Lodge Improvement Suggestions

An email posting by David R. Bedwell.

MEMBERSHIP AWARENESS

Since my last post regarding what we should be doing to increase not only membership but public awareness of the Fraternity, I received several very kind replies. One of which asked me to identify areas or specific things a Lodge could start doing. Well here are a few that my Lodge has started and that seem to be working. Note: Some of these ideas will cost money, and most will take commitment. I do realize the average age of the Fraternity, but all it takes is two or three dedicated Brothers to be the catalysts to excite and involve others. What we are trying to accomplish is to restore Masonry to its pre-eminence among the community, political, social, civic, and educational leaders. And, as a result, to attract increased numbers of good men to the Fraternity and to hold and engage them in the work of Freemasonry.

  1. The Lodge should make a survey of its members, capturing name, address, age, Masonic anniversary, officer positions held, Grand Lodge appointments, etc. for the member. The file should also contain the name of the member's spouse, if applicable, the profession of the member (or what his profession was), hobbies/special interests, and such other information as the Lodge may deem to be useful and appropriate in finding ways to "activate" that member and connect him to a program the Lodge will start or has started. All of you on this list should have no trouble keeping this data electronically.

  2. The Lodge should make full and effective use of materials developed by or for the Grand Lodge. In practical terms, this means that such materials will not "sit on the Secretary's desk," rather they will be explained to the Lodge members and implemented. Materials such as the Masonic Membership Development Kit published and available from the Masonic Renewal Committee of North America. 8120 Fenton St. Silver Spring, MD USA 20910. Included in this kit are three very good video tapes.

  3. There are several things we can do to improve interest and attendance in our Lodges. Focus on Fellowship.

  4. Do not waste time. The leading cause of dissatisfaction with a lodge among members is that the meetings were boring and that to much time was wasted. A lot of our senior members come to the lodge for relaxation, fellowship and fun. The reason to be concerned with the use of time has more to do with future members as it does with those you already have. If your lodge is typical, more than 85% of your members are not active. We all strive for better lodge attendance, and since we do not necessarily want longer meetings, then we must pay attention to the importance of time. By shortening the amount of time required for minutes, reports, etc. we have more time to be committed to programs such as Masonic education, or special programs.
  5. By making your lodge meeting more of an event, adding some excitement and interest to the meetings will help bring members back.
  6. Communicate with your members.
  7. Attendance is directly related to the good feelings a man has about being with other men in a fraternal setting. Attendance is also related to him having a good time. If they do not find fellowship, friendship or the connection they expected in lodge, they will not come back.
  8. Nothing works as well with members as personal contacts. If you can't meet face to face, then the telephone works best. a.) Reach each of the newest Masons-Men who were raised during the last three to five years, but who have been absent from lodge. Reacquaint them with the lodge and with the last time you know they were there. (check the lodge registry) Listen to them tell you reasons why they have appeared to have lost interest. Share with them your intentions to rebuild interest in the lodge and your goals for attendance and membership. Determine if there are reluctant to attend because they cannot recall the proper signs and words and offer to assist them.

  9. A man joins an organization with the expectation that he will somehow be involved with the members, involved in the leadership, and involved with the community.

COMMUNITY AWARENESS

Today, any lodge that is not connected with its community needs to consider becoming involved for the following reasons:
  1. Future members are in the community and when the lodge is involved, they will discover what Masonry is all about.
  2. Future members demand that any organization they join be active in community outreach.
  3. The community is the responsibility of everyone - including Masons.
  4. The lodge is a perfect community-service organization.
  5. Masons will be proud of their role in the community.
  6. Any organization, to grow, needs to be able to involve all its members in some way. Community involvement is one way to do this.

