This article by M:. E:. Jeffrey Williamson. Grand High Priest in State of NY, Royal Arch Masons 2010.
The Five Stages of a Chapter’s Existence
– Doesn’t/can’t communicate with its membership
– Doesn’t/can’t communicate with Grand Chapter – even to file the annual return
– Doesn’t hold meetings
– Provides no formal contact points – no member(s) take(s) responsibility for the Chapter, but Chapter still holds a Charter
– One or more active Companions
– An easily reached contact point
– Communicates with its members and Grand Chapter
– Holds regular meetings, but cannot open without assistance
– Has no program
– Enough Companions to open without assistance
– Limited or no program
– Confers one or more, but not all degrees
– Limited programs
– Confers all degrees at least once/year with a minimum of outside help
– Program for every meeting
Goals and Action Plans for Dysfunctional Chapters
DISTRICT DEPUTIES…..DON’T LET YOUR CHAPTERS GROW UP TO BE DYSFUNCTIONAL!!!
DORMANT CHAPTERS THAT DON’T HAVE A PRAYER SHOULD GO OUT OF BUSINESS GRACEFULLY BY GIVING UP THEIR CHARTER OR (PREFERABLY) MERGING.
DYSFUNCTIONAL CHAPTERS ARE A BIG HEADACHE FOR GRAND CHAPTER AND DEPUTIES.
DEPUTIES….. If you suspect that a Chapter may go dysfunctional make sure the following is done: Chapter records are in a safe, but accessible (by you) place. The Chapter warrant is in a safe, but accessible (by you) place.
Make sure that the primary caretaker of the records (generally the Secretary) provides instructions to those who would handle the Chapters affairs in an emergency for proper access to the records. Make sure you, as DDGHP, are informed about Chapter records physical access. Keep an up-to-date membership list with phone numbers. Make sure records are kept up-to-date and organized in one place. If you suspect trouble, inform the Grand Secretary. Encourage the Chapter to develop a plan to revive, pursue a merger, or give up their charter. Doing nothing and waiting it out rarely works! Dormant Chapters have the most risk of getting worse (e.g. dysfunctional) and the most opportunity to improve. Most dormant Chapters do nothing and are usually waiting for a leader to emerge. This favors the outcome of becoming dysfunctional. Assume that you have three options:
1- Go out of business (give up charter)
3- Write a plan and try to get better
If you elect to try to get better, build some measurement into your plan – if you don’t get better in a reasonable amount of time consider your other options. Consider all alternatives before you give up!
GOAL 1 – DEVELOP AN ORGANIZATIONAL PLAN
Review Grand Chapter outline
Modify GC plan to fit your Chapter
Commit plan to writing
Review with active Companions and develop consensus
GOAL 2 – RECRUIT REQUIRED RESOURCES
Send copies of your plan to your membership together with a letter of explanation. Follow up with a phone call to local members. Ask for their opinion and help. Contact Masters of local Lodges. Explain your plan and offer to send/review a copy. If they show no interest try to find out why, and what aspects of the plan they would change.
At this point take a checkpoint. Have you been successful? If not consider these alternatives:
Meet in conjunction with other York Rite Bodies by:
– Conferring degrees and/or orders on a rotating basis
– Reducing organizational overhead
– Sharing resources
Investigate meeting as an adjunct to a Lodge. The Chapter meets (formally) to confer degrees, receive official visitors, and elect and install their officers. This is perhaps four to six meetings a year. This works well when the Chapter draws from only one or two Lodges in the same building.
PERHAPS YOU CAN THINK OF OTHER ALTERNATIVES THAT FIT YOUR LOCAL CIRCUMSTANCES!
Assuming you found a way to get the resources you need:
GOAL 3 – GET CANDIDATES EXALTED
Pick the best opportunity from other Chapters in your area, or District, State or Multi-state festivals. The quality of the event is important. Show candidates the best that RAM can be to give them a tangible vision.
GOAL 4 – SET UP OFFICERS LINE
Develop fair criteria since most people are new. Even draw lots! Don’t forget to involve people who might not want to be officers. Ritual direction, scenery and costumes, refreshments, bulletins, charities and maintaining a Chapter history are all areas where extra hands can make a big difference.
GOAL 5 – BEGIN OPENING AND CLOSING RITUAL WORK
Make opening and closing ritual the focus of formal meetings
Appoint one (and only one) ritual director. This is an excellent position for an active PHP or someone interested in ritual.
Practice several times a meeting.
Use books for several meetings.
Focus on getting things in the right order, floor work, and the sword manual.
Invite the AGL to review.
Begin memorization of parts.
Don’t make it all ritual work. Consider a potluck dinner with the wives before the meeting, a quick and fun program after the practice, or a fun activity after the meeting. See the Program appendix for some ideas!
