attracting masonic leaders
by M.W.B. Houton A Brian
This article is adapted from a paper presented by the late Most
Worshipful Brother Houston A. Brian, Past Grand Master of Arkansas, at the 1969
Southwestern Conference on Masonic Education. Brother Brian went to his Eternal
Rest in December, 1977. His widow, Mrs. Mattie Brian, graciously permitted its
use as a Short Talk Bulletin.
With our population increasing rapidly, with the longest sustained era of
prosperity in the history of our country, with shorter working hours and,
consequently, more time for activities of one's choice, it would seem that
membership in Masonry would be increasing steadily.
However, in most Grand Jurisdictions, we find year after year an alarming loss
in membership. Many of our Brethren are laying aside the working tools of life.
Many more are giving up their Masonic affiliation by simply refusing to pay
their dues. When we add that each year finds fewer men petitioning for the
Degrees, the overall situation presents a picture that is of grave concern to
those of us who realize that no other organization, be it civic or fraternal,
has as much to offer its membership as does the Masonic Fraternity. Before we
criticize our former Brethren too severely for allowing their membership in the
Craft to lapse for non-payment of dues, perhaps we should take a long, hard look
at Masonry as it is being exemplified in our Lodges today, particularly in
relation to the leadership qualities of the officers in our respective Lodges.
In doing so, let's attempt to ascertain the reason for our present dual dilemma
of suspensions on the one hand and the lack of interest in the Fraternity by
non-members on the other.
Today young men reaching their majority are better educated than those of any
generation, which has preceded them. They have been taught by us to spend their
leisure time wisely and to affiliate with organizations that are run smoothly
and efficiently by competent people with leadership ability. Is it any wonder
that it is difficult to keep them interested in an inefficiently run Masonic
Have you ever observed a business fail when it seemed to have all the
ingredients for a successful future? Not long ago a new business opened its
doors in an excellent location. Its owner had ample capital for the venture, the
products offered for sale were good, and the prices were competitive. Everyone
predicted a bright future for this concern, but in less than a year it failed
dismally. The owner did not have the leadership qualities necessary and would
not employ the right kind of personnel to operate the business successfully. We
know that the mission of Masonry is laudable, that through its teachings good
men become even better men. We have also experienced the warm fraternal
fellowship, which the association with our Brethren and their families affords
us. In view of this, interest in Masonry, from both within and without the
Fraternity, should be on the increase. Why, then, do we find the opposite to be
Perhaps the fault lies in the fact that we have allowed our Lodges in many
instances to be run by Brethren who do not have the leadership qualities
necessary for the efficient operation of any organization, more especially a
Masonic Lodge. I have seen Brethren who would not even have been assigned the
chairmanship of a relatively unimportant committee in a going venture of any
nature because of their inability to get the job done effectively serving as
Masters of Lodges with membership in the hundreds. Yes, in many instances
Masonry is using for its leaders Brethren who would not be accepted for
leadership anywhere else. This is not to cast aspersions against these Brethren.
They are good men and good Masons, but Brethren who simply should not be allowed
to become Masters of their Lodges because of their inability to perform the
duties of the office in a Satisfactory manner.
Find a Lodge whose Master and other officers are leaders in the true sense of
the word, and you will find a Lodge in which the Brethren value their
membership, participate in the activities of the Lodge, keep their membership
active, and through their actions, in and out of the Lodge, attract other good
men to petition for the Degrees.
Does the Masonic Fraternity have within its membership Brethren with leadership
ability; and if so, why do we not put these Brethren's talents to active use in
In most Lodges the Master and other officers attempt only to use the Brethren
for ritual assignments. A Lodge is fortunate if one out of ten of its members
will accept a ritual assignment, and the other Brethren are usually not given
anything at all to do.
Masonry without acceptable ritual in the opening and closing of the Lodge and in
the conferring of the three Symbolic Degrees cannot fulfill its true mission as
a Lodge. The Master who has real leadership ability will see that his Lodge is
proficient in ritual. He will then devote his energies to other avenues of
service, thus assuring his Lodge a well-rounded program of Masonic activity.
A pamphlet entitled "To Set the Craft to Labor" has been prepared for the use of
Lodge officers in Arkansas. In this pamphlet the Master is urged to assign each
Master Mason, within easy driving distance of his Lodge, one or more specific
responsibilities. This is to be done through committee assignments. The work of
some twenty-five committees is spelled out in detail for the Master's guidance.
