Sovereign Grand Lodge does not bring in new members into the Order. Grand Lodge doesn’t bring new members into the Order. The responsibility to bring new members into our fraternity rests squarely with YOU and YOUR Lodge. Only YOU can reach out, find and sponsor an applicant, assist them in filling out the application form, and mentor them once they decide to fill out that application. Over the past decade, I have personally sponsored over 120 new members into the Order.
But for many Odd Fellows, it’s not that easy. Over the years, I have found that there are three great impediments which seem to prevent many members of of our Order from the task of bringing in new members – which we will discuss in this newsletter. And make no mistake about it – bringing new members into Odd Fellowship is the primary responsibility of existing members. Our Order has existed for hundreds of years because our predecessors had the foresight to build Lodge halls and bring new members into the fold. We break the fraternal links with those who came before us, if we do not follow through and continue the task. Bottom line: There is no greater duty of an Odd Fellow than to continue the life of the Order, and that life continues only with the addition of the next generation of members.
So, what are the three great impediments?
1. Inertia. To take a walk around the block, you first have to get up out of your chair, and then open the front door. Some members can’t or won’t get out of their chairs. And some just won’t open that door.
“Inertia” is defined as “a tendency to do nothing or remain unchanged.” The term stems from physics which defines a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or motion, unless that state is changed by an external force. In other words, complacency. Too many of our long-time members have grown complacent and comfortable with the status quo – even though the status quo means certain death of the Lodge within a few years. These members like it just the way it is and the way it has been since they joined the Order. To them, change might rock their boat. And new members mean change. So at the core, these members are selfish. They are more about their own comfort than the future of their Lodge or the Order. But change is inevitable. When these members were young they listened to the news on the radio, read the newspaper at the kitchen table, wrote letters in longhand, and used a phone with a dial. Those days are gone. Today, the young men and women of the 21st Century use their iPhones, read the news online, and communicate via email, text, messenger, snapchat and twitter.
Inertia will ultimately kill this Order, unless we shake the complacent members out of their fraternal torpor.
2. Timidity. Some members may feel that they do not know who to invite to join the Lodge, or if they have someone in mind they feel that they don’t know how to broach the subject.
To begin, we all know people who we can ask. That excuse won’t wash. There are people at work, at the grocery store, in your neighborhood, in your place of worship – heck, even in your own family – that you could invite to consider joining your Lodge. Don’t be afraid to ask. And you broach the subject by simply asking: “Have you ever heard about the Odd Fellows?” All they can say is “yes”, “no” or maybe”. Two out of those three answers opens the door.
But the more difficult task is to be able to talk about the Odd Fellows history and your own Lodge. Now, in an active Lodge, the discussion is easy. There is a lot to talk about when your Lodge has activities (things like potlucks, parties, excursions), and if your Lodge has such activities, it’s easy to invite the prospect to join you at one of them. If your Lodge does good works in the community (things like scholarships, highway cleanup, helping deliver meals to elderly), that is certainly something to talk about as well. If your Lodge doesn’t do much more than have meetings once or twice a month, then – to be frank – there is little to talk about and little incentive for folks to join. Face it, if you have a Lodge where the members do little more than sit around and read from a little red book, talk about who is sick or in distress, and figure out how to repair the plumbing, then you are a member of a boring Lodge. If that is the status of your Lodge, you should work with your Lodge mates to develop some social activities and community projects. Once you have these in place, you will find that recruitment of new members becomes much easier.
3. Fear. Perhaps the greatest impediment to bringing in new members is the most insidious of all. It is fear. I’m not talking about “fear” in the sense of terror or fright. I’m talking about a much more silent type of fear – specifically, fear of change. I don’t mean to diminish this fear – because it is real. I have seen it in Lodges on the precipice. The members are fearful of what new members will do to the Lodge to which they have grown accustomed.
Yes, new members will change the complexion and the culture of your Lodge. That is inevitable. A Lodge that had 10 members in the 65-85 age range will become a different Lodge when it brings in another 10 members in the 35-55 age range. But, that is the way Odd Fellowship has developed and grown over the past 200 years. There must always be a new generation to carry on the name and the work of Odd Fellowship. The choice is obvious. Bring in new members and live. Fail to bring in new members and die.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California