rebelling against low expectations

How to Avoid Cliques and Embrace True Fellowship


I hate cliques.

I hate them so much. I hate them even more because I’ve been a part of them. It’s galling to realize you’re in one of the groups you’ve always secretly condemned – the group that stands off by itself, silently discouraging all contact.

It’s not like you have to be best friends with everybody, but it’s just so incredibly easy to gravitate to the people you know, with whom you’re comfortable.

And only to them. The rest can fend for themselves.

“Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:1-2).

The same mind. United in spirit. One purpose. How do we reconcile this?

It grieves me immensely when I see the church so full of cliques and superficial friendships, when I look at this verse, and I see what it’s supposed to be. But it’s impossible for us. What can we do? All we are is human.

But the One within us is not human.

“What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

They could have fellowship (Greek koinonia) because of what they were proclaiming – fellowship with God, and with those to whom they proclaimed it. Who is “we,” and what are “we” proclaiming? “We” is John the Beloved and all the other apostles. And what they are proclaiming is the greatest truth of all, “the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us” (John 1:2).

We can have fellowship, because we have life. We’ve been saved from the hopeless, hateful darkness of our sin. For the first time, we have meaning. Now, we have something meaningful around which to fellowship.

We’re sons and daughters of God!

“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one” (John 17:22).

The glory which He has given us is His love. That unimaginable love that died for us, that humbled itself in obedience to the point of death. And He has given it to us!

We actually are capable of love – true, sacrificial love, the love that will give itself up – through Him. There is more in store for us than shallow conversations and exclusive, self-serving cliques.

This love is only possible through abiding in Him.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4).

And abiding in Him takes place when we are so full of His word that our thoughts, our actions, our words, all stem from His truth and His love. That’s why we have to be in His word. We have to study it, memorize it, meditate on it.

I think very often our churches – more specifically our youth groups – lose this. We content ourselves with games and activities and conversations about the newest movie.

Those things are good, but they shouldn’t be all. We ignore the shallowness and the cliques, or we’re just afraid to go against the status quo. This is wrong. This is sin.

What do you do about it? Where do you start? Invite some friends to a Bible study? Ask them how their time in the word has been? Make music, write something?

Honestly, I don’t fully know; I’m still figuring it out myself. Maybe all of the above. For me it takes the form of writing a book, but I want to begin with my own friends, my own social circle. Maybe it just begins with a question – “What have you been reading lately?”

But start with yourself. Spend time in the Scriptures every day. Search them, pray for God to open the eyes of your heart to see His goodness and glory and beauty and holiness.

Let His Word overflow into the lives of those around you, and pray for Him to use you in the lives of your friends, in your church.

And pray for a miracle – because isn’t that what love is?

Photo courtesy of Patrick Emerson and Flickr Creative Commons.

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About the author

Katherine Forster

Katherine forster is a college student who serves as a regular writer for TheReb. She writes on the importance of serious Bible study for teens and is the author of "Transformed by Truth: Why and How to Study the Bible for Yourself as a Teen" (Crossway, 2019). You can find her writing at her website or on Instagram.


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  • Mmm, yes. This is a huge area that I’ve only just started to see as a problem. Thanks writing this, it’s helpful.

  • Such a wonderful article Katherine! This is a great reminder for me, as sometimes it can almost seem easier to hang out in your own ‘group’, instead of having true fellowship, even at BB. I’m looking forward to seeing more from you here on the Reb! 🙂 <3

    • Yes! It seems like it’s not as much of a problem at BB, but still something we need to guard against. It’s really easy to just stick with the people I know.

  • Yesss! I’ve been a cliquey person. At my old church, I was extremely comfortable with my group of friends and I didn’t like it when new people came. When we switched churches, however, I got to taste what it was like on the other end and I felt terrible that I had once ignored outsiders! Now God has given me a new sensitivity to people on the “outside” and I kinda make it my mission to include people that are alone 😝This is a great article!!! Love it!!!

    • I’ve totally been there too. My new church has a lot of cliques, and it took me a year to finally break in. It’s important to remember how I used to be the person on the outside, and how I am supposed to love everyone and make everyone feel welcome.

  • I used to be the girl who was too shy to speak to anyone at a new event. Now, God has given me this huge passion to love and include others, and the tools to carry it out. I never would’ve thought five years ago that I would be leading Bible study for my friends and talking about what God is doing in my life!

    I so agree with your comments about youth group, as well. My youth group recently got a new youth minister and he does only games on Wednesday nights–no Bible study. So, I now spend my Wednesday nights helping in the kids’ ministry at church. I think I will still go to youth on some Wednesdays, though–just because there is not an official Bible study time does not mean that I can’t show love to that shy girl that I once was, offer to pray for them, etc.

    • Hailey, that’s awesome! I’ve been that shy girl too, and sometimes I still am. Praise the Lord for His working in your life! I love what you said about “showing love to that shy girl that I once was.” I’m a senior in high school, so (crazy though it is) I’m one of the oldest in my youth group. I think having been the shy one helps me to notice the younger kids, who aren’t really part of the “group” yet and aren’t really comfortable coming up and joining the conversation on their own.

      That’s sad about your youth group, though. I hope you can start doing Bible study again soon!

      • Yes!! God is so cool like that. I used to hate that I was shy, but now I’m glad because I understand what those quiet younger kids need. I’m also a senior in high school, and my church is pretty small so we only have one other senior in the youth group. I definitely know what you’re saying, and I hope so too!

  • I loved this. And I am in total agreement with you. Cliques are trash. I having troubles with being with the non-Christian kids. Sadly, unless they are musicians. But anyways, this was a great article and had a lot of good stuff in it. Keep on writing!

By Katherine Forster
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →