Youth groups will not save the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Youth groups will not save the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

When I first joined the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) in 2004, it didn’t take me long to learn that ours was a shrinking Order, with membership losses exceeding membership gains. Worse, I learned that this had been the status quo ante of our Order for decades. Soon after I joined, it was apparent to me that I had been dropped into the middle of what could easily be the end of the Order. Lodges were giving up their charters or consolidating, membership numbers were dropping across the board, and membership rolls showed an aging fraternity.

I wondered, “Can no one else in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows see this inevitable path to oblivion?” And then, about two or three years into my new membership, it hit me. Of course they can see it. They just choose to ignore it.

Ignoring the Decline in Membership

The declining membership would not be their problem. Not right now, at least. It would be the problem of other Odd Fellows, some other time into the future. At present, in their reality, everything was fine and dandy. They can just keep doing what they have been doing in Odd Fellowship for the previous century. They can recite the same lines to open and close their Lodges. They can gather at the same Grand Lodges to have sessions, and appoint to the same offices, have the same installations, with the same tuxedos and long dresses. It will be the same as it has always been, and it will be comfortable. The known, of course, is far more comfortable than the unknown.

And I remember hearing a refrain, again and again, about the future of the IOOF. When I joined, I heard it said many times by some of the older hands. They would tell me, “The future of the IOOF is with our youth groups.” These members truly believed that the answer to our membership problem (if they even admitted that there was a problem) was to be found in our youth groups: Junior Odd Fellows and Theta Rho. This refrain was sung by some Odd Fellows and Rebekahs who had themselves come up through the youth groups decades earlier. And they sincerely believed that in the 21st Century, the Junior Odd Fellows and Theta Rho would – as they became adults – fill our diminishing ranks.

Decline in Youth Group Membership

Fifteen years ago I knew that this was a chimera. The 2020’s are nothing like the 1950’s. As we entered the 21st Century, the youth groups’ membership, statewide, never exceeded 50. And it would continue to diminish. In 2022, you could count the membership of the youth groups on two hands. The inevitable finally happened a week ago when the Grand Lodge Board of Directors ended the experiment with Junior Odd Fellows. It no longer exists in California as a unit within the Grand Lodge. Theta Rho, I predict, will soon follow.

So, with the-future-of-the-Order-is-with-our-youth-groups theory now discredited, I predict that the new line of defense will be an even stricter adherence to ritual. I predict that there will be some who will argue that the future of Odd Fellowship can be found in the past. If only we could do a better job in our degree work, if only we could sing the Odes a little better, if only we could recite the oaths and obligations with a bit more fervor, if only we could wear the costumes and regalia more often – all would be well. Let’s get back to basics, they will say. Let’s re-emphasize the need to educate the orphan, visit the sick, relieve the distressed, and bury the dead.

But, Brothers and Sisters, the past will not save us. Only evolution and adaptation to the future will save this Order. Let me be blunt: If we aren’t relevant to the men and women who comprise Generation X (men and women between the ages of 40 and 55) and the Millennial Generation (men and women between the ages of 25 and 40) we will become Lodges of the Retired Generation.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)

Mr. and Mrs. Know-it-all

Mr. and Mrs. Know-it-all

Every Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge has one. Sometimes, more than one. I'm talking about (on the positive side) "the most knowledgeable member". Or (on the negative side) "the member who knows everything." These are typically long-time members who have a...

Representing Odd Fellows at the Sovereign Grand Lodge

Representing Odd Fellows at the Sovereign Grand Lodge

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)  is dedicated to Friendship, Love, and Truth. Let's take a moment to speak some truth. As our Order slowly shrinks in size, some of our iniquities come to light. We have jurisdictions where the total membership of the Odd...

Seven problems with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Seven problems with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Many of us are guilty of one of more of these petty things. These problems are almost inescapable, but fraternal groups because of their tight, orderly nature can be rampant breeding grounds for distrust, dishonesty, and various disappointments. Here are a few of the...

5 Points To Improve Your Odd Fellows Lodge

5 Points To Improve Your Odd Fellows Lodge

A lot of Odd Fellows and Rebekahs from around California and, frankly, from other jurisdictions write to me. Most of the messages are supportive and positive. They hear our message of change and evolution, the energy and the power that comes from being active members and active Lodges.

