The Five C’s: Church, Cliques, Coffee, Cookies & Crumbs

Update 2006-2016: Since this post was first posted at the JPN, RW, TG and related sites, it has been viewed/read over 3/4 million times. What does this say to you about the importance of this subject? Please read the update and comments below for Part II commentary….tolle lege…


The Five “C’s” Church, Cliques,
Coffee, Cookies & Crumbs

Part I “Church & Cliques”

Okay, I will say it…we have social cliques in our churches. We try to cover up, ignore, overlook or we are just plain blind to them, but we do have them. Any Christian, whatever gender, age, race, position, occupation has experienced at one time or another the position or experience of being inside or outside of a “clique” group in fellowship in the church. I’ve been in them, gender-specific, age-specific, child-specific, etc. etc. and so have you. We like to say that people will fit together socially in certain people groups within the church body because of their “specific” needs or situations or because it just “works that way.” But how does this play out in practice?

You know:

• You walk into a new church and no one greets you because everyone is busy with “friends” and catching up.

• You are a visitor or friend of the church and you attend a dinner, coffee hour, event and are faced with the awkward position of the “regulars” all sitting together, enjoying fellowship and you are alone, ignored and noticeably uncomfortable and want to hit the pavement running and decide there and then never to attend another event.

• You are a church member and are one of those members who is not in the “clique group” “officer group” or a “long-standing or “charter member” group.

• Or, perhaps you are in one of these categories: a single, divorced, or widowed adult, middle-aged or elderly, infirmed, or, childless and are totally “outside” the “qualifying norm” (i.e., family: father, mother, children) of your church and therefore “just don’t fit in.”

But what does the Bible say about this? Is it biblical? In short, the answer is yes and no. YES, in the formal preaching, teaching, and official administration of the church we have gender-specific positions and administration but NO these are never to be “cliques” but rather “office specific” by administration, not by relational attitude and behavior to other members and groups. In plain language this means in the fellowship of believers in the church body, there should not be a “leadership clique” or “officer-to-officer friendly group-only” “mommies-only clique” “married-only clique” “single-only clique” or any other type of “clique.” All members of the body of Christ, whether official, leadership, member or child should fellowship one with another as unto Christ. We are Christ’s body, which is one, and no part is without the other.

 “But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body as it has pleased Him. And if they were all one member, where would be the body? But now indeed many are the members, yet only one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. But much rather the members of the body seeming to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we put more abundant honor around them. And our unpresentable members have more abundant propriety. For our presentable members have no need, but God tempered the body together, giving more abundant honor to the member having need; that there not be division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” 1Co 12:18-25

In this article, I want to speak specifically about those “social” events, church suppers, outings, coffee hours and other “fellowship” events in the life of the church body since this is the place where most of those occurrences of “cliquish” behavior occur. Should there be “cliques” here – the answer is unequivocally “No”! Absolutely not! Sadly, I believe this causes more folks to be offended, unhappy or leave a church than any other. We, as people, will tolerate bad teaching, preaching, uncomfortable seating, etc. but we will not tolerate alienation and rejection. If we look at statistics or do a survey of why folks leave a church, this is high on the list of reasons. [This would have been one category I would have added to Richard Gant’s “Twenty Controversies That Almost Killed the Church.”) It is no wonder that “fun-filled” erroneous doctrine is tolerated in many churches because the “people are friendly” and “I feel loved and appreciated there” or “I can be myself and accepted for who I am and I am no longer ‘on the outside looking in’ in the church family. These are sad statements are they not? A true indictment of our lack of love of the body in total and our ministry to them in the church family. We can have biblical, correct doctrine and yet completely miss the mark in our ministry to the body of Christ in the church. Christ has said, “Let love be without hypocrisy, shrinking from evil, cleaving to good; in brotherly love to one another, loving fervently, having led one another in honor.” We are all guilty and need to repent and beseech Christ for mercy to change and flee from our cliquishness to be an outgoing, outgiving, loving and ministering people. Only then will we no longer be “cliques” of peoples in the body but rather one body, in Christ, in heart and action, and can say we are reflecting the glory of Christ as the body of Christ. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper as one body and we celebrate our fellowship in the body as one. We eat and drink together as one. Let us live as brethren as one.

There is so much more to say on this and I will in my next article, Part II, “Coffee, Cookies and Crumbs.”1/ You know where I am going on this, don’t you? This Lord’s Day as you worship and fellowship with His people, consider these things you have read and examine yourself to see where change is needed. You will be the better for it to the glory of God and the good of your own soul.

