Service Clubs Are Dying

Some years back a friend lamented the decline of fraternal orders like the Elks and Eagles. Now their cousins, service clubs, are declining in membership.

Those who cheer for the service clubs point to their roles in community building. Participating in them is seen as training for community leadership and this is becoming lost.

With people of many backgrounds and expertise, these clubs have attacked the falling membership problem with enthusiasm. Nationally, no one has found a solution.

The problem, the link author points to, is that younger people value their time more than older people did at the same age. They work more hours and when not at work they have specific things they want to accomplish. The tradition of uneventful meetings and long group discussions about what to do next does not fit. This generation is more attracted to groups formed around causes, social justice, environment, fitness and so on.

My five young granddaughters have been scheduled to the minute in Jr. and High School then even more so in college. Time is the commodity they seem to cherish most. They want to accomplish certain things. I cannot see how they would find a service club attractive.

I ask one of them why she had left her church after confirmation. She said the church was not going where she was going. Perhaps service clubs and churches are faced with the same social change problem. Young people are going one direction and theses institutions are unable to find a way to get there.

5 Responses

  1. Larry Schwartz

    For more information, see “Bowling alone : the collapse and revival of American community by Robert D. Putnam, New York : Simon & Schuster, c2000. As a counterpoint to your claims about fraternal organizations, see the website of the Conejo Valley Masonic Lodge #807 in Thousand Oaks CA at .

    1. Larry 9:39 Thanks for commenting. I have a copy of Bowling Alone.

      As a counterpoint to your claims about fraternal organizations…

      I looked at that site but could not understand why it is a counterpoint to the national issue discussed in the blog or link available in the blog. Churches in total are not growing but there are individual churches that are. If the site you provided shows national service club membership is growing I apologize for missing it.

  2. Schurkey

    My mother was a “service club” charter member when she was in her forties. When she was in her nineties, “club” was with the same ladies except for those who had shucked their mortal coil or moved to another city, or had dementia, or couldn’t get out from the nursing home.. The disbanded as an official “Club” and started getting together for coffee and cookies–sometimes at the nursing home where one of the members lived.

    They did not actively recruit “younger blood” when the Club was healthy. By the time they knew they were in trouble, they were already “Old Women” who couldn’t attract younger members.

    The social role “Club” played in her life, is probably what the Internet does in mine.

    It’s no surprise that society has changed in the last ~60–70 years. That’s how long the middle class has been under attack with both wage and freedom losses. Folks don’t have time for “Club” because their employer is forcing them to work “Mandatory Overtime”; or their employer won’t give them full-time hours so they work two or three part-time jobs.

    Or they’re getting their needs met collecting “assistance” and smoking weed with their friends, and don’t feel any need to contribute to Society.

    1. Thanks Shurkey–I liked that reference to the internet replacing the service club. That is why I have some reservations about “Bowling Alone “. He included as a negative for community the decline of non chain restaurants. I see people gathering at McDonalds. The difference in community is lost on me.

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