My family attend a small Christian church. We are very much involved and now leaders.
Sometimes I feel on the edge of friendship groups. I am close to those I am in ministry with as naturally we meet regularly. However if I were to leave that ministry the contact would reduce.
I appear more confident than I actually am, however not conceited. I try to be friendly with all the women rather than sticking to a small group. Some do the niceties but are happier sticking to their cliques.
I also have to deal with cliques in my workplace. Sometimes it is too much.
We used to attend a much larger church and the cliques were not so obvious whereas here, church ends and all the women literally run over to those they know best. I dread the end of service. I do not like imposing on groups already formed. I feel they are waiting for me to sat hi and walk away so they can go back to their chatter.
Small churches, just like any small organisation can feel very different to big churches/organisations and the group dymnamics will be more obvious in small groups as you have spotted already. On the other hand might this apparent standoffishess or cliqueyness be about your status as a leader rather than because you are new? If people are seeing you as a leader then it is very likely they will treat you differently. This dynamic is something everyone in leadership has to work through so could you talk to the lead pastor/minister/vicar about it as I would expect they are the ones who are supporting you in your new role? If not, who is supporting you in leadership and if no one then you need to get that set up ASAP. Good luck!
Try not to be offended, it is only natural that friendship groups use the time after church to catch up with each other. They probably don't realise how you feel. I know i often imagine the leaders are too busy to stop and chat. At my church I am part of a team that organises an annual conference day for all of the women in church, and we also host a breakfast event, and an afternoon tea. These are great ways to break down these cliques and mix with people a bit more freely than during that time after church. Maybe you could host an event like this, or invite the women in your church to one of the larger conferences (you'd be welcome at ours!) on a day trip.
imo church is for the outsider and, as such, our focus should be out, not in. If people want to get together with their buddies, do that in their own time.
If you're having problems and you're actually in the ministry, imagine what it's like for a newcomer. Church isn't a club ffs.
This stuff pisses me off big time. I'm sure we all pray for our loved ones to find out about the amazing story God has for us - imagine if one of the people we have prayed for so arduously turns up at one of these places (going to church is often a first, huge step) and gets ignored? I can't express how angry I feel about that. I've literally been lunged across, right in front of my face, by someone who was desperate to greet her friend, entirely ignoring me in the process, as if I didn't exist. Kind of fundamentally missing the point there about how God feels about all of us.
It's the old story. But it's unforgiveable imo. There is no excuse, I don't care how you look at it.
As you're in ministery, imo you have the power to change this dynamic and to make the place more inclusive. I was once class rep at a very cliquey school and a few of us class reps set about changing the dynamic. It wasn't that hard - invite everybody, make it clear everyone is welcome, don't have favourites; open it all out. Make it clear that best bud time is for elsewhere. We've a job to do in church iyswim. Get the vicar on line?