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HOW TO MAKE YOUR TRESTLEBOARD MORE INTERESTING
SECTION 10 - HIRAM'S HANDBOOKCommunication is necessary to a successful life or to a successful lodge. In order to be effective, an employer must communicate clearly to his employees, a father to his children, and a Master to his officers and members. Trestleboards are the essential communication tool of the Master. It takes the lodge to 100% of the membership, whether they are active members who participate in the lodge activities or are housebound non- driving members who cannot attend any of the lodge functions. For many members it is the ONLY contact that they have with their lodge and gives them a feeling of knowing the active members of the lodge by reading their names in the trestleboard.
The trestleboard projects’ the lodges s image to its members and, perhaps more importantly, to non-members. You never know who will pick up a copy of your latest trestleboard, and after reading it come away with an impression of Masonry and your lodge. The impression can be favorable or unfavorable depending on how well the trestleboard is written and its overall appearance.
How does your trestleboard look? How can it be improved? Take a critical look at your present trestleboard. Is it too big or too small? Having a large trestleboard means that you can put more in it. But sometimes the content of the articles suffer when you have to fill those large spaces. On the other hand, a larger size gives you the opportunity to increase the print size - this make it easier for your older members to read. Should you use photographs in the trestleboard? It costs more money, but as the old saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Whatever you decide to do, make your trestleboard eye appealing and don’t forget that it projects your lodge’s image. Keep it well written.
There are many sources available to you - almost everywhere you look! Previous trestleboards from your own lodge and from other lodge’s; your own periodicals or your Maine Mason, news magazines, the Reader’s Digest, local newspapers, and others all provide inspiration. Publications from concordant bodies such as Scottish Rite’s Northern
Light, the York Rite’s Knight Templar, etc., are also excellent sources of ideas. Books on Masonry from your personal library, the local library or the Grand Lodge library are other possible sources. In addition, the Research Lodges have more material, from their monthly articles to books that you can purchase or borrow, than you can ever use. A less obvious source is to use notes taken while you are attending Masonic or non-Masonic functions. Look around you. You’re sure to find many more sources.
If you quote an article or a part of an article you must obtain the permission of the author and in many cases the publisher as well. You will probably find that it is easier to obtain the permission of Masonic authors, but you must still get their permission. So now what? Well you don’t have to use the article directly. Instead use the idea of the article. You don’t have to have permission to use the idea when you use your own words. So, rewrite the article using the idea behind its words. Sometimes the article lends itself directly to your words. For example, one Master read an article that had left all of the o’s out. This made the article very difficult to read. So he wrote a trestleboard article using this technique. In this article he told the members of his lodge how hard it was to lead the lodge without their support and presence. This idea could be used in any number of ways. You only have to use your imagination. Remember if you use direct quotes - YOU HAVE TO HAVE PERMISSION; if you use your own words, you don’t.
When should you start collecting articles/ideas for your trestleboard? AS SOON AS YOU CAN. Start when you are the Junior Warden or even earlier if possible. Why? Some articles you would like to use are jime related. They appear about a year ahead of the time that you need them. For example, articles on George Washington’s Birthday usually only appear once a year in February. If you wait until you need this article you can’t get it into your February trestleboard as it needs to be written and submitted to your trestleboard editor in January. Collect early and be sure to gather two to three times the quantity that you’ll actually use. Some ideas don’t look as good on review at a later date.
The best way to organize your items for trestleboard articles is to cut and paste the. newspaper or magazine articles onto 3x5 cards. For books or magazines that you can’t or don’t want to deface, copy the pages first and then cut and paste. If you carry a few 3 x 5 cards with you when you attend Masonic functions you can make your notes directly on these and you will be prepared to use your notes directly when you return home.
Next file your 3x5 cards by topic or by theme. For example, George Washington’s Birthday, the 4th of July, Valentine’s Day, Masonic Affiliated Youth Orders, Masonic education articles, etc. Then shortly after the Annual Communication of Grand Lodge, when you have completed your annual plan as Senior Warden, you can start putting your ideas for next years trestleboard articles together.
Sort the articles and ideas that you have collected into monthly files. Use the monthly themes that you have established for your annual plan. For example, if in February you have planned a Sweetheart’s Night program, articles or ideas about Valentine’s Day could be placed in this month. In May, you might have decided to have a Founders Day, programs and articles about the history of the lodge or local area would be appropriate here. In June, you might have planned a trip to the Seadogs. This is a good time to use articles on Masonic Education such as - Where the expression Meet me on the level” come from? or Why does the Master wear a top hat?”, as you probably won’t be writing about baseball. Having a well thought out plan will make the sorting of your articles easier.
