If you are reading this article, odds are that you are either a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows or you are a person with some interest in becoming a member. So, that being the case, it’s fair for me to ask you a question about the Order. So, here goes:
What are the two most important responsibilities of an Odd Fellow?
Don’t answer immediately.
Take a moment to think about it before you answer . . . .
I submit that the two most important responsibilities are the following: (1) Do your best to live your life with the principles of Odd Fellowship in mind – friendship, love and truth. The importance of this first responsibility should be plain. (2) Bring a new member into Odd Fellowship. Apparently, this second responsibility is not so obvious to most Odd Fellows.
The declining numbers of our membership should be a cause of great alarm to every true Odd Fellow. Yet, the solution is so apparent that it is almost laughable. Simply put, if every member of the Order were to bring in just one new member – we would have no membership problem at all. Just one. It’s just math. If, for example, the 4,000 members of the California Order each sponsored just one new member, then the Order would have 8,000 members. And further, if the 4,000 new members that were brought in, also in turn brought in one new member, then voila, we would have 12,000 members. You can see where this is going.
Well then, why aren’t we swimming in new members? Sadly, it’s because the vast majority of members do not do their duty: they do not sponsor even one new member to their Lodge.
Certainly, SOME members bring in new members, and a very few bring in substantial numbers of new members. But the majority don’t. Not even one new member. Either they don’t care, or they expect someone else to do it, or they are too lazy, or they don’t know how to ask a friend, co-worker or relative to consider joining IOOF. Whatever the reason, they have failed their responsibility to their Lodge and they have failed Odd Fellowship.
In truth, it’s not that hard to sponsor a new member. I, personally, have sponsored over 120 new members over the last 15 years. Surely, every member of this Order can sponsor ONE new member. Step Number One in that process is to identify a potential member – it could be your spouse or partner, it could be a close friend, it could be a relative, it could be the banker you have known for years, or your dentist or barber, or the checker that you often see at the market. Step Number Two is to ask. This is a hard step for some. So, the way to make it easier is to think through the three or four things you will tell the person about the Lodge or the Order that may be of interest to the prospective member. Planning what to say will make the job of saying it easier. After all, the person will inevitably ask you: “Well, tell me about Odd Fellows.” And you need to have a ready answer. That answer can include a bit about the history of the Order, perhaps comments on the current membership, some discussion of the advantages of owning a Lodge Hall, but most importantly the person will want to know what membership entails, what social activities the Lodge undertakes, and what the Lodge does for the betterment of the community. [Caveat: If your Lodge has no social activities and does nothing for the community, you will have precious little to talk about. Hardly anyone will want to join a Lodge which does not much more than have meetings and follow a ritual from a small red book.]
So, here are the ultimate questions: (1) How many new members has your Lodge brought in over the past five years? (And during those past five years, how many members has the Lodge lost?) (2) Since YOU have become an Odd Fellow, how many new members have YOU brought in to your Lodge? If your answer to these questions is “none”, Brothers and Sisters, then your Lodge is in trouble, and you have not done your part to help.
The future of Odd Fellowship is in YOUR hands.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California