Membership and participation in Freemasonry today

Discussion in 'General Freemasonry Discussion' started by amhdive, Oct 25, 2013.

  1. cog41

    cog41 Premium Member

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    This is a topic that has been debated many times, and it will continue to be discussed in the future.

    I don't have a one fits all answer. I agree that each local lodge must be allowed to be creative. Is that enough? Will revamping the procedures for a regular meeting be enough?
    The introduction of moments/minutes for masonic, personal and or spiritual reflection, encouragement and education be enough? Will Grand Lodge rules or Masonic law have to stretched, bent or broken? Hope not, but who knows?
    I think it would depend on the membership of each lodge and their leadership.

    How about having a meeting on the subject? List ideas, proposals etc. etc.. Do so without threats of heresy.
    Don't settle for one meeting. Objective communication and cooperation is the key to this process.

    Look in the mirror and perform a serious and thorough examination individually and collectively.

    Just my humble opinion.

    Heck I probably wont be able to make it anyway.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013
  2. The SERVICE

    The SERVICE Registered User

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    I hear you bro. Let's lead by example!

    My Freemasonry
     
  3. cemab4y

    cemab4y Premium Member

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    Back in the 1980's a group of Grand Masters (primarily from the Southern USA grand Lodges) met at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. The meeting was sponsored by the Scottish Rite USA(Southern Jurisdiction). The meeting was to discuss the overall trends in membership (membership has been declining since the mid 1950's). The participants agreed to set up a "Masonic renewal Task Force" ,for the USA, and come up with solutions to reverse the trends and get Masonry back to growing again.

    The group developed some materials and issued at least one report (available from Amazon.com). The results of the task force were generally ignored, as most Masons and most Grand lodges were not convinced there was a problem. The task force was abandoned.
     
  4. cemab4y

    cemab4y Premium Member

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    One book prepared by the task force, was "101 ideas to revitalize the lodge" (not sure about the title). The information in the book was excellent, but it was ignored by most Masons. Maybe I am optimistic, but I believe that there could be a way to recommission the MRTF. The Scottish Rite (SJ), or some other Masonic organization (nationally, and outside of the direct control of any Grand Lodge) , could sponsor the task force.

    I believe that (nationally) Freemasonry, could take a "holistic" approach, and re-examine Freemasonry, top-to-bottom, and see what we are doing right, and what we are doing wrong. With the internet, and social media, we could see a real "renaissance" in Freemasonry. We could drop the obsolete and suicidal prohibition against inviting men to join.

    This has always been a real irritant to me. 75 years ago, when the USA was a much more stable society, and men participated in the activities that their fathers and grandfathers participated in, the prohibition against recruiting might have made sense. But since WW2, and the population being scattered all over the country, the prohibition is obsolete.
     
  5. MarkR

    MarkR Premium Member

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    Minnesota now permits us to ask a good candidate if they would be interested, but only once. Then we must let it drop.
     
  6. Zack

    Zack Registered User

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    Would you be in a favor of doing away with the unanimous ballot and investigation committees?
    Some jurisdictions have done away the catechisms, at least in part. Perhaps we should omit the first 2 degrees and just make a man a MM upon application. What you're advocating is, "throw enough against the wall and maybe some stick".

    I say again.....We do not have a membership problem...we have a retention problem.
     
  7. cemab4y

    cemab4y Premium Member

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    Would you be in a favor of doing away with the unanimous ballot and investigation committees?
    Some jurisdictions have done away the catechisms, at least in part. Perhaps we should omit the first 2 degrees and just make a man a MM upon application. What you're advocating is, "throw enough against the wall and maybe some stick".

    I say again.....We do not have a membership problem...we have a retention problem.

    ===============

    I am NOT in favor of dropping the unanimous ballot, nor am I in favor of dropping the investigation committee. And I am certainly not in favor of dropping the EA/FC degrees. If you see my previous posts, you will see that I am 1000% in favor of keeping the ancient landmarks. We can stay "true to our roots", and still make the masonic experience more relevant to the 21st century.

    We have BOTH a membership problem and a retention problem. Look up an article called "there's a hole in our bucket", and you will what I am talking about.

    With the advancing age of our membership, I would like to see more "daylight" lodges , so that men who cannot get out at night, can participate in Masonry. You can agree, that making Masonry more accessible to shift workers and older members, is not a change in our Fraternity, but more of an "adaptation".

