The C Word in Churches: How and Why Cliques are Killing Fellowship

cliques1

Cliques: A small group of people, with shared interests or other things in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them. If you try, and you look hard enough, you can find cliques everywhere: school, work, within your extended family and church. I want to start by saying that I am not naive, I know cliques happen, and in a sense are unavoidable. However, I feel like the most detrimental place cliques can be found is in the church for a few reasons: it can hinder the sense of community in the church, cause new comers to feel unaccepted and eventually leave the church (either that specific church and congregation or the church as a whole), and it fosters a sense of judgment for those who are not included in the group. I think that in some ways people are completely oblivious to this issue or they have chosen to turn a blind eye to this; I think our churches would thrive more and could possibly reach more people if they would open their eyes, acknowledge, and make an attempt to change in this area.
People who are in a clique might say, ” Whats wrong with having my group of friends whom I choose to spend my time with and fellowship with?” My answer to this would be that there is nothing wrong with it if you are not so focused on those friends that you are unable to allow other people to join. I don’t mean allowing them to join by giving a weak invitation where you allow them to tag along. I mean truly being open to investing in them, learn more about them, invite them to group things but also try to invest in them on a one on one level as well. You’re probably thinking, “Lady, you’re crazy. I can’t do all of that and keep up with the friends I already have.” I know that it can be a challenge to keep up with the friends you already have, and adding on new people is hard, and I am not saying become best friends with every single new person who walks into your church. I am saying, at the very least make an effort. Is it really such a sacrifice to spend an hour or so with someone new just so they can feel welcomed and cared for? I don’t think I am asking for a big commitment, I’m just asking for an effort. Speaking as someone who has always been on the outside of these cliques, you have no idea what it would mean to people like me if there was just some effort put into meeting up, or extending an invitation. It is hard to feel like a part of the community when you feel like a guest every Sunday, like an outsider visiting for the very first time. While community is not and should not be the main focus in church, it does play a vital role for the growth of the church as well as sustaining it. Acts 2:44-47 says, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” This is what God intended for us to have in a community and in fellowship. The word all is used four times in these verses and that, to me, is just telling on what community, fellowship, and communion is supposed to look like. It doesn’t says, “And some who believed were together and had all things in common.” it says ALL. When a church has cliques it presents a huge challenge for new people who are trying to join and become more involved in the church. Many times when visiting a church for the first time you usually feel very welcomed with the smiling faces and the buzzing, ” Hello’s, Good Morning’s, and Nice to see you’s”, however after weeks of the sweet welcoming phrases we all eventually find ourselves looking for a little more. After a month or so of visiting a church, most become hungry for a deeper sense of community that goes beyond simple greetings and if that never occurs it is not uncommon to become discouraged and many times they leave, either to find a church that might have a place for them, or altogether with the thought that maybe the fellowship part isn’t so important; ” I can read my Bible and listen to sermons on the internet from home.” While true, I know that is not what God wants, He wants us as believers to be like a family, spending time with one another and building up one another as we all strive towards the common goal of glorifying God and striving for holiness. Hebrew’s 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching.” The Lord desires us to all be involved in corporate worship and cliques can be a deterrent.

         Cliques are great for the people who are in them, and often time those who are in the clique are more than likely completely unaware, but for the outsiders of the clique it is so easy to feel judged, to feel unworthy. It causes you to harbor seeds of doubt and ask, ” Why not me? Whats so wrong with me that these women don’t want to include me in their group? Am I THAT weird?” These thoughts and feelings are already dangerous, but they are even worse when they are stemming from how you feel others perceive you in the church. The devil can really use these feelings of inadequacy and push them on to people’s view of the church, after all that’s his goal right? He takes your feelings and perception of how a group of women see you and he feeds you the lie that there is more to it, that the entire church sees you in that light causing you to feel unworthy. I wish this post would put a stop to cliques but I would settle with simply bringing awareness to an issue I think has been overlooked within the church.
          If this post could reach people who are participating in cliques and bring about a revelation for them and foster a spirit of change or bring encouragement to people who have felt like outcasts I will consider this post a success. So might I give a challenge to both groups: To the people who are in cliques maybe you could make an effort to call or message someone you normally wouldn’t, or if your feeling adventurous ask them out to coffee or invite them over for a play date or lunch; to the people who feel left out and like an outsider my challenge to you would be to continue showing up to church and put yourself out there as much as you can and DON’T GIVE UP! I know cliques wont ever truly be gone from the church but maybe we could work towards a change so that we can honor and glorify God as The Body!
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