1. Membership has fallen to less than 15. This is a pretty big red flag. We all know that only about half the members on the books really show up for meetings. Accordingly, if your Lodge has 14 members on the books, it’s likely you really only have 6 or 7 active members – and it goes down from there. A bare quorum to have a Lodge is 5. Frankly, that number is more of an historical paean (Thomas Wildey started his Lodge with 5) than a realistic number for a functional Lodge. To have 5 members means you can go through the charade of a meeting. Having 6 or 7 isn’t much better. If your Lodge has not brought in a new member in years, you are in trouble.
2. No member under 65 years of age. If your Lodge’s members are all 65 and older, your Lodge is flirting with disaster. Believe me, there is nothing wrong with members in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond (I’m in my 70’s myself). But if ALL your members are in that age bracket, it means your Lodge has been asleep for at least a generation – more likely two generations – in the quest to bring in new members. A healthy Lodge has members of all ages. As older members move on or pass on, there has to always be another generation available to learn the ropes and take over. That’s what allows a fraternity to survive for centuries.
3. Meetings in the afternoon. I find this next to incredible, but there are actually Lodges that schedule their Lodge meetings in the middle of the afternoon. I scratch my head in wonder at this. If your Lodge has done this, then the Lodge has hung up a virtual sign that says: “No young people and no working people need apply.”
4. Inadequate signage. There are Odd Fellows Lodges – many of them located in the heart of the downtown – that are almost invisible because they have grossly inadequate signage. An old sign that says IOOF that is next to the roof line is inadequate. A small sign over or next to a doorway doesn’t do it. You have to tell the community who you are and where you are. Lodges without adequate signage are subtly saying to the community: “Don’t bother us. Keep away.”
5. Lodge supported by associate members. I have visited Lodges that are, in reality, out of business, but they continue to function through associate members. In fact, many of these Lodges function because the members have reciprocal associate member status. Rather than bring in new members, these revolving associate members prop up a Lodge that would collapse on its own. This may keep the Lodge afloat for a few years, but inevitably, the Lodge is just a facade, supported by the kindness of brothers and sisters from other Lodges. Rather than recruit new members from the community, they just rely on associates.
6. Officers holding long terms in office. A sure way to stifle a Lodge is for one or two members to keep a death grip on Lodge offices. There is certainly something to be said for desk officers serving longer terms, perhaps up to 3 or 5 years, and sometimes Noble Grands must serve more than one term. But this should be the exception, not the rule. It is not healthy for a Lodge to be controlled by one or two members.
7. Lodge lacks accessibility. Most Lodges have two stories, sometimes three. If access is limited, the Lodge cannot be open to all members of the community – in particular members who are disabled in some way. A primal goal of every Lodge is to make all its facilities accessible. When facilities are accessible, the Lodge can schedule community events and rent out the Hall when not in Lodge use. Without access, the Lodge is not being fully utilized. When you open the Lodge to the community, you encourage members of the community to join.
8. No community events or projects. If a Lodge has no community outreach, and not even one project to benefit the community, it is a Lodge with no visibility, and little purpose. Virtually no one wants to join a Lodge where all the members do is sit around and recite from a small red book. Every Lodge should be visible in the community, and every Lodge should have at least one community project. Failure to do so will make it pretty hard to bring in new members, particularly younger members.
9. No fun for members. A Lodge of Odd Fellows is not a church, synagogue or temple. A Lodge is part of a fraternal order. And an important element of fraternal life is a social life. Lodges that have no little or social life are boring Lodges. Who wants to remain a member of a boring Lodge? Who wants to apply to join a boring Lodge?
If you see one or two of these warning signs in your Lodge, it’s time to take some action. If you see three or four of these warning signs, the time to take some action is urgent. Five or six of these signs should be a flashing red light of an emergency. And if your Lodge displays more than six of these signs, it may already be too late for your ship to avoid the iceberg.
But I won’t leave you without recourse. It’s not the intent of DMC to simply alert you to danger. We wish to also give you some tools to steer away from danger, save your Lodge, and give you some ideas to grow your Lodge in your community. So, next week’s DMC Newsletter will be dedicated to the following subject: How to Resuscitate a Dying Lodge.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
It’s almost that time.
