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Family and Community Relationship with the Masonic Lodge

In the preceding three modules you have been introduced to our overall problems, you have seen a few of the methods we can use to gain new members and the concept of candidate care has been examined. This module will deal with two new concepts that the research revealed were important to men today. Those concepts are family involvement and community involvement. Each was identified as an important consideration when deciding to join an organization like Freemasonry.

Family involvement is easier to adjust to when you realize why it is so important. The basic family structure has changed, the role of each family member has changed and the society that surrounds the family has changes.

Many pre-1960 families were based on a single wage earner and a home care professional, Dad and Mom. The home and the children were Mom's responsibility. Earning money and keeping up with the world in general were Dad's responsibility. In general Mom deferred to Dad on such topics as politics, banking and world events while Dad followed Mom's lead on house rules and child discipline. The children went to school, did their lessons, went to Sunday school and played. Play consisted of having fun, with any tool, stick, stone or twig that was handy. Running through fields, skipping stones or playing with somebody's old dog occupied a lot of time. Society itself was a slower moving creature. Instantaneous communication was not to be developed for many years. Science fiction writers didn't even seriously consider computers and high-speed modems in every household. It was still possible to have a town meeting without asking the police to stand by.

In those days of yore it was pretty much Dad's duty to belong to the Lodge. That's were everybody got together once a month and that's where all the issues that were issues (with the exception of religion and politics) were discussed. It was also an acceptable night out with the boys. A man could have a drink, smoke a few cigars, lose a little pocket change at cards and generally have a relaxed time among his peers. He could quietly do things to help people without having to stand up and take a bow for it. An if the whole thing had an aura of secrecy, well that wasn't a bad thing, because after all, he belonged. It was no secret to him and it feels good to know something that the next guy doesn't know.

Today we have problems. The old model family is the exception today instead of being the rule. A more typical family unit has tow bread winners who both double as home care professionals. The jobs they hold down are often not careers but simply a place to earn money. Each may change jobs as many as five or six times during their working life. All the duties of a home are carried out jointly during evenings and weekends. The children are no longer simple and neither is their play. They are exposed to organized sports (where only the best equipment will do), ballet, band, scouts and guides, church youth group and the homework is still there but it's not simple any more. Mom and Dad can't help because half the time they can't understand what's being taught. The demands are greater from each member of the family unit. If you want to keep up with the Jones's you'd better be ready to spend some serious money. A requirement for more money means more training or more effort put into getting a promotion. This means more time at work, which puts more pressure on the home, which puts the pressure right on Mom and Dad all day long.

The work, the house and driving the children to all of their pastimes puts an incredible premium on time. Time is the one-thing today's families cannot find or buy enough of. Time alone as a family unit is nearly non-existent. You can't cut back on anything because society and peer pressure tells you that you and your children must have all these things.

Now the dilemma of the Lodge becomes clear. When we attempt to entice a young man to join, we are asking him to carve out time from his hurried schedule to spend with us. First of all, he's not going to join without the rest of the family unit giving their blessing. He cannot join, attend and be productive in a Masonic Lodge if every time he goes out the door his spouse begrudges him the time he is taking away from the family. Therefore as a Masonic Lodge we must help him to keep her (and the children) happy. This is no mean feat. We need some skill, tact and diplomacy.

The first thing we need to do, you have already been instructed in (if you have been reading these modules). We must keep her as well informed as our man is, right up to the point of initiation. We must answer all of her questions honestly and openly. She must feel comfortable with us and in general support of the organization before we start to steal him away.

After we have a man in the organization many believe we can best support his family by supporting the Eastern Star, Demolay and Rainbow Girls. This is a noble effort but it will not answer the problem completely.

Our lodge called 20 of its member's wives to find out what programs would be of the most interest to them. Here is what they found out:

  1. Lodge dinners were low on the ladies' list as interesting programs
  2. Special ladies-nights programs developed by the men were virtually no interest
  3. Special events where the children were the center of the activity rated high
  4. Educational and entertainment programs which involved the whole family rated highest
  5. Programs that resulted in New Friendships rated high
  6. Programs stressing the importance of Freemasonry got no interest at all

This flies against conventional thinking in most Lodges today. Special ladies-night programs are often the first things a Lodge will try. This particular lodge took the results of their small survey, formed a team of younger Masons and created six events, spread over the year, to support family involvement. The wives were very supportive of the events since the committee paid attention to points 3, 4 and 5 above when designing their programs.