    I personally, enjoyed the memory work. Some jurisdictions have modified the work, or are using cypher books. I believe that each Grand Lodge will have to find the policy that they wish to use, and go with it.

    Virginia had the "You would make a good Mason" program some years ago. It was a way to introduce good men to Masonry, without "recruiting". I believe that there are many men who would make excellent Masons, but they do not know about the Fraternity, or they are waiting for an invitation that will never come.

    I have absolutely no problem with "open houses", where Masonry can be introducted to the community. These get great publicity for the Craft, and men who would otherwise never have heard of Freemasonry can learn about the Craft, and the petitioning process.

    I am not in favor of "throwing the baby out with the bath water"!.. I believe that all Masons, and especially all Grand Lodges, should take a "holistic" approach, and have the courage to examine the Masonic experience "top to bottom", and see how we can make Masonry more relevant and accessible to 21st Century America. We ignore the challenge at our peril!
     
  8. JJones

    JJones Moderator Staff Member

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    I'll be honest, if we start inviting people to join then I'll probably demit.

    A man has to decide, on his own, that he wishes to become a better person and take the next step. There's something very powerful about that and it's woven very heavily into the ritual as well. I couldn't fathom throwing that out the window.

    I also feel a program like this would be another example of trying to increase membership/retention without trying to fix the problem. Weather you invite them or make them ask to join you'll still end up with the same kind of retention if you aren't meeting incoming member expectations for Freemasonry. In fact, retention might even be lower with invitation...nothing like asking someone to join and then making them steward or asking them to fry fish. They might get the impression they were asked to join because everyone else was burned out on cooking all the time. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013
  9. crono782

    crono782 Premium Member

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    I think no invitation should stay that way. I see little harm in name dropping the craft into conversation with a man you believe would make a good mason. Through normal conversation, if he will likely get curious. Then invite him to a stated for dinner and conversation. The decision to ask is still his, but you've merely brought the topic to light. Again most won't ask if they don't know about it. But yeah, there is something quite powerful about someone who SEEKS rather than is OFFERED light.


    My Freemasonry
     
  10. Brother JC

    Brother JC Vigilant Staff Member

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    I feel the "invitation rule" has been ignored for decades, leading to the present wall of crony-ism many younger Brothers are experiencing. If anything, I think we should get tougher on people bringing their buddies in "just because."
    Exactly what is wrong with lodges of less than 100 dedicated members? IMO it beats the heck out of 400 DGF members.
     
  11. Angler

    Angler Registered User

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    I am not surprised that most of these comments seem to look backwards rather than forward. The ritual should be reinforced and preserved for everyone. But recruiting, investigating, training and retention should be changed to reflect the values of the modern world. Lodges in large metro areas should be centralized and sometimes merged to gain financial economies. Communications needs to be developed to allow ALL members to be better notified of Masonic activities and news.

    It's like an old preacher that refuse to let his congregation dance.
     
  12. jwhoff

    jwhoff Premium Member

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    Agreed! Quality, never numbers. Why are we constantly wringing our hands about the phenomena brought on by WWII mobilization?

    Who among us can make the statement that all who came into the fraternity were equally qualified or that they furthered masonry more than the smaller numbers before or since? Yes, numbers are great when stacking bricks and mortar. But quality prevails and perpetuates the enlightenment that will carry civilization through the many pitfalls of history.

    Brethren, should we not be more concerned about the large number of masonic disciplinary issues that face our grand jurisdictions across the planet.

    Should we not pay attention to the few number of newcomers who actually make it through to Master Mason each year? Have you ever thought serious about all those who don't have enough interest to even show back up after their EA degree?

    Should we not see that our lodges are spending less and less time on masonic teaching and more and more time on things that neither inspire or encourage the serious mason? How many Worshipful Masters among us stare blankly when a brother approaches him with the hope of introducing masonic education into the lodge activities? How many men in a stated meeting could hold a knowledgeable conversation about masonic history, philosophy or the tenants of the order?

    Are these not symptoms of packing our lodges with folks who may not be true initiates?


    I again suggest that were we to teach masonry in lodges and have a renaissance in our hearts that we would draw the attention of those worthy of initiation. Then, and only then, will we become relevant and grow the fraternity to it's rightful place in the world.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013
  13. Zack

    Zack Registered User

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    I agree about the communication being improved.
    In the never ending quest for membership numbers the Fraternity has been cheapened and the standards lowered to absurd levels.
    Except for the Ritual of our initiations, the biggest difference between Freemasonry and every other social and service club is we wear aprons and one guy wears a hat.
     