Believe it or not, the annual Grand Lodge and Rebekah Assembly Sessions is coming up in just three months – May 16-19 in Visalia. A fair amount of business will be transacted, elections will be held, appointments will be made, acquaintances will be renewed, and there may even be some time for a bit of fun. And one of those fun activities will be the annual DMC “Tacos and Tunes” evening. Please mark your calendars. That evening will be Thursday, May 17 at the Convention Center next to the Visalia Marriott Hotel. Details regarding the specific room location at the Convention Center and start time will be announced in the coming weeks. I can tell you that there will be a sumptuous taco bar buffet, a no-host bar, and lots of live entertainment. It’s the place to be on Thursday evening.
We keep the price tag on this event quite low because a number of generous Lodges contribute money as Sponsors of the event. Because of their sponsorship the expenses are subsidized and the cost to individual Odd Fellows, Rebekahs and their guests is reduced. The actual “admission fee” will be announced in the next few weeks as soon as we determine how much the sponsoring Lodges have contributed.
I’m pleased to announce that the following Lodges have already stepped up and agreed to be Sponsors of the DMC “Tacos and Tunes”:
Alameda #3 $500
Yerba Buena #15 $250
Davis #169 $250
Morse #257 $25
If YOUR Lodge wishes to be listed and recognized as a Sponsor of this fun event, and help reduce the cost for your brothers and sisters, please let me know in response to this e-mail. And mail your Lodge’s sponsorship check, payable to “Grand Lodge of California” to:
Dave Rosenberg, PGM
Odd Fellows Lodge
415 2nd Street
Davis CA 95616
We welcome the sponsorship of your Lodge.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
You must have long-range goals to keep you from being frustrated by short-range failures.
It’s a new year. Our lodges are adjusting to their new officers. Some officers have been there before. Others are newcomers.
Hopefully, you are thinking about what your lodge will do this year. What are they going to do this year that they haven’t done before? Some lodges have certain events that they repeat every year. They are fun. They are successful. They uplift their members. Or they uplift their community too.
I have visited a lot of lodges over the past few years. It is interesting to see how the lodges are similar and how they are unique. I wondered about how many lodges have a mission. How many lodges have a mission that identifies their lodge? A mission that make them unique? A mission that draws people to accomplish its goals? What is the mission of your lodge?
We all remember that the historic mission of the Odd Fellows is to “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan.” The Sovereign Grand Lodge website describes our mission. It says we are “dedicated to the following purposes:
- To improve and elevate the character of mankind by promoting the principles of friendship, love, truth, faith, hope, charity and universal justice.
- To help make the world a better place to live by aiding each other, the community, the less fortunate, the youth, the elderly, the environment and the community in every way possible.
- To promote good will and harmony amongst peoples and nations through the principle of universal fraternity, holding the belief that all men and women regardless of race, nationality, religion, social status, gender, rank and station are brothers and sisters.”
That’s a pretty good set of goals. But how does that translate into my lodge and your lodge today? How do our lodges measure up in pursuing those ideals? Some do pretty well. Others, not so well. Lodges do a pretty good job of social, fraternal activities. These types of events are good. They are even better if they are events that will interest newcomers. Events that will make newcomers want to be part of your lodge and its activities.
Some lodges have missions to raise funds for a particular charity or local event. They may have more than one event to promote the target. Their fundraisers are designed to raise money for that beneficiary.
One lodge is dedicated to music. Many members are musicians. They play together. They have house bands. Music events are held for both members and the public. The music is for both the members and the community.
One lodge helps foster children and foster families. They have a dinner party. They participate in a shopping spree with foster children. They send foster kids to summer camp. They help foster kids transition from foster care to adulthood. They fundraise to do these things.
You can see that all of these things would appeal to some people. Every lodge should find their own mission. They should choose a mission that interests their members. It can be unlike any other lodge or it can be very similar to another lodge’s mission, or somewhere in between.
A mission does not have to last forever. It can change as the interest and energy of the lodge shifts. A lodge can have more than one mission. The important part is having a long term direction. Then, find ways to fulfill that mission. Find ways that will interest your brothers and sisters. Find ways that will interest a newcomer.
What is the mission of your lodge? If you don’t have an answer, what does that tell you? It’s time to start the conversation in your lodge. It’s time to do something. Can you find a way to help make the world a better place to live? Can you find a way to promote good will and harmony in your lodge and in your community? If you do, you will have improved and elevated the character of mankind.
Every lodge can do it! It’s possible. Mission: Possible!
