Greetings Brethren, I know it has been some time since my last post and for that i do apologize. Life and masonry get in the way sometimes to new ventures that you attempt to put on. I have sort of a different post for tonight as you may have guessed for the title. I would like to get some opinions from Brothers mainly outside of the USA, and definitely outside of Ohio. I ask that if you can you please take a little time to answer some of the questions. Your answers will not only help Hugh L. Bates 686 to grow and prosper but Ohio Freemasonry as well. So before i even get started i just want to say thank you for your time, it is greatly appreciated.
As a lot of us know, Freemasonry is suffering, especially here in the United States. Membership numbers are dropping dramatically, mainly to death of our Veteran members and our somewhat failure as well as lack of interest from prospective men to join the craft to refill the rolls. Ohio is currently at 86,000 members, in 2013 we stood at 95,000 members. Now I am not advocating for massive membership recruitment drives to replace these members. I have stated my opinion on that sometime ago. What bothers me the most is our number of members that are actively participating in lodge, and what we can do to increase that number. Here in Ohio and across the USA, from my experience, talking to other Brethren, and listening to the various Masonic Podcast, if you get 10% - 15% of you membership to show up to your meetings regularly than you are doing good. Bates has 200 members and though we have made improvements we are still not at that 10% mark yet. We have with regular attendance 15 for about 8% with more and more meetings hitting the 20+ member mark, but not on a regular basis. Now from a few Brothers i have communicated with or that have been on the Podcast that i listen to, the percentage of members showing up at meetings in Great Britain, Europe, India, South America and so on is much greater, and ranges in the 40% to 80% range. So as curiosity always gets the better of me, I have to ask. What are we doing wrong and what are you doing different. I am currently working with a new State Group for the Grand Lodge of Ohio whose main mission is to answer the main issues such as participation. The answers that you provide will help in us tackling these problems and help to strengthen Masonry throughout the state. If you would in your response please list your Lodge and Location. Thanks
Anthony Hurr Sec'y
How many members does your lodge have and what is the percentage of members that attend your meetings
(Ohio has 483 Lodges for an average number of 178 members per lodge. The lowest lodge has under 40 members and the largest is over 600 members.)
How many required meeting do you have a year and how often do you actually meet.
(Ohio Lodges are required to have 10 stated meetings a year. Bates Meets every week on Tuesdays.)
Do you have a meal before or after the Meeting? Is it only for stated Meetings or every meeting? Do you charge the brethren for it, ask for donations, or does the lodge pay for it? What type of meal is it, an elaborate catered meal, chips and cookies, or somewhere in-between? How important do you feel the meal is.
(Bates has a meal before every Stated and Degree meeting that is made by one of the wives that is an excellent cook. We don't charge for our meals)
How big of an emphasis does your lodge place on education? Is it just a short 5 minute paper that someone reads, or does it take up a good part of the meeting? Does it lean more towards the Esoteric and sciences, or famous Masons and History? Is it interactive with the Brethren or do they just sit and listen? Do you bring in speakers? if so what are some popular topics.
(Bates has emphasized more education at Stated Meetings with it being between 15 to 30 minutes. it may be a paper, video or Power point presentation. Have had a few speakers. haven't really been able to have it be interactive yet.)
We all know that our first objective as freemasons (at least here in the States) is to make Masons. So we try our best to make the degree work as memorable and inspiring as we can. Memorizing our work and doing our best to have flawless ritual is all ways our first priority, and for some it is the one thing that keeps members coming to Lodge. Others its the fellowship that they receive with their brethren. Others its the philanthropy that the Lodge does throughout the year. Each lodge is different and seems to create their own identity for one of these. What is the one thing that your lodge seems to be known for and that your members are most proud of.
How often do you do a table lodge if ever? Do you have ritual that allows for the lodge to do degree work during a table lodge? How important do you feel the table lodge is to Masonry and the fellowship of the Brethren?
(The Grand Lodge of Minnesota has a ritual for an Entered Apprentice Degree to be done during a table lodge. This got me wondering if there were other jurisdictions that have this.)
The Practice of Singing during fraternal gatherings was widespread here in the States over a hundred years ago. Is this still a thing in parts of the world when masons meet? If so what do you feel it adds to the Brotherhood?
Here in Ohio each lodge is "inspected" in a different degree each year to make sure they are doing their work properly. This for years has been the only reason that Masons travel to other Lodges. For some Lodges this is the only thing that they worry about all year and once its over it's like the year is done for them. The pressure for the officers can be intense during these inspections. Does you jurisdiction do "inspections" every year? If not is there something inlace of this that brings Masons from other lodges to attend your lodge, and what is it? What is the Main reason that Masons Travel in your area?
What are some of the things that keep the Members coming back meeting after meeting? What is it about masonry that they find value in to keep coming and spending time with their brethren? What is it about Masonry that makes them proud to be freemasons? What is the success rate of having newly raised candidates coming back on a regular basis? Do you use a Mentorship program, and if so how important do you feel this is?
How long does it normally take for a new candidate to receive all three degrees? How long do you feel it should take? Is there extensive education that he must learn before moving on to the next degree.
(Ohio from the time the petition it can bee in as little as 4 months to complete this journey)
Does your Jurisdiction allow for alcohol in the building for meals or fellowship? How does the lodge keep this regulated to where no one gets out of hand? Are you allowed to have it before lodge? if so is there a cutoff time prior to the meeting? Is there a limit on the number of drinks your allowed to have? Do you feel that the presence of Alcohol is a positive or a negative in Masonry. Does it help to enhance the fellowship between brethren? If it were eliminated would you have a drop in participation? If so by how much?
(Ohio doesn't allow for alcohol in a lodge building under any circumstances unless that part of the building is owned by another outside party.)
Has you lodge ever had a time when participation was so low you thought you might have to close the doors and pack up shop? What were some of the things that your Lodge did, that worked, to bring old members back to be active in Lodge? What were some of the things that worked for your lodge to bring in new members that remained active?
What is the cost of dues in your lodge? Do you feel that is to high or to low? Do you think we undervalue the Fraternity, and due to members not wanting to increase dues for the lodge cheapen their experience and Masonry? Is there any lodges that have monthly dues? if so how much?
(Dues at Bates is $75 a year with a $200 initiation fee for new candidates. I personally feel that this is to low for what i get out of it, but that me. I would easily pay $20 a month in dues. Not sure how this would go over with the lodge though
What is the one thing you would change about Masonry and its meetings that you feel is a burden or a hinderance to the brethren, and might cause or has caused brothers to no longer attend?
What is the one thing that you love the most about Masonry and that keeps you coming back meeting after meeting?
There are many More questions that i could ask but i think this a good place to begin. We all want the same thing, a good Strong Brotherhood. We just have to work together to get there. Once again thank you for your time and may God Bless.
You can reply with you answers in the comment section of this blog or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I plan to post answers to this in a future blog.