However, I also receive messages – some from DMC members and some from folks who are not members of DMC – that are sad and discouraged. I heard from a long-time Rebekah who is so discouraged with her Lodge that she is prepared to not renew her membership and to phase out. She says the meetings are boring and unproductive – nothing really gets accomplished. She has energy and ideas, but they are rejected out of hand, and she feels her creativity is stifled. An Odd Fellow has written to me complaining that there is too much “clashing of personalities” going on in his Lodge and at his meetings – “too much back-biting and too many power plays.”

Wow.

When did we forget that the Independent Order of Odd Fellows is all about FRIENDSHIP, LOVE AND TRUTH? When have we grown so detached and so focused on our own selves and our own agendas that we forgot to speak openly person-to-person to our brothers and sisters? When did we decide that we had to pass along a “rumor” about a brother or sister, rather than candidly and directly speak to the affected brother and sister? When was the quest for “power” in the Lodge or in the Order so great that we could criticize or diminish or hurt a Lodge brother or sister?

A little self-reflection is always in order. We are here to “elevate the character of man”. Let’s make sure to start with our own character.

Lodges should be welcoming and comfortable refuges for our members. Lodges should be places where we support one another.

Let’s resolve that:

  1. No idea proposed by a member is “stupid” or “silly” or “unworkable”. Every idea is worthy of consideration and discussion. Ultimately, the idea may be accepted, modified or rejected. But let’s give our proposing brother or sister the courtesy of fair consideration.
  2. No brother or sister should be talked about behind their back. Let’s give our brothers and sisters the courtesy of direct face-to-face conversation. If they have done something really good, take the time to tell them so. If they have done something that bothers you, take the time to talk to them about it in a friendly, open and non-threatening way.
  3. No one in the Lodge should start a rumor about another member. And if you hear a rumor, it should stop with you.
  4. No meeting should be boring or unproductive. Why have a meeting if nothing gets accomplished? Every meeting should have a focus and should move toward a goal – whether it is planning a Lodge dinner, or organizing an event to support a local charity, or planning an installation of officers, etc.
  5. In everything we do in our Lodges, we should always ask the question: “Am I doing this for the good of the Order?”

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg

Mr. and Mrs. Know-it-all

Mr. and Mrs. Know-it-all

Every Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge has one. Sometimes, more than one. I'm talking about (on the positive side) "the most knowledgeable member". Or (on the negative side) "the member who knows everything." These are typically long-time members who have a...

Representing Odd Fellows at the Sovereign Grand Lodge

Representing Odd Fellows at the Sovereign Grand Lodge

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)  is dedicated to Friendship, Love, and Truth. Let's take a moment to speak some truth. As our Order slowly shrinks in size, some of our iniquities come to light. We have jurisdictions where the total membership of the Odd...

Seven problems with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Seven problems with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Many of us are guilty of one of more of these petty things. These problems are almost inescapable, but fraternal groups because of their tight, orderly nature can be rampant breeding grounds for distrust, dishonesty, and various disappointments. Here are a few of the...

Live Better In An Active Odd Fellows Lodge

Live Better In An Active Odd Fellows Lodge

In the articles appearing in this DMC Newsletter, we have often opined that the most successful Lodges are places that are fun for the members, socially active and involved in the community. These are the Lodges that will sustain themselves, thrive and grow.

But now science has come up with another reason to be involved with fun, social active and involved Lodges: You are less likely to experience cognitive decline as you age.

Yes, it’s true. In research just published in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” the scientists examined three personality traits: conscientiousness, extroversion, and neuroticism. It was noted that people who score high in the personality trait of “conscientiousness” tend to be responsible, organized, hard-working and goal-directed. People who score high in the personality trait of “extroversion” tend to be enthusiastic, gregarious, talkative and assertive. And those who score high in neuroticism have low emotional stability and have a tendency toward mood swings, anxiety, depression, self-doubt and other negative feelings. I’m sure we all know people who fit into these three personality categories. In fact, you may be in one of them yourself.

But here’s the fascinating discovery that the scientists made: Those people who scored high on conscientiousness or low in neuroticism were significantly less likely to progress from normal cognition to mild cognitive impairment as they age. And they found that people who scored high on extroversion also tended to maintain normal cognitive function longer than others.

What does all this mean in plain English? “Cognitive impairment” means your mental faculties have slowed down. The study indicated that you could delay this mental slowdown by leading a life that is more active, more fun, more involved. Certainly, being a member of a Lodge which is active, fun and involved can only help toward this goal of living a fuller, more “woke” life.