In Friendship, Love and Truth,
The Unwritten Work, a Memento of a Distant Past
“Don’t you get tired of it all?” a member asked me. “What?” I responded. “People who chant things no longer relevant just because in the distant past it still had meaning” he said. I laughed a little. “Some people find comfort in the past”. I said. “Not me,” he replied, “I only find that it’s in the past.”
That’s how I, and the member I was speaking to, feel about the unwritten work. I know to some this may seem integral to the Odd Fellows, but to me it has faded to a tradition only now practiced by a very few of us. To those who don’t know, which is probably many of our new members, the unwritten work is a lengthy document that all members at one time were tasked to memorize and recite at our annual sessions. Members were given degrees of proficiency for their ability to recite this. I have a real problem in grasping the significance of anything wherein we are forced to recite anything by memory. In fact, if anything, this is indicative of the symbolism people see when they think of any group as being cult-like. If we are forced to recite something, and rewarded for our ability to recite in loud and clear voices passages and texts written far before our births, there is not much disparity between our order and a cult. This begs the question how do we progress, or, are we really interested in progress? Some feel that our history is not only sacrosanct but also inviolate; in other words, impossible to change or adapt. If this is truly the case, then we as an order are dead already, since failure repeated will not suddenly turn around and build into success. The deeper question is how do we advance our order – could it be that committing lengthy passages to memory may somehow by themselves rejuvenate an antiquated order? I personally don’t believe so, since if this were the case, the unwritten work would have done so by now, and the other indicator would be where else in life are you tasked in today’s world to reel off passages from memory without truly understanding the words’ relevance? The simple response is nowhere else. Only in fading fraternities, religions, or cults do you still find members chanting words without meaning. If we prefer ourselves to be a cult, let’s regress totally and at least do it perfectly, and if we are not a cult, let’s change enough to be the first generation of our group to do something new and different.
This begs the question, what is the “unwritten work”? 150 years ago, many of our members were illiterate, working people. Committing passages to memory was the way to conduct oneself in lodge without appearing illiterate. Rote memory was impressive to fellow members, who also would memorize their parts in our ritual to prove themselves efficient in their positions. So, if memorizing passages was common, the clarity with which one could recite them was to be admired. The substance of the unwritten work was admirable but why keep anything admirable hidden? Because they felt part of a secret fraternity, somewhat more inviolate because of shared secrecy.
Of course, this is not a statement deriding history. History is important, integral to any group, institution, company, or religion. Yet, we know from sheer reality that history can’t repeat itself. Ford Motor Company came out with the Model T car, but if they never progressed from there, they would have died an early death. Gold mining, prevalent in 1849, would be close to useless today. Even religious doctrine has adapted to merge with today. History must assume a place in our world but can’t become our entire world. Those of us who try to repeat history are only trying to sanitize history, for those times were much harder than today, rampant with sexism, racism, hatred of wide variety. Chanting an old axiom may seem soothing, such as a Gregorian chant, but it surely can come as close to mindless as we can get. If we want to attract the young, we can show them history, but let’s show how we can improve upon history.
I, for one, would rather the unwritten work evolve to be known as “the historic classic work”, a passage we can all enjoy and share and no longer sequester in cryptic notes and phrases.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles
Did you know there is a new Library on the Grand Lodge website? It is called the Odd Event Library. You can find it on the Grand Lodge home page under the “Odd Fellow Resources” drop-down button (at the top of the home page).
Make a Deposit. The Odd Event Library has two purposes. First, you can share your successes. You can post information about events your lodge has held that were successful or had potential. You will be asked to provide contact information and some details about what you did and how you did it. Your submission will share your experiences with other Odd Fellows who are looking for ideas for their lodge. It will only take a couple of minutes to submit an event.
I have seen and heard of many events by lodges that would be useful to other lodges to consider. We need you to share your experiences.
There are postings in the Odd Event Library for events for the community, fund-raising events, and social events for your lodge. I have yet to find a lodge that cannot try a new event to engage their members and connect with their community.
Check Out an Idea. The second purpose of the Odd Event Library is to provide ideas for us to try in our own lodge. Some ideas will be doable by any lodge. Others may not be easily copied but the event may inspire us to try something similar.
Look at the events in the Odd Event Library. Talk about them in your Lodge. Talk about trying just one new idea. Doing things are what we are about. Doing things will motivate our members. Doing things will help our communities and how our communities perceive us. Doing things will give others a reason to join the Odd Fellows.
We are what we do! Help build the Odd Event Library and use it!
In Friendship, Love and Truth