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how to have fun at lodge

by Murray Lampert

Keith Williamson wrote:

As a new subscriber to the list can I first of all say how interesting a lot of the e-mail messages I now receive are.  I don't know what strands of discussion have already taken place so forgive me if  this is one of them. When I first joined Masonry in 1980 there were plenty of candidates.  New members had to wait a long time before they took their first step on the ladder.  Some became fed up with the waiting and left Masonry.

Now we have few candidates (the last one was four years ago).  Anyone who have time to sit down before they are involved in the work.  This can also put people off.

How do others get over these problems?

Keith Williamson Treasurer Ceres Lodge 3501 Scibe E Standard Chapter 3357

Bro. Keith:

What you have asked is THE QUESTION! How do we attract new members? How do we maintain the interest of the existing members? It is not a simple 1 page answer....

As a newcomer to the craft I can tell you that I have had an opportunity to make an initial evaluation of the decline of Masonry as it pertains to the lodges in our area...Metropolitan Toronto/southern Ontario and with a fresh perspective.

And keeping in mind that I am a newcomer to Masonry and taking my opinions with a large grain of salt; I think I can sum up the problem in about one word.... boring!

I happen to belong to a lodge with a membership in excess of 400. We have so many candidates that we often hear the complaint "This Lodge is a degree factory". And I can tell you that our lodge meets at least twice a month from September thru June. I can also tell you that our lodge is probably only holding its own. With the exception of the fact that it has become a degree factory...the lodge as a whole is F-U-N. The meetings are as interesting as they can be when they are almost all degree work. The ritual work is for the most part exceptional...and as such, members desire to do bits of the work...they are challenged to be as good or better than the officers who are responsible for the work, or any other brother who has done the work.

Our lodge meets at 6:15 for dinner in the basement of the lodge hall...catered by a wonderful gal and her daughters...a good, wholesome meal (salad, meat/fish, veggies, potatoes, desert, pop, coffee) for $12.00 a head...members of the lodge pay for their meals. We have an average, I would say, of about 30+ or so for dinner. It is completely informal excepting that the officers are wearing tuxedos and the brethren otherwise are wearing suits and ties (no exceptions). We shoot the breeze, kibbitz around, tell jokes, discuss upcoming events, etc. I have never missed a dinner since my initiation in February except for the night of my daughter's first recital...and even then I was sad to miss it (but would never have missed my daughter's evening). Lodge begins at 7:15 sharp. Business is dealt with quickly. (Sometimes the secretary is asked if the minutes are okay and then a brother moves the minutes accepted as written). Then we invite the visitors into lodge. It would seem that we always have several visitors. And that is probably because we visit a lot. There is a core group within the lodge composed of about a half dozen fellows that visit all of the lodges in our district and in our vicinity. We meet brethren, get to know the GL officers and so on. It is only natural that these brethren then come to visit us! (We threaten all sorts of masonic penalties should they not come to visit us!). This makes our meetings more interesting and F-U-N because now there are lots of new faces and new people for the rest of the brethren to meet and get to know, stories to hear, etc.

Good (no, make that great) degree work/ritual gets us through the evening rather quickly. (On the night that I did my third degree..there were 3 of us in total). Generally there is only one candidate...sometimes there are two. On occasion there are three! After lodge closes all the brethren are invited downstairs for some refreshments...again generally informal. Sandwiches, cake, coffee. And again, more chitchat and horsing around. F-U-N

Our social calendar is fairly full also.... and is oriented both towards brethren-only activities and family activities. Lodge picnics, movie night (brethren), social nights (ladies night-formal, Friends/family nights with guest speakers, bowling nights (we have two leagues as I understand, a mixed and a men's), bowling banquet weekends, etc. Lots of social stuff, especially when combined with the social events of other local lodges, appendant bodies and district events. There is no doubt that one could be out 7 nights a week if one wished. Lots to choose from. F-U-N.