The study found no association between any of the personality traits and total life expectancy. So, an active Lodge experience will not help you live longer. But it will help you live better.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

Mr. and Mrs. Know-it-all

Mr. and Mrs. Know-it-all

Every Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge has one. Sometimes, more than one. I'm talking about (on the positive side) "the most knowledgeable member". Or (on the negative side) "the member who knows everything." These are typically long-time members who have a...

Representing Odd Fellows at the Sovereign Grand Lodge

Representing Odd Fellows at the Sovereign Grand Lodge

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)  is dedicated to Friendship, Love, and Truth. Let's take a moment to speak some truth. As our Order slowly shrinks in size, some of our iniquities come to light. We have jurisdictions where the total membership of the Odd...

Seven problems with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Seven problems with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Many of us are guilty of one of more of these petty things. These problems are almost inescapable, but fraternal groups because of their tight, orderly nature can be rampant breeding grounds for distrust, dishonesty, and various disappointments. Here are a few of the...

Three-Year Plan To Transform Your Lodge

Three-Year Plan To Transform Your Lodge

By Dave Rosenberg, PG
Davis Odd Fellows Lodge #169
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)

While a handful of Odd Fellows Lodges in California are growing, and another handful are maintaining a static membership, the vast majority of Lodges in this State are shrinking. The math is not complicated. Members move away, depart, stop coming to meetings, lose interest or pass away – and at the same time, the Lodge doesn’t add new members or, perhaps, adds one or two new members who might be close friends or relatives of existing members. And too, often, the new members added are of the same age as existing members. The result is inevitable: Lose three members and add one member and you have a Lodge in trouble. Clearly, we must do something to change this equation.

I am often asked: What can we do to grow our Lodge?

Well, talk is cheap. Action is required. So, here, for those who are truly interested, is a three-year plan to re-charge, re-invigorate, and re-new your Lodge. (For those members of the Order who are satisfied with the status quo of your Lodge, and who are happy to maintain your Lodge just the way it is for the balance of your life, you can stop reading here.) For those members who wish to build for the future of your Lodge, and guarantee that the tenets and ideals of this great fraternity live on and flourish, please read on. The secret of success is not just to meet in closed Lodge Halls and recite ancient rituals, but rather to open our Lodges up, to increase our internal good fellowship activities and to increase our involvement and exposure in the community.

Year One

  1. Open your Lodge to the public (and to potential members) by having open, social meetings – at least one such social meeting each month. Of course, no ritualistic work is conducted and no secrets are revealed at such meetings.
  2. Bring at least one major community leader into membership in your Lodge. This can be a local elected official, a recognized business leader, a leader in his or her profession (like a lawyer), a Judge, the County Sheriff, etc. These people will raise the community profile of your Lodge and can become “rainmakers” in bringing in new members.
  3. Plan and execute one major community event, to benefit a local charitable or community group, and make sure it is publicized.
  4. Plan for and put on one social event each month for the Lodge members and their guests. This can include themed potlucks (for example, Italian potluck), “Bunko” Night at the Lodge, Trivia Night, a talk and demonstration on beer brewing, etc.
  5. Target husbands and wives, both, to consider membership in your Lodge. Ignoring half the population of your community is illogical.

Year Two

  1. Hold a “retreat” of your active members and lay out five goals for the year. These five goals should always include a goal identifying the number of Lodge applicants you intend to bring in during the year. Resolve at this retreat NOT to be negative. Positively listen to all ideas that are proposed and put on the table, and then decide which you will implement.
  2. Continue each of the Year One activities into Year Two.
  3. Develop a “signature event” that your Lodge will organize and put on for the community – which will become an annual event. For example: An “OddtoberFest”, a wine tasting event at the Lodge, Pasta Feed, a music event, etc.
  4. Organize a committee structure for the Lodge. These committees can include: A Good Fellowship Committee, a Community Support Committee, a Music Committee, a Photography Committee, etc. Give each committee an assignment and let them do their work. The committees should reflect the interests of your members.
  5. Target young potential members for your Lodge – from 30 to 40 years of age.

