Writing Year 7 of 10: Should I Have a Mission Statement for my Project? With Reagan Schrock

Remember, if you have trouble with the podcast, listen on Apple Podcasts, PocketCast, or Spotify. If you prefer to read, most of the podcast content follows here in this blog post!

Expanding on my conversation with Rosetta, I called Reagan Schrock. I was thinking of mission statements for projects like Voices of Syria, the sequel to Faces of Syria. I didn’t get a ton of feedback on Voices. It doesn’t have cute photos like Faces of Syria. Instead, Voices travels through the tents and homes of refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, listening as people share their stories. But, the feedback I have gotten sends warm circles around my heart. Why? Because it showed me that the book accomplished its mission.

For example:

I just now finished reading this book! Wow! I never realized how wrong my thinking towards Muslim people was!

Give me one or two comments like these any day rather than a page of fluff.

Reagan is married to Trish. He is the owner of Bronze Bow Media. Reagan is heavily involved with a Middle Eastern organization which I will not name. Along with a friend, he is one of the founders of Anabaptist Perspectives, which delivers discussions about Anabaptist beliefs through podcasts and video. He lives in Athens, Tennessee when he isn’t traveling obsessively all over the globe.

So I asked Reagan this question.

Is It Important For a Project to Have A Mission?

Reagan confesses that he tends to wing things a bit.

In his work in the middle East, they started that way. Someone needed to get over there and start. “Let’s just get on a plane, and we’ll figure things out when we get over there.

“In a way that’s really good,” Reagan says, “because it could have been one of these things where you sit around and think about it forever, and you never get anything done.”

It’s fine to start there, but you can’t stay there.

“I’m definitely suffocating that out of my life just because it’s not efficient,” he says.

Anabaptist Perspectives began in a different way. Reagan and a friend sat down to discuss needs they had seen, and developed a vision statement that night.

Our weekly podcasts and videos are designed to describe and defend biblical elements of contemporary Anabaptist lifestyle and theology while promoting biblical discussions among Anabaptist people about social and cultural issues.

Anabaptist Perspectives vision statement

Now, when someone asks them to host a certain person or talk about a topic, all they have to do is compare that topic to their vision. Does it fit? No? Then, no.

The statement they drew up that night has become their guiding star.

Ways to Define and Maintain a Mission

Even thought the two organizations started differently, a common denominator exists. In both cases, Reagan and his team saw a need. Even just seeing a need can define your mission. When they “got on a plane” and went to the Middle East, there was no question in their minds what they wanted to do. They wanted a group of people to move over long term to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Despite being in the “safest” part of Iraq, they could hear the mortar rounds firing over the Tigris River. They listened to fifty caliber machine guns going off in the evening. ISIS camped about twenty miles away at that time.

“There was no question what we were getting ourselves into,” Reagan says. “We knew that if we sent people to be the hands and feet of Jesus, they may not come back.”

They were not goofing off. It was very, very serious. But they resolved details of translation and paperwork along the way rather than waiting for those to be in place. They just plunged in.

However.

“If we would have just stayed there saying, ‘Yeah, we’re fueled by the passion!’ we would have all burned out,” he says. “We realized we also had to be practical and throw in some organization too. Now we have enough organization and structure to pull off things like language training from the field.”

All of this is impossible without a team. Even if it’s just a small project, having a team to give you strength when you lose your own steam is so important.

How Do I Know If I Am Meeting My Goals?

Feedback does count. After starting Anabaptist Perspectives, they realized within the first week that people really want to know more about Anabaptist doctrine. Hundreds and thousands of people all over the world were listening.

“How do we balance valuing feedback versus living for feedback?” I asked. “This is a huge temptation for creatives people producing content.”

“I think it comes down to the core of why you’re doing it,” Reagan says. “If we were doing it for the YouTube views, we would have burned out long ago.”

Reagan says that every now and then he gets a comment like, “Thanks for that post. I was thinking of leaving the church, but your post helped me understand some things and I’m planning to stay.”

This kind of comment is worth its weight in gold. Reagan says they also get all kinds of criticism. But because they know they are fulfilling their mission, they are able to let it bounce off.

