Jump directly to the content
Open Circle

Open Circle

A journey out of church clique life
Average Rating:
4 Comments

The sound of their laughter carried across the crowded lobby one Sunday morning after church, as one of the women in the group momentarily glanced in my direction. I read her glance and smile as an invitation to join them.

"How are you all this morn—"

Another wave of laughter rippled around the group, swallowing the rest of my greeting. I tried gently inject-ing myself into the conversation, but soon realized the welcoming glance I'd seen across the lobby wasn't meant for me … or anyone else, for that matter. Focused on chatter about their weekly post-church lunch date, none of them acknowledged my presence until they drifted toward the exit.

"Hey, have a great week," one called over her shoulder.

After relocating to a new town six months earlier, my husband and I began attending this church. We tried to build new relationships by helping with some community outreach projects and by joining a small group. The small group fizzled after a few meetings, and we weren't quite sure what to try next. The church initially appeared to be a friendly place, but we couldn't seem to get past the "glad to see you again" label affixed to us as new people.

We began to notice that the relational life of the 300-member congregation was driven by a few close circles of friends. While the dynamics of those connections gave the place the appearance of lively biblical community, in reality the church was a warehouse full of cliques.

I'd had a circle of good friends in my former church, and enjoyed the richness of that experience. If there was a problem in my life, I knew I could pick up the phone and call one of them. We laughed, cried, prayed, and changed our kids' diapers together. I never saw us as a clique—until we relocated to a new town, and my husband and I tried to build some relationships in our new church.

The Power of a Circle

The awkward moment in the church lobby sparked some deep reflection in me. I thought back to the way my friends and I interacted with those outside of our circle at my previous church. When was the last time we'd invited someone new to join us for coffee, a toddler play date, or one of our many Sunday afternoon after-church get-togethers?

We were a closed circle, focused only on ourselves. I realized that a clique forms a faux community, a copy of the real thing. A church clique isn't typically a spiritually challenging or demographically diverse place. God used the awkward moment in the lobby of this new church to lovingly convict me of my past choices and reshape the kinds of friendships I would be making here and now.

No First PageNo Previous PagePage 1 of 3Next PageLast Page

Michelle Van Loon

Sign up for TCW's free e-newsletter, Lifework with Diane Paddison, for biweekly updates and encouragement for women who desire to pursue God through their calling and career.
Related Topics:Church; Friendship

not a subscriber?

Subscribe for only $9.95 yearly!
Start here for complete access to Today's Christian Woman—a mentor to help you love God more deeply and live fearlessly.

Next Steps

Downloadable resources to go deeper
Connecting Women

Connecting Women

The success of many of our church ministries depends on the depth of friendships women make.
Why Mary Matters

Why Mary Matters

Be challenged and inspired by Mary's godly character and her example of faith and submission to God.

ratings & comments

Average User Rating:

Displaying 1–3 of 4 comments

jo langton

September 07, 2010  3:32am

this article was sent to me my a lady who is praying for us as we have been in a church for a year just like this one, it came as a shock yet, lessons to be learn't huge thanks for the conviction you had to share this

DD

April 06, 2010  2:24pm

Excellent article!!! I am afraid I am a part of a church that has some impenetrable walls. While I try hard not to be in or on any of those walls, it is frustrating to watch new people struggle to find their place. My prayer is to be come more and more like "Maggie" in your article to help new people feel welcome. Thanks for the encouragement that I am not crazy....

michelle

October 28, 2009  7:21pm

I came from a church that I had been a part of for 30 years. We have been there for 5 years and I have yet been made to feel as though I could be a part of the group. I don't think it is done intentionally in churches but I hurts all the same.

Rate and comment on this article: *

Low

High

1000 character limit

* Comments may be edited for tone and clarity.

More For Women
Gifted for Leadership

gifted for leadership

The Leadership Journal blog inspires and connects women leaders in church ministry
Her Meneutics

her.meneutics

The Christianity Today  women's site provides news and analysis for evangelical women
Shopping