The beginners guide to creating a family purpose agreement. (For distracted grown ups who never manage to complete anyth…

So if you are anything like me, when you first hear an inspiring idea you leap up and down and think Yay! Lets create a family purpose agreement! Why haven’t I done this before?? We want to live more fully into our dreams and values – so let’s DO this!

Then after pro-caffeinating (I have an inability to do anything until I’ve had a cup of coffee) I will flop down on the sofa in a deflated fashion and wonder ‘Where on earth do I even start one of those?’ Then after a few moments of pondering this I wonder ‘What shall we have for dinner?’ And the moment is lost.

Grand intentions rapidly dissolve into distant memory unless I intentionally work out how to turn them from idea into action. A bit like setting my mind on devouring a massive bar of Green and Blacks Sea Salt milk chocolate – I can’t turn that dream into reality without first going to the shops, choosing the chocolate bar, paying for it, taking it home, reverently unwrapping it, and savouring it one delicious chunk by one delicious chunk at a time….hmmm…

Sorry just lost my train of thought there. See what I’m up against?

So I guess I’m writing these steps down to help make a family purpose agreement more likely to actually happen. Mark and Lisa Scandrette describe the process they use in their book ‘Belonging and Becoming’ which this blog series is based on. I’m basically condensing their chapter on the subject into a bullet list which beginners like us can follow.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.

The WHY of the purpose agreement.

Lets remember what the point of creating a family purpose agreement is.

It can help us develop common priorities and a greater sense of unity and solidarity in our activities.

It helps us remember why we are choosing our daily activities and priorities. In the midst of a million mundane jobs it is easy to lose perspective. Life can feel like an endless cycle of to do lists. Seeing the connection between mundane tasks and deeper goals gives them new meaning and helps keeps us motivated.

It helps us make conscious choices about how we spend our time. When lots of opportunities and invitations arise we will have a clear sense of our values and priorities to help us say yes or no.

It helps navigate big decisions and empowers us to take tangible new steps.

So basically it’s a really good idea. Let’s stop pondering in case we start thinking about dinner.

Here are the all important…

HOW TOs of the family purpose agreement

  1. Pray, reflect and discuss what matters most to you as a couple or group. 
  2. Think about the various dimensions you would want to include. Practise good brainstorming – stay positive, focused on the future and don’t edit each others ideas. Here are some possible dimensions you may want to include with questions to spark your brainstorming:
  • The larger story. What do our faith, beliefs or experiences tell us about what is of ultimate importance? Why are we here? What makes life meaningful? What is the purpose of human existence? Is there a bible verse that speaks to us about these questions such as loving God and loving our neighbour as ourselves?
  • Relationships. How do we want to care for and nurture one another? Who else are we committed to travelling with through the seasons of life? (Extended family, friends,neighbours, community, church family, global family?)
  • Vocation. How do we want to be of use in the world? What is our unique work, calling or contribution as a family?
  • Passions. Out of all that we could care about, what are we especially passionate about? How are we uniquely wired to seek the greater good?
  • Values. What are the principles and ideals that we want to guide us?

3. Try to distill your family’s purpose into five to seven key words or phrases. They should be broad enough to span several stages of family life and specific enough to be evocative.

4. If you have kids or young people its important to engage them in the process. Invite them to contribute ideas and language to the shape the final product. If they can help shape the family purpose they are more likely to be excited by it and engage with it.

5. Share a summary of your brainstorming. Give them an opportunity to name, in their own words, what they think is most important to your family. Here are some ideas for doing this with kids of different ages:

Let’s Play Family. Use your family’s stuffed toys, dolls or action figures to play, pretend and talk about family purpose. Have each person pick a toy that they will role play with and narrate as you play. Offer some prompts such as:

  • The family love each other. How do they show it?
  • The family go on adventures to serve people. Where are they going? What are they doing? Who are they helping?

Go on an Adventure. Choose a fun destination and let your kids work out the route they want to get there. Explain that being in a family is an epic adventure. Invite the family to brainstorm about that adventure. ‘Lets think about where we want to go as a family and how we want to get there.’ On a sheet write fill in the blank questions and on other sheet a list of words to brainstorm about in response.

The fill in the blank statements could be:

  • Two things that are important to our family are _________ and ____________.
  • Our family is made to ____________________ together.
  • We live out what is important to us by ___________________________________.
  • When people think of our family, a word we hope they use to describe us is ________________________________.
  • The unique job God has for our family is _________________________________.
  • We want our family to feel _______________________________________________.
  • With others, we want to be _______________________________________________.

Have each person draw a picture of what they imagine your family will be like and feel like in ten, fifteen or twenty years. Take turns explaining your pictures.

Present and Future. With teens you could have a conversation about what your family journey has been like so far and where you hope to go together in the future. You could use a whiteboard and markers to document your chat with words and pictures.

Discuss the present together. Use the questions as conversation starters:

  • What do you think our family is known for?
  • What do we value, and how do you think we live out what we say is important?
  • How can we care for and support one another right now?
  • What is our work to do, and how do we do it?

Imagine the future together. Invite each person to imagine how you may be a family in ten, twenty or thirty years time, and then share some of your hopes and dreams. After sharing what you imagine and hope for, ask each other this question:What do we need to do now in order to make those good hopes and visions for the future real?

6. Finalise a family purpose agreement. 

7. Find ways to regularly remind each other of it. Make a poster or display on a bulletin board. Or make an art piece that communicates your agreement, using words or symbols to illustrate key points. Display what you create near your dinner table or somewhere you would see it often.

8. Some families regularly memorise and say inspiring verses from the bible that embody aspects of their shared purpose.

9. Some families craft their own family prayers. Lisa and Mark Scandrette crafted a prayer to say together based on the meanings of their childs middle names.

Love in me.

Love between.

Love to our house.

Love to our neighbours.

May your love be upon us today.

We will speak love.

We will walk in love.

10. Be kind to ourselves when we don’t manage to do all or even half of this – any step towards creating a shared family purpose is a step in the right direction so lets celebrate the little steps along this journey.

I’d love to hear how you get on in trying out some of these ideas. Epic fails not just the good bits! So do get in touch and let’s share our twists and turns of this adventure. As someone very famous and wise once said ‘If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.’ Shame I can’t remember who it was. That’s why I need all the help I can get. Bye for now.

Oh, but before I go, here’s a pic of one of my favourite families in all the world.

Good night Mary Ellen, Good Night John Boy.

the waltons car

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