The Making of a Mission Statement

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | May 30, 2009

"The greatest sin of the church today is not any sin of commission or sin of omission, but the sin of 'no mission.'"
Leonard Sweet

Have you ever thought about preparing a personal mission statement? We often hear about the importance of a mission statement for organizations. But today I would like you to think about doing it for you. 

You may wonder why this subject is important to me. The older I get the more conscious I am with the precious commodity of time. I once heard of a crane operator who worked for 37 years on that huge crane and on the day of his retirement he decided to bring his alarm clock to work. As the day ended, he placed the clock that awakened him for 37 years below that crane and he smashed it with its full weight. But even for him, time did not stop. 

As the years go by, we all know time seems to pick up speed. On a college campus we welcome new students and before we know it we are preparing for their graduation. Just yesterday our sons were learning to ride their bikes or was it drive their cars and now they are nearing 40 years old. 

When I was young I viewed time much differently that I do today. If I have a $20 bill in my pocket and I stop at Petrucci's for ice cream, I may not think about my order as much as when I only have a single dollar. If we have a limitless supply of anything we use it differently. 

For me, time has always been precious but today it is more precious than ever. Bill Pierce's comment means more to me now than ever, "For years and years I climbed the ladder rung by rung only to find out when I finally reached the top it was leaning against the wrong wall." 

Years ago I was part of a team working on an institutional mission statement and the consultant who was assisting us, Dr. Dean Hubbard, asked me, "Have you ever considered writing a personal mission statement?" That question started me on a journey that literally has transformed my life. 

In Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People habit number two says, "Begin with the End in Mind." Where would you like to be or what would you like to do or become in one year or five or ten or twenty years or at the end of your life? As someone said, "If you aim at nothing, you will likely hit it." 

No one wants to live with the regret of even one squandered opportunity. Here are four reasons why a mission statement will help reduce that anxiety. 

  • Clarity. There are a lot of good things that need to be done in the world but you can't do them all. A mission statement helps us prioritize.
  • Viability. Why is there no Baltimore and Ohio Airline? Their mission was railroads rather than transportation.
  • Intensity. Without a mission statement we may live life without passion and urgency. Mother Teresa did not become the "Saint of the Gutters" by accident.
  • Accountability. When we write a personal mission statement, we become accountable to implement it. Our goals can be measured. Are we or are we not realizing them?

Perhaps you have heard of Rick Warren's popular book The Purpose-Drive Life, which has sold over 30 million copies. Millions of people have benefited from its message which speaks to our deep need to live our lives with deep meaning and purpose. 

We hear of people making bucket lists, the things they want to do before they "kick the bucket." That could be the beginning of setting a goal that may change one's whole life. For each of us, a mission statement will help us make sure that life matters. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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