Beyond The Clique

The dreaded ‘H20’ game: one person tries to catch the others, and whoever gets caught links arms with her, forming a long line of catchers until only one person remains. I’ve always tried to get caught as quickly as possible. For one, I didn’t want to be “left out” of the big group of catchers, and also, we all knew that it was harder to survive if you were on your own.

Isn’t that how cliques work? We naturally gravitate toward groups because we know that is where we can be safe and secure. Within these groups, the ‘H2O’ strong bonds are a source of security where we can be certain that we belong. But if you’re one of those who aren’t in any group, it can feel dangerous, lonely, and vulnerable. Looking at these groups from the outside, those ‘H2O’ strong bonds seem almost impenetrable.

While cliques are a natural part of any bigger community, I’ve often asked myself, does it have to be this way?  

THE MORE WE INVEST IN CLIQUES, THE MORE EXCLUSIVE WE BECOME

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING INCLUSIVE
Community is definitely necessary for all of us, but it’s not without its problems. It’s possible that the more we invest in these cliques, the more exclusive we can become. Whether we are conscious of it or not, an invisible boundary is drawn between the ‘in group’ and those on the outside; letting anyone in can feel uncomfortable. How then should we cultivate close friendships in the church setting while still being inclusive to all who come our way?  Learning to be inclusive is especially important in church because we are called to love without walls. Perhaps one of the more prominent reasons why individuals leave the church is because of the lack of community and connection, and this is a sad scenario that isn’t unfamiliar to us. A friend once mentioned a time that he brought a group of friends to church. To his surprise, no one talked to any of his friends or welcomed them into the church — everyone stayed within their own cliques and made no effort to include his friends.

There’s nothing wrong with community, but when it prevents us from loving others the way Jesus calls us to, then we must reconsider the way that we behave in our cliques!

There is a difference between the way Jesus spent time with people and the way we fellowship in our Christian communities today. It’s easy to limit our interactions to those we know well and are comfortable with instead of opening up to those we are not as close to.  In contrast, Jesus was constantly interacting with people outside of his twelve disciples, including them in conversations, and more often than not, intentionally seeking them out. In modern terms, we could say that the twelve disciples were Jesus’s ‘clique’ — they often prayed together, did ministry together, and ate together. Yet the sinners, the sick, the poor, and many more were all able to approach the twelve and also spend time with Jesus — no one was left out, and all were intentionally included.

Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from the way Jesus struck a balance between having a close-knit community and at the same time including anyone who wanted to be with Him.

IN VS. OUT
I’ve been on both sides of cliques — the inside and the outside — and have found that both sides have a part to play in rejecting exclusivity and building bonds beyond the clique. Here are some tips I’ve found helpful in my own life.

FOR THOSE ON THE INSIDE…
Remember to “jio”: When someone says “bojio,” it can be translated to mean “Why didn’t you invite me?” and can be a subtle way of expressing sadness for being left out. If you’ve noticed that someone isn’t a part of any group or would appreciate being in community, try reaching out to them. Most people are unlikely to force their way into a group, so a simple “jio” or invitation can go a long way in making the person feel included. Even if you know the person in question may not be available at that time, invite the person anyway! She will be sure to appreciate the thought.

Be interested: What is she passionate about? What is she working on at the moment? What excites her? Genuine interest in a person is a sure way to build bonds with someone, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and go the extra mile to get to know someone that isn’t a part of your group.

IF YOU’RE ON THE OUTSIDE …
Reach out: When we feel left out of a group, perhaps the first (and best!) thing we can do is to assume the best of the group, set aside our pride, and reach out to make a connection. Most people aren’t intentionally exclusive, but as they are already comfortable in a group, they may not notice that someone else is feeling left out. Instead of throwing a pity party and wondering why no one asks you along, take the first step to start a conversation. Ask if you could join them for lunch after church or find ways to get to know some of the individuals a little better.

Give grace: 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that we ought to keep no record of wrong, and this means that we continue to love our brothers and sisters even when we feel hurt or left out by them. Friendships don’t change overnight. They need time and effort to grow and it is during this time that there are sure to be moments that make us feel neglected, rejected, or even lonely. In those moments, instead of getting discouraged or bitter, give grace to those who have hurt you and persevere in building connections.

The Acts 2 church is a picture of Christlike community that I hold close to my heart. They must have been incredibly diverse in their backgrounds, interests, and passions, yet they had one thing in common — a love for Christ and a desire to see His kingdom grow. Let’s begin to do community in a new way. Instead of feeding the exclusivity of different cliques, let’s see the love of Christ as the glue that binds us all.  

Natalie Hanna Tan
Natalie constantly suffers from weird stomach and throat noises that sound like farts and burps respectively. It is her goal to ensure that no one misunderstands where the noises come from!

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