Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At this point in my year as Grand Master, I have visited in excess of 20 Lodges. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and even the ugly. Some Lodges are thriving. Many Lodges are trying. Other Lodges are fading. In the spirit of giving Lodges the warning signs of a failing Lodge, here – based on my experience – are what I consider the “Top Ten Reasons” that Lodges fail (with apologies to David Letterman and his Top Ten Lists):
Number 10. Inadequate signage. Most of our Lodges have been around for over 100 years, and many are located in the heart of downtown. Yet too often I have seen Lodges that are invisible. If you are an Odd Fellows Lodge, be proud of it and make sure that there is a large, distinct and easily visible sign that proclaims the building to be a Lodge of Odd Fellows.
Number 9. Decrepit halls. Nothing turns potential members off faster than a shabby Lodge Hall. A building with old paint, a clear need for repairs, and a dusty and dirty interior speaks volumes to the public. Such a building says, “we are old and we don’t care.”
Number 8. Failure to let go. In some Lodges, the same one or two people run everything, and have done so for 10 years, 20 years, or even longer. It’s time to let go. A new generation of leaders needs to be given their turn to be in charge of the Lodge. If you continue to do everything in the Lodge, you may think you are helping. But what you are doing is restricting newer members from enjoying the full IOOF experience. Don’t hold a position beyond your time. Better to train the newer members so they can flourish and continue the Order into the next generation.
Number 7. No, no, no. I have experienced the dreaded “no” in too many Lodges. Newer members are stifled, disappointed, frustrated, and even angered when the “long-time” members always say “no” to every new idea. Don’t always say “no”, or “we tried that a few years ago, and it doesn’t work”, or “that’s a stupid idea.” Learn to say “yes”. Let the newer members try.
Number 6. Constant comment. Nothing is more restricting and embarrassing for newer members than to always hear comments from the sidelines during a meeting such as: “You are standing in the wrong place” or “that word is pronounced ‘sectarian'” or “wait, it’s not your turn”. Don’t become the Lodge bully. Of course, you want to help the new members, but do it discretely, and perhaps following the meeting. Everyone makes mistakes in the beginning.
Number 5. Booooooring. Nothing says “this is a Lodge of grandfathers and grandmothers” louder than holding a boring meeting. Unfortunately, I have attended too many meetings where the meeting consisted of little more than verbatim reading of the minutes, sick and in distress, paying a couple of bills, and that’s it. Without committee reports, old business and new business, the message conveyed is that this is a moribund Lodge.
Number 4. Bicker, bicker, bicker. Many times I have heard from newer members who tell me that they attended a few meetings and then stopped because they couldn’t stand the bickering and sniping amongst the members. We are Odd Fellows. We are supposed to practice friendship, love, and truth. No one wants to hear about your petty complaints about other members. Get over it, shake hands and move on.
Number 3. Failure to have fun. The surest way to send a Lodge into its death spiral is to forget that we are a fraternal order and it’s OK to have fun. Lodges must plan social events that the members enjoy. Without such social events, the Lodge loses an entire dimension of its value to members.
Number 2. Failure to reach out. It is important to the work of this Order and the image of IOOF for Lodges to reach out into their communities to do good works. It’s also important to the new and younger members. This is the next generation who we wish to attract. These young men and women want to help out in the community and want to foster charitable causes. And it’s not just writing a check here and there. That’s too easy. Members want to engage hands-on in good charitable and community works.
Number 1. Failure to bring in new members. The #1 reason the Lodges fail is self-evident. I visited a Lodge recently that had not brought in a new member in over 5 years. The remaining members had dropped to less than 20 and virtually everyone was in his/her 70’s and 80’s. What do you think the future of that Lodge might be? That Lodge had skipped an entire generation (perhaps two) of new members. Obviously, the Lodge is heading down the path of demise. Without new members, a fraternal order ultimately perishes.
Do you recognize any of these “Top Ten Reasons” in your own Lodge?
F – L – T