My last post was entitled: How dare you say we are not friendly! It has gotten a lot of traffic and a few comments. This problem is so obvious to some, but others are blind to it – or unwilling to even acknowledge it. I realize being a church leader or pastor is a tough job. Church leaders need more encouragement than critique. If you only speak up when you have critique (and never have a positive word), it is understandable you may be ignored and viewed as a complainer. Don’t be a complainer.
But of all the concerns that church members and visitors can bring, I think a complaint of cliquishness, unfriendliness, or an inability to assimilate is one that must be taken seriously – or at least considered with an open mind. In a post that wrapped up a series, I state that “Christians should excel at befriending people, forming relationships, and drawing in outsiders.” Why? Because it is what Jesus Christ did for us. Post here: A plea for personal outreach, shepherding care, and hospitality.
In a couple posts I will share some further thoughts.
Perhaps you, as a leader, were genuinely surprised to receive a complaint of cliquishness and a lack of ability to assimilate – as you know that there are many solid friendships in the church! Perhaps you heard about the complaint as a member and were surprised by it too. Your reaction could be to assume fault on the part of the complainer.
But could it be that…your church is inadvertently only welcoming to certain types of people? People like you? People in a certain sociological norm? People associated with a particular place? Or maybe the small group concept has led to exclusiveness, rather than inclusiveness? The small group concept can implode on itself.
Some examples…I knew of a church where about 80% of the attendees were affiliated with a local Christian university – graduates, professors, and other employees. I’ve known of churches that for various reasons had a high percentage of people in certain professions. Many churches also have an emphasis on “traditional” families.
There is nothing bad in and of itself with these things. Sometimes these things just happen as a natural course of events. You all have things in common, and get along.
But it can be very easy for cliquishness to develop. You are a friendly group among yourselves, and fail to see how cliquish you have become.
It is easy to end up with an inward focus. It is about you and your small group that meets every Monday night. In church on Sunday you only interact with the people in your group, and fail to notice outsiders, visitors, or the lonely. Things become exclusive, rather than inclusive.
And an emphasis on traditional families…Families need church support. But sociological norms are changing. People are marrying later, having kids later, not having children at all, remaining single, and other unique family situations abound. The church needs to realize that an increasing percentage of people don’t fit the traditional mold, and make efforts not to alienate such individuals. I recently saw a tweet that said: “If the 1950’s come back, many churches are ready!” – Sad, but true.
My point in this post is…
Become more aware of how easy it is for cliquishness to develop. Cliquishness is glaringly obvious to visitors, and to those not in the clique.
But the insiders can completely miss it.
A church should really pay attention and be concerned when it hears complaints of cliquishness.
Jesus excelled at welcoming outsiders, the marginalized, and “different” types of folks. It should be the same for us as Jesus followers. Something has gone wrong when it can be so very hard for people to break into the life of a church.
Final thoughts here.