Cliques that are formed with members aware of the exclusive group they are forming within the church, and are enjoying the exclusivity they have, are downright harmful.
On the other hand, cliques that are somehow formed unintentionally, where members are not aware they’re all ready forming an exclusive circle, although not harmful, can still affect the church.
What really is a clique?
A clique is a tightly group of friends who hang out almost just amongst themselves. Often, cliques are formed based on common interests, personality behaviour, social status or income level.
Here’s the difference between a simple group of close friends and a clique:
A simple group of close friends may hang out together most of the time but they’re not always ONLY the same people hanging out together. Sometimes new people joins in and they are okay with that.
Cliques, on the other hand, usually don’t mix with people (or if they do it’s just perfunctory) outside their social circle.
Although it is quite natural for a group of people who think alike and enjoy the same things together to hangout and grow closer, this can somehow result in other members feeling like they are outsiders.
It can be a challenge to call a group a clique, especially if the circle was formed unintentionally.
How does church cliques get formed unintentionally?
It probably starts when church members socialize before and after church activities. They start to find out that they have common interests with people. At this point the group hasn’t advanced yet to becoming exclusive.
On the next church service or activity, the group would then find themselves talking amongst themselves again, still oblivious that they are now starting to group themselves together. Naturally, this will becoming a recurring event up to a point where other members of the church start to feel awkward joining in on them.
The more the group get close together, the more people around them feel rejected.
The group may argue that they have not rejected anybody. This may be true. But have they invited people to join them, too?
Are cliques bad?
Being close with a few number of people are not necessarily bad… but when a certain point of exclusivity is reached and it starts to become a clique, then its existence can slowly eat away the foundation of the church, like cancer.
Do cliques appear in the bible?
It was made clear in the New Testament that even Jesus spent most of His time with jut 12 people. And within their group of 13 (Jesus and his disciples), there was even an “inner group” — Jesus, John, James and Peter.
But what makes Jesus’ circle of close people different from the cliques that exist in churches?
First, Jesus and his group are actually seen as a symbol of inspiration instead of a source of rejection. Their group went to those in pain, the needy, the broken-hearted and make them feel loved.
Second, Jesus formed the group not so He can have an inclusive circle of friends for His own personal needs; He formed them so that He can have 12 more people to help Him spread the Word of God and to spread love.
How cliques are affecting the people around them and the church as a whole
The feeling of being an “outsider” is especially critical for new members, who may have struggled spiritually for a long time and just have found the courage to finally go to church. Because they are still feeling lost spiritually they look around for acceptance around them; it is them who immediately notice cliques.
Too often cliques makes the outsiders feel rejected. This is one of the many reasons why new church members only attend service once or twice and not return.
So what can you do to make sure that your group stays a healthy, friendly group and not become demoralizing to others?
When you are in church on in a public gathering, make sure that you’re just not talking with each other. Make an effort to talk with other people, especially those who are new in the church and those who feel socially awkward. Public gatherings and church events is not the best time to hangout with close friends.
When you and your close friends are planning to have an activity, make sure that you invite other people. We are not talking about birthday parties or intimate family affairs, we understand you can’t invite the public or the entire congregation for that.
We are talking about weekly hangouts and outings that could easily be an opportunity to invite new people and learn more about them.
Even if it is quite apparent that you don’t have a lot in common with the people you have invited, getting to know them is still worth your while: this will help you understand and appreciate the diversity and uniqueness of people, so that you can more connect and care about them.
Ask yourself / group this…
Would inviting a few more people really ruin our activity? If the answer is “no,” then go ahead and let as many people as you can join in.
If because of the dynamics of the activity you can’t add more people in, do a rotation of joiners; new member will have to join in the next activity in place of the other members who have already joined.
If the only reason you can’t invite new people in is because you are all ready comfortable with the group you have, or because you feel they simply don’t belong in the same social status as your group, then this is when your group becomes unhealthy.
Paul said, “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your opinion.” (Romans 12:16)
Furthermore, Paul wrote in Philippians 2:3, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”
Make it a goal of your group to constantly reach out to other people and let them know they are loved.
If you break the wall enclosing your group and make sure that you send a message that anyone can come to you any time they want, then in the long term people will really not mind if you are more closer to some people more than them.