Monday, July 19, 2010

This is the clique that never ends...

Two Aprils ago, Chad and I attend the SHIFT youth ministry conference at Willow Creek in Chicago. I went to a session about female adolescent social culture. The presenter’s info came from Queen Bees and Wannabees: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World by Rosalind Wiseman. The movie Mean Girls was based, in part, on this book.

I haven’t read Queen Bees. I got a lot of info from it at the conference. Besides, when it comes to female adolescent social culture, I lived it. I knew this book before it was even written. I knew in 5th grade, when my best friend suddenly turned on me. And I knew in 7th grade, when I moved to a school where the girls in my grade were entangled in a rigid social structure. I knew who the queen bee was, I knew who her sidekicks were, and I knew to stay out of everyone’s way.

An old-school book that vividly illustrates the ugly inner workings of a girl clique is Judy Blume’s Blubber. I remember this book surprising people when it came out. Can it really be that bad, they asked? Oh, yes, it can.

And now I have an 11-year-old daughter who will be starting middle school in a few weeks. She’s already been exposed to some mean-girl activity. I need to read Queen Bees with her. And Blubber, for that matter. I remember walking into the whole clique thing completely unprepared, and I think arming our girls with as much information as possible will help them navigate the approaching years a little more successfully than I did. Knowledge is power.

But at some point, I’ll need to teach my girls something else. The whole girl clique thing? It doesn’t end. Girl cliques become mom cliques.

Queen Bees author Rosalind Wiseman was asked to address this topic, so she applied her book’s philosophies to adult women. You can read it here.

This article was a real eye-opener for me because I just want so badly to believe this stuff isn’t real. Surely no one wants to live in perpetual junior high. Surely no adult excludes or looks with disdain upon someone for living in the “wrong” neighborhood or for being a single parent. Surely, surely not.

But it’s all around us, I’m afraid. And I spend so much time pretending it doesn’t exist that when I do actually witness mom-clique behavior, I’m stunned by it. I was with a group of moms a while back (let me clarify – not moms from my church) when someone mentioned a divorce-in-progress of someone they all knew. One woman snapped to attention and enthusiastically pleaded for more details with an eager grin on her face.

Just like she was 13. Except she was in her 30s.

See why I find this so unsettling?

Something stood out to me when I read Blubber as a kid and I still believe it is true. Cliques are rooted in insecurity. It’s obvious in adolescent cliques, and even more obvious, at least to me, in adult cliques.

Wiseman’s description of mom cliques places them in school settings, but these exclusive clusters are everywhere – even in our churches. I heard one woman remark the other day (again, not from my church…she was speaking generally) that mom cliques are the “hardest groups at church to break into.”

Honestly, why does it have to be this way? And am I a freak for just wanting to be friends with everybody? (See “Floaters” in Wiseman’s descriptions.)

Clique members in Christian circles may justify their own clique-ish behavior by pointing out that Jesus formed his own clique. Which he did, essentially. He handpicked 12 guys, kept them close and no one else was invited to be part of this group. (Until the addition of Matthias, after the “Judas incident.”)

But let’s think about the reasoning behind the creation of this group. Jesus had a short time to establish his ministry here on earth. He needed that close group to be mentored by him so they could continue his ministry after he was gone. We should be careful when equating our own social needs (and whatever insecurities are wrapped up in those needs) with the mission of the Son of God to save mankind.

I mean, please.

Jesus’ handpicked group of friends served a purpose. By loosely summing up Christ’s teachings, I can conclude that the rest of us are called to:

1) Get over ourselves,
2) Love others, and
3) Treat others the way we would like to be treated.

Simple concepts, don’t you think?


  • At Mon Jul 19, 11:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Cliques were unknown to me when I was in high school during the dark ages.I don't know why,maybe I didn't stay in one school long enough to know about them. One of my claims to fame is I went to 22 public schools in eleven years.But I was a junior high and later high school librarian and I saw plenty of cliques.And I see cliques in churches, and I don,t think it should be. You hit the nail on the head,



  • At Tue Jul 20, 07:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    In college, I think my church was cliquey. There were: the ones going out on mission teams, the paid staff, those who led Bible studies, those who had converted a lot of people . . . and those like me, who didn't fall into any of the above categories.

    My current church is not as cliquey, but I can divide the members into the following categories:

    1. Those raised in the church.
    2. Those connected with our church's preschool (either with a kid there or working there).
    3. Those connected with a large Christian school in the area (either with a kid there, working there, or graduated from there).
    4. Those connected with a Christian college (graduated from there or have a kid there)
    5. Those related to another member of our church (adult child, grandchild, great-grandchild)
    6. Those connected with our outreach program to those dealing with addictions (either as a mentor or mentee).

    Everyone I know at church--with only a small handful of exceptions--fits into one of those categories, except for my husband and myself.

    When I said this to a group of people, I was told to "go find a ministry and work in it". (Which I did; I'm helping wash the baptism laundry this month--I seem to work best behind the scenes. :-)

  • At Tue Jul 20, 04:21:00 PM, Blogger Sarah said…

    There is a difficult balance -- yes, Jesus called 12 to him, even having some among the 12 closer than others -- but as humans it is too tempting to keep friends close at the exclusion of others. I agree with your summation of what we need to do -- including choosing friends that welcome new friends. Thanks for writing about a difficult subject.

    And... my daughter survived middle school relatively unscathed. It was tough, but knowing who she is and what she believes at her core helped. I know yours will be fine, as well.

  • At Tue Jul 20, 04:31:00 PM, Blogger KentF said…

    There's less drama in men..... carry on. (I have a wife, two daughters and a female chihuaha)

  • At Sat Jul 24, 06:58:00 AM, Blogger Keith Brenton said…

    Kent F must be joking.

    Either that, or he doesn't work in a church office.

  • At Thu Jul 29, 04:42:00 PM, Blogger Paula Harrington said…

    Wow, what a tough subject. Thank you for writing on it. Sometimes in some circles,middle school never ends. And I agree with Keith, I've seen it just as bad with my teen boys and their friends as I've seen with my teen daughter and hers.

  • At Tue Aug 10, 09:00:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Masterpiece, Deana.


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