Author Archive : Mike Jeffries

A Story Worth Telling

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Noah Smith - www.Noahsdad.com

Sometimes we don’t like the stories that we’re unwittingly or unwillingly written into. At other times, we realize that it may not be the story we imagined, but it’s our story and we’re going to find a way to live that story to its greatest potential.

Rick and Abbie Smith are examples of the “it’s our story and we’re going to live it well” idea.

When their son, Noah, was born with Down Syndrome, the Smiths realized they had a choice to make. That choice, to make a surprising story a better story for themselves and others, is being catalogued in Rick’s blog, NoahsDad.com.

Rick and Abbie want to change attitudes about children born with Down Syndrome, a condition that occurs when the body has an extra chromosome. That one chromosome makes a difference, but the bigger difference comes from people who aren’t exactly sure how to respond or react to those who have it.

NoahsDad.com is working to change that. Change comes when stories are told, and Rick realized that Noah’s story could be told in one-minute video segments and thoughtful blog posts from a father smitten with his infant son.

In one of his recent posts, Rick wrote about ”3 Things Our One-Year-Old Son Wants You to Know About the Power of Story.” What we can learn from this one-year-old applies to every area of our life where story is important, which is to say it’s important for every area of our life.

Here are the three things:

1) Your story is powerful.

2) Stories remove the veil of fear from people’s lives.

3) Hidden behind the veil of fear is hope.

“Your story has power,” Rick says.”Tell your story. Trust me. You may think no one is listening. You may think that no one cares. You may think your story doesn’t have any impact. You may think you don’t even have a story to tell. Guess what….you are wrong.”

Rick’s right. Many of us somehow know we have a story to tell. Some of us might even realize we have a great story to tell. But when a story has an edge of greatness about it, we might feel overwhelmed in trying to tell it. Rick’s telling an amazing, overwhelming story one minute at a time. He captures one moment one day, another moment the next day. When those moments are woven together, the story’s being told in its grand magnitude.

The Smith’s story is being heard. Just a couple of weeks ago, Rick praised a recent Target ad’s positive treatment of kids with Down Syndrome on his blog and it went viral. It has gotten coverage from news agencies and networks around the world, and in just in the last couple of weeks alone, millions have  been introduced to Noah’s story.

As a parent, you’ve got a director’s chair view of the stories your children are living, and no one knows their stories better than you do. Take a cue from Rick and Abbie Smith. Help your kids interpret their story to realize that they are important, that they are loved, that they have a place, and that they have a powerful narrative to share with the rest of the world.

The Job Only They Can Do

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

What happens when you ask kids to accomplish a mission that only they can accomplish? At my church, when we talk about deploying students for ministry, the ideal is to match their gifts and experience with a need specialized for their ability.

For dozens of American teenagers at First Baptist Fort Lauderdale, that journey takes them to Russia each spring. Students who weren’t even born when the Berlin Wall fell are taking a unique skill set to the former Soviet Union: the power of social networking and peer friendships.

On the Russian side, students from elite Russian public schools compete for the opportunity to attend a week-long camp where they’ll hone their English skills with American conversational terms. The Americans serve as peer counselors in groups of six or eight during the day. At night, cultural differences dissolve as they play together, worship together, pray together – just like most U.S. church youth groups. Except most of the Russian students aren’t Christians. Yet.

The fact is, American adults wouldn’t be the best candidates to accomplish this mission. The supervising adults are tolerated by the Russian kids, but as teachers, not as friends. With tightening religious restrictions, church leaders have limited access. The mission can’t be made up. It’s got to be a legitimate cultural exchange. And since the Russian language students show up to learn “pop culture” English, who better to talk with than the across-the-ocean teens who know that language best?

When they say their goodbyes at the end of the week, both sides have talked about what it means to have a relationship with God. And thanks to the Internet, cell phones and Facebook, those conversations are just the beginning. Instead of a once-in-a-lifetime mission trip, the students build lifelong friendships. Instead of a long plane ride, they’re back in an instant via text or web. American kids are discipling their Russian peers, all online. And even though the online communication is powerful, the kids who’ve been before are the first ones on the plane when it’s time to go back for the next English camp.

The distinctive is that opportunities like this aren’t about getting teenagers to do something the adults don’t want to do, or creating artificial experiences. Find something they can do better than anybody else and fuel the passion that is already hard-wired in them. They might just change the world.

Mike Jeffries works with Reggie Joiner and Orange publishing initiatives and creative strategies. He’s also serves as an associate pastor at a fast-growing multicultural church in South Florida, specializing in global missions and communications.

Humility Wins

Monday, April 4th, 2011


I’m a baseball fan so I’m excited about Opening Day, but I didn’t want to let the NCAA basketball finals pass without noting that this is the first NCAA Final Four in almost a century without the presence of legendary UCLA coach John Wooden.

Wooden passed away at the age of 99 last summer, so when Butler and UConn take the floor for the 2011 title game, it will be the end of an era.

Anyone who ever played for him would tell you that Coach Wooden was more about building character than he was about winning basketball games, although he did both pretty well. His teams won ten championships during a 12-year period, the final one in his last year of coaching in 1975. (No other coach has won more than four men’s titles compared to his ten.) The Sporting News named him “the greatest coach of all time.”

He was famous for his “pyramid of success,” fifteen different elements like “competitive greatness” and “teamwork.” But Wooden said one quality was more important than all the rest and made the rest possible: unselfish humility.

Wooden would tell his players: “Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

Be humble. Be grateful. Be careful.

Sounds like he had the balance between ego and humility down pretty well.

Fast Company did a survey about the nation’s most successful CEOs, asking readers to rank these leaders’ most evident leadership qualities. “Unselfishness” didn’t rank very well. It was dead last on the list after ideas like “ruthless ambition” and “passionate work ethic.”

In their analysis of this study, the authors of Egonomics echo Wooden’s sentiment that unselfish humility is the foundational quality for every other step to success. “As a trait, humility is the point of equilibrium between two much ego and not enough.” It’s the proper tension between a discouragingly low self-esteem and exceedingly high self-confidence.

As a book written for the business world, Egonomics makes a good point: “As an indispensable trait of great leadership, humility must make its way past the pulpit of Sunday sermons and into the cubicles and boardrooms. Humility should be our first reflex…”

Of course, on our children’s playgrounds, humility looks a lot different than it does in a workplace, a church or even a college basketball court. As we explore this idea of humility with our kids, we show them humility doesn’t mean getting stepped on or kicked around or looking down on themselves. “Humility is not the equivalent of being weak, ignored, indifferent, boring or a pushover,” according to the book. “Humility must include confidence, ambition, and willpower.”

That’s why we’ve chosen to define humility as “putting others first by giving up what you think you deserve.” That’s a scenario every kid can imagine. And it comes right out of the Bible: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition of vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

Coach Wooden described it this way:

“Don’t try to be better than someone else. Always try to be the best you can be.”

If you’re interested in reading more about Egonomics, search “egonomics white paper” on the Internet or purchase Egonomics: What Makes Ego Our Greatest Asset (or Most Expensive Liability) by David Marcum and Steven Smith.

For practical ways to teach your children the virtue of Humility, read the newsfeed and watch this month’s Virtue Preview Video below.

VIRTUE VIDEO: HUMILITY (April 2011) from Orange on Vimeo.

Mike Jeffries works with Reggie Joiner and reThink on publishing initiatives and creative strategies. He’s also serves as an associate
pastor at a fast-growing multicultural church in South Florida, specializing in global missions and communications.