Occasionally, we will have guest writers on the Wayfarer Blog. This week we have the privilege of featuring the first post of one of our new contributors, Chris Ozorio. Chris is the Junior High pastor at Pawleys Island Community Church in Pawleys Island, South Carolina and has had extensive experience with 3DM tools and vehicles. He and his wife Kelsi have two sweet young boys, Cayton and Sterling. The Ozorios were Sam and Taylor Breen’s youth pastors and have been part of our extended family for close to ten years.
Cliques and Covenant
I had a well-meaning youth worker make a comment to me as he was observing his group. It was the gathering to celebrate the end of the school year. He looked around with frustration in his voice as he said, “We gotta do something to break-up these cliques.” I looked around and saw the athletic boys getting super competitive and trying to outdo one another’s flips in the inflatable bouncer. The swooshy-haired surfer kids were circled up laughing at who knows what. The darkly clad rocker crew was hiding under a shady tree. And the bulk of the adults were hanging out all together by the BBQ.
Sure, it felt a bit “cliquey”, but there was something about the whole scene that felt oddly like home. I’m fortunate to have come from a very diverse context where cliques were the norm in our community and likewise in our student ministry. They weren’t a threat, they actually became a vehicle to reach more students and impact a greater number of subcultures for the Kingdom. Allowing groups to have their own creative identity while helping them collectively discover their Covenant identity gave us accessibility to a wide range of social groups and allowed for more and more students from various subcultures to understand their Covenant identity with the Father.
Here’s the thing: we’ve got to go after these guys not by breaking up their groups (those are fighting words), but rather by looking for ways to see Covenant identity (which goes way deeper than blue hair or silly socks) permeate the groups and unite them at a level that transcends social affinity. Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians that our battle is not against people; instead, it is against a deeper, darker, unseen enemy. You don’t break up the cliques and get a united group of disciples. The cliques exist because these young people are searching for their fit. The battle we’re seeing isn’t against the divisions between the teenagers but the unseen divisions that exist as they have yet to receive in full their Covenant identity from our Heavenly Father.
So here’s a strategy:
To go after the social groups, get that bunch of adults who are hanging by the BBQ out and engaging with the students. Facilitate their engagement with, adoption of, and relating with the students. Have them look for people of peace within each group and focus time and energy there. That’s a team on mission. If each social group has one or two adult team members who are regularly pursuing people of peace within that group, you’ll gain access. They’re acting as missionaries. No student is left untouched, no group is ostracized or singled out. Students get to “be themselves”, and at the same time get to become more aligned with their identity as it is imparted by their heavenly Father.
Our goal is extended family. As the cliques begin to function as families and see themselves as a family who derive their identity from the Father, they can quickly recognize that other students are getting their identity from the same father. All of a sudden there is reason for them to interact with other groups, either as their extended family or as missionaries. It’s amazing when your job changes from single handedly “reaching all those kids” to facilitating an atmosphere of family.