Supreme Knight Carl Anderson renewed a call to recruit younger members to the Knights of Columbus, saying the Order’s future is at stake.

“This Order was started by a 30-year-old (Father Michael J. McGivney),” Anderson said at the Mid-Year Meeting of State Deputies in Washington D.C. “And you know, I have to believe that Michael McGivney was not the only 30-year-old who can make a contribution to the Knights of Columbus. That’s why we are putting so much emphasis on bringing young men in. For the future of the Order we have to.”

The mid-year meeting brings together state deputies and others from all of the Order’s jurisdictions to discuss key issues. State deputies from 71 jurisdictions attended. Attendees participated in workshops and heard addresses from Anderson and Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori.

In his address on Saturday, Anderson laid out a bold vision of using technology and innovative approaches to attracting new members. The centerpiece of this is the Online Membership initiative that is being rolled out gradually across the U.S. This program allows men to join the Order online, with the goal of eventually bringing them into councils and the degree process.

Online Membership is a portal to bring in new prospects and introduce them to the Knights of Columbus, Anderson said.

“We have to do it because we owe it to them that they can invest in a solid insurance program that’s going to protect their families; that they can get the spiritual formation and the spiritual strength that’s going to help them lead their families.

“We owe it to them to open up the brotherhood of Catholic men who will be there to help them and who they can help by their service. We owe it to them to open up for their membership an organization that’s effective in solving problems in their neighborhoods. So, we have a mission.”

As part of the strategy to attract younger men, the Order announced plans earlier this year to phase out the decades-old Fourth Degree uniforms in favor of a more modern look.

Anderson noted on Saturday that new additions to the Fourth Degree have nearly doubled from 2016 and that suspensions and withdrawals are significantly lower. Demand for the new uniform, meanwhile, has created a backlog. As a result, Anderson announced that the Order would extend the deadline for using the new regalia by one year to June 30, 2019.

It was the Online Membership program, though, that dominated much of the discussions during the weekend meeting. The program has been rolled out in seven states so far, with it being made available to another group of states in January. The program will be fully operational in the next fraternal year.

“If you want to know what the future is going to look like, it’s going to have a greater reliance on technology via eMember-type approaches to bringing in members,” Anderson said.

Online Membership will allow the Knights of Columbus to sell more insurance and to ensure it can fulfill its mission of charity, he said.

“It’s about bringing in more members,” he said. “It’s about making our local councils more dynamic. It’s about the good of the Knights of Columbus, and growing the Knights of Columbus in all its dimensions.”