The definition of insanity is, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This quote has been falsely attributed to Albert Einstein and Ben Franklin but regardless of its origin, the quote has some validity.
Case in point, a Lodge had 142 members in 1990. In 1995 it only had 118 members. In 2000, it merged with another Lodge bringing total membership to 172. Finally in 2015, this Lodge has been reduced to 92 members. Its not for lack of trying since this Lodge initiated more than 75 new members between 1990 and 2014. So what happened, where did they all go?
The loss of membership can be attributed to numerous causes, however, there are 3 major causes that must be considered. The first major cause for membership loss is lack of attention and involvement. Picture this, a new Master Mason comes to his first meeting and he sits in the corner. No one acknowledges him, no one sits with him, no one speaks to him. The only time he is addressed is when he is needed to fill a hole in the line, without training, without guidance, he is expected to just know what to do. There is no asking only expectation.
The second cause for loss of membership is lack of investment. Most candidates spend very little time in preparation for the degrees and when they realize that Masonry is not for them, they have no problem with just walking way. The things that you cherish most in life you have to work for. Your career, relationships, car, home, these are things that you have an investment in and not easy to walk away from – why not Masonry?
The third major cause for membership loss is BORING meetings. Imagine for a moment that Washington, Franklin, Revere, Mozart, Voltaire and Warren were attending a Lodge meeting. Do you think that they spent the majority of the meeting discussing what type of candles to buy? Or maybe listening to a membership or fundraising reports? These men where men of ideas and letters. Their Lodge meeting would be sharing ideas, discussions on philosophy and science, new discoveries in medicine and agriculture, and the symbolism and lessons of Freemasonry. These meetings would inspire and enlighten the membership unlike the business meetings of today that could put anyone to sleep. It is no wonder why members are reluctant to recommend friends and family members to Masonry.
So how do we correct these issues? First and foremost extend the degree cycle to one year to complete all 3 degrees. This will not restrict the number of new members since multiple classes can be provided at different levels resulting in the same intake as would the normal 2 degree cycles per year. Provide weekly educational meetings for initiates. These programs should be designed for open discussion of symbolic and esoteric topics and should be preplanned. Bring your Lodge meetings down to EA Degree so that brothers that are EA’s or FC’s can attend. Make your Lodge meetings memorable and educational. Cover topics of interest where members can take away something from every meeting. Avoid stupid discussions about buying light bulbs or endless committee reports. Have a theme for every meeting and stick to it.
At then end of the year, these new members will know that they want to be a part of the greatest fraternity ever to exist on the planet and would want to recommend friends and family members to the fold.
You can expect that there will be brothers that do not accept this new system. They will say that it’s never been done this way and they would be perfectly correct, however, look at the statistics at the beginning of this article. The “old” way just doesn’t work and many lodges around the world and in our own jurisdiction have proven that the new approach is effective.
There are those that will criticize the new program and individuals promoting this program. In most cases, the naysayers have done nothing in their Masonic involvement, nor do they want to roll up their sleeves and contribute. They are individuals that can offer no other solution but much of the same old stuff. It’s time for these individuals to LEAD, FOLLOW or GET OUT OF THE WAY!
There is no magic wand to membership. It requires commitment and hard work. It requires a plan. The first thing you have to do is realize that there is a problem and design a plan to overcome these issues. Everyone will have to be on board or your plan will fail. This challenge cannot wait for tomorrow or for someone else to solve. It has to be TODAY.