When you have finished sorting the articles and ideas that you have collected, you will find that you have many left over. Pass these files on to your junior officers. These files will help them get started get started on their own collection, and in a very short time the Lodge will have an impressive resource file.
Masters have given the writing of the Master’s message different priorities. Some look forward to the opportunity of contacting the membership of the Lodge and presenting them with ideas that they have. Others feel that this is the worst thing that has ever happened to them, so they use their Lodge Secretary or even their printer to write their articles. There is nothing wrong with using an Editor or Trestleboard Committee to edit and setup the trestleboard, BUT THE MASTER MUST WRITE THE MASTER’S MESSAGE. It cannot be delegated. The Master has an obligation to communicate with his Lodge.
So, if it is so tough, what can you do to make it easier? The above paragraph - GETTING ORGANIZED - has already given you some ideas that you can use to make the job easier. The following are some additional ideas you might use:
1. For the first trestleboard use your annual plan. Lay out your plans for the coming year. Let everyone see what you have planned and the date it is planned for. Then use your annual plan to provide you with other ideas for the month as suggested above.
2. You might write about important upcoming Lodge events such as a Ladies’s Night program or Mason of the Year Awards. Or perhaps your Past Master’s Night line-up. But, leave the monthly description of your other Lodge events to others.
3. Recognize members who have given community service, i.e., a man who has been Scoutmaster for many years, the president of the local Rotary, or adult leaders of Rainbow and DeMolay.
4. Recognize the youth leaders of DeMolay and Rainbow. Give a short biography of the leaders and a history of the youth group itself.
5. Enlighten the members with some Masonic education. Write an article on “What does this mean? or “Where does that come from?” For example, where does the “blue” in “Blue Lodge” come from? The possibilities are endless.
6. Use topical articles tied to the time period. For example, Washington’s Birthday, the 4th of July, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Election Day. (You can’t talk about who’s running, but you can encourage the membership to get out and vote. Remind them it’s a privilege and an obligation.) But whatever you write, be optimistic, enthusiastic and informative. There is no faster way to drive your membership away than to blast them, month after month, with a guilt trip for not attending Lodge. As the old saying goes “Honey attracts more bees than vinegar ever will”.
Unless you, as Master, want to write the entire trestleboard yourself, you had better enlist some help. The two naturals are the Junior and Senior Wardens. Its good experience for them and will give them some preparation for their year as Master. Make sure their assignments are clear: it would be unfortunate if each wrote on the same topic.
The Senior Warden might write on the degrees that are to be exemplified in the coming month or give a thumbnail sketch of your newest Master Mason. The Junior Warden might review last month’s program giving a brief overview of the program and mention how good it was to welcome back any brethren (by name) who might be infrequent attendees to the Lodge. He might preview next month’s program, its entertainment, or the supper.
If either of the Wardens is chairman of a committee, this is a good opportunity to report to all the Brethren what that committee is doing.
The Secretary could also write some articles regarding membership, dues, and information address change reminders. He might also write a “Secretary’s Corner” giving about members who have moved away or are traveling and what their families are doing.
Miscellaneous articles could also be written such as a Sunshine Report (sickness and distress), memorials (obituaries), monthly calendar of events, a thumbnail sketch of your officers (one at a time, please), and a list of your appointments (semi-annually). The list goes on and on.
It is critical that the trestleboard reach the membership in a timely fashion. If it arrives after the events have occurred, you have frustrated your membership and wasted valuable time, effort and money. One way to ensure the timely arrival of your trestleboard is to establish a time line schedule. The development of a time line is described as follows:
1. Itemize the tasks involved in producing and distributing the trestleboard. These tasks might include writing the articles, organizing the contents, printing, stuffing and sorting for mail, mail time, time required for the trestleboard to be in the members hands before the Stated Meeting (reading time).
2. Next, determine the number of days that each task requires, Then, starting with the coming month’s Stated Meeting, and work backwards through the month. For example, if your Stated Meeting is on March 6th, the time line would end with March 6th and you would count backwards through February.
3. Mark off the days that each task would take, starting with the last task and work through to the first task. In the example shown, it would be necessary for you to start writing your trestleboard articles on February 3rd. All of the articles would have to be completed, ready for organizing. By February 10th. You, of course, will have to establish your own time line requirements.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014