by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota
“Every Problem can be solved if you take some quiet time to reflect, seek
guidance, and put things into perspective.” Ken Blanchard and Brother Norman
As one who has been quite active in freemasonry over the years, and also as one
who for a time was not able to be active in his Lodge I can tell you that there
are times, because of other obligations, it can be difficult for a brother to
attend Lodge and participate in Lodge activities. The number of conflicting
obligations that can keep a brother from attending Lodge are really too numerous
to mention, but those conflicting obligations are legitimate and important.
However, while this is true, it is also true that there are times when there are
no conflicting obligations and yet a brother decides for some reason to not
attend Lodge or participate in Lodge activities.
To me some good questions to ask ourselves about these brothers are: Does he
enjoy attending Lodge when he does, or doesn’t he? Isn’t it important enough to
him, so that he can take it or leave it? Does it bother him if he misses Lodge
night? Many times it doesn’t bother a brother to not attend his Lodge. Why is
that? Doesn’t he miss being there with his Lodge Brothers? Well I think Brother
Dudley Davis has a reasonable answer that might shed some light on the above
questions. Brother Davis in book number 3 of “A Workbook for Developing a
Strategic Plan for Membership Development” says; “Men who are active in their
Masonic Lodge are satisfied with what they find in Lodge. Men who are not active
in [their] Masonic Lodge may be satisfied to be a Mason, but they are
unsatisfied with what they find in Lodge.”
If a Mason does not attend his Lodge what might he not miss, what isn’t he
finding there? I will suggest to you - if what he does not find in his Lodge is
important to him he will find it somewhere else. It might be in another Masonic
organization, it might be in his church, or it might be in another organization
altogether. Something that is true, and that many are not aware of, is that it
is easy to say no to something when there is a bigger yes somewhere else.
There are many things a Mason would hope to find in his Lodge: Friends; ritual;
learning the lessons of Freemasonry; fellowship; Lodge administration; being
given something worthwhile to do.
When polls are taken about what a Mason most likes about Freemasonry it is
fellowship that far outpaces the other areas mentioned above. If a Mason doesn’t
find fellowship in his Lodge after a certain length of time the Lodge runs the
risk of him becoming an inactive member, or worse a demitted Mason or one who
becomes arrears in his dues. This is as true of the Mason who has been around
for a while as it is of the new Mason who is just learning about masonry and his
Lodge. If the fellowship, the friendliness of the other Masons isn’t there or it
goes away, the one missing the fellowship will go away too. Where will he go? He
will go where he can find what he is looking for. And what is he looking for? He
is looking for a place where he can feel good and be happy. He wants to feel
good about his activities and the places he frequents. He wants to be happy with
the men he interacts with.
Are there one or more cliques in your Lodge? In your Lodge are there any Masons
who are attempting to run the Lodge from behind the scenes? Are there some
members who feel excluded from what is going on in your Lodge? Are there members
of your Lodge who don’t attend your Lodge, but can be found visiting other Lodge
Communications, and Masonic functions[i]
elsewhere? If any of these things exist does your Lodge leadership know about
it, and care?
I would suggest that we all came into Masonry wide eyed and eager, some of us
have remained so, and some of us haven’t – why?
Membership in Freemasonry in general and in a specific Lodge is very important,
too important to let members drop away without trying to find out how to save
them. Trying to add new members through petitions, restorations, and
affiliations while we have members demitting, dying, being dropped for
non-payment of dues, and suspension is like trying to fill up a pail at the pump
when that pail has three or more holes in the bottom of it.
Six years ago the Grand Lodge of Minnesota announced the results of a survey
taken of Masons who were no longer active within 60 months of receiving their
third degree. The number of months it took for these brothers to become inactive
varied from Brother to Brother, but their reasons for losing interest in their
Lodges fell into some common areas. This information was from fairly new Masons,
but from my observation of Masons over my 28 years in the craft is that these
same reasons are also why some older Masons are no longer active.
What the survey indicated was that men joined Freemasonry because:
A friend or acquaintance was a Mason
To involve themselves in community service activities
to meet new friends
These three items possibly could all be summed up under the topic of fellowship.
