Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
The other day I received an interesting letter in the mail.
In that letter was a handwritten document, several pages in length. It was carefully and painstakingly written in cursive, on lined paper. Now, I haven’t gotten a letter like that in a long, long time so I took a closer look. In fact, it wasn’t a letter at all. Turned out that the document sent to me was minutes of a meeting. (To preserve confidentiality, I will not reveal the source of the minutes – but I will say that it was from an Odd Fellows entity.) I was, frankly, amazed that in this day and age someone is taking and keeping minutes in this form. And then it hit me. The form of these minutes shows precisely why our Order is in trouble.
Unquestionably, some of our Lodges are out of touch with Generation X and Generation Y – the young men and women in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s that we need to attract to our Order in order to sustain us into the future. In fact, we have a new Generation Z that is coming on the scene – people born in the 1990’s – to whom we have to start paying attention. The irony is that if you look at the records of Odd Fellows Lodges from the 1800’s and the early 1900’s, you see lots of members in their 20’s and 30’s – Odd Fellowship used to attract young people into its ranks. And then, somewhere after World War II, Odd Fellows Lodges started to look inward, and forgot to look outward into the community. Recruitment of new members dwindled as existing members became satisfied with the status quo.
Those hand-written minutes are indicative of a Lodge whose members don’t use computers, don’t use e-mail, aren’t on Facebook, don’t use Twitter or any of the other social media that connects the young men and women of the 21st Century. Those minutes show an Order that is still in the middle of the last Century.
The world of today is so different than the world of the 1950’s. And yet there are members and Lodges that continue to live in that 1950’s world and continue to operate with a 1950’s frame of mind. But 2015 is three generations removed from that world. And Lodges that have not brought in members who were born in the 1960’s, the 1970’s and the 1980’s have essentially skipped a generation or two and have become Lodges of grandmothers and grandfathers that no longer appeal to the young people (let alone middle-aged people) of the 21st Century.
Let me be blunt. We don’t use carbon paper anymore. We don’t use ditto machines and mimeographs. And we don’t hand write our minutes.
In my Lodge, for example, all members (and we have members in their teens and members in their 90’s) are connected by e-mail. We have a Facebook page and we use Twitter. Our Lodge Hall is fully functional with Wi-Fi. Our website is extensive and detailed. Minutes are maintained on a laptop and are distributed to the members of the Lodge within minutes after the conclusion of the meeting. Our Lodge newsletter is on line and is updated daily – accessible to every member of the Lodge. When we want to send a notice to the membership, it is done instantly via e-mail.
It’s a different world today than the world of the 1950’s. Movies are different. Television is different. Radio is certainly different. Most young people today seek their entertainment on line with Facebook, Youtube, and steaming videos. Young people listen to music through iPods. People use iPhones to connect to the world. Most young folks don’t have home phones anymore – they just use their iPhones. And iPhones are used to text back and forth, to take and send photographs, to determine locations by GPS, to make reservations, to Google information, to play video games, to check the stock market, weather, books, newspapers and magazines. Taxis are becoming passe as some 50% of cab users now go on line to order vehicles through Uber. People work from home by telecommuting. The information highway called the Internet is available to all – and people spend hours a day on line. Indeed, it’s a different world.
Until Odd Fellows and Rebekahs adjust and come to grips with the new world in which we live, their Lodges will continue to shrink as members pass on and new members do not come through the door.
We must evolve and change as an Order to be relevant to 21st Century men and women. The Lodges that have done so will (with apologies to Mr. Spock of the Starship Enterprise) live long and prosper. The Lodges that continue to live in the past will wither and slowly fade away.
F – L – T
Deputy Grand Master