Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
There are success stories out there in Odd Fellows Land.
There is a Lodge that gained 19 new members last year (while losing 5) – for a net gain of 14. This Lodge has experienced a 40% growth in its membership over the last 14 months. And the Lodge currently has 5 more applicants for membership this year. The Lodge has made this remarkable advancement due to strong leadership that understands that the successful Odd Fellows Lodge in the 21st Century must not only provide fun activities for the members, but must also reach out into its community to do good and rewarding work. This creates visibility for the Order in the community, and directly benefits the Lodge’s future by exposing Odd Fellowship to a new generation of potential members.
There is another Lodge where membership had shrunk to under 15 (on the books) with only 6 or 7 attending meetings. This Lodge hadn’t added a new member in over 5 years, and the youngest member was in his 70’s. I visited this Lodge last year, gave them a heart-to-heart and honest talk and encouraged them to get involved in their town. I recently received a report that they had added two new members.
Yet another Lodge had reported to me that they have monthly social meetings with potlucks, trips to museums, and encourage members to be active in their community. They just completed a community spaghetti feed in cooperation with the Rotary and raised a large amount of money to combat polio. They also held a successful women’s clothing swap. They have active programs for music, arts, improv, grief support, and film. They provide numerous high school scholarships. This Lodge is showing steady growth, including young new members. In the past year, this Lodge initiated 15 members, lost 3, for a net gain of 12.
A Lodge in the Gold Country just held an initiation bringing in 25 new members. I had visited this Lodge last Fall and we talked about the importance of community involvement and fun activities for the members – and they have dramatically increased their community involvement. The result is striking.
My own Lodge has had steady growth now for a full decade – showing a net gain of members every year. My Lodge now has 52 committees covering all sorts of fun activities for the members and active involvement in the community. These committees include adopt-a-highway, bowling, music and concerts, bingo, social services, good fellowship, golf, wine club, needlework, scholarship, OddtoberFest, and many others. This formula of fun activities and community involvement works.
When I hear stories like this, I am gratified and encouraged, and believe that there can be a bright future for our Order. This kind of growth flies directly in the face of the conventional wisdom that Odd Fellowship is a thing of the past. I don’t buy that conventional “wisdom” for a moment. The fact that there are some Lodge in California that are growing their membership shines the light of truth on the proposition that our Order is relevant in the 21st Century, can attract new members, and can thrive in the coming years.
How do these successful Lodges do it? I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. It’s not rocket science, but it bears repeating because I believe that EVERY LODGE IN CALIFORNIA CAN BE SUCCESSFUL. The secret if success is a formula that works. It requires leadership, of course, but it’s all about becoming a three-dimensional Lodge. And what are those three dimensions? First, Lodges must remember the historical links that makes us uniquely Odd Fellows. Those links are the ritual and regalia and teachings of our Order. Second, Lodges must remember to have fun. We are a fraternal order and it is appropriate that we provide for an active social life for members and family. A boring Lodge is a dying Lodge. A socially active Lodge is a vibrant Lodge that keeps and attracts members. Third, and equally important, the 21st Century Lodge must become active and visible in that Lodge’s community. Lodge members must endeavor to get out from behind the four walls of the Lodge Hall, and get into the community to do valuable and useful work. It’s good for the community, and it’s very good for the Lodge’s future. Men and women in this Century want to help others – and there are myriad ways in which Odd Fellows can do so.
I commend the Lodges that are adjusting to the 21st Century, are active, growing and vibrant. It’s worth it. We are a fraternal order that has been alive and well in North America for two Centuries. It is our responsibility to keep the flame of Odd Fellowship bright and burning for the next Century.
F – L – T
Jurisdiction of California