministry was different and it reflected that. Refocusing on who we are with the full participation of the kids was a gift I cannot put a value on.
I think some version of this family retreat is indispensable to family life if you serve in any way in ministry or are just a family looking to build the Kingdom together in this world.
You could do it at home, but ideally, you would combine the process with the time to step away from your daily life and really reflect in a relaxed state. And ideally, you would repeat yearly or semi-annually as your kids grow and life changes.
Our retreat was based on asking ourselves these three simple questions:
- What does it mean to be a member of the Mitchell family on mission in Costa Rica?
- Given the answer to that question, what should our days look like?
- What are three specific, measureable goals we can make a priority as we return home and put this work into practice?
For your family, the opening question might be phrased, “What does it mean to be a member of the ______ family building the Kingdom in ___________ (your community, your church, your specific ministry)?”
We brainstormed in a very casual form, throwing our words and phrases, as well as bigger ideas about what it meant to be us: respect unity, loving others, prayerful, joy, creative, sacrifice. We spent time talking about what those concepts meant to us as individuals.
We spent quiet time reflecting on our lives and asking the question, “Am I all in?” and then journaling about why or why not. We allowed time for each person to express some of the ways he was struggling and what might help him “be all in” again.
We had a note taker for each session so we could go back to our thoughts later.
After a few of these free-flowing discussions, we did the hard, focused work of crystallizing all our thoughts into a succinct mission statement for our family.
Here is our mission statement, now posted in our home:
We are a family called by God to live and serve others in joyful unity.
We are passionately compassionate.
We are sustained by God’s grace through prayer.
We are patient and peaceful.
We sacrifice for the good of others.
We forgive and ask forgiveness.
We live with creative wonder.
We are sinners who are striving to be SAINTS.
With that in mind, we began to look at all the components that need to fill our days and weeks and we set up a schedule that will frame our days and weeks with prayer, study, ministry, family time, exercise, community and rest.
Knowing that there have been some obstacles lately for us living the healthiest version of this life, we made some goals to keep us focused in the first month of implementing it in our house and discussed consequences for not falling in line with our communal goals as a family.
I admit, it has taking some digging in to get the process actually in action in our house, and lots of self-discipline for me. But I still feel so much energy and joy at who we are and what we are aiming for everyday. It has made such a difference in our home to take the time to define it and give it concrete actions points.
I strongly recommend that any family who wants to refocus on what they are about, get on the same page, and get everyone “all in” ask themselves these three questions and work out the answers together.
What about you? Do you have a family mission statement? How do you keep your family focused on the big picture of your mission as a family and then incorporate that into your daily activities?