When students are around a group of friends for a long time, they start to become like one another – they develop their own language, their own look, and a certain way of doing things.
While it feels good to the people in the group, those on the outside can feel rejected and lonely, as they long for the closeness that the group feels.
Use this lesson to encourage your students to think about this question, “Who is outside that you need to invite in?”
– Nick Diliberto, Junior High Ministry
JUNIOR HIGH LESSON ON CLIQUES
Written by: Mike Sheley
Bible: Matthew 9:10-13
Bottom Line: Who is outside that you need to invite in?
- Candy that has a flavor that doesn’t match the appearance. (Beanboozled Beans by Jelly Belly or Trick Plays Skittles) along with its normal counterpart (regular bag of Jelly Belly beans and/or regular bag of Skittles)
- Paper Plates
- Styrofoam or plastic cups
OPENING ACTIVITY: SWEET SORTING
To really sell this game, do a little trick work ahead of time.
Empty out the regular bag of candy.
Fill it with the “mixed up flavors” version of the candy.
Now, set these aside.
On a table, set out paper plates and cups.
You’ll want one plate per team and one cup per color of candy.
You can play this with two people or two teams or you can make this as competitive as you want with more players and teams.
You’ll just need to purchase enough candy to make it work.
As the students gather around, grab the bags of candy and begin pouring them onto the paper plates.
Remember, they’ll think this is regular, not mixed up candy… That’s your little secret.
Say: We are preparing for a party and we need your help.
The person organizing the party wants the candy to be sorted and put into cups with all the others that are like it.
We only have three minutes to get this done.
When I say “Go,” your job is to get all of the candy on your team’s plate sorted into cups with others like it.
The team that gets the most sorted in three minutes will be our winner.
No one gets to eat the candy until the game is done.
Have a running clock or 3-minute countdown playing.
For a little more fun, you could play the song or the music video for “In Crowd” by Rapture Ruckus – Click here to listen.
When time is up, congratulate the team that successfully sorted the most candy into cups with like kinds.
Then, ask each group why they sorted the candy the way they did.
Most likely, they will say ‘because they were all the same flavor or color.’
So, have them tell you what flavor the candy is in each cup.
Then, have them taste it.
If you are using Beanboozled Beans you might want to have a trash can handy… some flavors are GROSS!
When they see that the flavor doesn’t match what it looks like, transition to the Bible study with the following…
Say: When you saw the candy, without knowing anything other than the color, you quickly assumed what the flavor would be.
Now, after tasting what is inside, you are realizing that sometimes what we see on the outside is not an accurate representation of what is inside.
And unfortunately, we too often use just what we see on the outside to not just group objects, but to group people too.
Tell your own personal illustration that is similar to this…
Say: When I was in middle school, I had a few friends.
But, I also knew students that it would be almost impossible for me to be friends with because I wasn’t already ‘part of their group.’
I wasn’t cool enough or popular enough or smart enough or good enough at whatever everyone in their group was good at doing or being.
It was frustrating on a good day and sometimes made me feel lonely on a bad day.
If we were to ask every person here, I imagine most of you have at least one close friend.
And many of you probably have a group of friends.
I also believe there are students your age that you see but don’t know as well as you do your friends.
Friendships can be awesome and are a wonderful gift for us in life.
But, sometimes these close groups of friends can go from being close people to an exclusive group.
A healthy group of friends allows others to join in at any time.
An unhealthy group of friends wants to keep just those who are already part of the group as the only people in the group and everyone else is on the outside.
Often, this gets labeled as a “clique.”
Have any of you seen cliques at your school? Or in your sports league? Or even… here at church?
Is this just a part of life? Is this just what happens when you get close to a group of people? Or is there a different way Jesus wants us to live?
It may surprise you, but this issue came up quite often when Jesus was going around with his disciples.
Often, people invited Jesus to come to their house for dinner.
And people saw who he ate with and made judgements, and sometimes even comments, on what they thought about the people he was hanging out with.
Let’s look at one example and see how it connects to the challenge of cliques.