The Anabaptist Perspectives team asks themselves, “Are we helping people look at the Bible in a new way? Yes we are. Are people actually learning from this? Yes, they are.”

If you’re chasing the numbers, you might dumb down the content or make sure you don’t offend anyone. You might make funny cat videos because lots of people like those. But those tactics take all the value, depth, and nuance out of your message.

Reagan’s closing words

I asked Reagan if he’s ever had to get rid of content that didn’t align with their vision.

“Yes,” Reagan says. “Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because you put all the time and energy into something that you have to post it. Sit on it for six months! Anabaptist Perspectives runs questions past their board. But for single creators, time can be the solution for being able to see if content really fits your goal.”

There’s nothing like that, where you find something that you know is worth doing and you know it is what God wants done, and you love doing it.You can just pour your life into it. That is just amazing. Everybody needs to do that!”

Reagan Schrock

I had asked Reagan for about 15 minutes of his time, and we talked for about an hour. Be sure to listen to the podcast to hear even more. Thanks again for your time, Reagan!

A Quick Exercise

Here’s something quick to do! I’m borrowing from this week’s podcast from Communicator Academy, a writer’s podcast I often listen to. Take a piece of paper. Draw a line down the middle. On the left hand side, right down twenty things about yourself. Hobbies (making cheesecake?), education (Bible school? University?), interests (gardening?). Even things we don’t consider good (eating disorder? handicapped child? battle with cancer?) count toward your life experiences.

On the right hand side, write down the problems and needs around you. Not world peace. Something specific. Are your neighbors lacking pots of flowers? Does your foster daughter’s mom have an eating disorder? Are laundry and dishes defeating someone in your church? Etc, etc.

Once you’ve written as many things as you can think of on both sides, look at the ways your life experiences mesh into the needs of the world around you. This may help define an organization or book project. But it can also give you a hint of how to establish your own personal mission in the world.

Great little exercise! Thanks, Communicator Academy!

Grand Opening Special and Giveaway

Check out the page for Voices of Syria here, along with reader photos. With any purchase, I will enter you into the drawing for a $100 cash prize.

Also, a giveaway today! Leave a comment about a project you did this spring (doesn’t have to be a writing project -made donuts with children? made photo book? garden? podcast?) below for a chance to win a set including Faces of Syria and Voices of Syria. Entries may be placed until Wednesday noon, EST. GIVEAWAY CLOSED.

Leo and Larry’s trivia for readers: On page 250 of Voices of Syria, what three kinds of trees does the gardener (the same one who is pictured in Faces of Syria) have in his garden? The first person to email me (Katrina@500-words.com) with the right answer receives a gift pouch of Captain Garrison coffee by mail! You may only win once.

Congrats to Dorcas from Pennsylvania for winning yesterday with the answer, “Palestine.”

Tomorrow! The topic of failed projects continues! I discuss Amish Millionaire with two separate interviews. First, I’ll be talking to interview partner, writer, and cousin Sara Nolt on the East Coast. Second, I will talk to West coast blogger and author Emily Smucker -who also considered writing Amish Millionaire.

Listening to stories with the Arabic to English translator close at hand. Photo by Rosetta Byers.

27 thoughts on “Writing Year 7 of 10: Should I Have a Mission Statement for my Project? With Reagan Schrock”

  1. Great post Katrina! I greatly enjoyed reading it. Ask my husband, projects seem to be my middle name, whether refinishing furniture, creating home decor, trying new recipes, designing flower beds, photobooks….I tend to dabble in little bits of everything and not become a master of one thing.:) Thanks for the inspiring blog post over quarantine time!

      1. I’m enjoying reading your posts.
        One project from this spring or more specifically, during the quarantine, is a bathroom remodel. We’ve torn out the vanity & stripped the wallpaper & plaster patched, primed & painted the first coat. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that you have to wait in line to even get in the door at Lowe’s, so we haven’t been able to buy a new vanity & medicine cabinet yet. Our project has ground to a hault, but it looks better then the nasty, pock marked walls did before we started 🙂 Can’t wait to finish it!

    1. Debra Burkholder

      My project this spring– distance teaching. And that project concludes this week.