The Return of Broken Column Chapter, No. 000
Remember Broken Column Chapter #000? Can you see now why we indicated that it was a Dormant Chapter? One of the CSFs that Companions Tom, Dick, and Harry identified was the support of Very Busy Lodge, No. 1001, where up to now 90% of Broken Column’s members originate. The fact is that Broken Column is in a rural area, and the next closest Lodge is a considerable distance away. Here are the Goals and Action Plans that the Companions put together:
Complete the Organizational Plan. Call and locate members – 41 in all. As a result two members expressed an interest in reviving the Chapter, and were intrigued by the plan
Contact Very Busy Lodge, and presented the plan. The Companions asked for permission to contact the Lodge members to try to recruit some new Companions for the Chapter.
The Master and officers of Very Busy were not too receptive to the idea of contacting their members. Companion Harry was pretty discouraged, and even Tom, the usual spark plug of the group, was about ready to give up. It was Companion Dick, who was usually pretty quiet, that had the idea. “You know, Very Busy has a full officers line, and even a Fellowcraft Club, but Past Masters don’t have much to do. Suppose we suggest that the Chapter meet six times a year on the same night as the Lodge, by a combination of expanding the Lodge schedule and sharing some meetings.” Companions Tom and Harry were dubious, but decided to approach the officers of Very Business once again. Much to their surprise, the officers of Very Busy were intrigued by the idea. They invited the Companions to attend the Annual Past Masters meeting and more than half the Past Masters volunteered to help the Chapter. They identified a few other members, who were not Past Masters that might be interested. It was decided that since the Lodge didn’t meet on the first Tuesday in September or the third Tuesday in June, the Chapter would meet on those occasions. Two other formal meetings would be held on fifth Tuesdays scheduled each year. The Lodge and Chapter would have their election meeting on the same night, and would install on the same day, the Chapter in the afternoon, and the Lodge in the evening with a dinner between.
As it turned out Broken Column got about 20 activity Companions and went on with their plan:
1. Began work on the opening and closing
2. Began work on a charity campaign
3. And even began working on the Mark Master Mason Degree
Companion Tom, has a small ritual part, and is no longer working on planning. He’s on the Bylaws Committee. They’re currently changing the name of the Chapter to Very Busy Chapter. They’re trying to get a new number, too!
Brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it. We love happy endings! You may think this is all a bit far fetched. To tell you the truth, we don’t know of any Chapter that’s doing this in New York, but we don’t know why not either. We told this story to illustrate two points:
How to plan, and to encourage creativity – you can always validate it with Grand Chapter after you come up with the idea. The point is…. don’t be afraid to think about new ways of doing things! OK, let’s move on to operational, functional and mature Chapters……..
Goals and Action Plans for Operational Chapters
Operational Chapters need to develop the ability to confer a degree – here’s how!
GOAL 1 – SELECT A DEGREE TO FOCUS ON
“Work on one degree at a time!”
* We recommend you select either the Mark or the HRA
* If you confer either one you know you can go on to confer them all
* Gives your candidates a more favorable view of the Chapter
GOAL 2 – DEVELOP AND UNDERSTAND THE DEGREE YOU SELECT
* Overall Structure
* Floor work
* Required equipment and props
* Scope of each part
* What is to be read and what memorized
GOAL 3 – ASSIGN RESPONSIBILITIES
Hint: a Degree Director is extreme helpful
GOAL 4 – DEVELOP A SCHEDULE
• Rehearsals (open book and close book)
• Dress rehearsal
• First conferral
“FUNCTIONAL CHAPTERS ARE EASIER TO PLAN, HARDER TO MOVE FORWARD!”
GOAL – ADD REMAINING DEGREES TO YOUR REPERTOIRE
• Use the process for operational Chapters
• Try to get more Companions involved
• Re-plan rehearsal schedule
Goals and Action Plans for Mature Chapters
GOAL 1 – DEVELOP MAINTENANCE PROGRAM
• Review resources
• Recruit new participants
• Review degree activity
• Review non-degree activity
• Get feedback from candidates and members – are they satisfied?
GOAL 2 – IMPROVE DEGREES
• New costumes
• New props
• Improved stagecraft
• New participants
• Polish performances
• Educational Nights to discuss degrees conferrals
GOAL 3 – EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS AND ADD NEW PROGRAMS
• Assist weaker Chapters
• Develop a Table Chapter
• Do Chapter programs to inform Lodges
• Have a social/family night once a year
• Be selective – don’t try everything at once
• Do different programs each year (but always do degrees!)
• Find ways to improve quality, efficiency, and Masonic cooperation
• DON’T GET COMPLACENT!!!
A MATURE CHAPTER IS IN THE BEST POSITION TO RUN AND BE SUCCESSFUL AT A TRADITIONAL MEMBERSHIP RECRUITMENT PROGRAM. DON’T GET COMPLACENT – CONTINUALLY AND ACTIVELY LOOK FOR NEW MEMBERS