Read Matthew 9:10-13.
The first thing we have to realize here is how brutally honest Matthew, the author, is when he describes the people at this meal.
In verse 10, he writes that Jesus and his disciples came to Matthew’s house, along with “many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.”
I’ll save you the long explanation today.
All you need to know right now is that these were not the popular people.
In fact, these were the people that the popular people made fun of or ignored.
Some people actually thought these people weren’t good enough for God.
In verse 11, we see that, unfortunately, the people who were being judgmental were the Pharisees.
Again, I will save the long explanation for another time.
What you really need to know is that Pharisees where people who followed God and the teachings of the Bible.
However, they were so caught up in obeying the rules that they ended up making God’s people a clique instead of a community.
A community is a group of people who share things in common, but are open to new people joining the group – when it is healthy.
When it becomes unhealthy, that community turns into a clique, where the things the people have in common become the test for whether or not anyone is allowed to be part of the group.
Jesus and his disciples were eating with people who did not follow all the rules in the Bible and, therefore, were not acceptable people to be hanging around or having a meal with, according to the Pharisees.
However, Jesus addresses this very boldly, directly and simply by saying: “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.”
Think about that.
What if hospitals only allowed healthy people inside.
Would that make any sense?! No!
No one could get help and become healthy if they weren’t allowed inside when they were sick or injured.
Jesus sees the church in the same way.
The church is not for people who are doing everything right.
The church is for people who need God’s help and come asking for it.
The church is where we find out just how much God loves us through Jesus and wants us to be part of his community… a community of imperfect people working together to live more and more in every way like Jesus.
What does this have to do with being in junior high?
Jesus knew about good and bad relationships and good and bad friendships.
Even if you are not a Christian, his response here should make you hit the pause button on how you think about cliques.
Any group of friends who exist only for themselves and don’t want anyone new to join is an unhealthy group.
That’s not a community – that’s a clique.
The challenge for us is to look at our friendships and see which one we have: a community or a clique.
The way to test this is to look around for a student who isn’t part of the group.
Get to know him or her and introduce him or her to your friends.
If you have a healthy community, your friends will welcome the new person to be part of your group.
If you have an unhealthy clique, your friends will get mad, jealous or upset with you for inviting someone new into the group.
Imagine you walk into school this week and in your hallways, you find one of two scenarios.
- You could walk past groups who give you dirty looks and totally ignore you because they are so focused on each other and their little group.
- You could walk down the hallway and be greeted with smiles and people asking if you want to join them in what they are talking about, or just hang out with them.
You may not be able to change your whole school this week, but you can change the groups of friends you hang out with tomorrow.
The choice is yours.
Will you take the challenge to eliminate a clique so you can build a community?
Close in prayer.
SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
- If I were to walk into your school, describe the groups of students I would find. (skaters, punks, goth, gamers, athletes, etc.)
- Is it hard or easy for you to make friends with students who are different than you?
- Sometimes, it can be an innocent mistake for a group of friends who have a lot in common to exclude others from joining their circle of friends. What tips do you have for how we can be intentional in preventing this from happening?
- Everyone, deep down inside, wants some friends who know them and some friends whom they know well. How can we help develop that kind of atmosphere here at church? At school? When we’re hanging out?
- Why is Jesus’ illustration about sick people needing doctors so powerful? How does it connect with the need for the church to be open to non-Christians? How does it connect with the need for us to be open to making new friends?
- What do we like about our closest friends? How can we have that together but still keep our group open to someone who is looking for that in some new friends?
- In the game, the color of the candy is what we used to judge what we thought the flavor was on the inside. In life, what are some external qualities that we use to judge other people and what we think we know about them? How accurate are these?
- What is one specific way you can think like a doctor this week and keep your eye out for someone “sick.” Or in plain English: How can you enjoy your friends while making sure you are inviting someone into your friendship who doesn’t have what you do?
Written by Mike Sheley, who is the Middle School Pastor (5th-8th grade) at Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood, Indiana.