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If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

No, I am not getting married again. Yes, this is the “Love” chapter in 1 Corinthians that so many people include in their wedding. If it’ll help, maybe I’ll post another bridal picture I did over the weekend. 😉 I’m there for ya.

No, I’ve been following several Youth ministry blogs and a resounding topic I’ve found lately is cliques.

A clique (IPA:/’kliːk/, pronounced /’klɪk/ n.
A small exclusive group of friends or associates.

I’m helpful today, huh?

It is exclusive, meaning it is meant to exclude outside people.

A few years back, we were long time members of another church that was made up almost entirely of cliques. And the main clique of people that were all our age were very tight. They did everything together! That, in itself, is not bad at all! But when it comes to a church, and your clique is so self-involved as to not include outside people, one of the few young people in your church still in attendance, it’s a problem. We never felt like we belonged. Ever. Why we stayed so long, I still have no idea.

Again, a few years back, I knew of a youth leader that led the Youth as a clique, only, the clique didn’t involve all the youth, only SOME. A select group of teens. There would be “special” events but only these select teens would be invited. If you were not in this select group, you were not invited to go, join in, or have any major part in the youth group. Seldom youth stayed after those years, many of them very bitter and jaded from the church. Some would not go back to church if you made them. And the youth group slowly died.

I do not have any fond memories of that old church because of this clique. Feelings of exclusion are not fun. Feeling left out, or less-than is not something people want to go to church for, especially in a church surrounded with fellow Christians.

Cliques are everywhere, they even made it into this years season of Big Brother 11. But they are not good, especially for church or a Youth group. Satan can, and often does use this method of exclusion to damage and hurt the church. And where people leave in anger or bitterness, the possibility grows they put the blame on God Himself.

What does God say of cliques?

I don’t think you can read the love chapter above without seeing some kind of theme….God didn’t have to say the word clique for it to be understood we should live our lives in kindness to others.

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:12,13).

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Galations 6:1-3)

I am not saying you cannot have friends at church. That would be silly. But if you see yourself talking and sitting, and lunching with these same people and no one else, maybe re-evaluate. Look around you while you are at church, if someone is sitting alone, perhaps sit with them. Shake their hand, ask them how they are doing. Reach outside of your comfort zone and help someone feel welcome, even if they’ve gone there the past 15 years. People want to feel like they belong somewhere and are accepted. Their life matters to someone.

We have a man at church, Brooklyn’s Sunday School teacher the last 2 years, who I happened to have this conversation with a few months ago. He mentioned how easy it is for people to fall into the same routine, the same conversations with the same people, and never look around them. So he challenged me that every “meet and greet” we have at church, find a new face I don’t know and talk to them. In the foyer at church, instead of hanging out with the same group, shake a hand of someone outside your group and ask them how they are doing.

Yes, even Youth workers can get in the habit of talking to the same people every Sunday. So that’s what I’ve been doing, I haven’t said anything to anyone about it til now, and it’s made a difference. I’m getting to know people I’ve seen for ages, but never really knew. It’s becoming easier for me to introduce myself to new people at church, and even with all the new Youth that are in the youth department. I’m enjoying this little social experiment!

But on the other side of the coin, it’s opened my eyes to just how clique-ish we are. Now, I’m seeing areas that are simply hurtful, areas that we as a church need to address. People slipping through the cracks of social hierarchy. We are losing people quickly because we cannot look beyond our own noses.

So this is my challenge to you: next service, find a new face. Even if they are not particularly new, if they are new to your group, reach out. Ask them how their week has been, how’s work, what they think of socialized healthcare, the threat of ebola, or their view of global warming.

OK, maybe not ALL of those….you don’t wanna scare them…. 😉

We are committing church suicide by our lack of kindness to others.

That’s pretty plain and to the point. Maybe a little harsh….OK, I’ll share a pretty picture…distract you from my bluntness…..

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

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