The Masonic Trowel

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by WBro. Tim Bryce

Among the hidden benefits of becoming a Mason is that it builds character. It also helps develop our speaking and presentation skills as we learn catechisms and ritual. Aside from this, there is little to teach Lodge officers how to be leaders. Normally, when someone is elected or appointed to a chair there is considerable on-the-job training where they will inevitably make mistakes. By the time someone becomes Master of a Lodge they should know how to perform such tasks as preparing a budget, how to establish objectives, plan and schedule activities, managing finances and investments, and set the Craft to work with proper instruction for their labor. Our rituals teach us some valuable lessons regarding life, but not how to be a better a leader.

It is a false assumption that just because someone sits in a chair in a Masonic Lodge, they are suddenly possessed with the required knowledge and skills to lead and manage. A person's professional background may be such that they have never had any formal training or experience in this regard. Although they may valiantly try to lead, inevitably, they are ineffective and the Lodge flounders.

I believe one of the best vehicles for preparing someone to become an effective Worshipful Master is to serve as a Little League umpire, which I did for a number of years We take baseball pretty seriously down here in Florida. Its not just a matter of volunteering your time. There are several clinics to attend and books to study. Whereas coaches manage their individual teams, umpires manage the game. From this experience, I learned several things:

  • Pre-game preparations (checking the condition of the field and equipment, and briefing the coaches).
  • The need for fair play,
  • That nothing happens until the umpire makes the call. (You should take your time so that you make the right call.)
  • Make your calls loud and clear.
  • Recognize when you have made a mistake and rectify it.
  • Maintaining order and discipline on the field.
  • Handling hecklers (my personal favorite).
  • Sportsmanship.
  • And how to properly dress as an umpire.

For those of you who have served as an umpire or a referee in other sports, you know exactly what I am talking about. As a sports official, you assume certain responsibilities that many other people depend on. As such, it shouldn't be taken lightly and you should learn as much as possible to do your job effectively.

Being a Worshipful Master is essentially no different. True, you have to know Masonic ritual, but you must also know how to manage the Lodge, and this involves developing planning and people skills. Very few Grand Lodges offer programs to develop such skills, if any. I understand the Grand Lodge of California has a program whereby officers must be certified in order to graduate to another chair. This makes a lot of sense to me. It gives the person a glimpse of what lies ahead of him instead of learning it under fire.

I would like to see more robust training programs for officers to properly prepare them for their job. To this end, I recently wrote a paper entitled "Bryce's Crash Course in Management." This was done as part of my management consulting business, but the lessons inculcated in it are every bit as applicable to a Masonic Lodge as they are to a commercial enterprise. The paper is free and you can download it here.

Better yet, I developed a free 45 minute multimedia presentation on the subject you can download here.

As our membership declines and our expenses continue to rise, we need to properly cultivate Lodge leaders to prepare them for the years ahead. My paper is but one small step in that direction. Ideally, it would be nice to see Grand Lodges develop more sophisticated programs to develop the skills needed to steer our Lodges through the troubled waters ahead.

Keep the Faith.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014