I personally need to be part of a clique in the church

Here is another pastor’s wife confession that might get me into a little bit of hot water. You guys… I just claimed that I need a clique… in church! I would go as far as to say that it’s important to have cliques in the church, not just for me, but for everyone. I realize that some of you had feelings of anger boil up when you saw that statement; for others that made you cringe. It brings up memories of the stuck up group… people having fun without you… Or the time that you didn’t get the inside joke… or flashbacks of the mean girls in high school. Trust me, I know. I have been there more times then I’d like to admit. I am human, and frequently an insecure one, even if it doesn’t show on my face.

Please hear me out

I have literally assigned someone the job of keeping the fun level down when I leave a party. I did it as a joke, but there is a little bit of truth to that. I don’t want to miss out. The inside joke might come about right after I leave. They might get into some deep conversation and bond in some new way.

What if I am left out?

What if everyone bonds without me?

What if I am left out of the “clique”?

I think if we are honest with ourselves, WE ALL NEED A CLIQUE… that is what is at the heart of this.

I chose to use the word “clique” instead of “close friendships” because that is the word I hear used the most at church. It’s the biggest complaint I hear from women (The church is too cliquey), and it breaks my heart. And, to be really honest, it kinda ticks me off because I don’t think it’s true. Sometimes what is perceived as a “clique” isn’t a clique at all. But, it quickly becomes one when people start gossiping and turning others against those in that so-called “clique.” I think what people really want is close friendships. I know I do! And sometimes what we call a clique is actually just a group of people who have built close friendships.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t maintain close friendships with 400 people

You guys, friendships take time and work. While I would love to know every person in my church deeply, it is not possible. I don’t know about you, but I can’t maintain close friendships with 400 people. I have a husband, children, and a job that requires my time. At this stage of my life, I only have so much to give before I want to curl into the fetal position and cry because I am sucking at every roll to which God called me. I am only one person in the body of Christ.

We need a safe place to be our authentic selves

There are people in our church congregations who belong to small groups together; they live in community with each other; they serve in different ministries together; they support and pray for one another. These are all positive things. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, community provides elements that are critical to our mental health. Having friends we can be our authentic selves with is not just healthy, but necessary to our wellbeing. Humans need people who know who we really are and still love us anyway. The church should be a place that we are allowed to find this.

As a pastor’s wife, I feel like I am not allowed to have friends at church

If I go out with a small group of friends from church, I don’t ever post pictures of it on social media. I am so worried about hurting the feelings of someone who wanted to go but did not get an invite. I don’t want to give the perception that I am part of a “clique.” Believe me, when I say, I’m not trying to tell people to “get over it.” I really do care about those feelings of loneliness and isolation. I have never in my life felt more lonely or isolated than I have as a pastor’s wife. Part of it is because of this very reason. We’re not supposed to have “cliques.”

We need to be careful not to confuse friendships with cliques

One observation that I have made is that a new person can show up to church one Sunday, go to a bible study, join a small group, start serving, and instantly become part of the church family. I am shocked when I find out that they had only been at the church for a couple of months when I see how integrated into the life of the church they are. There are individual personalities that are better at plugging themselves in. They take the initiative, and the church welcomes them with open arms. Somehow they make it into these so-called “cliques in the church.”

What about the introverts? What about the wounded?

There is another group of people who show up at a new church. Maybe they have been hurt by Christians at another church; perhaps they are just struggling to feel like they fit somewhere. Maybe they aren’t wounded at all, but they are shy, and the thought of inviting themselves to something is paralyzing. As happy and outgoing as I seem, there have been times in my life that I have been this person. I have felt so down about myself that I was sure that nobody would want me there. With a public smile still on my face, I felt these feelings. These are the people that we, as a church, need to learn how to love better!

And yes… I realize that there are real jerks in the church, and sometimes the clique label is accurate, and sometimes people are intentionally treating others poorly; I don’t want to discount someone’s experience with that. But in my experience, that is not the majority.

Can we please stop calling every group of friends “cliques” in the church?

Jesus had twelve disciples that he poured into. I’m sure that those twelve men had a special bond as they studied and learned from Jesus Himself. They were there for each other’s failures and hardships. There was a unique community that they had together. Jesus didn’t keep bringing in more and more people to make sure everyone felt included.

