A new lodge year is under way! So, how are things going in your Lodge?
If you are the Worshipful Master, congratulations and I hope your year has started out on a positive note. If it has, again, congratulations. But leaders of successful endeavors know there is always room for improvement. So, take the time to measure the start to your year and gauge the ways it could have been even better. If it hasn’t? Well then now is the time to fix it! Reflect on what has transpired in the first month of this new year and honestly appraise what you can do to "raise the bar" and better serve your members. Part of this process should include meeting with your subordinate officers to get their input. Remember, the old adage that "two heads are better than one" and keep in mind that one of your responsibilities is to mentor the subordinate officers as they progress through the line. The key is COMMUNICATION!
Every organization, from the largest corporations in the world down to mom and pop store, whether for profit or not, likely will find that their success or failure is due in large part to communication, or the lack thereof. Don’t let your lodge be a victim of a lack of communication. What percentage of your membership that lives within a reasonable distance to your lodge has attended your meetings since January first? Generally speaking, the average participation/attendance for volunteer organizations is around 10 percent. Is your Lodge doing better than that, worse than that, or about average? Are you satisfied with that attendance? If not, what are some of the things your lodge can do to improve those numbers? Remember that, as M∴W∴Theodore J. Nelson, Past Grand Master of CT, always reminds us, "Freemasonry is a team sport." It takes the team members, working together, to create a successful lodge.
First and foremost, COMMUNICATE with your members! Have you published a trestle board yet? Was a hard print copy mailed to the older members who don’t have or use social media or email? Was the information in the trestle board timely and interesting? If you’re not comfortable with or technologically savvy, identify one or more of your members who may be willing to help you and your lodge by serving as a publications committee.
Second, have you analyzed your lodge’s membership? Take a look at your lodge roster! It is super easy to do with the Grand View membership database. What are the ages of those members who you haven’t seen in lodge lately? Where do they live? Which of your officers or members live in close proximity? Are they willing to serve as transportation for those brothers who may not drive at night or who have other difficulties that keep them from attending?
Third, are your meetings worth the effort to attend? Remember, you are responsible for "setting the craft to work and giving them good and wholesome instruction for their labors!" How have your first several meetings been? Was something offered at every meeting that made attendance worthwhile? Did you give your members a reason to return any time soon? If not, now is the time to fix the problem. Do you have a programs committee that can assist you in obtaining and scheduling quality programs that will interest and entertain your members? And yes, I said entertain.
Sporting events, concerts, movies, all are entertainment and all have become huge businesses that consume our time and our money. Recently I read a blurb from 1955 saying "Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $50,000 to play ball?" We’re a far cry from that today. Ball players make huge dollars, the batboy probably makes more than $50,000 and that kind of entertainment is what your lodge meetings are competing against. If you don’t make your meetings interesting and worth attending, then the only likely attendees will be your officers and a few "hardcore" members who attend because they’re in the habit of doing so.
Don’t expect to turn your attendance around overnight, it will take time. That is especially true in a case where your lodge has been struggling in recent years and there is a history of a lack of programs. But if you want your lodge to survive and to prosper, the positive change needs to start somewhere, and it might just as well start with you.
Communicate! Identify a handful of key members of your lodge both from within the officer corps and your general membership. Sit down with them and develop a plan for improving your lodge and your meetings. Think about reviving some old, successful activities in which the lodge used to engage or introduce something new that could be of interest to your membership. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Hold regular meetings with your program and transportation committees to get progress reports and to fine tune your efforts. Above all, communicate what you are doing with your members. Publish both your intended programs and the results of the programs you have already offered. Develop interest among your members to attend your meetings. Give your members who didn’t attend a reason to say: "I’m sorry I missed that meeting. I’m marking my calendar right now, so I don’t miss the next meeting."
If you’re not constantly trying to improve, then there is a very good chance that you will fall short and your lodge will suffer. And if you’re not striving to improve, your lodge will move backwards. Being the Worshipful Master of a lodge is not easy. This is not something that you can do "on the fly" reliably or for any extended period of time nor are you guaranteed success because you’ve done it before. Each year is different, and its success requires planning, preparation, communication, and cooperation.
I sat in a lodge installation earlier this year where the Worshipful Master was being installed for the second time. He related that he was excited and felt fortunate that there was a one-year break between his two terms. He related that he knew there were things that he should have done differently and that he now felt that this year, he would be better equipped to lead his lodge. I look forward to observing that lodge’s progress this year. Remember, the Worshipful Master is only one man. The officers of the lodge are admonished that "the intelligent cooperation of his officers will do much to lighten his load." However, the Worshipful Master must lead in a constructive manner. Do this for your lodge and for those who will succeed you as Worshipful Master in future years. If you want a year that you can look back on with pride, you need to do the work now to lead your lodge in growing and improving. No matter how good your lodge is or has been, you have the remainder of this year to make it even better. Communication is the key to a successful year! You hold that key in your hand. Use it to unlock your lodge’s full potential.
By: M∴W∴ Charles Yohe, PGM - Connecticut