At the end of each committee assignment in the pamphlet space is provided for
the Master to list the Chairman and the other members of that particular
The size of a Lodge, the nature of the community in which it is located, and the
type of activities conducted by the Lodge will determine how many committees are
needed to carry on an active and sound program of Masonry. A small Lodge will
adjust downward the number of committee assignments to those, which can best
fill its needs. A Lodge with a big membership may need to increase the number of
committees in order to be certain that every member who lives nearby will have
definite work to do for his Lodge. The idea is to give the general membership a
job to do and then to exercise leadership by suggesting to them ideas, projects,
programs, and activities on which they can work through committee assignments.
For this plan to be effective, the Master should appoint his committees
immediately after his installation and then call upon them for progress reports
throughout the year.
Care should be exercised by the Master in choosing the Chairmen for the
committees. A well-informed Brother, who is a skilled ritualist, should head up
the Ritual, Lecturing, and Certification Committees. A Brother who enjoys
preparing food and serving it should head the Dining Room Committee. A Brother
who has the ability to write interesting news items should chair the Publicity
Committee, etc. Once the membership is working actively for the Lodge, Brethren
with leadership qualities will emerge.
It is high time that we in Masonry realize that the Master should be a man with
aggressive leadership. 'For far too long we have used as a criteria for choosing
Lodge officers Brethren who can quote a little ritual but who may otherwise
evidence absolutely no leadership ability. These Brethren have never been called
upon for leadership anywhere else and never will be.
In a thriving small town in Arkansas there was, until recently, a Lodge hall,
which was, to put it mildly, in a sad state of repair. The roof leaked, there
were no rest room facilities, and the Lodge was heated by unvented heaters. The
Hall was on the second floor of a building with no cooling facilities, and in
the summertime the heat was unbearable. For more than ten years the few faithful
Brethren who attended Lodge tried as best they could to devise some method
whereby they could build and equip a new Lodge Hall. Their efforts were in vain,
and the Lodge continued its steady decline in both membership and general
A man with leadership ability moved into this particular town and affiliated
with the Lodge in question. As Master, he had served his former Lodge with
distinction. In due time he was elected Secretary, and through his efforts some
Brethren with leadership ability began to attend Lodge. The Lodge elected one of
these aggressive young Brethren Master of the Lodge.
As his first order of business, the Master with the help of the Secretary
examined the Lodge membership roll with a view to the selection of a committee
to head up a building program. They found that the President of the Bank was a
long-time member of the Lodge, that a successful building contractor and a
prominent realtor, as well as other leaders in the community, were also members.
A general meeting was called, and these Brethren with leadership ability and
know-how in the fields of building and financing were invited to attend. Along
with the faithful few who had held the Lodge together for years, they were asked
to suggest ways in which a site could be secured and a Lodge Hall erected which
would be a credit to both Masonry and the town. Within a very short time
concrete plans were formulated, and a beautiful, functional Lodge Hall was
erected. Today this particular Lodge is a credit to the community in which it is
located, and Masonry benefits there from. Members with know-how qualities had
been available for years, but lack of Lodge leadership had failed to generate
interest prior to this time.
In many of our Lodges a Brother is expected to begin serving his Lodge as an
officer in the station of Junior Master of Ceremonies. Normally this means that
to work through the chairs and to serve, as Master of the Lodge will take seven
years. Most men with leadership ability are called upon in the community to give
of their time and talents in many avenues of service. Because of this, many of
these Brethren will refuse to give seven years' service to their Lodge, but
would, in many instances, serve faithfully for three years. I submit to you that
a real leader can contribute more to Masonry in three years than a great many of
the officers of our Lodges at present could contribute in three score years.
In summation, there is no easy way to attract leaders within the Fraternity. In
fact, there is no easy way to attract a leader in any endeavor of any
consequence. Yet, in our civic clubs leaders continue to emerge. In business,
leadership asserts itself. In Masonry, we must learn the knack of involving our
membership in our Masonic activities to the end that leaders will emerge.
If we do this, interest in Masonry from both within and without will increase to
the end that our sons and those who come after them will have the privilege of
becoming Master Masons in a Lodge in which they will value their membership.
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