Great Ordeals Starting and Continuing the Magic!
As Arrowmen we each completed the same Ordeal, however each of us had our own unique experience. There is no question about the importance of conducting first-class Ordeals, however the more pressing question is how to make it happen. The first step to making a great Ordeal is easily stated, but is much harder to achieve. This first step is communication.
Communication is perhaps the most mentioned idea you will hear from an individual about creating a great Ordeal. The bottom line is that there is no escaping the continuing need of communication. Some people may be tired of hearing it, but it is key.
It is important to remember that a large part of a successful Ordeal is the induction of new members. Everything that happens throughout the weekend becomes a first impression for each of the candidates. Making each candidate feel welcome by those who will become his brother by the end of the weekend is important.
To help insure that each new brother feels welcome, many lodges have employed a program known as the Extended Elangomat Program. The Extended Elangomat Program helps at both making new members feel welcome, and also helps the lodge with Brotherhood Conversion. In short, the Elangomat from each clan keeps in contact with each new member from the clan, and truly becomes a friend to him. Initially the Elangomat will make the member feel welcome after completing his Ordeal, and further down the line will personally contact him to make sure he is coming to the next Ordeal.
Rather then employing an Extended Elangomat Program, some lodges have decided to utilize the OA Troop/Team Representative Program to help welcome new members. Basically the Troop / Team Representative keeps in touch with the new members that come from his unit, instead of the Elangomat. This method works well for some Lodges, others use the Entended Elangomat program, and some lodges use both approaches.
Ceremonies are what basically begin and end the Ordeal experience. The Pre-Ordeal Ceremony is arguably the most important, as it is in fact the first glimpse a new member gets into what the Order of the Arrow really is. In order to have exceptional ceremonies ceremonialists must truly get into character. When you step into the ring, you are now the principal you are playing. Each line of the ceremony should be natural, and the best way to do that is to learn the part. The most successful ceremonial teams have numerous practices outside of Lodge Ordeals to help them prepare for a great experience.
The Order of the Arrow is obviously rich with Native American Culture, and exposing new members to American Indian elements can do nothing but enhance first impressions made by new members. Some lodges choose to have their Dance Team perform between ceremonies, others will host a busk or pow-wow. Regardless, it is important to allow new members the opportunity to be introduced to such elements of the OA.
The bottom line is making members feel welcome throughout the weekend. After the Ordeal the Lodge Chief should be out and amongst the candidates thanking them for the work they have done. Furthermore, candidates should have an opportunity to ask any questions they may have about the Order. Each lodge seems to have a mildly different approach to this. Some just have a casual Question and Answer session, others go as far as having a new member breakfast where the new members get to meet the lodge leadership, and learn some more about the OA, and the ceremonies they have gone through.
Helping new members get oriented to both their lodge, and the Order as a whole is the key here. Many have heard about the new Jumpstart Program launched in January of 2003. The first part to this program is an orientation session designed specifically for new members. The Lodge Orientation Guide can be found here on the national web site. The second part of the Jumpstart Program gets a little more high-tech, and finds itself online. For those who have not heard the Jumpstart web site has numerous resources designed specifically for new members.
In addition to the Jumpstart program, the 2003 Lodge Program Resource Book provides lodges with a number of resources including membership retention, and Brotherhood conversion. The key thing to remember is that each lodge is unique in its own ways. The most successful Ordeals will come from the lodge leadership coming together, identifying the needs of the lodge, and ultimately developing a strategy on how to meet the needs of the lodge.
Inducting new members is a wonderful thing, but equally important is keeping them around. Making them feel welcome, and exposing them to just how dynamic of an organization the OA is will undoubtedly make the new members of your lodge as excited about the OA as you are. Things like Brotherhood Conversion will happen naturally when the many pieces of the puzzle fall in place, and new members feel welcome from the moment they arrive for their Ordeal.
Last revised on