Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Of course there are many reasons membership growth lags in most of our Lodges. But in my experience – having visited many Lodges and having heard from many Brothers and Sisters from other Lodges – I can safely identify the NUMBER ONE IMPEDIMENT TO GROWTH in Odd Fellows Lodges. That’s certainly a bold statement, I know, but I have found it to be true across the board. And I am ready to share it far and wide – because it is prevalent, and it is a problem, but it is entirely fixable.
The number one impediment to growth is the long-time member who just won’t let go of his little realm of power. This member has been instrumental to the health and success of the Lodge. This member may have served in important positions in the Lodge (such as Noble Grand and/or Trustee). The Lodge owes this member a debt of gratitude for the member’s contributions to the Lodge and the Order. The member may be the one who has keys to all the locked cabinets, rooms and closets. The member may be the person who knows how to fix that troublesome toilet, turn on the hidden light switches, find the documents in the basement or attic, unlock and lock the front doors, etc. And that’s all well and good, but unless power and authority is shared – it is likely to foster resentment and it is likely to cause newer members to feel disillusioned and disenfranchised. This is the member who thinks he or she knows everything there is to know about “the Code” and who weighs in (often unsolicited) on almost every decision of the Lodge – indicating whether it is worthy or not. In truth, the member has become a bottleneck to progress, essentially holding a veto power over any new idea or change in the status quo. I often hear from members throughout the United States and Canada about their frustrations with these controlling members.
A true leader – who has the ultimate good of the Order in mind – knows when his or her time to lead is done, and then steps aside to allow new leadership to learn and flourish. A true leader is a great and valuable resource if they sit back and wait for the new leaders to ask for advice, rather than offering that “advice” unsolicited and often. A true leader takes on the role of mentor for younger members, rather that the apparent role of “Noble Grand For Life”.
Now, don’t get me wrong. A wise, experienced, and older member is a great resource, and that person should continue to play an important role in the Lodge, not only as a person who can provide good advice and mentoring to others, but as a person who can continue to help the Lodge through many roles, including service as Chair of a Committee such as Finance or Membership. But, the wise, experienced, and older member becomes an impediment to the growth and development of newer members, if that wise, experienced, and older member just won’t let go of those perceived reins of power. Look, no one on the planet is indispensable. Age, infirmity, and death will catch up with every single one of us sooner or later. The wise, experienced and older member would show his/her wisdom best as a mentor to others. Teach the newer members – help them learn, but don’t dictate to them. It’s OK for the newer members to make some mistakes (even the wise, experienced and older member has made mistakes at some point during their time with the Order). Sometimes we actually learn more from our mistakes than from our successes.
So, bottom line, if you happen see yourself in this article, please take this opportunity to step back; take a breather and revise and revisit your role in the Lodge. And if you see these characteristics in another member of your Lodge, feel free to share this article. The health, welfare, and future of your Lodge may be at stake.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California