Is Membership in Fraternal Organizations Dwindling?

The Knights of Columbus is growing.

Here in Virginia, I’ve been part of the state council since 1996, and every year we have had a net increase in members. Internationally, we are getting closer to 1.8 million members, which is an all-time high.

That’s precisely why I didn’t join the Moose a few years ago. I walked into their lodge, couldn’t breathe throught the thick haze of cigarette smoke, and walked out.

I’m thinking about starting a Springfield chapter of No Kidding. a social club for adults without children. That may be more up my river anyway.

And of course there’s an old-and-dying fraternal club with a pretty primo clubhouse on the shores of Lake Springfield, complete with docks, that’s calling my name. IF Springfield ever gets around to passing its strict indoor smoking ordinance.

What in Sam Hill are you talking about? Dark rituals? Spirits? Witchcraft?

The Rotarians?

The criticisms of the fraternal organizations were for racism, sexism, homophobia, and other types of social intolerance?

(It’s like that magic scene in Boogie Nights! “What about Dark Forces?”)

I’m a life member of the VFW. I joined while I was still in the service (Gulf I.) I got to talking to a store owner in town, a Viet Nam vet. He talked me into joining the local club and gave me the form to switch. The funny part? I’ve never ever been inside, not for a meeting or even a beer.

I flat out don’t have the time. I work one and a half jobs and just bought a house that needs a lot of work and I like to go out and see my friends once in a while. I’m sure they are a bunch of swell guys and I’d enjoy it but don’t want to add another commitment to my life right now.

Come to think of it the local American Legion and VFW merged. They each have their own meetings and leadership but share a building and do the pancake breakfasts and stuff together.

I’m in my mid 30’s and worked with a guy my age who was a Mason. He joined because of his Dad and started to enjoy it. They hosted a “bring-a-friend” night. He invited me and we had some cocktails and I met a bunch of nice guys. They explained what the Masons are, some of the history and the long long list of famous people who were or are Masons.

I knew a lot of that from an old roommate. I know that the Shriners are an offshoot of the Masons. He told me that collectively they are the largest charity in the world in the the amount of money they give away. (YMMV)

I was very tempted to join but again, lack of time right now in my life.

I was a member of the Lions Club in a past life, and I had several reasons for severing my connection with them:

  1. generation gap- the groups was almost exclusively 60 and over. I was one of maybe 4 people that were not.

  2. Overly conservative/religious. When I have to endure a packed room guys clucking over the latest victory for Christians in taking back their country, it’s not a good time.

  3. No women. I’m not a big fan of single gender groups- they tend to bring out the worst in male nature. Also, I’m not a typical guy- I like to cook, hang out with my kids, etc. I’m also not into sports or church. Combined with the age gap, it was not a good fit.

  4. I love my wife. More importantly, I like her. A lot of these groups tend to be full of guys that would rather be anywhere than home.

  5. Babies. When we had our little one, it seemed more appropriuate to focus my spare energy on keeping our household running than doing charity work.

  6. I’m not white. While I will never accuse anyone of overt racism during my time there, there were plenty of discussions, jokes, and terms used that made me uncomfortable. I’ll chalk this up to #1 on this list.

So, despite supporting the Lions Club mission, it was populated by folks I would not have associated with willingly in my social life…that made it hard to feel like I belonged. It was no big deal to leave it.

Oh, I should explain what I meant by the withcraft thing :stuck_out_tongue: :smack:. If you read books written by conservative Christians against the Masonic lodge, such as this one (click on the cover :rolleyes: ), you hear them argue about the rituals involved in the induction of a new member, including chants and things that are not what a good Christian would do, and that the men who write this book see as derived from Satanic rituals.

I, however, understand how biased these men are, and that what I read in this book doesn’t mean anything; I don’t believe it (the spirits or that any of it is ritual-esque :rolleyes: ), and the only good criticism they prob. point out is that the Masons wear fezs w/o realizing that the fez comes from the historical slaughter of a town of Christians by Muslims in the town of Fez, Morocco, afterwards dipping their hats into the blood in the streets to make them red. But the fact is that I don’t care about that either, it doesn’t offend me at all, it’s just history to me. :slight_smile:

So yes, I would like to join a lodge, even if from the sounds of it some if not most are fund. Christians in a selective group. Almost any experience is a good one. :wink:

I met a guy recently who tried to talk me into joining the local Elk’s Lodge. There is no question that membership is declining nationally but my acquaintance claimed that the local chapter is growing. The local chapter here allows female members and is as ethnically diverse as the community is.

The benefits that he cited were, making business connections, cheap beer and dinners and a fairly nice gym that costs only like $25/month to use with lockers. He made a big deal about the lockers because it seems that a number of the men hide things in them that they don’t want to have at home.

I was just starting my business at the time so the idea of making some contacts did appeal to me. I read through their web site and found out that they do not allow atheists as members. You must pledge that you believe in God as part of your initiation. I’m flat out not willing to do that so I didn’t research any further.

