This summer, lodge and section leadership from across the country will be invited to Indiana University for a new kind of training experience.
NEXT: A New Century will take place July 30 through August 3. The lodge chief, two youth change agents and two adult advisers from each lodge will be invited to attend. Each section will also receive three invitations.
The main objective of NEXT is to create a culture of growth in the Order of the Arrow. Today, we serve about 11% of the youth registered in Boy Scouting. Every lodge has the opportunity to deliver the impact of the OA program to a lot more young people, and give them the same life-changing experience each of us has had.
This past year was about celebrating a century of service but our centennial slogan always implied more was coming NEXT. This summer, we’re going to look at some of the information we have available to us and pivot to our future with one question in mind: What makes a young person become, and remain, a member of the Order of the Arrow?
“In all facets of Scouting, we recognize that delivering quality program is the main driver of retention,” explained NEXT conference chairman Clint Takeshita. “A young person having fun in the Order of the Arrow keeps them around and it keeps them engaged.”
Takeshita explained that the OA’s signature national events are renowned: NOAC is the best national event the BSA organizes, the NLS is the program’s premier training opportunity and our high adventure programs deliver the most impactful experience at each base.
But the vast majority of our members will never experience them. They receive their program at the lodge level. Last year, less than 12 percent of OA membership attended a lodge event, a downward trend from nearly 18 percent the previous years. Determining how to get more Arrowmen to local events, and ensuring those events are quality, is paramount.
And that’s not just his opinion. Nearly half of the OA’s youth members say it is lodge events that affect their involvement in the OA the most – three times more than any other category. It’s also the area where our leadership needs the most help. Nearly 45 percent of lodge chiefs and 57 perfect of advisers say that lodge program should be the top priority for the national organization.
Almost half of the Order’s membership is Ordeal. This creates a big opportunity for change: it means 45 perfect of our membership is either less than a year old or has likely never attended another lodge event before their ordeal.
That also means that we need to grow beyond the “get people to Brotherhood” mentality for lodge events. In fact, we’ve seen no correlation between Brotherhood conversion rates and membership retention. So getting people to events is not just about a snack in the woods with a ceremony – it has to be driven by program.
Our leaders have given us a mandate: we asked what they wanted and they answered. Lodge leaders assembled at the 2015 National Order of the Arrow conference said they wanted more lodge programs by a more than two to one margin over training, national events or service opportunities.
“The focus needs to be on the lodge and how to grow event participation numbers,” Takeshita explained.
NEXT: A New Century will be an event unlike any before it. Youth leaders from across the country are in the process of using an unprecedented amount of feedback and data to ask new and thought-provoking questions about the future of the OA’s program.
The result will be an event that empowers lodge leadership to ask how they can create change in their lodges and equip them to implement innovative program.
Lodge leadership knows this is a challenge. 41% of lodge chiefs and 51% of lodge advisers identified their single biggest issues as planning or promoting lodge events. The mandate could not be clearer.