If you ever get a chance, talk to the Secretary of your Odd Fellows Lodge and ask to look at the Member Register. This is the document that provides information on all members of your Lodge from the date of institution of the Lodge till the present. It’s really a fascinating historical document, and I think you will enjoy the interlude in your Lodge’s past. (Most registers are very old, so make sure to handle them with care – clean white gloves are recommended to protect the ancient pages.)
A Fascinating Discovery About Odd Fellows
But the purpose of this newsletter is more limited. I’ve thumbed through a number of Member Registers from different Lodges during my time as the Grand Master of California, and here’s a fascinating fact that I discovered: If you look at the register from a Century or more ago, you will find the vast majority of members initiated into the Lodge were in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. And if you compare that to members initiated into the Lodge over the past decade, you will find the vast majority of members initiated into the Lodge fall into the age range of their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
Why do you suppose that is?
Well, no one knows for sure, but I have a pretty good theory. You see, 100 or 150 years ago, Odd Fellowship was new and fresh in North America. Fraternal Orders in general were popular as gathering places for social, community and fraternal activities. Odd Fellowship, in particular, offered young men (and eventually young women) an opportunity to gather, meet and mingle. There was no television or Internet, of course. It was fun and exciting to start a new Lodge, build a building, and grow a fraternity. Over the decades, however, the shine has worn away. Members became comfortable and complacent. The newness was gone. The edge was no longer there. Members settled into a familiar routine – the status quo was the norm.
And the reality is that when we bring in new members to our Odd Fellows Lodges, we tend to bring in people that we know, in the same general age range as ourselves. So, a Century ago, the 30-year-old members tended to bring in other 30-year-old members. Today, there are precious few 30-year-old members in our Lodges. But there are a lot of 60-year-old members. And those 60-year-old members tend to bring in other 60-year-old members.
Obviously, this is a self-defeating prophesy. This can’t continue.
What is the Solution
The solution is apparent. To survive and flourish, our Lodges need to bring in new members in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Those Lodges that have skipped a generation of members (and there are a lot of those Lodges) must focus on recovering that lost generation.
Not an easy proposition, however. Why would a Lodge composed of members in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s be of any interest to a young person in his/her 20’s, 30’s and 40’s?
In future DMC Newsletters we will explore this vital existential question. And we invite other Lodges – which have found solutions to the challenge of bringing in younger members – to write with your success stories.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
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