There are some Odd Fellows Lodges out there in Odd Fellows Land that I call “Zombie Lodges”. These Lodges go through the motions of being a real live Odd Fellows Lodge, but they have essentially died years earlier. Eventually, these Zombie Lodges will no longer be able to continue the facade of life, and they will give up their charters, or the Grand Master will pull their charters, or they will consolidate with a nearby Lodge. It’s really sad, because many of these Zombie Lodges have been around for over a Century – there was a time that the original members spent blood, sweat and tears to build a Lodge Hall; and other predecessor members expended considerable energy to furnish the Lodge, obtain regalia and books, bring in new members and develop the protocols and traditions of a real Lodge.
And then complacency hit. At some point in time, the remaining members got comfortable with the status quo and didn’t really care about the future of the Odd Fellows Lodge. As long as things remained the same, they were content. New members meant expending effort, and (gasp) new members might bring change.
So, how do we define a Zombie Lodge? Here are the 10 characteristics of such a Lodge, and I hope you don’t see any of these characteristics in your own Lodge.
1. Membership of the Lodge has fallen to less than 15 on the books.
2. Of the membership on the books, less than half attend meetings of the Lodge. More than half the members just pay their dues and are never seen.
3. Members, for years, simply rotate through the chairs so that virtually everyone has served in elected office, often two or three times.
4. Other that the mandatory committees (e.g. Visiting, Bylaws and Finance), the Lodge has no committees.
5. The Lodge has no Membership Committee, focused on bringing in new members.
6. The Lodge would not have quorums at some meetings except for associate members.
7. The Lodge has not brought in a new member for over 3 years.
8. The average age of the Lodge membership is over 65.
9. The Lodge has no functions involving the surrounding community, and other than potlucks before meetings, has no social functions.
10. The Lodge building is in serious need of maintenance and repair, and has not been seriously attended to in over a decade.
If you see one or two of these characteristics in your own Lodge, please view it as a yellow warning flag of caution. If you see five or more of these characteristics, take it as a red flag of danger.
If you recognize these characteristics in your Odd Fellows Lodge, can you do something about it? Yes, you can. It won’t be easy, and it will require some work. Ask to convene a meeting of the Lodge to discuss this article. Have a full and frank conversation about it. Resolve to re-energize your Lodge. This means that you must discuss, in detail, how your Lodge can develop one or two community projects and one or two social activities that the members can enjoy. (You can’t bring in new members if the Lodge does nothing but have meetings.) And then develop a plan to bring in at least two new members each year for the next five years. Don’t allow the demise of Odd Fellowship to happen on your watch.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California