I have visited Lodges where the age of all members falls in the range of 60-80. These Lodges have told me that they have difficulty bringing in new members younger than 60. Has Odd Fellowship in the 21st Century devolved to being a fraternal order of grandfathers and grandmothers? Have we become a stodgy anachronism? A throwback to the generation of radios, land-line phones, and typewriters? If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then we are surely on our last legs as a fraternity. However, I believe that the answer to these questions is “no” or should be “no” and I have proof.
Odd Fellows Lodges are quite able to attract members from many generations. The proof is my own Lodge in Davis, California. We have been doing so for the last decade. For example, my Lodge currently has 23 applicants who have applied for membership in the following age range: 1 of them in the 80’s, 4 of them in their 70’s, 4 in their 60’s, 5 in their 50’s, 1 in the 40’s, 2 in their 30’s, 3 in their 20’s, and 3 who are in the 16-19 age bracket. Why is my Lodge able to attract applicants from a wide range of ages (and generations), while other Lodges only attract applicants in the upper echelons of age (and the oldest generation)?
The explanation is both simple and complex.
People join Lodges, clubs and organizations for one of two major reasons: (1) It offers them a social environment where they can do things that they enjoy with people whom they enjoy; and/or (2) It offers them an opportunity to do good works for others in the local or greater community. That’s it. That’s the simple part.
Now, here’s the complex part. If your Lodge does not offer a convivial social environment that new members will enjoy, or offers no opportunity to do good works for others – your Lodge offers NOTHING to potential applicants. If your Lodge Hall is shabby, dirty, dingy, smelly or dark – forget about attracting new blood. If most of what your Lodge does at a meeting is read from the ritual book, the applicants can do that in church. If all your Lodge members do is sit at a meeting and discuss the leaky toilet, or how Joe’s leg is healing after his fall, or should the Lodge give a donation of $75 to a Little League team – your Lodge is generally boring. If the members of the Lodge bicker with each other, or criticize ideas offered by new members, or talk about members behind their backs – then your Lodge has a toxic atmosphere that will not be of any interest to your applicants. If your Lodge does nothing to help folks in need in your community – then, in particular, younger folks will look elsewhere, perhaps a local service club, to feel that they have accomplished something to improve society.
How does my Lodge – Davis #169 – attract applicants from every generation, including teens? Here comes the simple part, again. My Lodge listens to the members, and the potential new members, and creates committees to address their desires. Many of the committees are social committees where members can just have fun, be it bowling, or hiking, or music, or tasting wine, or smoking cigars, or storytelling, or dinner – or your name it! Just as many of the committees address needs in the community, be it homelessness, frail elderly, hunger, environmental cleanup – the list can be endless!
The old-timers who resist change can pooh-pooh this all day and night. But it works. And it will save this Order.
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