Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Brother Rick Boyles is one of the founders of DMC and has served this Order as a Noble Grand, a District Deputy Grand Master, a Grand Master, a Director of the Grand Lodge Board, and as a Grand Representative.    The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, like all other fraternal orders, has elephants sitting in our Lodge rooms:  Declining membership.   Rick is not afraid to address this existential issue.   And we should not be afraid to tackle it either.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California


10 Probable Reasons Fraternal & Religious Groups are losing membership.

Recently, there have been news reports regarding various well-established religious groups losing members. We are already aware of the issues facing us in our fraternity, and they do not pertain solely to the Odd Fellows. Here are some probable reasons for the losses.  Of course, some prefer to think that the pandemic we all just survived has hastened our own group’s decline. Still, all of us have shared in this pain, so coming out of it somewhat intact should have signaled a rejuvenation of sorts, and while it is great to see our brothers and sisters mostly alive and well, our decline started many years before the pandemic’s reign.  Here are some other probable reasons for the losses.

  1. Our loss of personal connection with the outside world significantly affects our decline. When the Odd Fellows first formed, we were deeply intertwined with the world around us, particularly during the California Gold Rush. It’s crucial to recognize that, at that time, most people desperately needed shelter, security, nourishment, and other essentials.  The Odd Fellows were instrumental in providing these, a testament to the power of personal connection and engagement.
  2. We have not adapted to today’s world.  While we certainly can’t provide for everyone’s needs, we can exist as a haven from the outside world, regardless of political or religious beliefs.  Our ritual speaks to our four walls’ proud ignorance of politics, yet many seem compelled to spread hatred and divisiveness.
  3. There is a continued failure to attract the young.  Most lodges are lucky if they have a member younger than fifty years old.  There are several reasons for this, which are listed below.
  4. We resist modern media.  Of course, age has its own burdens, but we are losing connections with the younger generation by resisting modern media, such as the Internet.  Brother Dave Rosenberg has stated that we have skipped at least a generation.  Now, it is closer to two generations.  We can’t exist much longer if we expect all members to be at the end of modern life expectancy.
  5. We have failed to adapt to today’s nonprejudicial world.  Many lodges still ban women from attending.  Older rituals still refer to people of “other races.”  Sure, we have edited these passages, but has the sense of it been removed? While many groups were initially steeped in divisions, and the basis was part of society itself, some groups have successfully dissolved their prejudices much quicker than the Odd Fellows.  Our text is still antiquated, and many seem proud of this.  Who knows the “unwritten work”? Yet, it persists.
  6. While it is essential to remain inviolate from the outside world, without political or religious prejudice, do we invite anyone in? Many lodges need new members. Some lodges live basically by a quorum of five active members, all over seventy years old, and seem to fear anyone new. If the onlookers are new and seek to join, we like to brandish our ritual and code books and threaten each new member with obscure punishments if they don’t adhere to the words of our ancestors.
  7. Established members often bully everyone else, whether political or economic; there are many reasons.  Many members think their existence is essential in a fraternal order now two hundred years old.  Bullies often claim that they are the only ones who can do a specific job.
  8. Lodge bullies, often in charge for the first time, can make pivotal demands or statements that hurt other members. Just one statement or bad idea can quickly derail a lodge’s membership.  They seem unaware that the IRS mandates that tax-exempt organizations (501c8 “Fraternal Societies”) and their members must reap some benefits for being members.  We do not exist as an order to police the world.
  9. Failure to be relevant. While we want to rise above outside political settings, they do exist. Most of our lodges are in the middle of towns, yet the population doesn’t know we are there. We must step outside and see that people need friendship, love, and truth.
  10. All members of our order are equal, which is also true of our society. We need to treat all members equally and not insult anyone. One step to gaining new membership is ensuring we don’t lose old members.

In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles.

 

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