Workshop Presentation – Retention

DO treat everyone who attends a Legion meeting with charity and respect, considering the good of every member of your praesidium at all times.

DO seek to develop a familial rapport with all members of your praesidium.

A Talk from the workshop:

In a workshop that has, thus far, focused on recruitment and extension, retention might seem like something of an odd-man-out. The purpose of both recruitment and extension is active growth. Recruitment promotes growth by bringing new members into the Legion… and, in planting new praesidia, extension is recruitment writ large. Retention, in contrast, can seem passive and defensive – the sort of thing that you focus on when you’re satisfied with the number of members in your praesidium and don’t feel particularly compelled to go out and start another one… or worse, when you’re at risk of losing members.

This is, unfortunately, a very dangerous way to think about retention. In fact, a lack of sufficient concern for retention can render recruitment and extension utterly futile.

Imagine that you’ve spent weeks discussing the Legion with a potential new recruit – let’s call her Liz. Now, Liz is curious about the Legion, but she’s not sure she’s ready for a long-term commitment. She is, however, willing to accept your offer to become a probationary active member. She attends her first meeting… and finds the experience disappointing. A week later, Liz is nowhere to be seen. A month goes by, and she hasn’t attended another meeting.

What do you think the odds are that Liz will ever consider joining the Legion again?

Now, thankfully, most of us do a certain degree of retention work without really recognizing what we’re doing. If a new member joins our praesidium, we generally want them to stay and act accordingly. But it can still be helpful to consider some of the things that we can do to retain people (and the things we shouldn’t do to avoid pushing them away!), especially since first impressions are so incredibly important.

The first thing to remember about retention is that it has to involve everyone. Many of the factors that determine whether a member will remain in a group or stray from it involve group dynamics. In particular, the overall atmosphere of the meeting is critical. As such, individual efforts to retain a member, no matter how heroic, are unlikely to succeed if the actions of the rest of the group are counterproductive.

So how do you go about fostering an atmosphere conducive to the retention of members? There’s a lot more to it than I could possibly say in a ten-minute presentation, but here are a few dos and don’ts.

  • DO treat everyone who attends a Legion meeting with charity and respect, considering the good of every member of your praesidium at all times.
  • DON’T act in ways that are competitive or overbearing.
  • DO seek to develop a familial rapport with all members of your praesidium
  • DON’T allow divisions and in-groups to arise within your praesidium
  • DO everything possible to keep open lines of communication
  • DON’T allow misunderstandings to grow into animosity or resentment
  • DO attempt to find solutions that work for every member of your praesidium wherever possible, even if it involves compromise.
  • DON’T allow stubbornness or fear of change to undermine a solution that could otherwise work for everyone.

The second thing to remember about retention is that, while it might seem counter-intuitive, the best way to retain the members that you have is often to focus on recruiting new members!

As the Legion handbook says of the Lord’s commandment to spread the Good News, “Faith must strain after people with inextinguishable ardor. Sometimes that essential note is missing. People are not sought after, neither those in the fold nor those outside it. But if that Ascension commandment be disregarded, it will be at a price – the price of loss of grace, of diminution and decay, even to the extinction of faith.”

The Legion is, at its core, an evangelical organization. If the average Christian will pay a price for failing to spread the Gospel, how much greater of a price will a Legion praesidium pay for failing in its three-fold duty to convert, conserve, and console those for whom it is responsible? And what better way is there for the Legion to carry out its duties than to draw as many potential members into its fold as possible? Membership in the Legion is, after all, a great way to foster conversion of heart and conservation of faith, and the more members a praesidium has, the greater its capacity for the consolation of the surrounding community.

One final thing to remember about retention is, quite possibly, the most important: prayer is the most powerful tool you have in both recruiting and retaining members. Attempting to rely on your own efforts is always a recipe for disaster in spiritual matters.

This simple truth is recognized in the very organization of the Legion. Without the wing of prayer offered by auxiliary members, the active members’ wing of action would leave the Legion fluttering around in circles.

Even active members, however, should never forget that their actions require prayer to bear fruit. Without prayer, we can have no true love of our Lord and our Lady, and without love, we are nothing. And on the flip side, we must never forget that, no matter how insurmountable an obstacle may seem, with God, all things are possible.

To review, then:

  • Retention is important. Without sufficient concern for retention, recruitment and extension are futile.
  • Retention has to involve everyone, because it is primarily a matter of the overall atmosphere of a praesidium rather than something that can be accomplished by a single member. Maintaining a positive, familial atmosphere and minimizing toxic behavior is critical.
  • Long-term retention requires the energy and grace provided by active participation in recruitment and extension.
  • Finally, retention requires an active life of prayer within the praesidium.

While retention can be explored in far greater depth than I have been able to provide, I hope that I’ve at least offered some food for thought. Thank you all very much for your time.

— Sr. Nicole