Cliques are not just a middle school phenomenon. They can be a big problem in women’s small groups. Let’s start by saying right off that cliques are not intrinsically bad. God created people to gather and group. We naturally like spending time with people like us. In the small group world we call it the “homogeneity receptivity principle.” That simply means that people are receptive to others that are like them. Thus people bond more closely with some people and less closely with others. In other words: Human beings are cliquish.
Not only are cliques not intrinsically bad, but they can be good. We’ve all heard people say, “We just really clicked.” That’s modern slang derived from the word clique. When people “click” they are hitting it off and they feel a deep connection. God created us this way, so when people “click” it’s a beautiful thing!
One of Satan’s sneakiest strategies is to take God’s beautiful creations and pervert them. Cliques are no exception. Satan wishes to distort them and make them ugly and divisive. Thus, cliques in small groups can be very harmful when someone feels left out. Of all places in the world, God wants small groups to be a safe place where everyone can come and experience His love through each of us so make every effort to have your group be one that is not “cliqueing” but one that is “clicking”!! Confused? Here’s what we mean: Let’s categorize the connections formed within a small group as “cliqueing” when they have a negative effect, dividing the group and alienating people. Let’s call the connections “clicking” when they have a positive effect, bringing unity, safety and encouragement. Below are some characteristics of groups that “clique” (negative) and groups that “click” (positive), followed by some ways to help your group “click.”
> Hurt feelings
> Don’t know where you stand
> Always know where you stand.
Ways to help your group “Click”
- Welcome all newcomers. This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to neglect new people when you’re catching up with your best friend.
- Alienate the right people. Of course you don’t really want to alienate anyone, but if you’re not sure who you should sit next to or talk to ask yourself, “Who is less likely to be offended if I don’t talk to her?” This means I shouldn’t always sit with my best friend, but intentionally sit by new people or people I know less well so I can get to know them. When this behavior is demonstrated, it will be imitated by the others in the group.
- Communicate with everyone. When an email goes out, make sure everyone gets it. Ask group members to “reply to all” with group emails so everyone is in on the conversation. Make sure that all email addresses and phone numbers are up to date. Email is a great way to share prayer requests discussed each week. You might even consider setting up a Facebook page for your group where you can share with each other.
- Group outside the group. Encourage the ladies in your group to get together for extra activities like going to dinner, catching a movie, going shopping or meeting for tea. Just be sure to spell out that these activities shouldn’t just be for “best friends.” They should be inclusive activities as often as possible so everyone in the group is able to form new bonds.
- Remember birthdays and/or anniversaries. Keeping a calendar with everyone’s birthdays (even kids’ birthdays) and/or anniversaries is a great way to show that you care. Sending a note or a small gift makes people feel loved and remembered. However, make sure to use this information if you are going to ask for it. It’s terrible to ask someone for their birth date and then not remember them on that day!
- Ask everyone to help. Try to include everyone in helping with the group with food, drinks, etc. Don’t put people on the spot however. You don’t want to ask someone to bring food only to find out that they are embarrassed by their inability to cook. Instead create a signup sheet that allows people to sign up as they feel comfortable.
Keep in mind that it’s OK if your group doesn’t “click” but it’s never OK if your group “cliques.” Here’s what I mean: Not everyone is going to click with your group right away. It’s OK if people decide to look for another women’s group to attend. Just make sure that you keep all communication lines open and ask people who leave why. If they leave because they just didn’t “click” that’s OKy. But if they leave because your group is a clique then you have some issues to work out.
Remember that an important goal for your group is that people “click.” This is not always easy, but it will be well worth the sacrifice and effort when you see women being encouraged by each other and pushed to be more like Christ. The key to this is total honesty. Everyone in the group needs to feel like they can address the issue of “cliques” any time. In order for this to happen, everyone needs to have thick skin and soft hearts so that feedback can be given openly without fearing how people will take it. Sadly, the opposite is often true: People have thin skin and hard hearts. Talk about this “skin and heart” issue with your group early on to promote total honesty in your group and so your group will “click.”