Developing a Personal Vision & Mission Statement for Christ
My personal reflection:
I often say that I am principle based not rule based. My Christian principles guide me, nurture me, and often reprimand me when I stray from them. As a young man, I believed that if you were a good person and did good things that was good enough. Now at age 37, (the beginning of adulthood for myself) I am traveling on the road to spiritual maturity. I often fall and do things to disappoint God. I am thankful for His forgiveness through Christ and those He has put in my life to keep me on the path especially my wife and daughter. This process, through the community of believers, enforces the principles that I believe in and by remaining in positions of responsibility it places a great amount of accountability upon me. I also believe that accountability is one of the best ways to abide by your prescribed set of ethics in your own life. A position of accountability is a constant reminder that you are to follow your own advice and principles especially when no one is looking.
As a husband, father, and leader, I am learning to understand that my foundation must be solid. My foundation must be morally, ethically, personally sound or I will never earn the honor of my family or my crew’s respect and trust. Through the foundation of my beliefs (Jesus), embracing the diverse nature of our world, and communicating the vision effectively I will one day achieve the mission of answering the call. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to the completion of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
I am also learning of the ever present danger of hypocrisy in living as a Christian. I feel that your actions are under even more scrutiny as a Christian leader in whatever role or career you choose. Society seems to be ever-watchful of your each move, word, or action. If my life doesn’t match my beliefs I dishonor God and run the risk of losing all credibility with my family, friends, and my crew. I am striving to improve my behaviors through spiritual disciplines such as: prayer, study, empathic listening, and honoring God through service. My faith provides a moral fence (God’s commandments) that guides me and reprimands me when I fail. I understand that it is not by works that I will be justified but it is by faith in Christ. My works (or fruit) are a product of my gratitude for what God has done for me through Christ.
It takes training, guidance, and experience to help develop your leadership abilities but if your core values don’t align with the goals of the organization you will not be a successful leader. You have to be able to function within the organization without sacrificing your principles or you will be ineffective. This article will provide thoughts & suggestions on developing a leader’s personal mission and vision statement for Christ. I pray that you seek God’s counsel first and not mine. He is the ultimate authority and provider of wisdom. Read, study, and meditate on His word and it will be a light to your path. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)
“Ethics are a moral fence that keeps us all inside the pasture metaphorically” (Joe Starnes). “If we lose sight of our identity, then perhaps we will lose sight of what it is we are supposed to stand for.” (Chief Ron Coleman) Let us begin by taking a few moments to ponder what you stand for, why, and what or whom defines your principles.
Christian Values: The need for a spiritual center
Deuteronomy 6:5-9 gives us the best instruction for our values: “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and your gates.” In short, our entire lives should be a living sacrifice to God. No one should have to ask if you are a believer. His light should shine out of you in all that you do. “Our willingness to serve and obey Jesus Christ enables us to be useful and usable servants to do work for Him. This is work that truly matters.” (Romans Commentary)
These values/virtues are found in scripture: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. These are paraphrased from two scripture passages: Matthew 22 verses 37-39 and Galatians 5: 22-23.
Love: A love for God, Love for family, and Love of your fellow man. This is fulfilled by grace through faith in Christ. In the fire service we show unconditional love by serving all members of the community despite differences, personal circumstances, beliefs, or social stereotypes. We serve our fellow man when called.
Joy: Joy is a sense of peace that comes from knowing Christ. It surpasses happiness which is only temporary. Joy allows you to face conflicts, struggles, and tribulations with a calm spirit, a clear mind, and with words of comfort. In the fire service, having inner peace is a priceless commodity. Our training teaches us to be calm in any situation but having a firm foundation in Christ helps us to maintain that calmness despite any difficult circumstances. Many of us struggle with pain long after the call is over. Our nature is to take ownership of the pain and suffering that we see. We must learn to trust Jesus with our anxiety, pain, and suffering. “Cast all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you-1 Peter 5:7.”
