Have you heard this from ladies around your church? “I don’t do women’s ministry.”

A woman who doesn’t want to be involved in women’s ministry? You’re perplexed. You’ve strategized how to reach women of many interests. You’ve considered schedules and costs. Yet there are those who continue to keep their distance from women’s small groups and events. If you ask them, they might admit they have no interest. Why?

Reason #1: Past experiences keep them away.

Women have been hurt by other women—yes, even at church—and they don’t want to expose themselves to the pain again. Why jump into drama when it’s not necessary? Life is dramatic enough. I have several friends who have no desire to regularly get together with a group of women—either at the church or personally. They’ve heard the gossip. They’ve been the target of judgment. They don’t want the frivolity or meanness of girl groups. High school is over, and they have no intention of returning.

Women have assumptions about women’s ministry, including that it’s full of frivolous, petty , and mean women. You’re not going to prove them wrong by telling them how nice you all are. Women in our ministries are real women, and that includes faults. The best thing you can do is be honest. Say, “I hear your concerns, and while I’d like to say that the women involved in our ministry aren’t any of those things you don’t like or are uncomfortable with, I can’t. These women are everyday women, and they all have faults, including me. I hope our women’s ministry is a place of grace and growth. We all need both, and we can encourage and forgive each other along the way.”

When you foster a community with authenticity, respect grows and women feel safer to try something previously distasteful to them.

Reason #2: Friendships with women aren’t a pressing need.

“I’m too busy” is a common response; however, we’re never too busy for something we make a priority. The problem isn’t busyness—it’s priorities. Not everything can be high on our priority lists. We have to pick and choose, and we need to give women space to do that.

We should equip women to make sound decisions, to evaluate their choices, and to make modifications as needed instead of telling them what they should and shouldn’t be doing. Let God do the guiding and convicting. Listen more than you speak, and encourage instead of convict. Build relationships on respect. We need to hold one another accountable, but we must prove ourselves trustworthy first. It’s not about “getting” someone into women’s ministry. It’s about helping them “get” God.

We’re surrounded with opportunities to connect. Leave space in your ministry for conversations and relationships. Live out your faith. Be authentic, and you’ll help build a community where other women can be authentic, too. Each woman makes choices. You can’t control it all.