What Jesus did do is teach them to love their neighbor… to care for the widows and orphans, to pray over the sick, and give food to the poor. He ate with sinners and loved people so much that he gave His life for theirs… for ours.

I need “my people” who already know me. Is that the same as cliques in church?

I still need those friendships who already know me… The good, the bad, and the ugly. Some people in my church have already seen me at my worst and have loved me through it. Friends who were there when my mom died or walked with Loren and me through hard times in our marriage; those people are already safe. It’s not that I don’t want to include others in my life, but sometimes I need to feel safe enough to break down. I need people who already know me that way and can encourage me. I don’t want to worry that there will be someone new there that doesn’t understand me. That is not a clique in the church; that is just friendship.

cliques in church are not good. Here is positive quote from Timothy Keller about the kind of relationships we need.“To be loved but not known is superficial. To be known and not loved is our great fear—but to be known and loved, that transforms you.”
This is what I find in Jesus and every so often I find friendships that show this kind of love.

I never mean to leave people out. Friends of mine who have been called cliquey are the most loving, giving, and welcoming people I know. Sometimes what you see at church is those people investing in the close friendships that they already have. They don’t intentionally keep new people out; they simply don’t realize that someone wants in. The perception is wrong, but that doesn’t change how someone feels. As a people pleaser, I put this burden on myself often. It is so hard to feel responsible for other people’s happiness. I continually have to remind myself that I can’t take that on. But what can I do? What can we do?

What we really need is authentic friendships

For the record, I don’t think we need exclusive cliques that don’t let anyone in; that is not what I am saying. But I do believe that we need space to create authentic friendships. Those relationships require investment and time, quality time. It takes trust and vulnerability. For me, it often takes years of going through really hard things to get to that place, but I have a couple of friends I could tell were kindred spirits from the moment we met. God brings the people into my life that I need, and He can also do that for you.

Church, let’s do better

Let’s start small. Most churches have Bible studies and small groups that people can plug into… but not everyone will do it independently. Let’s start inviting people into our homes. Let’s turn our perceived cliques into smaller communities within the larger church, serving and loving those around them. Let’s find those who are afraid to join in and invite them to dinner. Let’s ask them into our imperfect homes with our Costco Rotisserie chicken and remind them that they are not alone. But, let us also cherish those few close friends who know us as we are. Let us have one coffee date with our “people” without getting judged. Maybe we will gain a few new “people” in the process.

Related Post———————->>> How To Make a Difference

My heart is a liar!

You guys, I may appear to be great because I seem to have an abundance of friends. The thing is, having friends doesn’t fix the problem. It’s a heart issue; or an emotional issue. Jeremiah 17:9 in the ESV says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” My heart always lies to me. It tells me I’m not loved, it tells me I’m not good enough, and it tells me that people are intentionally leaving me out. Just because I feel something, it doesn’t mean it’s real.

If I am PMSing and friends plan a dinner date without me, I will still go home and cry, wondering why they didn’t invite me. It took me until I reached my 40s to stop when I feel this way and consider my emotional state. If I wait two days, it goes away. I need to remind myself that it’s not about me, and I too, can invite people to dinner. When I do invite one friend and not another, I don’t love my other friends any less. I also need to remember that even when I feel unloved, I am loved by Jesus, who sees me at my worst and still loves me. That is the truth. Friends don’t fix the insecurities in me, Jesus does.

If right now, you feel like you have tried and tried, but you can’t find close friends, know you are not alone. Lysa TurKeurst wrote a fantastic book called Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, And Lonely. It is a #1 New York Times bestseller, and I highly recommend it. So many of us have struggled or now struggle with this feeling of insecurity. I believe it is part of the human condition, but we don’t have to stay there.

If you are at a place where you feel like it is your turn to step out of your comfort zone and invite someone in, here is a post on Inviting people over... you don’t have to have it all together to show hospitality <<<click here to read>>>

Pin it for later

19 Comments

  1. Carrie,
    I think you are just the sweetest most “real” person I’ve met in a long time. I would love to get to know you and others in our church better. I know I come across like this mean, withdrawn person but trust me get to know me a little bit and you will wish I was withdrawn. I like your idea here, we do need to be a little more loving to each other.

