The Culture of the Lodge: Advice on Growing a Strong Lodge

Two years ago when my Lodge was working toward being reinstituted, I was given some of the best advice by Eric Smith PGM while he was serving his term as Grand Master of Illinois. He told me that we had to choose the “Culture of the Lodge”. What does that mean? Shouldn’t joining in arms under the umbrella of Odd Fellowship be enough? If that were so, then fans of sports wouldn’t have a favorite team to rally behind or lovers of the arts have a preferred style.  It would be like going to the awkward family reunion where you don’t have anything else in common with your kin than a name or blood and everyone just makes polite small talk.

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Each Lodge should have its own unique culture. It was almost so obvious that I had missed it. As a business owner and artist/designer, I understand the importance of having a strong brand identity to successfully attract the kind of customers/clients I want so why not apply it to Odd Fellowship as well?  This also explained why I could never quite fit in with the first Lodge I had belonged to.  I had cared for them as fellow members, but we had absolutely nothing else in common to talk or bond over and I felt more like an interloper into their existing group dynamic and the tension never went away.

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Eric went on to describe how having a “culture” unique to our Lodge would help draw the kind of motivated members that we would all have things in common with. Thus, it would draw us closer together and give us a focus and direction for our efforts.   Examples he gave were of the most successful Lodges in the State of Illinois.  Some of the most vibrant Lodges are known for being into hunting, playing golf, or cooking and their events reflect that.  Up around Chicago, several of the Lodges have had a revival amongst motorcycle enthusiasts.   Some of the charity events they hold revolve around being bikers and some of their Lodge socials are group motorcycle rides.  They even had patches made up for their vests so they can promote the Order while out riding.

Another Lodge in Illinois had a revival that started around ten years ago when the parents of students in the local competitive Show Choir were were looking for something to keep their group together after the kids had all graduated.  They found Odd Fellowship and saved the Lodge from closing, and their membership has continued to grow.  They sponsor many events during the year but one thing they have in common is that they are gun enthusiasts, so one of their main fundraisers is a gun raffle that is very successful.

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It is easier to sell raffle tickets or promote events that you are excited and passionate about.  It is also easier to attend Lodge regularly and promote it when you feel comfortable around everyone and accepted.    Even though all Lodges hold the same meetings and rituals and abide by the same rules and laws, what we do in-between is up to our own interpretation.  Each Lodge is independent of each other and can have its own unique voice.

When my Lodge started forming it was people from my closest circle that were first to come on board, then they started recruiting people they were friends with as well.  Most of us in the Lodge are either artists or into art, tattoos, and music so we got labeled as the “artsy fartsy” Lodge.  Which is totally perfect!   While we are still relatively new and are still trying to find our niche in the community, we have so far done a pumpkin carving activity/display for the community for the past two Halloweens,  held a successful tattoo fundraiser, and are planning an art market fundraiser for the late spring.

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With all of this in mind…..what does your ideal Lodge look like?  What is the type of people you would like to hold meetings and socials with?  Seek them out and the culture of your Lodge will naturally form.   What kind of hobbies or activities do you enjoy that you would like your Lodge to participate in? Hold that event and then promote the Lodge to those that attend it. That has been one way my Lodge has increased membership.  If you are out in your community doing things you like to do and it’s for the good of the Order and other people see it and want to know what Odd Fellowship is all about, it is a triple win!  There is a saying that all it takes is one person in a Lodge to be the match that sparks the flame of passions in the other members.   Be that person,  and others will follow.

Don’t try and force yourself or the Lodge to be something that it isn’t. Then it wouldn’t be genuine and would have no substance to the image projected.  You don’t want to come off like this guy…

However, above all, you should make an effort to recruit people that are kind, honest, motivated, flexible, and a joy to be around.  One negative member can ruin it for the rest, as can the refusal of any member to support and lift up the new members coming in.  Even if a prospective member doesn’t fit the  “culture” of your Lodge, if they are a good person with the right attitude, welcome them with open arms and make sure they feel included and don’t become the “Odd” man out. You never know, your Lodge could be the next revival success story!

In F, L, & T,
-Ainslie

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3 thoughts on “The Culture of the Lodge: Advice on Growing a Strong Lodge

  1. Greetings from Canada and Vancouver Lodge #90, Brother Ainslie! I enjoyed reading your column here.
    Our Grand Master for the Province of British Columbia, GM Scott Aitchison posted a link to this site on Facebook. We are currently helping a group of women to form their own Lodge within ours. Even though Odd Fellowship has been “co-ed” for about 15 years, we find some resistance within our own Lodge to the idea of breaking the all-male dynamic, because there are so few opportunities for men to be cooperative as opposed to competitive. Plus the women are excited about the opportunity to build a brand new Fellowship from the ground up.
    It sounds like your Lodge has evolved and flourished through a commonality of interests. When I was Noble Grand of my Lodge, I encouraged the Brothers to think of the person they would most like to have join us, and then to invite them in for a meal, a game of pool, or to watch a football game, and see if they would be interested in doing good things for the community.
    I told my Brothers, “We’re looking for people who do this (raises hand), not this (hand out flat , palm up).” In other words, people that offer help, not expect it. Or to paraphrase JFK, “Ask not what your Lodge can do for you, but what you can do for your Lodge.”
    Our Lodge is growing steadily, and we are also forging strong bonds with Lodges in other nearby cities. As you point out, Lodges can vary widely in composition and interests, yet still be faithful to the values that bring us together to elevate the character of humanity.
    I look forward to reading future posts about your Lodge and its successes.
    In Friendship, Love, and Truth,
    Chris Robson
    P.G. Vancouver Lodge 90

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brother Chris, I love that image of looking for people with their hand up instead of looking for a hand out. It is also great to see that there will be a ladies Odd Fellows Lodge forming within your group (especially since the long term viability of the Rebekah’s is unknown). While my Lodge at 20-some members is maybe 60-70% female, I know a lot of Lodges are still men and while I personally like being co-ed, I have to respect the choices other Lodges made to keep themselves viable. As long as they are welcoming to female visiting members and give their full respect and honors to female Grand Lodge Officers, that is. If you would like to write about your experiences please do so and submit them! Getting these experiences of the different things we are doing that work is so important… what works for one Lodge may not work for the other… but as long as it’s working is what matters.
      In FL&T
      Ainslie
      NG Tuscola 316

      Like

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