Increasing Lodge Attendance

Discussion in 'Masonic Education' started by Blake Bowden, Nov 21, 2014.

  1. Blake Bowden

    Blake Bowden Administrator Staff Member

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    THERE are few more vexatious problems which the Worshipful Master has to meet than that of increasing the attendance in a lodge in which the members have to some extent, at least, lost interest.

    It is a fact no less true than sad that, on the average, an attendance of ten per cent of the membership is looked upon as a "good" turnout. Yet there are lodges which have a much greater number at almost every communication.

    It is the natural and laudable desire of all Worshipful Master so to conduct the affairs of the lodge as to make all its meetings so interesting that members will desire to fill the benches.

    As a general principle, the way to arouse interest is to do something different from what is normally done in lodge. A lodge which is overburdened with degree work can increase attendance by holding some special meetings for purely social and Fraternal purposes. A lodge in which a speaker from another lodge and better, another Grand Jurisdiction is seldom heard, may increase its attendance by making such addresses a feature. A lodge in which Masonic education is unknown and untried may increase attendance by the preparation and putting on of an educational programs A lodge which has small interest for its members because it appears to be set off, isolated. from the life of the community, may increase not only attendance but stimulate the desire for membership among non-Masons by taking part in some civic activity.

    THE Worshipful Master is faced at the start of the preparation of any entertainment with two conflicting principles: the more of his own members he can persuade to work in and take part in the entertainment, the more interest he can arouse among them and their friends; the more he goes outside the lodge for amusement and instruction, the more he is apt to interest all its members, most of whom have seen or heard the home talent before.

    In arranging for any program, whether it be one of entertainment or instruction, Masonic or otherwise, it is wise to put the entire affair in the hands of a competent chairman of a committee, give him plenty of assistance, and then let him run it without interference. Some Worshipful Masters, with the best intentions in the world are so unwise as to appoint a chairman of a committee and then attempt to do his work, or dictate how it should be done. A chairman should be a willing worker, and in sympathy with the ideas of the Worshipful Master, but unless he has some ideas and initiative of his own, he is not qualified to be a chairman; if he has ideas and initiative, he is not being properly used unless he is allowed to employ them.

    AS a general rule, a small committee is better than a large one; if the plans are elaborate, the committee may divide itself into subcommittees with sub-chairmen, who may call to their, assistance all the help they need. But a large central committee is unwieldy and difficult to handle; there are too many ideas, and too conflicting desires, to make such an organization a success. Individual lodges differ largely, but as a rule an entertainment committee of three or five at the most is sufficiently large.

    He is a well advised Worshipful Master who does not consider Masonic dignity and honors as the first requisite in an entertainment committee chairman. The senior Past Master has not necessarily the most original mind; the Senior Warden may be an excellent officer and a prospective Master of charm and ability, without being constituted by nature and training to be a good chairman of an educational committee. A wise Master doesn't hesitate to use the brains and enthusiasm of the younger members. It is easy to gain the cooperation of the older members, and of those the lodge has honored, by asking them to give way to the young and untried that these may show their quality.

    A few plans which have been tried and proved successful in increasing attendance are herewith suggested:

    1.A SURPRISE MEETING. Advertise to the membership that there is a surprise awaiting them. Tell them there will be "something doing" on the surprise night which they have never seen before. Then arrange with a capable committee to exemplify during the meeting a dozen or more matters of law and behavior. Have a new brother deliberately cross the lodge room between the Attar and the East. Call him down for it. Have a Past Master explain to the lodge why this is not good Masonic usage. During a ballot have a brother leave the room by way of the West Gate. Declare the ballot illegal and take it over again. Have a Past Master explain why it is illegal. Let some brother move that the lodge adjourn. Have some one else answer him and explain that parliamentary procedure which governs most assemblages cannot apply in a Masonic lodge because of the powers and prerogatives of the Worshipful Master, at whose pleasure alone the lodge convenes and is closed. Get a debate started on something, anything, and have a brother appeal from the decision of the Worshipful Master to the lodge. Rule him out of order, and explain that the only appeal lies to the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge, and why. Have some brother give the wrong salute on entering or leaving; correct him, and have some one make a short talk on the reasons for the salute on entering or leaving, and how the brother may always know by an examination of the Great Lights upon what degree the lodge is open. Think up half a dozen more matters in which the customs, the etiquette or the law of Masonry may be violated, and have an explanation and an answer ready for each one. It is surprising, the interest which brethren take in a practical demonstration of this kind, and how simple and easy it is to arrange without any expense whatever.

    2. A Masonic Experience Meeting. In any lodge a certain number of brethren have had some pleasant, different, unusual experience of Masonry. One has had to borrow money in a strange city, and did it through Masonic connection. Another has discovered a Masonic imposter. A third has made a pleasant friend in another city through mutual Masonry. A fourth has had some odd experience of the manners, customs and usages of Masonry in a sister Grand jurisdiction. Another has seen a funeral service in another jurisdiction, quite different from that you use. Etc., Etc. Get a committee to ascertain the names of half a dozen such brethren, and persuade them to give their experiences. Advertise it in the lodge. circular and see the increase in attendance.