Masonry cannot be all things to all people...but it sure needs to make an attempt at it. I do not want to give you the impression that FUN is the sole purpose of our lodge. It most certainly is not....we also take time and make efforts to fulfill our other masonic commitments...we run a bingo night every month at the Baycrest Geriatric Centre, we support local charities including the district charity which is Project Evergreen this year (a drop-in centre for homeless teens), we run an annual fishing trip in September to a camp (I am told nobody has ever gone fishing while there) up north which costs around $125 and raises money for local charities. Our education/mentors committees are active and aggressive...encouraging candidates to progress through the degrees, dropping in on candidates to see how they are doing, encouraging masonic education and providing the where with all to accomplish same, and most importantly (IMHO) they encourage visiting other lodges by new candidates. I myself visited another lodge on the day after I was initiated. (It was exciting).

And so on and so on.... I could write pages.....

The lodges that appear to be stagnating in our district and in our area seem to suffer from just one thing...boring boring boring. And the effects are a snowball rolling down a hill. The more boring the meetings are the less people attend, the less people attend the less initiates they bring in (hard to impress potential candidates with how wonderful the lodge is and masonry is when you are not attending), and so on. The median age of the lodge gets older and older and now we have another problem... generation gap(s). Old blood. No young blood. Less energy. Little desire for change or innovation. Young blood is as important to masonry as to any organization. When most of the members attending lodge are in their 60's, 70's and 80's, there is little chance that they will bring in candidates who are in their 20's and 30's. They simply do not associate with that age group on a regular basis. So what we are finding, according to the statistics that I have read, is that not only are our lodges growing older, but their membership is growing older and the age of new candidates is growing older. It naturally follows that there will be a natural attrition due to members falling ill or passing on, in addition to members losing their desire to make the increasing efforts needed to attend lodge. There is a lower energy level within the lodge as its membership grows older. I simply do not have the same energy that I had when I was 30 or even at 40. There is a snowball effect.

I do not believe that there is an easy solution to Masonry's problems with declining membership. And certainly what I have put to paper (electronically) is my humble opinion only and even at that only touches upon the situation as I perceive it to be. Certainly there are many, many more educated opinions than mine. (In fact, any other opinion would most likely be a more educated one)

I do believe that what we are attempting to steer here is like an aircraft carrier...we need to turn the rudder right now if we expect it to change course anytime in the near future.

I also happen to believe that Masonry, with all due respect to everyone involved, does a very poor job of public relations. I don't have the answers to this particular problem...but I can tell you that nobody that I know has any idea of what Masonry is, what it does or what it stands for. They have no idea that Shriners are Masons. They have no concept of the amount of money raised by Masons for charity (somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million dollars every day as I would estimate). No clue. I have never read an article in any local newspaper on Masonry...good, bad or indifferent. Nothing on TV, nothing on radio, not a So how can we expect to have people asking about Masonry...or asking about joining? We can honk our horns...that's how. Just a wee bit. Just enough to get noticed. Not necessarily in the press or media...but even individually. Talk about all the great things masonry does in the community. Talk about what great fun it is...good fellowship, educational, etc. Talk to your male friends. Talk to their wives and have your wives/girlfriends talk to their wives/girlfriends. How many fraternities are there in the world where your spouse/partner does not have to worry about you socializing with the opposite sex? I for one can assure you that my wife takes a certain level of comfort from that fact...not that she has anything to worry about....but there is still a comfort level established.

And what about the lodges that believe they have reached the point of no-return? I personally believe that pride needs to be set aside and young blood needs to be brought in any way it can be. Amalgamation with another problem-laden lodge is not the answer. Amalgamation with a younger and more dynamic lodge may be. I know of one lodge that was ready to hand in its charter only a few short years became a daylight lodge and began to attract young officers from other local only meets half a dozen times a year and only during the day....little degree work is has set itself up as a fun lodge...interesting guest speakers, educational programmes, etc. It may turn into the fastest growing lodge in the district. It has relatively young and very dynamic officers in the chairs. It has a forward-thinking and open minded Master this year. They work as a team. I have petitioned for affiliation in this lodge... this is something that I WANT to be a part of! And, as this lodge grows, so too will the applications for initiation grow. But for now this "beyond the point of no return lodge" has turned itself around and will not only survive but will flourish.

I hope that my brethren will not think me opinionated or too forward by my posting the response to your query on the list and if any brethren take offense then I apologize for wasting their bandwidth. But then again, they could have deleted this message before reading the whole thing, eh?

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Last modified: March 22, 2014