Year Three

  1. Continue each of the Year One and Year Two activities into Year Three.
  2. Find out what member’s are interested in doing, and do it. If members wish to take a wine country trip, figure out a way to do it. If members want to put on a Bingo night for the community, find ways to do it. If members wish to go on a hike, let them organize to do it. Etc.
  3. Contact, personally, each of your “inactive” members and let them know about Lodge activities – see if you can bring them back into active membership in your Lodge.
  4. Connect with your members. Ideally, have all members connected through e-mail so that everyone can be kept posted and informed. For those who don’t have e-mail, set up a phone tree.
  5. Target even younger potential members for your Lodge – from 16- 29 years of age.

This Plan of Action can work for your Lodge! It does not diminish, in any way, the principles of our Order. It seeks only to increase your membership, and in this way will benefit your Lodge as well as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

Mr. and Mrs. Know-it-all

Mr. and Mrs. Know-it-all

Every Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge has one. Sometimes, more than one. I'm talking about (on the positive side) "the most knowledgeable member". Or (on the negative side) "the member who knows everything." These are typically long-time members who have a...

Representing Odd Fellows at the Sovereign Grand Lodge

Representing Odd Fellows at the Sovereign Grand Lodge

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)  is dedicated to Friendship, Love, and Truth. Let's take a moment to speak some truth. As our Order slowly shrinks in size, some of our iniquities come to light. We have jurisdictions where the total membership of the Odd...

Seven problems with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Seven problems with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Many of us are guilty of one of more of these petty things. These problems are almost inescapable, but fraternal groups because of their tight, orderly nature can be rampant breeding grounds for distrust, dishonesty, and various disappointments. Here are a few of the...

Invest in your Odd Fellows Lodge Hall

Invest in your Odd Fellows Lodge Hall

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

When I talk to members and officers of Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) Lodges around the jurisdiction about membership development, the most prevalent question I hear is the following: “Why can’t we get younger members to join our Lodge?”

It is an absolutely legitimate question, and it is an absolutely significant concern. We have many Lodges in California where we find the vast majority of members to be in their 70″s, 80’s and even 90’s. Often, the youngest member in some Lodges is in his/her 60’s. Attracting younger members in their 50’s, 40’s and 30’s is challenging because we tend to invite and sponsor potential new members in our own peer groups and among our own friends. So a member in his/her 70’s probably knows a lot of people who are also in their 70’s – and relatively few people in their 40’s. In other words, a Lodge of septuagenarians tends to stay that way – unless someone breaks the mold.

The irony is that 100 years ago, our membership was much younger. If you don’t believe me, just check the register of members of your Lodge. You will find a membership composed primarily of folks in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Noble Grands were often in their 30’s. Today, the bulk of our Noble Grands are in their 60’s and 70’s.

So, how does a Lodge composed of senior citizens attract the next generation of members?

It’s not going to be easy, but here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Membership Development Plan. The Lodge should meet and discuss the issue, and devise a Membership Development Plan which emphasizes and encourages younger members to sponsor members from their own peer groups and friends. And older members of the Lodge should be encouraged to bring in “the next generation”. If one considers a generation to be 20 years, then a sponsoring member should be encouraged to bring in applicants who are 20 years younger than the sponsor.
  2. Activities for a Younger Generation. A moribund and boring Lodge will not attract new members. Alternatively, an active and dynamic Odd Fellows Lodge will encourage potential sponsors to bring in new members, and will encourage potential new members to apply. It must be recognized, however, that younger applicants will not be interested in the same things that the older members find enticing. Pot lucks, wine tasting trips, and bingo may satisfy the Boomers in your Lodge. But Millennials or Gen X’ers would rather go hiking, or biking, or spend time cleaning up the roadways.
  3. Recognition of Sponsors. Bringing in new members is vitally important to the sustainability of a Lodge. New members, ultimately, are brought in by existing members who act as sponsors. Lodges should make an effort to recognize sponsors in meaningful ways. A very simple way to recognize the important contribution of sponsors is to host a Lodge breakfast or dinner (perhaps once a year) honoring sponsors. In addition, it is perfectly appropriate for a Lodge to recognize sponsors in other ways, such as presenting them small plaques, small mementos, or even small stipends.
  4. Brighten up that Lodge Hall. A Lodge Hall that has peeling paint in front, damaged signage, is unkempt and dirty, and smells of cleaning fluids – ultimately will be a turn-off for potential younger members. Cleaning, painting, and brightening up the Lodge will do wonders for your image. If the Lodge looks like a retirement community, you can bet that potential members in their 20’s and 30’s will not be interested. If the first view of the Lodge is of a shabby lobby and a stairway with a chairlift – what image does that convey. A clean lobby and an elevator displays quite a different image. An investment in the future means investing money in the Odd Fellows Lodge Hall.
Independent Order of Odd Fellows - Davis Lodge #169

The home of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Davis Ca. This building was built in the 1950’s with the support of a generous benefactor. The interior of the IOOF building has been fully remodeled and modernized which enables our organization to attract new members.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Mr. and Mrs. Know-it-all

Mr. and Mrs. Know-it-all

Every Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge has one. Sometimes, more than one. I'm talking about (on the positive side) "the most knowledgeable member". Or (on the negative side) "the member who knows everything." These are typically long-time members who have a...

