As December quickly approaches, Arrowmen across the country begin to count down the days. For members of Tipisa Lodge of Central Florida Council though, it is the most wonderful time of the year for a slightly different reason. Over the following two months they will begin welcoming new members into the Order of the Arrow (OA) at their unusual number of Ordeal weekends. While December is a busy time of the year with the holidays and travel, their Arrowmen tell us they could not see a better time for Ordeals than the cooler winter months.
Central Florida’s temperature during the winter helps make this possible. While more northern lodges sometimes have to worry about freezing temperatures and snowstorms, those are two things that members of Tipisa Lodge aren’t as familiar with.
Lodge Chief Donald Dillion doesn’t credit the success of these Ordeal weekends to just weather, though. In the spring, the Tipisa Lodge chapters are given a period of time in which the Ordeals will be held. This year, it was December through January and the lodge leadership came together to assign a weekend to each chapter. Smaller chapters were assigned a joint-weekend in an effort to use time and resources more effectively. Once they are given a date from the lodge, it was the chapter’s responsibilities to make the magic happen. “It is really the chapter chiefs who make it all possible,” Dillion says. He is quick to say the chapters are what drives their lodge, but also feels that such a leadership structure benefits the chapter chiefs themselves.
“By planning and running Ordeal weekends together,” Dillion explains, “chapters have the added benefit of not just the extra support of the other chapter, but also teaches cooperation and gives some real world experience in planning and coordinating a project.” This collaboration has benefited him personally, as he was a chapter chief for two years before being elected lodge chief. He says that his experiences taught him to overcome the difficulties of communication, but most importantly, gave him an opportunity to lead.
Structuring inductions like this has its challenges, but the lodge leadership believes it has a positive impact on all aspects of the lodge. Dillion says he wouldn’t be able to do it on his own, even if he split it up amongst his vice chiefs. A significant benefit is the sense of chapter pride developed through planning the ordeal. When members are inducted, they’re not only being welcomed to the lodge, but also the chapter. This makes their chapter program more about growth rather than a geographical division. By being introduced to a smaller group up front, it makes the OA easier to navigate for new members.
As other lodges experiment with making their Ordeal weekends a success, Tipisa Lodge feels it has found a system that works best for them; they encourage other lodges who cover a large geographical area to use chapters to their advantage. Instead of having three Arrowmen plan the Ordeal weekends, there are eleven chapter chiefs and and a team of many other Arrowmen involved in the process. While not all of them will run for lodge chief, giving them the opportunity to plan and lead an event allows them to learn a skill that will benefit them for a lifetime. Tipisa Lodge is a proud example of how the chapter program is a successful one. It takes a lot of hands, but it is one of the many secret ingredients to their lodge’s success.