The Order of DeMolay is an international youth fraternity with strong ties to Freemasonry for boys between the ages of 12 and 21. Recognizing that young men in their late teens and early twenties seek out learning and recreational activities that may be very different from those that interest their more youthful cohorts, in 1946 the Order established the Chivalric Knights of the Holy Order of the Fellow Soldiers of Jacques DeMolay, more popularly referred to as the Order of the Knighthood, an appendant organization for Older DeMolays.
Of course, the very structure of the Order is fun for any idealistic young man who’s ever read T.H. White’s Once and Future King or J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy, and wondered why real life can’t be structured more like the way it’s portrayed in these books. There’s something about chivalry that sparks the imagination, and the rituals and ranks of the Order of the Knighthood’s Priories speak to these yearnings.
Among the organized activities the Order of the Knighthood sponsors are educational programs geared towards career planning, trips and get togethers, festive banquets and coed social events. The most famous of this last may be the annual Sweetheart Ball sponsored by Chapters at the regional and state level, fancifully themed and guaranteed fun, where members show off their best dance moves and vote the prettiest girl the State Sweetheart.
The annual Conclave is another highly entertaining event, divided between Chapter business and sporting contests. Here Knights from all around the state meet on the playing fields to show off their prowess in sports like basketball, football, tennis, free throws, softball, bowling, volleyball, track, and swimming. Trophies and certificates are awarded, and bragging rights bestowed.
Fun and Recruitment
The issue of fun is actually serious business for the Order of the Knighthood.
Membership in the Order of DeMolay generally and the Order of the Knighthood specifically has been declining over the past two decades. The Order of DeMolay does no active recruiting: many youngsters who might benefit from membership may not even be aware that it exists. Others may have parents who object to the organization’s close ties with the Freemasons.
This is entirely due to misconceptions about Freemasonry, in part the fault of misrepresentations in the popular media like those to be found in Dan Brown’s bestselling blockbuster The DaVinci Code and its sequels. Freemasonry is an international organization dedicated to understanding across international boundaries, tolerance, service and self-improvement, but because it guards the privacy of certain of its internal rites and ceremonies closely, including those by which fellow Masons recognize one another, its mission is frequently misinterpreted. In parts of the United States where Christian fundamentalism is strongest, organizations with strong Masonic ties may even be seen as anti-Christian. In order to recruit members successfully, the Order of DeMolay may need to embark upon an organized outreach campaign that addresses and corrects these misconceptions in very specific terms.
Another challenge facing the Order of the Knighthood specifically is retention. With so many other groups and interests competing for the attention of adolescents, the Order of the Knighthood might be well advised to look a ways to make their activities even more fun for participants. One way to do this might be to increase the Order of the Knighthood’s profile on such popular social networking sites as Facebook and MySpace. Another might be to increase the number of interjurisdictional events: a Knight Night at a popular amusement park for members from several adjacent states would not only expand these young men’s circle of acquaintances but also prove to be a heck of a lot of fun!