Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
This is the third of a series of three articles looking at Odd Fellowship 10 years in the future – in 2029. Let me start this tale with a story:
A young man visited his doctor and told the doctor, “What’s wrong with me? Everywhere I touch, it hurts.” The doctor said, “Show me what you mean.” So the young man touched his knee lightly with his finger and said “ouch”. Then he touched his shoulder and said “ouch”. Then he touched his chest and said “ouch”. The young man looked at the doctor and asked, “Doc, what’s wrong with me?” “Well,” said the doctor, “your finger is broken.”
This little story reminds us that sometimes the obvious answer to a question is overlooked, but is usually the right answer. What was true for the young man in the doctor’s office is true for Odd Fellowship. Obviously, the greatest challenge facing our Order is our diminishing membership – for decades now we have lost more members than we have gained, virtually year after year. Losing more members than we gain is unsustainable. The system is broken. We know that growth of membership doesn’t happen at the Sovereign level, and it doesn’t occur at the Grand Lodge level. If there will be growth, it has to happen at the Lodge level.
So, what’s the obvious solution to the obvious challenge? I entitle this article: “The Lodge – Glum or Glad.”
The primal question for Odd Fellowship is: How do we increase membership in our Order? And, to me, the answer is obvious. We need only look around at our Lodges. Because while the great majority Lodges experience net losses in membership, there are a few Lodges that are not only experiencing net gains in membership, they do so year after year. After all, Odd Fellows Lodges are each little laboratories of membership. If a Lodge is gaining members, we should analyze what’s working. If we can bottle that formula, we can replicate it in other Lodges.
In my experience, there are two types of Lodges. Some are what I call “glad” Lodges; and some are “glum” Lodges. In the glum lodge, members do very little other than come to a meeting, sit in a room in a certain order of seats, go through a set agenda, read passages from a ritual book, and adjourn to the next meeting. Typically, the meeting format envisions reading the minutes of the last meeting verbatim, paying for a utility or repair bill or two, spending a lot of time talking about members who are sick or in distress, and having little or no committee reports, old business or new business. It’s an exercise in tedium and boredom. There is nothing here to attract the next generation of members. On the other hand, in the glad Lodge, the meetings are full of reports of committees planning events, are interesting and informative – but the meetings don’t drive the Lodge. What drives the Lodge is good fellowship – the members plan and execute community events and social events for the members. The Lodge is visible in the community and offers new and long-time members interesting options to supplement their Lodge experience. These events can be as simple as organizing a community blood drive, or organizing a Thanksgiving potluck dinner for members and friends, or planning a Lodge visit to a local winery, or collecting food for a local food bank, or having a poker night at the Lodge Hall. The events can be as varied as the community and the Lodge. The building of such a glad fellowship is attractive to the younger and potential new members that our Order needs to sustain it.
And the answer to a successful future is as obvious as the fingers on our hands.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California