  14. cemab4y

    cemab4y Premium Member

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    Masonry experienced a huge "bump" in membrship in the post WW2 years. This phenomenon had many impacts on the Craft. The numbers levelled off, and began declining. I believe that Masonry can work with the new demographic realities, and still flourish.

    There will be some consolidations, lodges will close down and merge.

    We can keep our standards high, and still attract good men. We can also embrace new technologies, and still keep true to our ancient landmarks and traditions.

    Mother Teresa of Calcutta won the Nobel Prize, and the Medal of Freedom. One of her leadership policies was, that the word "problem" was forbidden. The sisters had to use the word "gift", instead.

    Masonry can use the decline of membership, as a methodology to work towards, a smaller, and more efficient Masonic experience. We can adopt more of the new technologies. Print newsletters are obsolete and expensive. Masonic news can be more easily disseminated by electronic media.
     
  15. Zack

    Zack Registered User

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    Quite a departure from your usual "doom and gloom" and "the sky is falling" pertaining to this subject.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
  16. cemab4y

    cemab4y Premium Member

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    Many masons are not convinced that there is a "gift" at all. They see the decline in membership, the advancing age of the membership, and the closing of lodges, and see nothing wrong at all. I see an opportunity to adjust our administrative procedures, and make some necessary changes, and move the Craft forward to a more meaningful experience in the 21st Century. ( I am experienced in statistical analysis with the Commerce Department, Bureau of the Census).

    Once the cohort of post-WW2 masons is out of the picture, the median age of US Masons will decline. When the younger men take over the leadership positions, we will be faced with the realities of smaller membership numbers, and fewer lodges, and consolidations. With a membership cohort more versed in the technologies of the internet and social media, the Craft can adapt and tailor the Masonic experience to the new realities.
     
  17. JJones

    JJones Moderator Staff Member

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    So our numbers are returning to their pre-ww2 averages? (Taking population changes into account)

    I wonder if our pre-ww2 brothers were as worried about numbers as so many of us are today?
     
  18. Zack

    Zack Registered User

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    I don't know how accurate it is but I have read that the percentages of the male population, pre-WW2 vs today, is about the same.

    I have no idea what our pre-WW2 Brethren were thinking about membership numbers, but I have read minutes from my Mother Lodge from late 1920's, and they were concerned about lack of attendance and participation not membership numbers.
     
  19. cemab4y

    cemab4y Premium Member

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    It is difficult to say what men were thinking 90 years ago. I find it instructive to look back at the time immediately following the Morgan affair in the 1820s. Every lodge in the entire state of Vermont had to close. New York lost over half the membership. Lodges closed and declined all over the USA. But Masonry survived, and the numbers picked back up. I cannot predict the future, but I can look at the demographic realities. A few things are certain:

    -The overall membership numbers will continue to decline (absent some major national effort to increase membership)
    -The median age of the membership will advance for some years, and then decline, as the post WW2 membership dies off.
    -Lodges will close and consolidate, as the membership numbers decline, and fewer numbers are available to keep the lodges open.
    -Rural lodges will see some of the greatest losses, as the population continues to "urbanize".

    I think that all Masons, who are concerned about the survival of the Craft ,should be concerned. I would love to see more cooperation and idea-sharing among the various Grand Lodges in the USA. What baffles me, is the silence coming from the appendant bodies. Their survival depends on the survival and growth of Craft Masonry.
     
  20. dfreybur

    dfreybur Premium Member

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    There are jurisdictions in the world that use invitations as their standard method. I remember a talk on it one of the years I attended GL in California 97-99. One or more of the European countries. I would love to be membership data for those jurisdictions to see if they have historical swings in popularity the way most US jurisdictions do. Having data leads to informed decisions. Not having data leads to guesswork.

    If the issue is about membership "More men in Freemasonry" then we should loosen the strings on invitations.

    Thing is I am no longer convinced that invitations are about the number of members. If you don't hold the tiler of the boat you drift with the winds. As we now depend on men coming to us because they randomly happened upon the fact that we don't do invitations, our incoming pipeline is random. Should we decide to use invitations we could begin with the more eminent men, whatever that means to any one of us. We could men up making it about "More Masonry in men" if we go about it carefully.
     

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