Peace: We value peace because it is often overlooked. In my opinion, peace is not sought as often as conflict. We tend to seek things that cause us trouble for whatever reason. Philippians 4:7 “ And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Firefighters carry conflict on their shoulder as if it was a defense mechanism. We love to quarrel and pick on each other. Our own self abuse sometimes is an outward expression of a lack of inner peace. We don’t want others to see that we are struggling so we put on a false persona of an unnerved, emotionally unmoved, and rough individual while on the inside we are crying out for peace.
Patience: To remain steadfast and continue with your work, ever moving forward, even under opposition, adversity or strain is the definition of patience. In the fire service, patience is something we tend to lack. We are called during an emergency, respond quickly, and handle the incident quickly as to lessen or prevent further harm, and return to service quickly. Patience is not gained if it is not practiced. An example of learned patience would be a veteran firefighter who calmly gets off the truck at a structure fire, assesses the scene while gathering his/her equipment, listens for important information, and watches over the novice firefighter while calmly moving forward towards his/her task.
Kindness: There is a saying that we should always be kinder than we need to be because everyone is fighting some kind of battle. Kindness costs nothing but the return on your investment compounds daily. That one interaction where you show kindness could be a life changing moment for someone. Don’t withhold a gift that costs you nothing but could produce great rewards.
Goodness: Being Good is questionable matter if you don’t believe. It depends on how and what you base your definition of what Good is. In my life I base goodness on my belief system. In the Christian faith, being good requires giving of one’s self out of love for the Lord not out of obligation and understanding that no one is truly good except for God. It requires that you earnestly want to help out of a heartfelt desire for your neighbor and not for your own personal benefit or recognition. God’s absolute truth never changes whereas the world’s definition of what and who good are varies depending on culture, politics, and greed. Christ’s love is the only true definition of good because “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) How many people would die for someone that didn’t believe in them, hurt them, and consistently insulted them? I know of one and He died for all of mankind.
Faithfulness: Faithfulness can be defined in many ways. Faith is a belief in the truth of or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing that is characteristically held without proof (Wikipedia). Faith is placing your trust, hope, and very existence in the hands of another (God). In the fire service it takes trust to place your life in the hands of your co-worker. You place great faith in that individual and trust them with your life. Whether you believe in God or not everyone has faith. You have faith every time you open a canned drink that it is safe for you to drink. You have faith every time you drop your child off at school that those who care for them will keep them safe. Biblical Faith is so much more. “It is the trust God asks that you have in Him” (Ravi Zacharias). “It is reason at rest with God” (Charles Spurgeon). Apart from Faith we have no hope in life. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Faith is the very essence of belief. It is the statement that we trust in God no matter what the outcome, circumstance, or difficulty because “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28).
In order to understand the mission you have to first understand why. A vision statement is the “why “and the mission statement is the “what”. We have to define why we exist before we can state what we want to achieve. As Dr. Covey states I need to ‘diagnose before I can prescribe’.
Taking a look at the “why/vision” enables us to be successful with the “what/mission “. Vision and Mission statements get mixed up and tend to muddy up our water so to speak. We often mix these up based on our focus at the time. In other words: Our focus determines our direction, our direction determines our destination, and our destination determines the end result. The problem in our focus is it easily distracted by novelties. C.S. Lewis stated when speaking about novelty “The pleasure of novelty is by its very nature more subject than any other to the law of diminishing returns. And continued novelty costs money, so that the desire for it spells avarice or unhappiness or both.” (Screwtape Letter’s pg. 137) Is your focus on Christ and serving Him? Or is your focus on worldly goals: finances, success, material things, etc.
A key motivator for promotions is financial reasons. Focusing on the financial aspect of promotion without taking into consideration the accountability and responsibility of the position can be hazardous to your health. The novelty or desire for something without understanding why you truly want it is dangerous. This is why establishing a vision & mission statement is so critical. If you decide to take on the responsibility in leadership you must first examine your motives. Do you truly understand what you are committing to? The fire service cannot afford leaders who are merely financially motivated. They will ultimately cost us far more than any paycheck they ever receive. Your family deserves a leader whose motivations are pure and sacrificial not greedy and superficial.
