Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

I was looking at a Facebook page the other day which featured a photographs of the Grand Lodge officers and the Rebekah Assembly officers in a sister jurisdiction back on the East Coast. These were lovely professional photos, and my compliments and congratulations to the new officers. But one thing struck me about the photos. The Grand Lodge officers were all gray-haired in tuxedos with matching red vests, and the Rebekah officers were all attired in matching long dresses; all the officers were obviously in their 70’s and 80’s. And as I looked at the photos I thought to myself: What image is our Order portraying to folks in their 20’s and 30’s who we hope will apply for membership in our Lodges? Are we showing an image that is relevant to young men and women in the 21st Century?

Past Grand Master Rick Boyles, in his article below, addresses this apparent generational disconnection.

Because, let’s be frank: An Order which is mired in 1945 will not attract members in 2015. And if you doubt the truth of that bold statement, just look at the statistics showing our membership decline from 1945 to 2015.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Deputy Grand Master


Favorite Songs, Colors, Plants, Days of the Week and Our Efforts to Attract the Young

In my year as Grand Master, members would come up to me and ask me my favorite songs, colors, plants, days of the week or any of a myriad of insipid things. This never seemed important to me and I am not sure why it was important to anyone else. I believe that at one time this was important because the order had hundreds of thousands of members and any reception would be enhanced by music, flowers and other things that were known to be pleasing to the Grand Master. It has little or no effect any more. In fact, it evidently serves as an irritant to some.

I chose relatively modern songs by relatively modern groups – Green Day “(Good Riddance) the Time of Your Life” (1994, over 4 million copies sold) and U2 “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (1987, over 10 million copies sold). And yet, most of our members had never even heard of these songs. It’s not as if they are obscure tunes – the U2 song has been a virtual anthem of rock music for a quarter century, and the Green Day song was one of the most used soundtrack melodies for the Seinfeld series. But this illustrates our own very stark obscurity when the majority of us fail to even acknowledge any media in the last 30 years. Which should direct us to the following question – how can we expect to attract younger members when we don’t even acknowledge modern culture? Naturally, it would not be realistic to assume that all of us could find all things modern to like, but when we fail to admire anything at all modern then we should see that we are keeping out the young by our insistence that anything new is bad. Actually, the fact that younger members have become a real rarity should not come as any surprise at all. Also, the idea that we expect members in their seventies and eighties to attract young members with old music and old traditions is ludicrous at best. Some of the elderly actually like to say that young people are harkening back to the forties for inspiration, but I have never seen this happen. My own kids would never consider joining the order because of this very issue, our antiquated nature and overall approach to the outside world.

So, how do the elderly attract the young? Answer, they do not. No, the primary way groups of all sorts gather new members is by welcoming their dissimilarities, not asking youth to march in lockstep. Again, it seems awfully peculiar that a group that espouses oddity pushes for such a flat, normal existence. The comedian Robin Williams had a wonderful line in the movie Good Will Hunting that a person’s oddities and traits are the very things that should endear them to us. So, it seems to me what would attract young people is what makes them happy and not what we think makes them happy. I am always struck by how successful America’s scouting groups are in all their variations. Scouting groups have their own problems and yet they still draw millions of members. Why is that? For various reasons, but in my view, even though there are scoutmasters and parents involved most of it is kids governing other kids. Naturally, this has its pitfalls, but think back upon your own youth, and you may remember that while you had adult influence, what influenced you more was peer pressure, and interaction with those of your approximate age. There is clearly nothing wrong with us on a moral level but it should be clear by now that we make an error when we attempt to reach the young through attracting them to elderly events. In the 1950s or 1960s did you want to spend your time with the elderly? I certainly did not. If we want the youth in our midst to grow, we must be watchful but not overbearing. I belonged to the Boy Scouts both as a youth and as a parent, and while there were troop meetings regularly, the kids were self-governing as well. Surely kids need guidance but they also like to think that they have discovered things on their own. And, when we choose music from a different era we are sending the message that we prefer members from that era. No kid really wants to sit around listening to Ethel Merman, Bing Crosby or others of a long-gone period. To be frank, even Green Day and U2 are probably alien to young kids, but we need to try to modernize as best we can. In order to modernize, and attract the youth, we need to send the message that we are obviously still their elders but we are young enough at heart to realize that the world is ever changing and constantly moving forward. We must be prepared to move forward as well.

In Friendship, Love & Truth, Rick Boyles

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