    • Terri,
      I have never thought of you as mean or withdrawn. You have always been lovely to me. Let me know when you are free, I’d love to take you to coffee or have you over for dinner 🙂

  2. This is so true! You hit the nail on the head. You have been given such wisdom through your pain and trials. As a fellow recovering people-pleaser this is a huge struggle. Thank you for being vulnerable!I love you my friend! ❤

    • Brooke, Thank you. I was terrifyied to post this one. I know it is such a touchy subject. I’m grateful for all of the people who have been there to love me through the difficult times. You are one of those people. Thank you.

      • And thank YOU for always being there for me! So thankful for friendships lasting though time and miles.

  3. Oh, Bear, this is why I love you so much. You are always true to who you are.

    For much of my life, I, too, was a people-pleaser. Fortunately, I had friends who knew everything about me and loved me anyway. One of the reasons I love Bernie (my own pastor’s wife) is because she held me accountable. She is the one who would listen to me whine and say, “Stick a sock in it,” when it was exactly what I needed to hear.

    We have also laughed and cried and traveled together. She had other close friends. Sometimes, they did things together without me. Yes, occasionally, I wished I had been asked to join. But I never doubted I was loved.

    In one job, I was part of the group. We ate lunch together. I was promoted, and suddenly the others didn’t include me.

    I said something to my boss. She replied, “The boss eats lunch alone.” I cried but knew what she meant.

    You can be the pastor’s wife and have “normal” friendships. Before you married, I think Bernie tallied to you about setting expectations with other people. She used to say she loved having people drop in as long as they were willing to help fold clothes to clean off a place to sit.

    I think your blog is helping people to know who you are, warts and all.

    So very proud of you! Love you much.
    Auntie Lorna

  4. Candace Lombardi Reply

    This!!!! I love it so much ❤️ Thanks for posting!

  5. Love this! I completely agree that the close friendships are so often mistaken as a clique and that gossiping only escalates these feelings in the church. I am the daughter of two methodist ministers, so I feel I can really relate to you and your message. Thanks for this post! Being a family member of a pastor is no easy task

    • It isn’t easy! I pray for my kids every day and try to let them just be kids. Thank you for commenting!

      • I was searching for another essay on this topic from a few years ago and found your blog here.

        I hope you are finding your tribe, your close friends that let you be you even if you are the pastor’s wife. In fact, if you had entitled this essay The Pastor’s Wife Needs Friends, Too, I would not be leaving this comment.

        But I believe words matter. From Oxford Languages: adjective: cliquey; comparative adjective: cliquier; superlative adjective: cliquiest
        (of a group or place) tending to form or hold exclusive groups and so not welcoming to outsiders.
        “a lot of boys grew up together, and the school was cliquey”.

        If you are hearing a word a lot from your congregation, I prayerfully suggest you consider that they are speaking the truth about their experience.

        There is insecurities and then there is my old roommate and many of her friends at a church known in my town to be “cliquey”. Leading small groups one weeknight in our apartment, attending a weekly improv night another weeknight, attending the social parties Friday night and Saturday night, sometimes Thursday, too, plus events put on by the church— 4/5 events that the church members would go to *each week* for over a year. I attended many of these events and would sometimes visit her church on Sunday before my own evening services elsewhere.

        I watched her wave emptily to a foyer filled with 200+ people that she had seen just that night before, because no one cared that she was leaving, after trying to enter circles of her small group and all the others, and failing.

        I was able to enter many of those circles, however. She was trying to connect with the people she knew; I would catch the eye of someone new in a circle that I had not seen at those many social events, and we would chat together while everyone else in the circle ignored us to talk about the party last night or the upcoming concert or what have you.

        These fellow outsiders inside the circle would be someone in the circle’s non-Christian co-worker or roommate brought to church…

        That was when I believed the ten or twelve people who had told me that that church was cliquey.

        I visited a couple more times before my own church service just to stand alone in the hall and gather the misfits in conversation. And when I decided not to visit that church or see those groups again, I *did* instead meet with the 5 or 6 close friends I had met in the community.

        You are right that we need close friends. I do not believe they are found in a clique. As C.S. Lewis says in The Four Loves, true friendship, unlike Eros, longs for more, the two would gladly have a third to share. Yes, it will be limited by human constraints.

        But between 12 and 400 I believe there have to be nods and smiles and a welcoming spirit to the stranger or the awkward in our midst.

        Would Jesus be able to spare a wave goodbye? I know he would, for He is full of that other love, Agape.