    3. A Lodge Debate. Choose some interesting Masonic subject, on which opinion is divided, appoint two teams of debaters, of two men each, and stage a contest between them. A Masonic debate should not run over forty minutes. A is given eight minutes for the affirmative, B eight minutes for the negative, following by C eight minutes for rebuttal and D eight minutes for rebuttal. Each is allowed two minutes to close. The decision is to rest on the vote of the lodge. A few suggested topics are: "Resolved, that Masonry would be more effective if all lodges. were limited in size"; "Resolved, that perpetual jurisdiction over rejected candidates is unjust"; "Resolved, that a Master's powers should be limitable By a lodge," etc., etc.

    It should be carefully explained that these subjects are debated purely for the information such debates may bring out, and that there is no thought of attempting by lodge action to alter existing law or practice. if desired, such a lodge debate may not be educational. but humorous, in character; such as, "Resolved, that golf should not interfere with' business";. "Resolved, that the Worshipful Master should pay the lodge a salary for his privilege," etc., etc. If debaters are ready speakers, such simple entertainment can be made very effective and interesting.

    4 Past Masters' Night. Fill the chairs with the Past Masters, in the order of seniority, for the conferring of a degree. If no candidate is available, and there is no local regulation against the practice, use a dummy candidate from among the members, or have the degree conferred on the oldest Past Master. Those officers who have born the heat and burden of the day are usually very proud of the opportunity to get again into harness, and the membership is usually much interested in the performance.

    5. TELL US WHAT You THINK." "Have ten brethren, each with an idea, give four-minute talks on what the lodge needs. This does not mean what it requires in the way of a new hall, or new equipment, or more money, but what it requires to be better, more alive, more interesting, more able. Such a discussion will bring out many ideas. Throw the meeting open to the membership as soon as those who have been arranged for as speakers have finished; often the unprepared speech will be the best and most illuminating of the evening.

    6. THE QUESTION BOX. Put a small box with a slot in it in the lodge, and invite the brethren to submit questions regarding anything Masonic; assure them that as many of the questions as possible will be answered the next meeting. See that half a dozen brethren, instructed in advance, drop questions in the box. The Worshipful Master will probably get a number for which he has not arranged, but these are his sheet anchor; he can then have prepared half a dozen answers to the questions he has had asked in this way, and these answers delivered to the lodge in five minute addresses. Questions and answers both, of course, can be obtained from books. A sample list of some half a dozen questions, interesting to most Masons, is as follows:

    HOW old is Masonry, and how do we know its age?

    What are the ten most Masonic verses in the Bible, not including those quotations from the Great Light used in the ritual?

    Who was William Morgan and what happened in the Morgan affair?

    In wearing a Masonic ring, should the points of the compasses point to the wearer or toward his finger tips, and why?

    What is the origin of the Masonic use of the word "profane," meaning one not a member, and why are they so called? England permits dual membership. What American Grand jurisdictions permit it and what are some of the arguments for and against it ? What and where is the oldest lodge in the world, in the United States, in this State?

    7. Evening devoted to THE SONGS OF MASONRY. Good Masonic poetry is scarce. But there is enough of it to furnish a pleasant and interesting hour or so of instruction and entertainment. Pick out half a dozen of the best known Masonic poems, and half a dozen brethren who will memorize them, and prepare a little talk upon them. Let these brethren recite the poem of their choice, and then comment upon it, its meaning, and its significance. An anthology of Masonic poems is in Volume Twenty of The Little Masonic Library. Good poems for an evening of this kind are Kipling's "The Palace" and "Mother Lodge", Burns' "Masonic Farewell", Goethe's "Mason Lodge", Leigh Hunt's "Abou Ben Adhem". Carruth's "Each in His Own Tongue", Burns' "On the Apron", Meredith's "Ebony Staff of Solomon", Bowman's "Voice of America and Malloch's Father's Lodge".

    8. It is often possible to awaken interest in a lodge by the formation of some lodge organization; a glee club, a dramatic club, a study club, a Fellowcraft team, etc. These are good ways to increase attendance.

    9. A little "stunt', which always holds the attention of the members is having some part of the Masonic ritual---it may be the charge to a candidate in one of the degrees, a section from the Middle Chamber lecture, or perhaps the prayer from the third degree committed by half a dozen brethren. These brethren then deliver the same work to the lodge, in order to show how different the appeal of it may be, as done in different ways. Naturally, the parts selected should be short. If the brethren are willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the evening, a prize may be put up for the most effective rendition, the decision, of course, to rest with the lodge. The vote on the best rendition should be by paper ballot. But do not do this unless the brethren have been previously consulted and are willing to enter into the spirit of the little contest.

