Many units and lodges have experienced the problem of Scouts completing the Ordeal and then not returning to lodge functions. This is not a new phenomenon, but one that still should be addressed by the lodges. What can lodges do to correct this situation? One solution was provided on page three of the May 2008 Operations Update. That solution provides larger units with as much information about those whom they are considering for candidacy. It augments the knowledge of the entire unit.
Another idea is to better inform the eligible Scouts of what is expected of them after the election. During unit elections, the election team explains the Order of the Arrow, its aims and purposes, and the requirements for election. The election ceremony provides an opportunity for Scouts, including those eligible, to ask questions about the Order and election requirement. However, eligible Scouts may have questions they don't feel comfortable asking in front of the group or may not think of during the ceremony.
Because of this, the election team can have a separate discussion, before the election procedure begins, with eligible Scouts and the Scoutmaster. During the discussion, the team allows the eligible Scouts to ask questions in a more direct fashion. The team guides them to questions they may have, especially about practical matters of lodge and chapter operations and the expectations of the membership. Use this time to explain how and when the lodge performs service, holds meetings and conclaves, and what some of the fun activities are. The team should tell the eligible Scouts what the realistic expectations of members are for attendance and participation.
This meeting also allows the team to explain the importance of continued participation in troop activities.
Accordingly, with the Scoutmaster in the room, it provides an opportunity for the team to promote a positive image for the lodge and the Order. Moreover, having given the eligible Scouts an understanding of the expectations of members, it gives them a less public opportunity to withdraw from the election. You should not discourage any eligible Scout from participating in the election, but support their decision to withdraw if they decide they cannot meet the membership expectations.
This meeting can impact membership retention. Scouts who go into their Ordeal with an understanding of the practical expectations of membership will realize what they're committing to and be more inclined to participate in lodge activities. This discussion might be the first step in reducing the number of Ordeal members who never return to lodge events.