Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Let’s imagine the worst-case scenario. You belong to an Odd Fellows Lodge that has 10 members. Typically, only 5 or 6 show up to your meetings. The average age of your members is 75, and the youngest member of your Lodge is 65. Your Lodge has no female members and no members who are non-white. The Lodge meetings take place once per month, following a modest dinner or potluck. The Lodge has not sent any representative to Grand Lodge sessions in at least a decade. There are no community events hosted or sponsored by your Odd Fellows Lodge. And the Lodge Hall is in a state of disrepair, requiring roof work, plumbing repairs and painting.

What’s the next step for your Lodge?

Well, to be brutally frank, the next step for your Odd Fellows Lodge may very well be a step off the cliff. Your Lodge, if it is as described above, is in dire straits. On many fronts. The fact that your membership is low and razor thin and that the average age of members is in the septuagenarian range indicates a failure – over, perhaps decades – to attend to the first requirement of a fraternal order. That first requirement is to bring in a constant flow of new members. It appears that previous members of the Lodge were literally asleep at the switch and your Lodge has skipped an entire generation of members. Where are the members in their 40’s and 50’s, let alone members in their 20’s and 30’s? The additional fact that your Lodge has no women or minorities is yet another red flag of trouble. Why would your Lodge ignore 50% of the population who are female? Why would your Lodge not tap into the substantial numbers of residents in your community who are Hispanic, black, Asian, or the plethora of ethnic groups represented in the melting pots of your town? The further fact that your Lodge does virtually nothing in the community and has not attended Grand Lodge sessions indicates that the Lodge has withdrawn into itself and is not part of the greater community or of the broader brotherhood of Odd Fellows. And the fact that the Lodge Hall is in disrepair, is further evidence of the ennui of the members who have preceded you.

Can your Lodge be reinvigorated?

Again, to be frank, probably not. This Odd Fellows Lodge may be too far gone to be resurrected. Too much time may have passed to resuscitate such a moribund Lodge back to vigor and life. Too many members for too many years have been the victims of complacency. As existing members continue to age, it becomes increasingly difficult to attract young and energetic members to join a Lodge of senior citizens, particularly a Lodge that does little or nothing. And make no mistake about it. New members are necessary to ensure the vitality and the future of your Lodge. But, let’s not give up. If there is a chance to revitalize, reinvigorate and recapture the spirit of a healthy Lodge, you owe it to your fraternity and to the generations of Odd Fellows who preceded you.

What does my Lodge have to do be healthy?

Step one is for the current Lodge members to decide that they wish to bring it back and desire new members. If the members are satisfied with the status quo and don’t want new members, then it’s “game over”. Just a matter of time until the Lodge loses its quorum or consolidates with another Lodge, and becomes an historical footnote. On the other hand, if the members do wish to kick-start the Lodge into the future, then “game on.” As noted in an old Chinese proverb: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” And the first step is to clean up your Lodge Hall. No one wants to come to visit your house if it is dirty, dusty and in disrepair. A clean Lodge displays pride. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. If your Lodge has some money, hire a professional cleaning team. A thorough cleaning, scrubbing and painting will present a totally different image. Step two is to invite the community into the Lodge Hall for an event. The event can be as simple as an open house, or a classical string concert, or a movie night, or a trivia night. Let your imagination be your guide. Isolation is stifling. Opening up to the community is liberating. Now you are ready for step three – and that is inviting two or three new members to join your Lodge. And when you do, you should make sure to inform these new folks that they are the future of the Lodge and that they, with your assistance, will be the future leaders of the Order in your community. And then, repeat step three, next year, and the year after that, and so on . . . .

And finally, be prepared for changes. If you resist the change that new members inevitably bring, you will only rip your Lodge apart. Unless you only invite new members who are senior citizens (which is, by the way, ultimately self-defeating) then you should be aware that your new members will necessarily represent a new generation, new energy and new ideas. They will want to be more involved in the community and they will want to do things that you have not done before. For example, they may want to host rock ‘n’ roll bands in the Lodge Hall for a community concert. This may drive you a little up the wall. But you have to give these new members the space to try new idea. Clearly, your old ideas haven’t worked so well. These new ideas will give the new members a sense of purpose and of commitment to the Odd Fellows Lodge. And they will go a long way to bringing in even more new members.

What do you have to lose? What do you have to gain?

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Noble Grand

Jurisdiction of California

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