        Thank you so much for listening; I greatly appreciate it.

        • Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m so sorry that you had that experience in that church. I know that it does happen. I in no way meant to discredit those experiences. I agree that “cliques,” where people are intentionally excluded, have no place in the church. I used that word because I think it often misused. I agree that if you hear a word used a lot, you should listen. But just as often as I hear people say that, I hear them say the opposite. I hear that this is the first church that immediately felt like they were part of a family. I watch people plugin on their first Sunday. We are really intentional about not allowing it to become “cliquy,” But, no matter what we do, someone always feels left out. I live in an area where less than 2% of the population shares my Christian beliefs. I need people who understand where I am coming from and I find them at church. However, on Sunday morning at church, I rarely get to talk to those friends because I am so focused on meeting new people or serving in another area. I put on a smile just like you said and wave to those as they leave. If I take a minute to catch up with someone that I know is going through something difficult, people get upset that I am not doing that for them. I really wish I had the capacity to deeply know each and every person, but I don’t. I pray that others are reaching out during the week to get to know people. It takes the whole body of Christ to make the church what it is supposed to be. It also makes me think how great it would be if the “misfits” in the corner would gather together for a meal and get to know one another. Honestly… I think we are really all just a bunch of misfits anyway. lol. Thank you again for sharing your heart today.

  6. Pingback: How to Make a Difference - Messy Joyful Journey

  7. This is a great article! I know at my church people said it’s “cliquey”, but we have to realize as people that we aren’t meant to be close to everyone. Some people connect better with others and these relationships shouldn’t be forced. The church is diverse enough to find someone to be I community with, you just have to figure out who you connect with. Yes, be loving and kind toward everyone, but also realize not everyone should get an easy access pass to you.

    • I agree, Amanda. I do think we need to do a better job of helping people find that community. That is my goal this year! 🙂

  8. Evidently, you have never felt isolated by people in church who had their own private jokes–laughing in front of you while never explaining the context. Or talked around you while you were sitting there in the pew. Or told you politely that they didn’t need anyone else to help on a committee because they and all their friends were serving on it. Or forgot to tell you about events going on in the church–when they forgot to post said events in the bulletin (no other way to find out except word of mouth or phone/text). I’m sure you are comfortable and content with your friends in the church. Try looking out of your cosy little group and see the people who look lost and left out in your congregation.
    I’m sure this reply won’t get published. I just hope you read it and pray about it. Because this post sounds exactly what a kind, sweet, clueless person would write to justify her position in her clique.

    • Annie,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your feelings. I am so sorry for the hurt that people in your church have caused and I am sorry that what I wrote caused you pain. My intention was never to diminish that kind of hurt or to say that ACTUAL cliques don’t exist or are acceptable.

      I have 100% experienced that kind of hurt and known many people who have walked away from church because of it. Christians can be jerks. Church-sponsored events should be open to everyone as a way to connect people and never exclude them. You are right.

      What I was seeing happen in my church was that people were using the word “clique” to define any smaller group of friends who do things outside of the church or know each other more deeply. I wrote this post as a pastor’s wife who, at the time, was feeling very lonely. I didn’t have any close friendships in the church because I felt like I was not allowed. Building deeper friendships takes a lot of time, and it doesn’t typically happen for me in an environment where different people are coming in and out. Someone else commented that it should have been titled “Pastor’s Wives Need Friends Too.” I titled it what I did because that is the word people were using to describe something that wasn’t a clique.

      If I invited one or two people to coffee and didn’t invite the whole church, I was accused of being cliquey. I am a people pleaser by nature (It’s something I really struggle with) so the thought of hurting people made me shut down and not get to know anyone. I really do want to know everyone in my church, but it is impossible to know everyone on a deeper level.

      I think everyone wants to find their people. We all need community. We all need people who really know us. We were created for community. That happens in smaller groups.

      Our women recently went through Jenny Allen’s small group study called “Find Your People”. I wish I had done that study years ago. My hope for every women in our church is that they would find a few women that they can connect with on a deeper level (not codependency, but people who know all the hard things you are going through. These are the people who you let call you out on your sin.) and we can still all come together and love each other as the body of Christ.

      My point, that maybe I didn’t do a great job articulating, was that excluding people is bad, but we need to be allowed a space to build deeper relationships. I’m sorry if this didn’t come across in the post.

Write A Comment