Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cairns ~ Cliques or Communities in Classrooms?

This summer I hiked a trail where white columbine grows along the path. At first, I only saw a lone columbine here or there. Then I saw a cluster in a spot easy for the flowers to grow. Later, I turned to see an expanse of white flowers scattered throughout the forest. Because the blossoms were strewn all over the green floor, they changed the entire scape. Beautiful alone, lovely in a group, but landscape changers when sprinkled throughout!

Were there cliques when you were in school? Of course there were, and there always will be. There's a fine line between developing "community" and crossing the line to a "clique." Dictionary.com says a clique is "a small, exclusive group of people." They form in christian and non-christian settings, and school environments stir them up. Really, anywhere there's a group of people, there will likely be a "clique." Cliques really keep people from making a difference.

In an effort to find someone they're like and that they like, kids find a friend and hold on. We adults act the same way in our "grown up" worlds. Our urge to find a friend and belong can be fed by our insecurities, our prejudices and perceptions. Just for Junior High? I think not! Unlike acne, braces, and pizza binging, we don't outgrow this habit! Someone between 2nd grade and adulthood, we learn to exclude others simply by trying to be included. Only God can sensitize us to others around us, help us see ourselves as we are, and maybe use someone else to open our eyes. Most of us spend some time feeling like WE ARE the outsider, forgetting everyone else is worried about the same thing. It's a vulnerable feeling most of us can identify with, if we admit it. I admit it. :) Maybe you blocked it out along with acne and braces !?!?

We can encourage our children to "bond" with and support one another as believers in Christ or even members of the same church family. What a great source of strength in times when we have to stand alone. In my high school of over 2000 students, I knew one christian, and I felt very alone. Christians who develop a "community" (be it in high school or church or at work) keep "open boundaries" and welcome others in, reaching out to people around them. People know we're Christians by our love. They believe we AREN'T (believers) when we don't (love). Communities make positive differences.

Classrooms are laboratories for discussions and sharing of ideas and information; christian students can be a light in those settings, and I don't just mean in public schools. The influence, the SALT, of Christ's followers is needed while speaking truth and sharing life from His view as world events, literature, and life are discussed. Believing students are needed to show love in places where vulnerable, unsure students really need acts of kindness.

I pray my children will develop "community" this year with others of like faith and conviction, those who will encourage and challenge and enjoy each other. I pray that for ME! :) But I also pray they will resist our human instinct to "clique" together and, instead, have an influence and change the landscape where they are. And I pray that for ME, too.

How to Help Your Kids Build Community not Cliques

  • Ask them who they notice who is "needy"
  • Pray with them for those in need
  • When there's an event, include someone new in the group
  • Talk to them about those God puts on your own heart
  • Let them see you reach out to others, especially those not so easy to love
  • Point out gifts & qualities God has given them that can make a difference in their world
  • Pray with them that they will be bold and represent God well
  • Ask God to give them a sensitive heart and a compassion for others
  • Speak words of courage to them and tell them about bold heroes of history and the Bible
  • - People who spoke the truth when it was unpopular (Isaiah)
  • - People who stood alone when it was not easy (is it ever?) (Daniel)
  • - People who loved the unlovely (Good Samaritan)
  • Give them an eternal perspective, so they long for real rewards, not temporary comforts

Cairns,

3 COMMENTS ~ Click here to leave a COMMENT:

Cindy said...

Thanks so much, Julie, for your recent post on cliques. Insightful and right on. I appreciate you tackling the topic with grace and truth.
Reaching out, Cindy

Anonymous said...

I think I might pass this on to our youth director - it's so sad so see this in our church youth, but we're not immune (even Christian adults!!!). May the Lord help us all love like He loves us. Thanks Julie! Love, Jenny C.

Kristi said...

It is amazing how we don't outgrow this! Our ABF has a really special bond with one another, but we really can be so tightly bound together that others don't feel welcome. It's very challenging to stay in that mentality of looking for others who are in need - we'd much rather be selfish and do what is comfortable and be with others like us!!!