The number of Masons in the United States today is far less than it was fifty, twenty, or even ten years ago.
Both my lodge and grand lodge currently face the question of how to increase our membership; given what I have read in various Masonic groups on social media, I can only assume that other lodges and grand lodge jurisdictions are asking the same thing.
I have often summarized Freemasonry as a civic fraternity that promotes moral self-improvement and service to the community.
Each lodge and grand lodge varies in how it affects such service; the same can be said of each of the various concordant/appendant and affiliate bodies that Masons and their family members can join.
Service to the community is essential to self-improvement, especially in an organization that has Relief (or Charity, depending on your grand lodge jurisdiction) and Brotherly Love as two of its principal tenets.
The more your lodge serves its local community, the more that the community will be aware of it. The more that they are aware of your lodge and the service that it provides, the more likely someone will want to join.
Nobody in their right mind is going to join any organization without having an idea of what that organization is or does.
Another big part of community outreach today is social media. Just about every lodge and grand lodge today has its own website.
However, I do not personally believe that this is enough. I humbly recommend that each lodge and grand lodge set up its own page or account on such media as Facebook and Twitter.
I also recommend placing the website of your lodge or grand lodge in that page or account’s description.
This not only will direct more traffic to the lodge or grand lodge’s website but will also serve as a wonderful way to make announcements to your community (such as when you might be having an open house or tour for the public).
Do you have an idea for a project that is too big for your lodge to handle?
Invite other lodges, appendant/concordant, and affiliate bodies to participate.
Even better, reach out to local non-Mason fraternities to see if they would like to partner up with your lodge.
Prior to the current pandemic, my lodge partnered with the local Elk’s Lodge to do a dinner for all veterans on each Veteran’s Day.
This is a wonderful way to foster community relations while taking some of the load off your lodge’s proverbial shoulders.
Open Houses and Tours
Also prior to the current pandemic, my lodge hosted a monthly open house and tour free to the public; the same event also provided dinner for anyone (Mason or not) who wanted to come.
I am one of the many who have joined my local lodge due specifically to its monthly meet-up.
People are curious about Freemasonry; a wonderful way to satisfy that curiosity is to show them around your lodge building.
Encourage them to ask questions; if they ask a question that you cannot answer without breaking your obligation, then just tell them so. I have never met a non-Mason who did not respect that boundary.
Invite members of your lodge to come to these open houses, with their families if possible.
When your guests come, invite your Lodge members and their families to get to know your guests (who, oftentimes, will bring members of their own family, especially if a free dinner is involved).
Give Your Brother Something to Do
Membership retention is far more important than having new petitioners.
Our brothers are more than just numbers. They are individuals whose interests in Masonry will either increase or decrease depending on how much we involve them.
People become Freemasons for a variety of reasons, but the following seem to be among the most common:
- They want to be better people.
- They are interested in serving their community.
- They want to learn.
How can any of this be achieved if we do not involve our lodge members?
This principle applies not only to our newest Entered Apprentices but also to our most experienced Master Masons.
Each new member should be given something to do, even if it is small.
I remember from my childhood when my local church congregation had a newly converted member; all the callings (or offices) were filled.
The bishop of the ward knew that it was important for this new member to feel like he was more than just a spectator; so, my bishop created an unofficial position of “ward greeter” and asked this new member if he’d be willing to take it on.
His job was to welcome and shake hands with all other church members as they arrived to church meetings and services.
This new member got to know other members of the ward quite quickly and always felt like a part of the congregation’s family from that point on.
Experienced Masons are a wonderful resource for coaching new Masons for their respective proficiencies in ritual as well as for coaching new officers for future roles.
Our lodges need this; our Masons need this.
If a Mason is only an Entered Apprentice or Fellowcraft, then invite them to one of the lodge’s service projects or to help cook for the open house.
If they are Master Masons, but all the officer’s chairs are filled, then put them on a committee instead.
Building on the last section, proficiency in ritual is essential to the Masonic journey.
When a candidate goes through a degree ceremony for the first time, he is subjected to an overwhelming amount of information and is not expected to remember it all from that ceremony.
The incumbent Worshipful Master of my lodge has said often that going through the degree ceremony for the first time is like trying to take a sip from a firehose. Speaking from personal experience, I can only agree with this observation.
Each degree ceremony is jam-packed with allegorical, moral lessons.
I recommend that each candidate become proficient in each degree’s catechism after he has gone through the degree ceremony.
I recommend this specifically because my own lodge for the longest time only required that the Masonic obligations (a small portion of the catechism) be memorized.
Just a couple of years ago, the lodge changed this requirement to the full catechism; as a result, each Mason who goes through the three degrees and who therefore memorizes the full catechisms is far more informed of and familiar with these ceremonies than I was at that time.
I am happy to report that I took the time to learn the full catechisms shortly before the lodge made this change.
We should not allow cliques to form in our lodges or in any other Masonic body. We are all brothers and therefore should regard each other equally.
You may form friendships with certain Masons more than you do with others, but this does not excuse shutting any of your fellow Masons or visitors out.
FREE DOWNLOAD: 100 FACTS ABOUT FREEMASONRY (ALMOST NOBODY KNOWS)
Join the 3,000+ Brethren from around the world inside our weekly Masonic newsletter and get our best selling ebook for free (usual value: $20).
This is an issue that most lodges, grand lodges, appendant/concordant, and affiliate bodies would like to see change.
A common phrase that I have heard among Masons is,
“Be the change that you want to see.”
Be serviceable to your local community; invite other groups to help your lodge with those service projects and/or charities. Invite your community into your lodge building.
Keep your brethren busy so that they do not get bored; do not allow exclusive cliques within the lodge to form.
These are the recommendations that I have for increasing the membership of your lodge.
This also increases the membership of your grand lodge and any appendant/concordant and/or affiliate bodies by extension.