In elementary school, I remember playing Red Rover on the playground. Two lines of kids would link hands and face each other. One child with a strong personality would decide who to call over from the opposite chain and they’d chant, “Red rover, red rover, send Tracy (or Ann, or Sharon, or Kristie) on over!” Then that chosen person would pick up speed and try to run through the opposite chain of arms. If they broke through, they’d take a person back to their team. But if they didn’t break through, they had to join the opposing chain, or team.

I never enjoyed playing these games. Quite frankly, I was hardly ever picked, so fifteen minutes of holding hands and watching Tracy call Ann, Sharon call Sue, or Kristie call Rachael was boring. I knew my whole purpose for being there was to provide a support structure for a small circle of friends to play a game amongst themselves. For me, it was a waste of my time and insulting. I’d eventually bow out and leave.  

Yesterday, I ran into an old friend. We talked and caught up on what was going on in each other’s lives. It was fun to see her. Out of the blue, she confessed to me how bad she felt that the group of women that I knew her from never really allowed me into their group. It was weird for me to hear her say this. I’d always felt it, but to hear her acknowledge this was somewhat satisfying. I hadn’t imagined it. There really had been awkwardness! No matter, I had never allowed it to upset me.  Anyway, it was in the past.  

But, it got me thinking.

This group was made up of church women. Yes, it doesn’t just happen at work or school. In fact, I dare I say, it may happen even more often in the church. We women can get catty, competitive, and self-righteous, elevating ourselves in our minds. Before we know it, a social game begins and some strong personality decides who can come on over to the group and who is excluded.  

Hear me now!

Circles of friends at church are a good thing and are important as we grow stronger in our faith. These friendships encourage consistency and accountability. But there is a difference between circles of friends and cliques that create invisible walls. Those walls may not be seen, but they sure are felt.   

When we choose to knock social walls down and welcome outsiders into our circle, we are exemplifying the love of Christ, maturity, and positive leadership skills. I think about my lack of patience with the playground games. Those girls couldn’t see beyond their own circle of friends to see that me – and the other supportive “chain link makers” – could have been treasured friends to them. Of course, this was at an elementary maturity level. But, in the same vein, when we as adults shrink back from welcoming others into our church, coffee groups, and connections, we are limiting the creative possibilities, growth, or even blessings that God may be bringing to us through extending our world of experience through new people.  

Too many have felt ignored and left out, choosing to bow out and leave. Let’s stop and take a look at the women around us. Who is on the outer ring of the group?  Let’s draw them in and show them they are valued.