Blessed Lord God, the Lover of our souls, have mercy upon us and lead us as Your people to love as You have loved us and given Yourself for us. Help us to flee from the sin of cliquishness, favoritism, discrimination and knock down our prideful hearts and behavior so that we will be reflections of Christ-likeness and truly love and serve one another as You have commanded. Open our eyes to see ourselves as others see us so that we can change. Help us to be pitiful to those that are different than us and to reach out to them. You have placed us in the body by Your providential sovereign decree for Your glory and our good. Help us to be a people of one heart and mind. Because of Jesus we ask, Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria
Copyright ©2006-16
All rights reserved.

1/ See post comment below.
[NOTE: This article was originally posted in 2006 but revived and reposted as a result of a question by one of our members. We hope it is helpful to our viewers. See also comments below. ]


12 thoughts on “The Five C’s: Church, Cliques, Coffee, Cookies & Crumbs

  1. Shannon says:

    I recently experienced the visitor to a church and being on the outside. I was with my mother recently in TX and many people came up and introduced themselves, but when it was time to sit, everyone sat in their “groups”. I have always been one of those that “got along with everyone”, but I must admit in the family of Christ it does seem awkward.

    I experience this in our church body. Because we travel, and therefore we attend church twice a month there is a “distance” between us and those that are together throughout the week.

    After my recent experience in TX I can say I am more aware of “new faces” in the congregation and this last Sunday there was a new family in church. No, I must confess I did not go and greet them, despite my best intentions.

    I am praying for less of myself and fears and more of Christ in these situations.

    Thank you for this. I am looking forward to future installments

  2. Admin says:

    An Update to the Original Post:

    An additional comment is necessary since the original writing of this post. There are a ton of other examples that could be used and one friend recently made this comment which is very appropos to what most of us see and/or experience which we have titled “The Lady Catherine de Bourgh Syndrome” which you may remember from the book/movie “Pride & Prejudice” i.e., the richest, most influential person/family in the church body actually influence and “run” the church, its decisions and the direction in which the church proceeds. It is like a disease that eats away silently at members and causes them to either flee from the churches or eventually to confront those in power, which, as can be expected, they are either disciplined, branded or scorned and thus they remove themselves to a more hospitable place. These, like our political arenas, are not much different and like most political situations, the people “suffer in silence.” Richard Gant in his book, “Twenty Controversies That Almost Killed the Church” bravely touches on these issues. As we say in our articles, this should never be but, like our political problems, it is a fact and real and especially to those suffering under the weight of it. May God deliver His people from such a grievous sin as this and remind our leaders that they are responsible to Christ in their relationships with His people, “not for filthy lucre sake” but for the good of the body of Christ. In love of the body, God’s people “cover” the sins of the corporate church but that does not remove them and they are open to all who are Christ’s to see in action daily-weekly-continually. As you think about this, we would venture someone comes to your mind?

    May God have mercy on our churches and restore them to biblical behavior and service to ALL of God’s people without prejudice. By His grace and His grace alone.

    Living Coram Deo

  3. Patti Smith says:

    I have been on worship teams for 40 years with a few different churches. Six years ago I joined the worship team of a new church my husband and I started attending. The worship team was made up of “charter members” who were close knit. I have never felt I fit in and never felt valued or even visable. After six years, of this, I have resigned the worship team. And NO one of the team has asked me why or even has said hello to me on Sunday mornings. Guess I was right…I was never “In”.

  4. Caroll Nannette Stanley says:

    Col 3:23………. “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,…Rom 8:18………… “…consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

  5. Ann Carter says:

    Oh may God bring a solution to this problem. I so dread the end of the service when the socializing takes place. I try hard to make new faces feel at home but they are soon engulfed into a clique. It breaks my heart and is causing social anxiety. As you say trying to bring up the issue has ensured that I am shunned.

  6. Judy Coleman says:

    WoW – when I went in search of this topic (now that spell check is working with me – Smart phones are not always “SMART”) I never expected to find so many articles – I’m blown away! Really something to think about, I’ve seen this many times over the years at churches – disappointing at most.

  7. ClickChics says:

    Reblogged this on ReformedWomen and commented:

    A New Year and perhaps a more biblical look at the importance of loving God and His people from a truly biblical, reformed and loving perspective. Tolle lege…

  8. Barbara Hardy says:

    I very disappointed with yesterday’s coffee hour. They’ve now arranged tables and chairs specific to the cliques. The rest of us stood around trying to balance our coffee cup and cookies., without dropping everything on the floor. The minister is completely oblivious to the situation. I’m writing her a letter and never going back. Became confirmed in this church in 1980.
    Why did I bother?

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