My experiences as a child in church weren’t positive. My family
didn’t encourage me to follow Jesus as a child — but I knew I
needed him. So I regularly walked down the road from my house to
Sunday school and a Wednesday evening program — alone.
At church, we memorized verses and listened to Bible stories; I
rarely missed a class. Still, all those times I was in church, none
of my teachers ever really “saw” me. Had any of them gotten to know
me, they would’ve seen a young girl deeply hurt from abuse,
ridiculed by peers because her brother was in prison, and scarred
by others’ words and actions. I felt unlovable, without value. So
while my world was suspended in pain, the church programs clicked
along as usual. No one saw me. And eventually I stopped
In sixth grade, a friend invited me to spend the night and go to
church with her family. That’s where I met Miss Gooch.
Miss Gooch saw me. She didn’t glance past me, eager to carry on
with the program. She gazed into my eyes and saw what was happening
in my heart. Miss Gooch was Jesus to me that morning. When she
looked at the group, she didn’t see a group…she saw individual
children who needed Jesus.
I still remember the lesson: We studied Psalm 1 that day. I
learned the differences between the righteous and the wicked. How I
longed to be a tree firmly planted by streams of water so I too
would yield good fruit!
Miss Gooch impacted my life. She radiated Jesus’ love. She
touched the heart of a hurting child and helped cement my need for
Do we take time to see into the eyes and hearts of our children,
or do we glance over them while rushing through the program?
Learning memory verses and Bible stories is important — but more
important is children’s need to see Jesus in the lives and actions
of their teachers. They need to experience Jesus in every encounter
Jesus was very personal. He knew his audience…the individuals.
He cared for people. He had time to listen. And, yes, he gazed into
their eyes and really saw them. As children’s ministry servants, we
should do no less.
Life presents obstacles to kids finding Jesus. Many of our
children hurt. Some are from homes ripped apart by divorce. Some
have lost parents or loved ones. Others are physically,
emotionally, or sexually abused. Some lose parents to jail or
addiction. Children need our help — and Jesus’ presence — to walk
through these life situations.
May our churches not be places for mere entertainment or
programs. May they be places where children are ushered into God’s
presence so their hurts and pains can be healed. May our churches
be a safe haven for children, a place where adults take time to
really see and really listen. May we show children that life with
Jesus is a wonderful adventure. cm
Margaret Beheler is the minister of women and children at
her church in Arlington, Texas. Please keep in mind that phone
numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.