      An actual project was making face masks.
      I enjoy the behind the scenes looks at your books.

  2. One “project” I did was clean my house! Just general cleaning, but it felt so good to accomplish it, since not much of it has gotten done since my baby was born. Also, I’ve tried a few new recipes.

  3. Marlene K Graber

    Our annual spring project is to pay our dues, or better yet, our commitment to keeping our two miles of Adopt-a-Highway ditches clean. So it took Lewi and Russell and me two afternoons to fill about 10 trash bags, and now we enjoy our trips into town much more! Helping keep our community beautiful!!

  4. Sheila Rudolph

    I enjoyed this post as I have all of them… and I can’t help but be envious of the time you spent in the Middle East! Projects for this spring included making new flower beds, creating frames for puzzles, and trying to get my 2019 photo albums finished!

  5. Dawn Harshbarger

    I am enjoying your series very much. My Christmas card list ballooned to many more names than I expected. I ran out of family pictures so I ordered more without Merry Christmas written across the bottom. Then wrote a short form letter and decided to send them out before Easter. When I think of covid 19 I think of holing up in my house and writing letters. I couldn’t just fold the form letters and slip them in the envelopes. No, I ended up writing personal notes at the end which turned into another whole page of the letter. I’m glad I could stick with it and get the job done. It was a great way to connect with family and friends.

  6. I found this post really insightful! Thank you. Spring Project? Spearheading a batch of interviews for a personal writing project pipe dream not originally solicited by my typical writing venue.

  7. I have enjoyed hearing behind the scenes of your writings!!
    Some days I feel like maybe I have too many projects that I want to start or that I do start. 😁 I enjoyed crocheting table runners for our Mom’s for the first. Along with crocheting, I usually have sewing projects for my daughters and currently that is dresses. I am also currently working on finishing our school’s yearbook where my husband teaches and principal.

  8. Love your posts and would enjoy reading the books! A family project we enjoyed this spring was building a rock box. 🙂

  9. Marissa Anderson

    This has been a interesting segment of posts even for someone like me who’s not an author.

    The children had seen where you can grow an avocado from a seed so we watched a YouTube how-to and believe it or not a sprout is grow quite eagerly from the bottom! Now we await greenery from the top.

  10. Instructed my littles on how to plant peas and other veggies in the garden. Life skill project!

  11. I sewed little girl dresses to send to CAM.. and worked on setting up our house with my new husband 😊

  12. Hmm. Doesn’t everyone under quarantine have a few new projects to report? One night Nathan and I made funnel cakes for about half of our twenty-apartment building because you can’t return an empty plate here, and I had a frightening pile!

  13. Sharon Schrock

    Thanks for doing these podcasts, Katrina. They’ve been encouraging! Yes, with the children at home doing school, we needed some projects to keep everyone’s morale up. We made donuts, painted a window like stained glass, started some garden seeds, and planned a raspberry patch!

  14. Thank you for your writing lessons series. They have been interesting and helpful! I enjoy the podcast as I like to multitask when working on projects such as sewing or crocheting. Probably the biggest project for me this spring has been facemasks.

  15. I’m really enjoying these posts!
    One project we’ve been working on is sewing a quilt out of some of our bags of fabric scraps.

  16. My mother did lots of hand appliquing. Now with her mind cloudy with dementia one thing she still enjoys is sewing hearts on 9″ patches. I pieced 6 small quilts for my grandchildren with them. Now to get them finished.
    I read most of your books but not the “Syria” one.

  17. Louisa Miller

    My project was landscaping and cleaning out flowerbeds. It’s something I’ve never done before on my own.

  18. Rachel Miller

    I hadn’t planned on commenting on your blog, but after hearing you were talking on characters of long ago history that was what you did with Captain Garrison, I wanted to comment. We found the book so interesting and highly recommended it to others! I’ve always enjoyed history,but when God can take a sinful man and bring him for one of his own, it makes the story of so much more worth for the reader! I would say Captain Garrison is my favorite, till you write a better one.

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      Thanks Rachel! That’s so encouraging. If you comment on the Year 9 post you will get entered into the drawing. 😀

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