Finally, when Max turned 13, I could bear it no longer. I brought him back for the one thing he always loved about church when he was a toddler: when it was over. So, that’s exactly when we showed up. We called it “backwards church.” People were pouring out of the sanctuary and we walked in! It was the coffee hour, which at our church feels more like a backyard barbecue — friends talking and laughing, children playing Nerf football. Max fit right in. But something else was going on: God was about to grab his spiritual tool belt.
Within minutes Max started helping some of the men who were stacking chairs in the sanctuary. Before we left, one of the men approached Max. He put his hand on Max’s shoulder and asked if he would like to be an official member of the “Grunt Crew,” the team of men who clean and stack the chairs after each service. Max straightened his back and gasped with a rush of air so cool and cleansing that it felt like menthol. One small invitation, that one touch, changed our lives and the life of our church. For six years now Max has been a member of the Grunt Crew. He’s even become a greeter, which for Max includes leaping and dancing when the worship music begins. Max still doesn’t sit through the service, but his joy in serving is contagious. And he is a vital part of our church. It’s as if being with Max, this boy without armor or pretense, who knows the privilege of church, lets us all feel a bit of victory too.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
The Backwards Church
A story about how a child with autism was welcomed into church: