Empty Nesters; How to Attract This Group to Sisterhoods with Meaningful Intention

As leaders, one of our responsibilities is to be on the lookout for new sisterhood members. Let’s face it – this is easier said than done! But certain demographics may be easier to attract to participate in sisterhoods than others. These women are known as empty nesters.

‘Why this group?’ you may ask. These are individuals who often find themselves with more available time to do something meaningful and fun in their already busy lives because their children have left home.  

So, how do you know if someone has an empty nest or has entered a point in their lives where they have more time available to get involved with your women’s group? It’s not like they are wearing a sign or shouting from the rooftops, “I am an empty nester!” But it is as simple as asking members in your women’s group if they know congregants whose kids are post-high school. Or, ask clergy or your congregation’s executive director if they are aware of women whose lifestyle has recently changed and looking to get involved. Check out who is on nighttime Zoom calls or in-person evening programs at the temple (a good indication that they aren’t overseeing homework and bedtime rituals). A simple hello, an introduction, or a “how do you do?” at these events allows you to make a connection with someone new. And that connection is key to awakening interest towards engaging with your temple auxiliary group. 

Once we meet potential members, the next step is to excite and encourage them to become involved in our sisterhoods/women’s groups. Let them know what makes your sisterhood/women’s group the company these women want to keep. There are as many reasons as there are individuals, for wanting to get involved. But there are specific things you can say and do to open the opportunities for involvement, and it starts with your positive attitude and relationship-building skills.  

I'd like to share a short story as an example of this. A dear friend of mine decided to join the temple where my family belonged. Because of my involvement in sisterhood, she attended a few programs, made many friends, but as often is the case, life got in the way, and she needed to step back from temple life. Fast forward several years and my father-in-law passes away. The funeral is at the temple, and shiva is at my house. While at the service and our shiva house, my friend reconnects with women she has not seen in years. And what she sees in action are my WRJ District and women’s group “sisters” lovingly taking care of my family and me. This group of like-minded women made an impression on her, and intuition told me to welcome her back to our women’s group with a simple invitation, a simple ASK to attend a program. Little by little, she starts to attend more programs. Now, when someone ASKS her to join a committee, she says yes, and when asked to chair a committee, the answer is yes again. What is she doing now? Well, she’s on the executive committee of both my women’s group and District!  

I share this story because the other members of my women’s group and District and I gave her space to get acclimated to the group. We listened to her and gauged her interests, comfort level, and skillset. It was all about relationship building and our positive attitude, that my friend would want to have what we were having! We want potential members to see themselves as part of our sisterhood when they hear us talk about or see us in action having meaningful experiences. We want to create a buzz and have them say, “I can see myself spending time with these women!” We undoubtedly are the best saleswomen on the force. Unabashedly share your passion for your women’s group with others. This will generate excitement and enthusiasm, and they will want to find out more and get involved.

Here are some suggestions to get started attracting new members:

  • Nurture Your Relationships  - This begins with engagement. Do you remember how you first got involved with your women’s group? It may have been someone asking you to a sisterhood dinner, program, or to help in some way. Providing opportunities to attend a variety of meaningful, purposeful, spiritual, and/or fun events is the perfect way to introduce women to your group. 
  • Follow up - When you meet someone new or haven’t seen in a while at an event, make it a point to follow up with them via phone, email, or text message. On Zoom, you can do this in real-time through the chatbox. Asking questions about their experience and how they felt by participating gives you valuable feedback about what will encourage and motivate them to come back for more.
  • Find Out Their Interests - Ask women what would get them to attend your programs.  and target programs around their answers. Programs that are relevant and current for new empty nesters and not just your “regulars” say, “I want to know what is important to you.” And it shows these women what’s in it for them!
  • Create Opportunities - Plan events or “opportunities” to promote engagement specific to the group you want to engage, in this case, empty nesters.
  • Be Creative - Brainstorm catchy titles and themes for events to rouse interest. Be mindful of dates, days, time, location, and whether it is free or there is a fee involved. These variables will have an impact on whether people will attend. Create “buy-in” by including those you want to target on your planning committee.

Remember, the ‘ask’ is not enough. Something worthwhile must be in the offering for them to want to attend. If we address the ‘what’s in it for me?’ question, we CAN get them to be there. And once they attend something...NOW we have their foot in the door to slowly immerse them in our sisterhood/women’s group.  

Michelle Scheinkopf is a past sisterhood co-president at Women of North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, IL.  She is also the Immediate Past President of the WRJ Midwest District and currently a member at large on the WRJ Executive Committee and the L’Atid Cohort Chair.  

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