A Vision statement:
An example of a vision statement: “To become the fulfillment of what we are called to be through Christ, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and by Grace through Faith”. Our expectations should be based on faith and not circumstance. We must strive to continue learning in order to better serve others in our life.
A Mission statement:
An example of a mission statement: “To become a leader that gives others hope, builds up those around us, and always leave a situation better than you found it. This will be accomplished by embracing these concepts: humility (look for results not salutes), servant hood (leading by example), and through discipline. To remain dedicated to God’s purpose as a follower of Christ, to family, to church, to friends, and as a firefighter.
“The act of Leadership is the basic part of the Christian life (Ken Blanchard)”.
St. Francis of Assisi once said “In all things go and preach the gospel, and if necessary use words”. In the fire service, you might say we are hindered from sharing our faith with the people we serve. The service we provide is an example of our faith and by exemplifying our core values; our faith will be known without ever speaking a word. This is the concept of Life-Role Leadership.
You must be aware that your beliefs may differ greatly from your crew or other members of the department but know that these core values will never place limitations on you as a leader. You must understand that the principles, values, and virtues that you draw on as strengths from your beliefs have helped you and will continue to help you become a better leader.
Through the foundation of Christian beliefs (ethics), embracing the diverse nature of our world (cultural diversity), and communicating the vision effectively you will implement this vision and mission statement where it goes from a statement to a habit.
You may begin by placing your vision and mission statement somewhere you will see it every day (forcing you to look at it & remember). In life, for something to become integral to our existence it first has to become a part of your daily focus. My daily focus revolves around fulfilling my roles as a: Christian, a husband, a father, a friend, and a firefighter.
This requires that you begin to follow your mission & vision statement where others see it through your actions, your words, and your relationships. It must become part of who you are.
A key characteristic: Humility
Focusing on being humble will require to give others credit and to look for “results not salutes” as Abrashoff states in his book “It’s your ship”. Servant hood is the practice of serving others through your own personal sacrifice yet you are rewarded by seeing the positive outcome from your efforts. By focusing on service, we remember to in order to become better; we must learn to build up others around us (“build up your people” Chapter 9 Abrashoff).
The next step in becoming more disciplined in all of your roles is to increase your accountability. There is no greater enforcer than the fear of letting down those you value & care for. Once the responsibility is accepted you have taken ownership for those around you. You are accountable them and they are accountable to you. This implies that as a leader you will be involved and give them your best. In these relationships, you must strive to be open to constructive criticisms. “It is better to be criticized by a wise man than to be praised by a fool.” (Proverbs)
A personal After Action Report:
At the end of each day, start with giving thanks for your life and those around you. A leader who recognizes his/her strengths also realizes their need for forgiveness. True forgiveness comes from God and when a passionate servant of God kneels before Him there is no greater power than in prayer. Spending time with God will give you strength and humility. By acknowledging dependence on God, your need for Him will increase. Ask God to evaluate your steps, and ask the question: Lord, did I stay focused on the goal of achieving the mission? An example may be “Help me O God, to better serve you, my family, and those in my fellowship to bring honor and glory to you.”
In conclusion, the Bible contains many men and women of great integrity who strived to fulfill their Godly mission statement through obedience to Him. One of these great men was Daniel. He never compromised his integrity or beliefs yet he served three pagan kings. He prospered under each one despite his trials and tribulations. Each day He prayed, three times a day, thanking God and asking Him for His help. He was a man of insight, intelligence, and outstanding wisdom. Kings sought him for his guidance yet Daniel remained humble and gave God all the recognition, praise, and glory. He was not afraid to stand alone because he had great faith in God. He fulfilled his mission statement in life. He lived out his faith even in the face of great adversity. I pray that you take the time to search your heart and ask God “What is your mission and vision for me?” And be prepared for Him to answer….
Andy J. Starnes