Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Since we began publishing these DMC Newsletters five years ago, we have stressed, again and again, the need to increase membership in our Order. We have highlighted the elephant in the middle of our Lodge rooms (year after year of steadily declining membership) and we have offered many suggestions on how we can halt the decline and start the ascent of membership in our Order. We have pointed out the fact that while most of our Lodges are continuing to decline in membership, there are a few Lodges that are gaining membership. Accordingly, there is nothing inherent in our Order or our precepts which would indicate that we should become a fraternal relic. Quite the contrary. The fact that we have some growing Lodges, should indicate that we are still relevant as an Order in the 21st Century, and that there is hope for a resurgence of Odd Fellowship. All we need to do is look at our successful Lodges and follow their formula for success.
To my regret, I have become convinced that some of our Lodges will not do that. There are many reasons for this. One of the reasons is complacency. In many of our Lodges, Lodge members are satisfied with the status quo. They wish to continue to operate the way they have always operated during the lifetimes of their aging members, and they really give little thought to the sustainability or future of their Lodge. They are content to continue to run the Lodge in a business-as-usual way until they die. And certainly they will die. But, ultimately, so will the Lodge because they didn’t care about the future of the Lodge and they didn’t bring in new members.
One of the deep thinkers in our Order is Past Grand Master Rick Boyles, who presents his thoughts on yet another reason for our declining membership. His thoughts on the subject of declining membership are printed below.
F – L – T
Jurisdiction of California
5 Year Plans to put out a House on Fire… In Search of the Tipping Point
Every year, the leaders of our order announce a new 5 year plan. This may seem admirable but the purpose of a 5 year plan is to see it thru. But no one sees it thru. Why is that? Simple, because the leaders of our order only serve for 1 year each, and every year brings a new regime and a new focus. Actual growth in our order does not come from the top, it comes from the bottom. Many members at many local lodges say what is the Grand Lodge or the Sovereign Grand Lodge doing to solve our membership problems? The answer is little or nothing. This is not a slight towards them but rather a slight towards the premise that top down thinking even works. Real growth is inbred within a lodge environment. There is little doubt that most members are sincere but sincerity alone does not bring in members. We as an order must look at the drive for members as a pinpoint focus, not as a constantly wavering promise.
One of the latest bestsellers in social behavior is “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. Mr. Gladwell makes the observation that certain dynamic individuals he deems “connectors” are instrumental to the spreading of news and thought, others he calls “mavens” who are the enablers of the people to exchange ideas and of course the rest of us who pretty much make up the general populace. There are members surrounding us who are conducive to growth, and mavens who ease the collective mood, and the rest of us who play at following the leader. Not every person is identical, of course in fact, Mr. Gladwell gives the example of Paul Revere, who in all historical accounts warned the colonists of the British Military Invasion, who as a connector was well known by his countrymen and admired therefore when he passed on his warnings they heeded his call. And yet, did you know that other colonists in other areas of the colonies did the same thing, but were pretty much ignored? The point being that the connector or well admired individual was heeded when the others were not. Consequently, Paul Revere’s populace was better protected, while other sectors were left” their calls were less heeded or even ignored.
Lodge settings can be a form of that. Some members are admired and listened to while others are ignored. Rank may have its privileges but it is not the sole divining point of leadership. In fact, leadership is a tremendously fleeting proposition – the Noble Grand, the Grand Master, even the Sovereign Grand Master, all only serve for one short year. While it is a great privilege to hold one of these positions, it is not integral to our lodge or order’s future. If one of these entitled individuals has an agenda that is morally askew – it can do more damage than good. The normal member, even without rank, can often have more to do with growth than the high ranking elective officer. The perception is that officers lead and members follow, but this is a fraternal group, not a paramilitary group. We are led by philosophy and the make-up of our collective groups. Some dynamic members can draw followers by force of their personalities alone, but for the rest of us drawing members is a difficult chore, often clothed in failure. Successful lodges are often led or mentored by a “connector” – a person who draws members by their personality and presence. There are many examples of this. The “mavens” as Mr. Gladwell puts it, would be the members who are welcoming of new members, non-disruptive, questioning, perhaps, but also non-prejudiced, non-judgmental, friendly.
Lastly, to arrive at the Gladwell integral theory is that of the tipping point. We know by code a lodge meeting must have a quorum of 5 members, but the tipping point should be higher in order to point towards a maintained stability in the lodge. Clearly, a quorum of 5 was not an issue 100 years ago. It is only an issue today with our diminishing numbers. The tipping point must by all necessity be at least 2 times the required quorum, or at least 10 active members. If your lodge does not have 10 active members, you are at or near the tipping point of dissolution. Sometimes just one more member makes all the difference. The objective being, of course, a consistently meeting lodge, with little or no chance of failure, also, allowing for all lodge officer seats to be generally filled. This is an objective we should seek first.
But how has our order ended up this way? Did you know that at one time we were one of the biggest fraternal groups in the world? Now, in some states, we are virtually non-existent! And this is becoming commonplace. More than a third of the states in our union now number below the Mendoza line! And yet, there are still those among us who fight the notion that our membership is dwindling. It should be obvious that these are members who don’t want new members, and even actively petition against new members. There is almost a dread of new members. We must lose that dread. In order to grow, we need first to recognize that our friends can be members, and our members can be friends.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles