I received an email today from a staff member of another church dealing with cliques. He asks,
I was just wondering if you had any resources on how to get thru to them that we need to be “ONE” as a group and not pick and choose who comes into our group and make all feel welcome and wanted!
I don’t know your group so the following is not a statement about them. Groups that have noticeable problems with cliques are typically inward focused. What’s modeled corporately is naturally modeled personally. That’s not a hard and fast rule. The most obvious identifier of an inward focused group is their lack of a plan for first time guests.
Three thoughts on cliques…
1. Cliques will always be a part of life
I’ve had to wrestle with this reality myself because the D personality in me wants to fix problems and do it fast. But I am twice the age of my students and I have my own cliques.
2. Cliques are not always bad
We share common interests with others and we relate to different personalities. Relationships that reciprocate our interests are attractive to us.
3. Cliques that are inward are bad
It’s ok to spend time with those who have similar interests. But when friends don’t open their circle, youth groups become vicious.
Four ways to deal with them…
1. Have a plan for first time guests
If a guest is forced to “wander” until the program starts, they will be the first victims of cliques. If they have a great first experience, though, they will model that experience as long as they stick around.
2. Model an outward interest
The small things that demonstrate your ministry cares about first-time guests will speak volumes to visitors. But it’s also a teachable moment to the “usuals.” Things like a greeter at the door, saying your name and who are you are during the welcome, recapping the last week in the series for those who have not been here, and having a “last impression” before visitors leave (afterparty reception, greeter at the door, free gifts, etc).
3. Changing a culture of cliques will take time
There really is no quick solution. Teaching on it may be helpful but will likely only change short term behavior. Because most things are caught not taught, it takes time for students to catch what your team of leaders (students and adults) model.
4. Recruit/train volunteers to model healthy friendship
As crazy as it may sound, an adult employed to do nothing but speak to students in a friendly way may be the most helpful thing your ministry can do long term. Don’t place the wrong volunteers in these roles. It’s not necessarily the shy and introverts that are bad. We can be forgiving of those personalities. It’s the personalities who struggle with arrogance and pride that don’t flourish here.
Regardless of the strategy, I’ve come to realize that cliques will always exist. Except maybe in heaven. Or maybe not. Whatever the case, it’s a constant battle to create an accepting environment where students don’t feel left out. Keep battling!
How would you answer the question? Any advice?
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