The committee used things like family picnics, contests with scholarships as prizes and a holiday, all-day Gala which incorporated some charity work, a skating party and a dinner with entertainment with everybody involved at every step. Mixing entertainment and education with the focus on the children seemed to be the answer.

If we, as a Lodge, create and sponsor events through the Lodge, which allow a Mason, his wife and his children to be together, to receive some educational point and to be entertained and have fun, we will be giving them the one thing they crave the most - quality time together.

The second point of this module is Community Involvement. Many older Masons, and even a few of the younger Masons, will quickly say, "We are not a service club." Masonic Renewal is not trying to make masonry a service based organization. It advocates a certain level of Community Involvement as a response to some very specific points brought out in the research into man's motivations. Two important factors which we must deal with are that more than seventy per cent of the population knows nothing about Freemasonry and men considering joining an organization like Freemasonry think that having an opportunity to perform community service is a good motivator for joining. This, plus the fact that we rely on the community for members and financial support (after all, who buys our tickets and eats our breakfasts?), should make lodges much more receptive to the idea of Community Involvement.

Having said that, what types of things are there that the Lodge can do? The answers to this question are limited only by the imagination and energy of the members. Some lodges have more resources (money and active Masons) than others. Obviously if you have the bodies and the money, the sky is the limit. However, two or three Masons with little or no money, can still be a formidable force. It takes a few Masons, a little money for paper and postage and some energy to institute, promote and succeed at a "Mile of Food" program. Using the local school's running track, you challenge everyone in the community, especially the other fraternal organizations, to match your member's contributions. Call all your members and tell them what you are doing and invite them to stay ahead of the others. Before the day is done everyone will be having a good time, the cans of food laid end to end will form a very long line (hopefully a mile or more) and the local food bank will get a generous shot in the arm. The direct benefits to the lodge are enormous:

  • most of the town now knows who some of the Masons are
  • the town now knows that Masons are concerned about people going hungry and support the food bank
  • the town now knows that Masons will give time and energy to support the things they believe in
  • The Lodge has become known and has started to form a reputation, a good reputation, based on the energy of three or four Masons and some postage money. Better still, at least some of the your men of the community saw those Masons work and asked what was going on. Those young men are forming favorable impressions of the Fraternity where as yesterday Masons never crossed their minds.

    An active Lodge can support several events like this one during the course of a year helping different organizations. This spreads the good reputation and the community contact. Food dives, clothing drives, playground clean ups, meals to the poor at Thanksgiving or Christmas and helping the elderly with Spring and Fall chores are all simple one day low cost projects which a few members working together can succeed at. If you can't get even this much support you can still make contact with your community by lending your Lodge facilities to worthy causes like the Christmas Cheer organization. Often groups like the minor hockey association or the girl guides need a central location to run a fundraiser out of. They have the bodies and products but they need a large room centrally located to work from for a single day event. All these events require of the Lodge is someone to open the door and be available in case a fuse blows or someone needs a mop and pail.

    The book 150 WAYS TO INVOLVE YOUR LODGE WITH THE FAMILY AND IN THE COMMUNITY has many good ideas for projects divided into categories according to how much support you can get from the Lodge members. The book Masonic Philanthropies; A Tradition of Caring by S. Brent Morris, is also an excellent source of ideas.

    Always remember to wear something or post a sign telling everyone that it is the Masons organizing and running the events. We no longer wish to be quiet. We don't need to brag or boast but we need the public, especially the male public over 21 years of age, to see what we are doing and to form an idea of who we are.

    We are and will always be primarily involved with making men better than they were before. Performing a few services for the community does not diminish or supercede our prime reason for existence. However, it certainly doesn't hurt our reputation or our ability to sell ourselves to prospective members, to be community minded. Combine Family Involvement with Community Involvement, as you would when cleaning and fixing a playground and the benefits are off the chart.

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    Last modified: March 22, 2014