Representing Odd Fellows at the Sovereign Grand Lodge

Representing Odd Fellows at the Sovereign Grand Lodge

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)  is dedicated to Friendship, Love, and Truth. Let's take a moment to speak some truth. As our Order slowly shrinks in size, some of our iniquities come to light. We have jurisdictions where the total membership of the Odd...

Seven problems with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Seven problems with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Many of us are guilty of one of more of these petty things. These problems are almost inescapable, but fraternal groups because of their tight, orderly nature can be rampant breeding grounds for distrust, dishonesty, and various disappointments. Here are a few of the...

The Responsibilities of Being an Odd Fellow

The Responsibilities of Being an Odd Fellow

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Does your Odd Fellows Lodge have a membership problem?

Does Odd Fellowship, in general, have a declining membership?

These issues would dissipate, if each of us, as Odd Fellows, just followed three simple precepts.

Almost everything in Odd Fellowship comes in threes.  Like the three links that stand for Friendship, Love, Truth.  So here’s another “three” for you to contemplate.   If you are a true Odd Fellow, you are responsible for three things.   First, you are responsible to yourself.   Second, you are responsible to your brothers and sisters.  Third, you are responsible to your Lodge.  Let me explain.

Being responsible for yourself.  Have you exercised the admonitions of “friendship” and “love” in your Odd Fellows Lodge?   Do you treat all members of your Lodge with the same level of friendship or do you hang with just a few, or a clique?  Do you have a pleasant demeanor in the Lodge, or are your edges sharp toward others?   Do you say “how are you doing” to other members when you see them, and do you really mean it?   When members are ill, or bothered by life’s challenges and vicissitudes, do you lend a friendly ear or a loving hand to help?

Being responsible for your Lodge mates.   When you joined Odd Fellowship, you didn’t join a club – you joined a fraternal Lodge.   A true Odd Fellow takes an active role in the activities and governance of the Lodge.   Do you attend meetings and events, or do you just pay your dues once a year?   Do you volunteer to help the Lodge in hosting events, or working in the kitchen, or setting up and cleaning up at events?   Do you rely on other members to get things done, or do you step in to assist or to lead.   Have you served in a Lodge office, whether elected or appointed?

Being responsible to your Lodge.   Members come and go.   Some drop out.   Some move away or pass away.   The individual human lifetime is finite.   Lodges, however, can continue for generations.   Fraternal orders can live on for centuries.   For a Lodge to sustain itself and to continue year after year and decade after decade, it is required that the next generation of members be brought into the fold.   And that, my friend, is your responsibility.   Bringing in new members is the job of each and every one of us.   As an Odd Fellow, you can’t just sit back and rely on the Noble Grand, or the Membership Chair, or someone else in the Lodge.   Simply put, if each of us brought in just one new member every two years, this Order would have no membership problem.   When was the last time you sponsored a new Odd Fellow?

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)

Mr. and Mrs. Know-it-all

Mr. and Mrs. Know-it-all

Every Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge has one. Sometimes, more than one. I'm talking about (on the positive side) "the most knowledgeable member". Or (on the negative side) "the member who knows everything." These are typically long-time members who have a...

Representing Odd Fellows at the Sovereign Grand Lodge

Representing Odd Fellows at the Sovereign Grand Lodge

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)  is dedicated to Friendship, Love, and Truth. Let's take a moment to speak some truth. As our Order slowly shrinks in size, some of our iniquities come to light. We have jurisdictions where the total membership of the Odd...

Seven problems with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Seven problems with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Many of us are guilty of one of more of these petty things. These problems are almost inescapable, but fraternal groups because of their tight, orderly nature can be rampant breeding grounds for distrust, dishonesty, and various disappointments. Here are a few of the...

Pin It on Pinterest