Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Here is another article written by Rick Boyles on his impressions and perceptions of Odd Fellowship. I want to take a moment to talk about Brother Rick. He is a Past Grand Master of California, and his term in office was distinguished in two ways. First, he was a Grand Master who emphasized the social aspects of this order and encouraged Lodges to have some fun and make sure members enjoy their fraternal experience. Second, he was a Grand Master who emphasized the need for new members. As a result, during his term, the steep declines in membership slowed to a trickle – a remarkable achievement. Significantly, Rick in 2010 was also one of the three founders of DMC along with Past Sovereign Grand Master and Past Grand Master Don Smith (now deceased) and me. He now chairs the DMC Committee of the Grand Lodge, focusing on the issue of membership. Rick also serves as a member of our Grand Lodge Board of Directors. Rick is an Odd Fellow who continues to give of his time and energy to the progress of this Order.
F – L – T
Jurisdiction of California
That Which Makes Us Odd Makes Us Unique…
When I first joined the order, I presumed that there were odd things inherent to our group, that perhaps the members were involved in odd lines of work, strange habits, momentary diversions, or other bizarre and interesting behaviors.
To my surprise, there was little of that. In fact, I found the members to be quite normal. Even though my own lodge was relatively healthy, I soon learned of the underlying issues of a dwindling membership. Yet, I found that many members were singularly unwelcoming, almost mean, to the wondering public. As I rose thru the ranks in my state of California, I discovered that many members apparently were not interested in drawing new members. Specifically, their lodge doors were locked up tight, even at meeting times, the shutters drawn, and many had no external sign or indication of who they were. It seemed as if the less they advertised their name, the less likely they would survive. In the years since I had served as Grand Master, some of those very lodges are already gone. Think of that simple fact. Many of these very lodges were in existence for 150 years! Yet, they are now at or near absolute failure.
One of my friends at my own lodge has a saying. He says, “I am going to go do something, even if it’s wrong”. What he means by that is action is preferable to inaction. If a lodge does little or nothing, it can’t move forward, only backward. We have to be willing to fail if we wish to succeed. Many lodges have events that fail to garner new members, but we have to see the profit in failure. First we need to stem the speed of our own decline. If we don’t get new members from an event, at least we can say that we made our present members happy in the process. The Odd Fellowship in the state of California has begun to approach a leveling off. Of course, before any group can experience growth, it must first stop its decline.
How do we stem our own decline? Really, it goes to the old saying by business guru Tom Peters – “perception is all there is”. The perception of our order by outsiders has to change. We need to focus our sights on the fun angle in the order and stop clubbing people over the head with the ritual and boring aspects of our order. Saying the ritual is not a problem in attracting new members because logically new members have not yet sat thru our ritual. No, it’s just the overwhelming sense of boredom or sameness which feeds to the ennui of our order. We need to return to oddness. Consider events. If money is the principle concern of your lodge, then perhaps it is already too late in your own lodge. But events can often be held fairly cheaply. Brother Peter Sellars in San Francisco has grown his popular “A Day at the Races” event from a handful of attendees to several hundred at little or no expense. Brother Dave Rosenberg in Davis has a myriad of events with little or no lodge expenditure needed. Is it a coincidence that these lodges are doing well and growing in membership? Sovereign Grand Lodge has provided a wonderful video on lodges, such as one in Illinois (in this case being a motorcycle club), giving big town events, which aid in their own growth. Is it more expensive to sponsor an event or to prepare for your lodge’s closure? You make the call.
Keep it odd.
In Friendship, Love and Truth, Rick Boyles