Order of the Arrow chapters are ubiquitous, even if they are not necessarily part of the officially organized program of the Order. And why not? Lodges in the Western Region would struggle to offer any sort of local program if chapters were not utilized. With further consolidation of councils, building areas of service that are thousands of square miles, chapters are necessary for success.
I have been struck, though, with the idea that the chapter as a unit of a Lodge program is not being utilized in a manner that is best for success. In most Lodges, chapters are organized primarily to match their local District. This makes some sense, since mapping to the organization of the BSA in
Over the years, I have seen Lodges move towards centralization. There are benefits to doing this, especially as technology has enabled groups of youth/advisers to more closely manage aspects of the Order’s program.
While technology has been a factor, I have observed and heard that this centralization is also a reaction to weaker chapters.
Do You Need Chapters?
In some cases, yes, chapters help organize a lodge along geographic or other organizational lines. However, when the size or service area is not large enough to consistently provide a full program, I would argue that is a situation where a case could be made to discontinue a chapter system. In Alaska, they have this administratively in what they call their Unorganized Borough.
I have seen many instances where the Order’s brand is damaged by the local appearance of a small or non-existent program. Why not have something like a Remote Arrowman program that lets a youth or a small group be plugged in to the Lodge, but not be burdened with trying to administrate a program they don’t have the manpower for? The Order is even instituting a Remote Delegate program for NOAC, to help people who can’t attend feel part of the event.
There isn’t anything wrong with a lodge having a central core of organized chapters, with unorganized pockets of remotes who can participate in Lodge events, but may not have the resources to do more than hold some local unit elections and other small pieces of support. Why burden them with additional chapter meetings and other items that are poorly attended and planned? Both my previous and local Lodges have used a clan system, which broke down a chapter geographically but was pragmatic to their size and resources. Still, this felt like more bureaucracy as opposed to less.