    10. In a lodge which has much work and much business, the Worshipful Master will add to the interest and the attendance if he runs the business meeting with dispatch. The, dragging business meeting, with a great deal of "hot air" from well-meaning brethren who really have little to say, is often sufficiently boresome to keep members away. It is not suggested that the Master shut off debate arbitrarily, or rap any brother down. But it is perfectly possible to run the first part of the business meeting snappily, have a prepared speech or so, very short and interesting, and then have a couple of "planted" brethren comment on the shortness and the snappiness. The round hand of applause which such comments usually draw will keep the prolix and the long-winded off their feet!

    I I. It adds to the interest and, therefore, to the attendance, if the Master always has something to tell his lodge. "Give them good and wholesome instruction" means what it says. A five-minute talk by the Master upon some matter of interest to the particular lodge, or to Masons generally, will often prove an interesting feature of business meetings. Of course, it means some work for the Worshipful Master to get up some twenty little addresses during his year, but Worshipful Masters expect to work or else they are much surprised brethren when they get in the East!

    The Master who is a ready speaker has a great advantage over the slow of tongue different speeches to different Past Masters as they are welcomed, a different set of remarks to every visitor, keep the membership keyed up wondering what the Master will say next! To call brother after brother to his feet and say only "It gives me much pleasure to welcome you to this communication of your own lodge, you are cordially invited to a seat in the East," is not thrilling, and is monotonous. On the other hand, the Master must be careful not to "talk the interest to death." Nor should he ever be witty at the expense of his members or visitors, unless it is that kindly wit which compliments at the same time it brings a smile.

    12. Finally, the Worshipful Master may largely increase interest in his meetings by departing from the custom of many previous Masters and doing what they didn't do! This does not mean a criticism of previous Masters; what they did may also have been interesting and different. But the new is always interesting, and that which is interesting usually stimulates attendance. With good reason, depart from the usual order of business; it is a Master's privilege. Have some brother, the more obscure the better,- who has done something, anything, escorted to the Altar, and thank him, congratulate him or comment on hi's work; the more unexpected this is the more interesting to the membership. Extend a special welcome to the oldest Past Master, or more beloved brother; if you have no regularly appointed chaplain, or if he is absent, call on some brother, and a different brother every time, to take over the simple duties of a lodge chaplain. Encourage debate; ask for comments on any question which comes up on which no one voluntarily has anything to offer; the more members getting on their feet the greater interest there is in the meeting, always providing they are not long-winded about it.

    Source: SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.VI October, 1928 No.10
     
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  2. streeter

    streeter Registered User

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    excellent article...!!
    and it is very interesting that it was written in 1928....
    clearly the vitality and membership issue has been a very long time in its making...
    best,
    robert streeter.
     
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  3. Ripcord22A

    Ripcord22A Site Benefactor

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    Ive shared this with the WM of my adopted lodge here in NM
     
  4. jwhoff

    jwhoff Premium Member

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    Excellent points. A must read for all incoming Worshipful Masters. Again, as always, thanks Brother Blake.
     
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  5. pointwithinacircle2

    pointwithinacircle2 Rapscallion Premium Member

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  6. cptmorgan007

    cptmorgan007 Registered User

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    back at home at New Braunfels Lodge the brothers meet every Tuesday, though we only have or stated meet once a month and we do not open the actually open the lodge. we will get together and for about an hour or so just to talk amongst ourselves in the dinning area. Doing this offers a location for degree work for those working their way through the degrees.( stepping in the the lodge its self) What I have noticed more then that is people who stop by and are wanting more information about masonry tend to come back more often when the option to come visit is weekly vice monthly. I have noticed our lodge has grown a lot over the past couple years and we have even seen a shift to a younger crowd as well.
     
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  7. Warrior1256

    Warrior1256 Site Benefactor

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    Very good points to take back to the lodge.
     
  8. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

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    Ten percent ? Is anyone a member of a lodge like that now days ?

    Our is probably around 50% as a minimum. Generally we get about 24-27 of our 40 members. Two now live out of Melbourne, so we are rarely going to get 100%
     
  9. Warrior1256

    Warrior1256 Site Benefactor

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    As far as I know I have yet to visit a lodge where a majority of members attend regular meetings.
     
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  10. Brother JC

    Brother JC Vigilant Staff Member

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    Last time I looked it was considered the "official average" for US lodges.
     
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  11. Ripcord22A

    Ripcord22A Site Benefactor

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    For Both my lodges (2 different jurisdictions) this is about average
     
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  12. Warrior1256

    Warrior1256 Site Benefactor

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    Same here.
     
  13. Bill Lins

    Bill Lins Moderating Staff Staff Member

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    Silly me- I thought it was a requirement!
     
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  14. Warrior1256

    Warrior1256 Site Benefactor

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    Lol!
     

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