Whenever I hear the word “clique” the first things that come to mind are adolescence and every high school-based American movie ever made. However, having transitioned from both secondary school and university into the "adult world" I realised that I have by no means outgrown cliques, but continue to encounter them in the most unexpected places.
This summer I returned home after spending four years abroad. Upon returning, one of my desires was to attend a church with a large youth population. This was in an effort to find a community of like-minded, Christian friends in Barbados. Some weeks later, I was invited to a church that I thought was a good fit.
During their Sunday service as I scanned the congregation, I beamed at the number of young adults present. After hearing the announcement of their weekly youth group, I could not contain my excitement.
"You can't sit with us"
Friday rolled around and it was finally time for the youth group meeting. Just like in church, all the newcomers were asked to stand and introduce themselves. So I reluctantly stood to my feet and to my pleasant surprise I was also greeted with hugs and handshakes. After a timely word and an altogether good session, I sat in the pews waiting to meet someone new. However, everyone seemed to already be in their own little groups and not a single person came over to actually talk to me.
Nonetheless, in an effort to be proactive and not give into offense, I went over to talk to two familiar faces from secondary school. However, even after this conversation, I could not shake the feeling that in theory I was welcomed but in actuality it did not matter whether I was there or not.
As I shared my experience with some friends and family, they all expressed that they have either felt that way in the past or currently feel that way at the church they attend. One friend actually told me that she stopped going to a church after some time for this very reason. She explained that she felt like the members that had grown up in that church had already formed a group that she was not welcomed in.
This dampened my spirit, as church is the one place where all should feel the love of Christ. I also wondered if I would ever be able to regain the fellowship that I shared with the youth at the church that I attended while at University.
In the book of Acts where the formation of the church is documented, the concepts of unity and brotherly love are more than evident. Additionally, their overall aim was to add to the church and bring glory to God. In fact, the concept of brotherly love runs throughout the Bible, with Jesus stating that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbour as yourself.
Paul further breaks down the definition of love in 1Corinthians chapter 13 verses 4-7. This definition describes love as kind, not puffed up and not rude, among other things. Although the population of Christians around the world is so great and the majority of our churches are large and not located in our homes, we should not stray away from these biblical examples.
There are various reasons why visitors may be overlooked in churches, big or small. However, no matter the excuse we cannot on one hand implore people to come to church yet on the other treat them like nobodies.
A simple hello, handshake or hug when instructed by the moderator to make them feel welcomed is not enough. I say this because the problem lies in the interaction or lack thereof beyond this point. Therefore, I challenge us to make a special effort to reach out to those visiting our churches and small group sessions, because we may never know why they came or what challenges they are facing.
May we never forget the exhortation from the author of Hebrews which states, "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it" (Hebrews chapter 13 verse 2).
Danielle Jones was born on the beautiful island of Barbados to phenomenal parents. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre with a minor in Spanish and aims to be an example of the love of Christ wherever she goes.
Danielle Jones' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/danielle-jones.html