In a very unscientific poll I’ve conducted on a website, was this question:
“What is most important to you in Freemasonry?” over half of the respondents
have said fellowship was what they enjoyed the most. The rest of the responses
were about evenly split between education and ritual; education just ahead of
ritual. This isn’t too surprising to me, because I have long though that most
men will enjoy the fellowship and friendship found in a Masonic Lodge. In fact,
the survey results above show that fellowship is the reason why most Masons
petitioned the Lodge in the first place – for the sense of belonging, which
Abraham Maslow says is at the top of the pyramid of human desires.
In the Minnesota Survey one thing that was indicated was that, the expectations
of brotherhood and fellowship needs to be met.
The survey also indicated the kind of things that would be likely to attract
these brethren to attend their Lodge or a function of the Lodge.
Participating in Lodge charitable fund raising causes
Receiving a call reminding them of a Lodge function
Participating in Lodge civic activities
Attending a Lodge dinner
To hear a special Masonic program speaker
Attending a Lodge picnic
Involving their family in Lodge activities
Participating in Lodge recreational activities
Attending a major sporting event with Lodge Members
I will add that Masons like to see the opening and closing ceremonies done as
well as our Brothers are capable of doing them. The ceremonies and degree work
in a Masonic Lodge should, in my opinion, be taken seriously, and done in the
manner our earlier brethren intended them to be conducted. Regardless of our
abilities no one will criticize us for doing our best.
In “A Strategic Planning Guide for Masonic Lodges,” in book 1 it is mentioned
what needs Masons have that need to be met in order to make them feel like
participating and attending.
A sense of belonging, real fellowship with other men;
The need to be recognized and not embarrassed;
The need to know what is expected, no surprises;
The need to not waste time;
The need to feel proud about membership;
The need for his organization to be concerned with his family and the community;
The expectation of being well led by men with skill;
The opportunity to excel;
The need to grow both morally and ethically.
M.W. Brother Ed Waldon, PGM of Minnesota, once said that every Masonic Lodge has
the only mission statement they will ever need, and it is communicated to the
candidate just before he is made a Mason. However, there are times when Masons
will come up with a Mission statement anyhow, and there is one in book 1 of the
strategic planning guide developed by Masons participating in a conference in
Tulsa Oklahoma. Their Mission statement being unanimously adopted at their
conference was presented at the next gathering of the Conference of Grand
Masters of North America. Here is the mission statement.
“The mission of freemasonry is to promote a way of
life that binds like minded men in a worldwide
brotherhood that transcends all religious, ethnic,
cultural, social and educational differences; by
teaching the great principles of Brotherly Love, Relief,
and Truth; and, by the outward expression of these,
through its fellowship, its compassion and its concern,
to find ways in which to serve God, family, country, neighbors and self.”
There is a poem I like, which I think applies to the membership problems of
Masonic Lodges, which ultimately is the membership problem of Grand Lodges.
Friends Old and New
Make new friends, but keep the old, --
Those are silver, these are gold;
New-made friendships, like new wine,
Age will mellow and refine.
Friendships that have stood the test of
Time and change – are surely best;
Brow may wrinkle, hair grow gray,
Friendship never knows decay.
For ‘mid old friends, tried and true,
Once more our youth renew;
But old friends alas may die,
New friends must their place supply.
Cherish friendship in your breast;
New is good, but old is best;
Make new friends, but keep the old, --
Those are silver, these are gold.
I am concerned about the membership of Freemasonry, and I know there are many
other Masons who love our fraternity who are concerned too. If you are in a
position of leadership in your Lodge, and know of some of your members who live
close enough to your Lodge meeting place to attend – but don’t, why not go to
that Brother and ask him why he is not attending, to see if you can help him
start to attend again. If you are a Brother who no longer attends your Lodge,
because you aren’t satisfied with what you find in Lodge – talk to the Master of
your Lodge – tell him your concerns, possibly you and he can figure out a way
for you to be happier and thus you might feel good attending your Lodge again.
To solve the drain on our membership it takes Masons who care about each other
and who care about their Lodge too. I truly believe if this is missing in a
Lodge, that Lodge is headed for some serious trouble.
“If we take care in the beginning, the end will take care of itself.”
Brother Norman Vincent Peale and Ken Blanchard.
From the Great light of Masonry = “Now I have heard that you are able to give
interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing
and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain
placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the
kingdom.” Daniel 5:12 NIV
[i] By Masonic Functions I also include activities of the Rites and the
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