By Rev. Dr. Richard Gentzler, Jr.

On my desk is a small, unframed piece of paper. While the edges are frayed and the once-white paper is yellowing, it provides an important focus for living my days. It reminds me of who I am and what I hope to become.

I wrote the words while I was serving as the director of the Center on Aging and Older Adult Ministry at the General Board of Discipleship (now Discipleship Ministries). Titled Personal Mission Statement — Richard H. Gentzler, Jr., DMin, it’s dated February 27, 2009.

While mission statements are usually associated with organizations and businesses, GBDO staff were encouraged to write personal mission statements. My personal mission statement reads:

To create meaning and purpose in my life by:
Experiencing love in my marriage and joy in my home and with my family;
Engaging in my life’s calling through ministry and teaching;
Combating ageism and age discrimination in all places and at all times;
Advocating for peace and justice, open-mindedness, and equality;
Practicing generosity, gratitude, and kindness for all God’s creatures;
Modeling God’s love with succeeding generations; and,
Discovering the blessings of learning, laughter, and love each day.

There is nothing profound, fancy, or earth-shaking about my personal mission statement. But as I reflect, I realize it has guided the way I have lived my life. While I have not always fulfilled my mission statement, it accurately reflects how I have tried to live and grow in my life’s mission.

If you have never written a personal mission statement, I encourage you to do so. It is an engaging and enlightening exercise into your reality. If done faithfully and intentionally, it will serve as a light for your life’s path.

Writing a personal mission statement depends on developing a clear understanding of yourself and your reality. Søren Kierkegaard, the late Danish philosopher and theologian, emphasized that “life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Everyone faces transitions and turning points. However, reflecting on the guiding principles of your mission statement can help you live your life with purpose and meaning and enable you to move forward with the assurance that God is with you.

As we begin a new year, I invite you to write a personal mission statement rather than simply making another New Year’s resolution. Begin by finding a quiet place to reflect, having a journal or notebook nearby, and creating an ambience in which you can reach deep within yourself and share your internal voices with your external experience.

Allow your mind to wander, fanning your imagination as you ask the following questions:

  • Why am I here?
  • Who or what is my Lord?
  • What do I love?
  • What is unfolding in my life?
  • How do I want to be remembered?
  • What do I need to give up and what do I need to hold on to?
  • What is my place and my purpose in life?

How do you really want to live? What is the vision for the life you are living at this stage in your journey? Imagine you are on a high mountain looking down at your life and the world around you. What do you see? What is needed of you? What are the guiding principles of your life?

Put your thoughts on paper — you don’t have to write sentences. Simply identify phrases about your faith, hopes, desires, and dreams that you want to fulfill in your life.

Once you’ve answered the questions and identified your life’s guiding principles, put your ideas on paper. Pray over what you have written. Reflect on your ideas for several days. Ask yourself, “Does this personal mission statement accurately reflect my life?”

If, upon further reflection, there is something missing in your statement or a thought that needs further clarification, make the necessary adjustment. After you are satisfied with your personal mission statement, begin living into it.

An example of a constructive mission for our lives as we age is found in the first Psalm:

“The truly happy person doesn’t follow wicked advice,
doesn’t stand on the road of sinners,
and doesn’t sit with the disrespectful.
Instead of doing those things,
these persons love the Lord’s Instruction,
and they recite God’s Instruction day and night!
They are life a tree replanted by streams of water,
which bears fruit at just the right time
and whose leaves don’t fade.
Whatever they do succeeds.”
(Common English Bible)

I believe the way we choose to live our lives is heavily influenced by our mission. Identifying yours in a mission statement is a compelling way to lead to a life which pronounces, “I am living the life I most deeply want to be living.”

Dr. Richard Gentzler, director, oversees ENCORE Ministry’s mission of providing older adult ministry resources, leader training, and consultations. For more information, email Gentzler at rgentzler@encoreministry.org or call 615-400-0539.