It’s Just Math

Too many Lodges find themselves standing pat on members – that is, years go by and no new members are added to the rolls of the Lodge. It goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that the inevitable result of this pattern is the eventual demise of the Lodge. It’s just math, folks. Eventually, all Odd Fellows move away or pass away, and if you don’t replenish the organization with new members, the organization will – in time – perish. The Lodge will either lose a quorum and be compelled to give up it’s charter, or it will take the more genteel way to expire by consolidating with another Lodge. Either way, the Lodge perishes from the face of the Earth and becomes an historical footnote.

It is a Shame

And that’s a real shame on many levels. For decades (sometimes for over a Century) your predecessor Odd Fellows had labored long and hard to create, maintain and grow the Lodge your currently occupy. They bought or built a building, they improved it, repaired it, maintained it, and filled it with members and activities. And now, on YOUR watch, you are letting the Lodge fade away as a cipher in time.

Reverse the Trend

Don’t let this happen. It is rarely too late to reverse the trend, even if your active membership has diminished to less than 10 members. It is amazing what a small number of motivated people can accomplish – if they put their minds to it. So, I’m writing this DMC Newsletter to suggest five things you can do to change the trajectory of your Lodge. Try this approach. What do you have to lose?

Roadmap to Success

Roadmap to success for the weak or declining Lodge:

  1. Meet and talk about it. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room. The greatest impediment to success is complacency. Disregarding the problem does not solve it.
  2. Agree on a path forward. Spend time at a meeting discussing the need for new members. In fact, dedicate an entire meeting to the subject. Nothing is more important than the continued viability of the Lodge. Make sure the discussion is positive, not negative. This is not the time for anger, accusations, finger-pointing and blame. This is the time that all good Odd Fellows come to the aid of their Lodge. At the end of the discussion, come to a consensus on a path forward.
  3. Schedule social meetings. Every path forward must include social meetings. These are meetings without the formal ritual opening, passwords and signs, and ritual closing. So long as you also conduct formal meetings with ritual, nothing in Odd Fellows law or rules prohibits social meetings. These social meetings allow the Lodge members to have some fun, and to invite prospective new members to share in the fun. Ultimately, no one wants to join a Lodge that is boring.
  4. Eat, drink, and be merry. Odd Fellowship first formed and flourished in the pubs and taverns of England. The members would gather to eat, sing, imbibe, and generally have a good time – enjoying each other’s company and fellowship. When did we lose that feeling? So, your plan going forward must include fun events – let your imagination be your guide. Dinners, breakfasts, ice cream socials, beer tasting, wine tasting, hikes, etc, etc.
  5. Bring in new members who are younger than you are. It does your Lodge little good to bring in new members who are the same age as existing members. If you have a Lodge where the members are all in their 70’s and 80’s, bringing in new members within the same age group does not solve the problem posed by “math”. To continue the life of the Lodge, it’s important to bring in new members who are at least a decade younger. So, a member in his/her 70’s should strive to bring in new members in their 60’s, and so on.

Good luck with this endeavor. The future of Odd Fellowship (and your Lodge) depends on it.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
Jurisdiction of California

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