How To Get Rid of Cliques in Your Youth Group


Ah yes. The infamous youth group cliques. If you are a youth leader, you’ve seen this plenty of times. A teenager awkwardly enters a new and uncharted territory to see if this “church thing” is for them. A couple of kids say hi, but they mostly stand in the corner by themselves. An adult woman comes to talk to her for a bit about her day before she takes a seat by herself.

She listens to a story from the youth pastor about showing Jesus’ love to others. But she is wondering the disconnect between what the youth pastor is saying and how her experience has been. She enjoys the lesson, but quickly heads for the exit when the time is over for fear of having to stand by herself for another 5 minutes, which felt like an eternity when she arrived.

She isn’t coming back. And she didn’t meet or experience Jesus.

And those of us in youth ministry have seen this time and time again.

Cliques cause jealousy, hurt feelings, and exclusion. They are the complete opposite to the Kingdom of God.

So how do we stop it?

1) The best idea our group has come up with actually came from the teenagers themselves in a concept we call “Clique Busters“. Clique Busters is where a student notices a closed off circle of people talking to each other and runs in the middle of the circle, flashes their hands in their face, and yells “Clique Buster”! At this point, the group has to scatter and start conversations with other people, specifically anyone who is not talking to someone else. It sounds ridiculous (and it is…), but the kids love it. To be honest, I didn’t think this would work, but a few of the more outgoing and funny kids have really run with it. It has been a game changer for our group – and I regularly have people tell me how great our kids are about not being “cliquey”. Kudos to you, @SecondStudent!

2) Create small groups that split of friend groups from one another. If two girls are attached at the hip, start two small groups and place them in separate groups. They will be unhappy at first, but will prove helpful for the group long term. It will also be helpful long term for whoever is spending all their time with one friend, as they will create new relationships.

3) Teach on the value of Love God / Love Others / Put Others First regularly. In order for something to become a part of the DNA of the group – whatever is the core foundations of the group – needs to be focused in on with regularity. I regularly tell the students of our youth group that new people walking in the door will not listen to a word I say if they do not feel welcome. I think that teenagers make up their mind whether they are coming back within the first 5 minutes of their experience. Make sure that the first impression is a welcoming one or the student may never return to learn more about God’s love.

4) Start a secret greeting team. This “secret greeting team” would be a small group of kids whose mission every single week is to be on the look out for any person who is by themselves. This applies not only to a new person, but to students who have been coming for a long time, but may be disconnected.  Those on the secret greeting team do not need to be outgoing personalities – in fact a mix of personalities would be ideal.

What other ideas do you have to kill cliques in your church? I’d love for you to share!


  1. I am a missionary kid and spent the first important 5 years if my life in papua new guinea. Their culture is opposite from america. The village I lived in didnt have one word for love, but four… I die for you. ,,when they say it they mean it. They also believe in everyone being equal. If someone asks another for food, they give it, then later they ask for food in return. They believe it should always be 50/50. They include everyone in everything they do, and its their culture to cook a meal that takes hours of preperation, and give a gift to anyone who might be coming over for a visit. I was loved and welcomed there by everyone and was the happiest little girl. My roots and who i am, is all because of their culture. My parents lost their support and moved back to the states. The minute i started school, i had all these horrible feelings like i was different, ignored, judged, and neglected. No one wanted to include me all growing up. I was the only one without a friend. The older i got the more i wanted to share this beautiful love with everyone, and them do do the same. But no one paid any attention or cared. I always felt humuliated in my christian school as well as youth group. I grew up hating myself, and in highschool i was put in a public school. I gave up on muself and on life. I didnt think my life was worth living without love. I tried ending it, but by the grace of God it didnt do anything. My point is that cliques are serious. It can cause someone to end it. I want to stop cliques. I want to reach out to all the loners like me. Thank you for your being bold to stand up for whats right, and godly.

    God bless!!!!!

    l and in youth

  2. all these ideas seem like they would work incredibly well… in the teachings about love and reaching out to others, it is important to stress that it only takes one person to make a difference, and especially with youth it is important to keep in mind the verse in 1 Timothy 4:12 “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in love, and in purity.” It only takes one person to go sit with the lonely kid at lunch.

  3. I’ve done the separating by groups and it works pretty well most of the time. I really like the “clique busters”. I can think of just the right personality types who could pull this off without being confrontational, a difficult thing to accomplish when invading cliques! Thank you for the suggestions!

  4. I’m a youth intern at my church and one way we try to get kids talking to each other outside of their friend groups is called Match Makers. We give them a color and at the beginning of our weekly sessions we match the kids with that color and for the next two or three weeks they do everything in that group. it allows kids to branch out and get to know kids from other friend groups. then we switch the colors again and the proccess continues.

  5. Jonathan, curious why you have pictures of girls and use the pronoun “she”. I see this among the boys, too. There are just fewer boys AT youth group. By the way, Sarah’s suggestion sounds the best as it put the adults in the driver’s seat instead of pitting “the strong personalities” against everyone else. From what I’ve seen, youth group formats encourage cliquiness, ehich is hugely disappointing.

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