The best way to get members involved, is to respond to a need in the community. Here are some ideas:
  1. A Library needed a computer. Hold a special dinner in the lodge and accept contributions from members. Members can also man a booth outside the local supermarket and raise money as well as distribute information and answer questions regarding Masonry.
  2. Give a Scholarship. Host four events during the year on weekends for members and guests. Members can prepare food, run games and hold a collectibles auction.
  3. Meals on Wheels route. The lodge can adopt a route that would serve two meals a day for eight families for a year.
  4. Roadway beautification. Masons can join with youth groups (Demolay, Rainbow, etc.) to maintain a section of the roadway in town.
  5. Fix-Up a playground. The lodge could take on the fix-up, paint-up , clean-up of a local playground.

I am not saying to turn Freemasonry into a service club. The real importance is not to change what the lodge is doing, but to increase member interest, participation,awareness and pride through family and community involvement. Local government is trying to establish partnerships with organizations in the community that can solve community-related problems without a lot of fuss. Individuals in the community tend to evaluate the relevance of organizations by the degree of their involvement.

But, you say we have a smaller lodge. These are things that a small lodge with less than 100 men can accomplish.

  1. Sponsor the 4th of July celebration and picnic every year.
  2. Sponsor a grade school basketball tournament.
  3. Provide medical supplies for a local EMS unit.
  4. Provide funds and labor to renovate a local ballfield.
  5. Sponsor a local youth to a Shrine Bowl Band Camp.
  6. Raise funds to assist a public library.
  7. Adopt a needy family at Christmas.

Lodges that are larger can:
  1. Adopt a local elementary school, meet with the PTA to determine a schedule of volunteer events and other support you can provide the school.
  2. Volunteer to raise $10-20,000 for three to five significant awards for teaching excellence in a school where the lodge is located. Present the awards at an assembly that includes teachers, students, parents and the local media.
  3. Partner with another civic organization in the community to solve a problem that may be larger than the resources available.
  4. Develop ten $500.00 awards for learning excellence and make these presentations during the school year.
  5. Develop a major senior-center volunteer effort to help the aged in some area of need.

These are but a few of the many ideas that will establish your lodge as a relevant force within your community. The idea is to create favorable public awareness of our Fraternity, who we are, and what we do. This in turn will begin to attract good men, who will want to join an organization committed to making a difference.

Three things my own Lodge has done since January have been:

  1. Hosted a Masonic Awareness Night. The members were asked to submit names of men who they thought would make good Masons. 15 potential Masons and their spouses were invited to a dinner at a very nice restaurant. Following dinner a short (30 minute) program was presented based around the videotape "What it Means to Be a Mason". Following the tape, a short presentation was made explaining Freemasonry, our charities and our involvement with the community. To date we have received 4 petitions as a result of that evening.
  2. We have established a partnership with a local elementary school. In June the lodge will co-Sponsor the schools fun fair. This involves helping man the game booths and helping out in general. This will create favorable impressions with the parents and teachers.
  3. On April 13th, the Lodge is hosting a "Community Awareness Dinner". All of the city officials, civic, and educational leaders have been invited. We will have dinner followed by good entertainment. The main purpose is to re-introduce ourselves within the community, and to give our officials a good understanding of the Fraternity. Also at this dinner, certificates will be presented to the three local judges for their commitment and we will present the Mayor and city council with a large framed picture of WB George Washington in full Masonic regalia, to be hung in city hall.

I will not kid you. This all takes hard work and commitment. But as I stated earlier, four of us have been basically doing the work. But, the excitement is building and more and more members are jumping on board. Since we earnestly began working to turn things around in January of '95, we have received 26 new petitions. One of the petitions was the Fire Chief, along with four firemen. The community awareness is starting to pay off. Research has shown that if we don't embrace a renewal effort, more and more lodges will be forced to close their doors.

Well, this has been a lot of typing, and I'm tired. :) I hope some of these ideas will help. Try giving one or two of them a chance, and see what happens. All you can do is improve your lodge and membership.

David R. Bedwell, PM
Dearborn Lodge 172
Dearborn, Michigan