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masonic matters

Membership Survey

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 Vincent Peale.

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 Shrine.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014