By Lindsey Brady, Crosswalk.com
Any community of people is bound to have a problem with cliques, and the church is no exception. But before you get up in arms at the idea of church members screaming "You can't sit with us!" across the sanctuary (Mean Girls, anyone?!), please know that cliques aren't all bad.
A clique is merely a group of people who bond over similar interests. I don't know about you, but I'm all for people making friends; however, where cliques get their notoriously lousy rap is from how difficult it can be for outsiders to get into the group. That is where the problem lies.
But it's time to say "no more!" to exclusivity.
So, without further ado, here are ten familiar cliques in church and how to break your way into them.
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1. That Group of Moms
Have you ever noticed that close-knit group of moms who seem to do everything with one another? Despite having a handful of kids under five, they appear to have it all together. They make it to church on time, have a purse full of snacks for their kiddos, and always wear the perfect outfit.
But what separates them from the rest of the moms is the fact that they seem to volunteer for everything. They participate in at least two Bible studies a week, volunteer for the elderly outreach, and cook dinner for the homeless shelter. They're unstoppable alone, but together, they're a force to be reckoned with.
How to break into the clique: First, you need to be a woman with kids. (Sorry fellows!) You need to start signing up for things ASAP, as many as you can squeeze into your schedule. You might want to consider being a stay-at-home mom, too. And don't forget about color-coordinating your family's attire at least once a week. Bonus points if you include Fido.
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2. The Third Generation-ers
Who isn't aware of those who've been in your church for decades? They're usually the people who give the most pushback when it comes to things like changing the flooring in the lobby or replacing the organ with an acoustic guitar.
What sets this group apart, though, is their use of these key phrase: "That's not the way we've done things in the past," "My grandmother would be rolling in her grave," and "People nowadays…" (fill in the blank with anything they want to complain about).
How to break into the clique: Unfortunately, this is a tough clique to crack. There are very few things you can do to make up for the lineage that your family is missing. But one way to get in the triple-gen's good graces is to seek out their wisdom. Ask them for their opinions on church matters. Even if you don't agree, they'll have more respect for your opinion if you listen to theirs.
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3. The Single Ladies
The Single Ladies are a group of influential women who are, well, single. These women are adventure seeking, coffee loving, Jesus pursuing gals who spend most-to-all of their time together. They are each other's best friends and closest companions.
But as a woman who recently transitioned from a single to married, I can attest to the exclusivity of the Single Ladies. Once in the middle of the group, I now find myself as an outsider. With less time to spend with my old gal pals, I have slowly lost my footing in the group.
How to break into the clique: You can't just cannonball into the middle of this circle. First, you need to seek out friendship individually with one or two of these women. Once you've built trust up, they'll invite you into a small group setting with two or three of their friends. Soon, you'll be asked to girls' nights galore!
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4. The Worship Band
Whether paid or volunteers, the members of the worship band have a closeness not often found in other ministries. Due to the nature of the skills required, their community seems impossible to break into, even when they aren't on the stage. It's like their aura of coolness creates an impenetrable force field wherever they go.
How to break into the clique: More importantly than your musical ability is your style. Hit up the local boutiques to find yourself some skinny jeans and a baggy v-neck. Don't forget your hipster glasses and beanie to complete your look. You'll know you're in when you get an Instagram follow from the worship leader.
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5. The Worship Band Groupies
Where there's a band, there are the groupies. You'll find these people fighting for the front row seat during worship. But they don't just stop there. They'll also be at every outside event the band plays, from brewery open mic nights to the lighting of the town Christmas tree. And they always wear the band's t-shirt when they go to local free-trade coffee shop … you know...just in case they run into a band member.
How to break into the clique: First and foremost, you need to by the band's EP. Now, you're not going to be able to fight the front-row sitters, but here's your in: volunteer to help run sound or slides. You'll get some great one-on-one time with the band, and if you're lucky enough, you'll get a post-church brunch invite.
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6. The Inner Circle
The "Inner Circle" is comprised of a church's lead staff members and their best friends. These are the people who have the pastor's cell phone number, spend holidays with his family, and sometimes even go on vacation together.
How to break into the clique: This is a hard clique to break. No, it isn't because the pastor is inaccessible. Breaking into anyone's closest friend group, in general, is hard. The most important thing is to be authentic and make sure you're showing up to church services and events. This way you have more face time with the pastor. Lastly, give it some time. Friendship doesn't form overnight. And even if you don't break the "inner circle," you're bound to make some more friends yourself!
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7. The Bible Nerds
I have a soft spot for nerds of any kind, but especially for Bible nerds. These are the people who recreationally translate passages of the Bible from their original Hebrew. They'll also provide an unsolicited exegesis about any section, New or Old Testament. Hands down, the best part of Bible Nerds is their curiosity for the things not yet learned.
How to break into the clique: The best way to break into this clique is to seek out one-on-one mentorship. Tell the B.N. in pursuit that you've noticed how diligent she studies the Word and tell her you'd love to learn. She'll be so honored that you took notice, she'll appreciate your desire to learn, and she'll be ecstatic to teach you!
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8. The Second Row from the Back
The people who sit in the second row from the back just really click. They have all made an effort to come to church, but want to have the freedom to go unnoticed. Maybe it's because they are new or they don't want to be pressured to volunteer, or perhaps they just want to make a quick exit. No matter the reason, there's a mutual understanding to remain low key.
How to break into the clique: These people aren't going to seek you out on your territory. You must seek them out. But before you try sitting in their row, you need to keep a few things in mind. First, you can't come off as too eager. That'll be a sure giveaway. Next, you can't try to get them to volunteer for anything. That'll scare them away. Lastly, you need patience. If you want to reach these people, slow and steady will win the race.
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9. Youth Workers
Youth workers have an extraordinary power: they can relate to teenagers in a way that builds trust without compromising authority. Any parent on the opposite end of combo sighs and eye rolls will tell you how much they appreciate another adult pouring into their kid's life.
But youth workers can seem intimidating. They apparently have something fresh about them since teenagers love them. Plus, they're usually surrounded by a boisterous crowd of teens, making them very hard to approach.
How to break into the clique: As a previous youth worker, I'm not exaggerating when I say that youth workers would love for you to break their clique. Seriously! Please consider serving your church's youth group! There will never be too many caring adults in these teenagers' lives.
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10. Pastors' Kids
Can anyone blame pastors' kids from sticking together? PKs face a series of challenges that other kids just don't have to. There's an unfair expectation for them to never make a mistake, and they're in the spotlight when, inevitably, they aren't perfect. Finding friends who understand this pressure is a beautiful gift.
How to break into the clique: The one key to breaking into a circle of PKs is to be very genuine and non-judgmental. These kids need someone who isn't shoveling more expectations on them. They just want to be treated like an average person. Try and find commonalities outside of church and build from there. Bonus: the closer in age to the PK, the more likely you are to become friends.
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Lindsey Brady is a brand-new wife and stepmother who loves to spend time in nature or going for long runs. When she's feeling a bit more sedentary, she'll watch an entire season of any Food Network show in a single sitting. You can follow her on Instagram at real.slim.brady.