Haj

Well Masonry is certainly not Christian (they let me after all!). When I lived in Bethesda, Maryland I used to hang out with the local Lodge that had a reputation for being Jewish. Again, no problem, same ritual and all that. I was made welcome.

Why the heck isn’t my Masonic sig showing up? In fact, I cannot see anyone’s sigs, what’s up?

I’ve been on The Dope too long. :smack:

I read this sentence and before my eyes went to the next line, I immediately thought:

The 1920s style Death-Ray Society.

Another lodge-like club similar to the one Bearflag posted is The Order of the Arrow, a division of the Boy Scouts. They draw from college fraternity initiations in their ceremony (I’ve done both, and they do, believe me! It’s incredible! :eek: ), and there are lodges and the like. It’s based around Native American ideas, in some ways. Pretty unique experience.

Philadelphia has many Jewish Masons. For a long time, I had been under the impression that the Masons were a Christian organization. Then, my folks moved to the Bakers Bay condo complex. I saw Masonic license plates, decals, rings, etc on some very Jewish men.

Now, I’m curious. I believe that I could easily join. My maternal grandfather was a member (though AFAIK not an active one) and I’m sure I could get one of the men who knows my parents to sponsor me.

Well, sponsoring isn’t hardly an issue at all. Just find a member of the local Lodge to get you a petition.

I would encourage you to read up on it first. Unlike many other organizations, Masonry puts demands on your time.

Just wondering, what club is that (I grew up in Springfield)?

I went to a Lion’s club meeting recently. (The Lions are helping staff the local airport breakfast, in return they have thier ATV raffle at the airport and they will get a cut of the proceeds), and while it was mostly male, there were women present, some of them officers.

Brian

Kiwanis is still around although its dwindling. I joined when I got a new job straight out of college. I was still quite broke all of the time and I found out that my company paid for the meals and dues (key word meals; as in a free meal once a week).

The club stressed patriatism and civic benevolance. So basically as a club we raised money via various fundrasiers and then gave it away to good causes. My chapter folded years ago but we still get together twice a year for a social lunch. I met my dentist, banker, tax accountant, and others through that club.

We recognized that people were spending more time in professional organizations than civic ones and decided to pull the plug.

Being an active member of OA also means you have to be an active member of BSA. I’m an inactive member of OA and never made it to Brotherhood (got in fairly late in my scouting career to really be able to get to it while a scout and am really too young to start being a leader.) The only really good way to make it into OA is to do it as a scout, as it’s a lot harder to get in as an adult. Though I don’t think OA should really factor in to this discussion, because it’s not something like the VFW or the Elks or the Masons or so on.

Great idea! I knew some guys who did that. They hung out at a bar where the owner wanted to keep out the, well, I almost said “riff-raff” except these guys qualified so I’ll say “riff-raff under age 25” and the village was getting on him for that so he and his regulars turned it into a Moose Lodge. Someone old enough could still drop by for a drink but you did have to join if you were a regular. I don’t know what they did about community service, though. I think they realized what a civic service the lodge provided just by keeping those guys off the street.

Kiwanis membership is getting shrinking, that’s for sure. I agree with many of the earlier sentiments: selfish as it may sound, my own family comes first, and I would prefer to spend my time, money, and other resources benefiting it than any of the less fortunate people of the world – even if I may someday become one of them!

Our club, though, is very unusual. Let me explain:

I got my start with the Kiwanis back in college as a member of Circle K International – the collegiate level Kiwanis sponsored youth organization. I eventually became president of the Texas A&M chapter, and graduated at the end of that year. When I got out and came up to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, a former Kiwanis Lieutenant Governor contacted me at home and suggested I investigate the Kiwanis Club of Northeast Tarrant County. After joining and being a member for only about a year, I was elected president, even though I was the youngest member at the age of 28. I was soon joined by my friend Sean, who is about a year younger and had once served as Circle K’s governor for Texas and Oklahoma.

After a few years, I moved to Dallas, quit Kiwanis, and concentrated on my own personal life. I worked hard at my job, and eventually met and married my wife. Now we own a house back in northeast Tarrant County, so we looked into re-joining my old club.

Many of the older members I knew have left either for personal or health reasons, but Sean is still there (he is the president), as is his wife, his sister-in-law (youngest Kiwanian in our Division, maybe even the whole District), and now me and my wife. We also added my friend David, who was once a Circle K Lieutenant Governor back in his college days. We are probably the only Kiwanis Club in the Texas-Oklahoma District – and maybe even the entire country – which has an average age of membership below 50.

Our club has clung tenaciously to life, despite having less than ten active members, for several years. These days, the primary motivating force is the Kiwanis sponsored youth organizations.

Until recently, our club sponsored two high school Key Clubs (yes, they are a division of Kiwanis!); now we have only one, and last time I checked, the L.D. Bell High School Key Club outnumbers us by at least 4 to 1. We also work with the Circle K Chapter at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, although usually only so far as they come to get involved in something noble that our Key Club is doing.

Anchor Boat Club.