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.
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.
“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.