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KEY ELEMENTS TO RENEWAL
Leadership is a key element to our survival. We, from a renewal standpoint, must do all we can to strengthen our leaders. Our organization has always developed leaders primarily using the natural Lodge set-up as the teacher. From the moment the candidate first enters the Lodge room, he is singled out and made the center of attention. The second time he crosses our threshold we make him speak in front of the Lodge as he shows his proficiency in the first degree work. Although he is working with set answers, which have been memorized, he is still being introduced to public speaking; he is also being introduced to the concept of satisfactory preparation prior to successful presentation of a public address.
As a man goes through his Masonic career and takes offices and works on committees, he learns such things as organization of men and materials, planning, budgeting, setting deadlines and filing reports. These are all skills needed by a leader. As he chairs certain committees, he also learns how to run a successful business meeting, set and use an agenda and how to conduct discussions so that they are productive. These skills are also valuable.
But now I must ask a painful question. Even though we have a natural system that should in time yield solid leaders, how many men stumble through and never learn any of the above skills? Answer: far too many.
There are Renewal Materials available in Grand Lodge, which also has a leadership course available. So why do we get so many Masters who are either incapable of leading or who need the first six months of their term to learn the basic concepts?
If we agree that strong leadership is necessary to get our Fraternity back on it's feet again, maybe it's time to give a serious consideration to leadership certification, complete courses, and projects to ensure that our leaders have a certain minimum level or skill necessary to complete the job effectively.
Fellowship is the number one benefit men outside the Fraternity think they will get if they join. But is it? Some lodges do a magnificent job of fellowship. You can't get inside their door without someone shaking your hand. You will never stand alone for more than a few seconds before someone pulls you into a group and a conversation. However, some Lodges in this regard are mediocre and some are down right poor.
Fellowship and the display of fellowship are acquired skills. Most men are not naturally outgoing among strangers. Unless they make a conscious effort to break the ice, it is far easier to stand there alone. If we take it as a given that fellowship among close friends is natural, then the time to work at fellowship is when we are dealing with a stranger or lesser known brother. As individuals we must be observant for signs that others are not comfortable or are alone. We must be tactful and diplomatic that we do not offend. In a word, we must be balanced. Lead the stranger into the group, work him into the conversation and let him contribute and be part of what is being discussed. Make sure someone sits with him in Lodge and certainly don't let him be alone after Lodge, when fellowship should flourish.
Much of the satisfaction gained from attending is a direct result of the enjoyment one gets from fellowship. If our fellowship is not all that it can be, then we are ignoring a key element in the retention and activity level of our membership. We will pay a price if we lose it.
Education is the most feared word in the Masonic Fraternity. The mere mention of the word will illicit moans and groans all over the room. However, we must have improved education programs so that the membership feel comfortable talking about the fraternity. More often than not, we are our own worst enemy when it comes to rumors and innuendo about the fraternity. Ninety-five per cent of our membership would rather not say anything than be drawn into a conversation about the Craft with an outsider. They are unsure what they can say and what falls under the umbrella of "...the secret arts, parts or points of the mysteries of freemasonry."
We must develop short, and interesting educational programs for our Lodges which are easy to give and more importantly, easy to take. We must put every active Mason in the position that, if need be, he can be an ambassador for the craft. By having a more open Fraternity, by that I mean a willingness to talk about it, we can dispel many of the rumors about our being a "Secret Society."
Family involvement in todays lifestyle will find that time is at a premium. Todays family is usually two working parents with one, two, or three children who have at least two or three school activities. There is so much available today that parents practically kill themselves to give their children every opportunity that they can. Family time, when everyone is home together , is at a large premium. If we , as masons, want to have the man be active as a Mason, we had better consider how we might make compensation to the other family members.
There are many ways the Lodge can improve family relationships, such as supporting youth groups such as Demolay or Rainbow. We should have more semi-public meetings where the family members can join in. Running events for the wives, like a dinner they don't have to prepare or clean up after. These are just a few ideas. In the "Old Days" we could ignore the family by and large, because good old Mom kept the house and the children and Dad was supposed to take care of the things outside the house, which included Masonry.
Just before closing, let us discuss Community involvement. When we speak about community involvement we are looking to satisfy three main goals: Knowledge, membership satisfaction and accountability.
Seventy-five percent of the population has no concept who or what freemasonry is. This is a result of years of our own silence and our strong tendency to do our good works quietly. Today with time at a premium if we want members without solicitation, we had better become known in our communities.
To capture attention we must be doing something to be seen and that people will identify with. This is the first reason for community involvement, to let the public know, especially men over 21 years of age. who we are and what we believe by showing them the types of community projects we are involved with.
Many men join a fraternal organization expecting to give back to their community through that organization. If we are serious about membership satisfaction, and we had better be, then we need to be busy in our communities.
Finally, we need to give back to the community to even the score. The community gives us our members, support for our public events like suppers and ticket sales etc. and as good corporate citizens we should be carrying on several projects specifically as Masons. "The more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it." This fraternity gives you one thing and that is the opportunity to EARN your rewards. We need to get the lodges moving on every level and that will only happen if WE do it.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014