My confidence was shattered as a minister
to children; I felt as though I was riding a merry-go-round that
had spun out of control. Gossip, pettiness, and misunderstanding
swirled within our church family. And though I wasn’t the target of
the dissension, I had seen enough of it up close that for me
ministry became strained and dysfunctional. Finally, I knew I
couldn’t take it any more.
My heart grieved for my conflicted church and its children as I
headed toward the door on my last day. I remember, through a fog of
sadness, seeing Jamie playing in a carpeted stairwell — a
favorite spot for bored kids to hang out while they waited for
their parents. I stopped on my way out for a bit of small talk with
him. Quiet and thoughtful, Jamie had been a regular in my classes.
He’d slip into the room, Bible in hand, impeccably dressed in
pressed slacks and a matching shirt. Deep blue eyes framed his
elfin face, and his reddish blond hair was always gelled perfectly
in place. Jamie behaved and did what was expected…but he showed no
real passion. I never felt that he and I had truly connected. And
that last day I wondered if I’d had any influence at all on
I said goodbye to him and exited the church building, awash in
sadness and feelings of failure. If I’d failed Jamie, how many
others had I failed along with him? Maybe I was kidding myself by
thinking I could impact kids for Jesus.
I wanted to give up. Quit. And right at that moment I had my way
out…out of a church mired in conflict. Out of a ministry that
suddenly felt ineffective. And so I did. I took my box of supplies
and my faith and I left.
But over time, God’s multi-dimensional love reached into my heart
and set me back in a firm place. Before long I was once again
immersed in children’s ministry, this time at a healthy, thriving
A few years later on a Sunday morning before Christmas, my class
was wired with holiday anticipation. Later that morning a singing
group from a nearby Christian school would perform a 19th century
English Christmas recital in full costume.
As I bent over a puzzle with one of my excited kids, an unfamiliar
voice interrupted us. I looked up to find a lanky teenager dressed
in an Old English costume. He gripped the lapels of his tailed,
black coat with white-gloved hands. Strawberry blond hair peeked
from under the edges of a top hat. I studied his face, familiar but
not immediately identifiable, noting his bemused expression.
Finally I had it: “Jamie!” I exclaimed.
Jamie was extremely pleased that he’d had me stumped. I stopped
what I was doing for a bit of small talk with him. I learned how
proud he was to be part of the singing group performing that
morning, how passionate he was about singing. He gave me a brief
hug, and then he was gone.
As I made my way to the auditorium for the recital, it occurred to
me that Jamie had to have negotiated our church’s labyrinth of
hallways to find me in my portable classroom. Finding me had been
important to him. He’d discovered his passion in music, and he
cared that I knew. So, even I had to admit, I had connected with
him in ways only God understood.
And how glad I was that when Jamie found me, I had been busy in a
classroom filled with kids. Jamie had found me faithful. If ever my
heart is bruised again, may God find me faithful, too.
Debbie Granberry is a children’s minister in
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