What you are about to read will deliver into your hands proven methodology for increasing awareness and interest in Freemasonry in your area. You are being given the knowledge but it is up to you to take action.
Perusing various forums dedicated to the topic of Freemasonry, I’ve been witness to an all too common theme. Men serving in officer positions across the country (and Past Masters) lament about the decline in our Fraternal Order’s membership. Discussions range from worrying about attendance at meetings to a general lack of interest in being a part of an institution such as ours. In some cases, those who ask questions about how to gain membership are argued out of the room. In other cases, they are met with enough empathy that a bit of a conversation takes place. In both cases, the worried party is generally told to sit down and be quiet because we’re not a dying breed and they need to just accept the arguments. “We need less so long as we have higher quality,” “I’m not seeing any amount of decline in my Lodge,” “We are not getting smaller!” It would seem that these false claims are boisterous enough to silence the concerned, which is too bad, because according to the MSA, things aren’t looking up.
Who is the MSA? This is taken directly from their website: The Masonic Service Association of the United States was created in 1919 by the Grand Lodges of the United States for the purpose of performing a number of services under one central organization. Some of those services have changed over the years, but MSA remains an organization dedicated to serving Freemasonry, our country, and the world.
The MSA’s three major functions are:
- Education and Information
- Since 1923, MSA has published the Short Talk Bulletin every month. It is considered the most widely distributed Masonic publication in the world.
- MSA and its Masonic Information Center have many publications to tell the world about Freemasonry, including a variety of pamphlets, digests, and brochures, which have been distributed to more than 3 million people in the past 20 years.
- Disaster Relief. In 1923 MSA issued its first disaster relief appeal. Since then MSA has become a recognized and credible Masonic group in North America, trusted by all Grand Lodges to forward aid around the world when disaster strikes. This has been one of MSA’s key services. Total disaster aid collected and distributed by MSA since 1923 has surpassed $10 million – a milestone of which we are very proud.
- Hospital Visitation. From the start the cornerstone service provided by MSA is our work with those who have served in the military. Today MSA has approximately 180 Hospital Representatives and State Coordinators, plus hundreds more volunteers at virtually every VA Medical Center and at many state veterans hospitals in the United States. These individuals have given thousands of hours of service to our Veterans, giving back to those who have served our country through great sacrifice.
You now have an idea of who they are, but why do I say that they claim things aren’t looking up? What I’m about to cite is nothing new. These figures have been readily available to anyone who has an interest. For the sake of brevity, I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details but if you’re interested in looking at the actual figures, visit their website at msana.com.
North American Freemasonry peaked in membership in 1951 with 4,103,161 members on the census. As of 2017 when the last census numbers were published, Freemasonry in North America was at 1,076,626. This has been a pretty steady decline with some stronger dips than others over the years, but steady nonetheless. Obviously, people who claim that Freemasonry isn’t suffering from a loss in membership aren’t aware of the actual data.
Masons need to take action. There’s no other way of putting it. There’s no sugar-coating the issue and we should not be afraid to talk about these concerns. If you’re a straight-laced, old-fashioned Mason who believes that you aren’t supposed to talk about the Order, I’m here to tell you that this position is part of the problem. I’m also here to share tried and true, proven ways to re-engage Freemasonry in the minds of the men around you.
Be not embarrassed to display your affiliation for you are a member of the oldest and most honorable organizations to have ever existed. Wear your Masonic rings, hats, shirts, jackets, and belts. Display your Masonic emblems on your vehicles, in the windows of your homes, and at your workplace. Talk about experiences with your Brothers when you’re with non-members.
I have traveled across the United States a number of times. I’ve been through just about every state in this country and in every one of them, I’ve been engaged in conversation about the Fraternity. I wear a ball cap with the Square and Compasses proudly embroidered on it whenever I can. I have a shiny Masonic ring as my wedding ring. I have a Square and Compasses tattoo emblazoned on my right forearm and every one of these have contributed to sparking conversations and interest.
In the South, I was at a restaurant where I woefully discovered that they only accepted checks or cash. All I had on me was a credit card. The woman behind the register saw my tattoo and said, “That’s okay, honey. You’re a Brother. You can mail me a check.”
I was blown away and informed her that I live in Utah. She replied, “You’re a Brother. I don’t care where you live, I know you’re good for it.” Obviously, this woman has had nothing but good experiences with Freemasons.
I was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming when a man behind the counter saw my hat. We had a pleasant conversation for twenty-minutes about Freemasonry as he was very interested in our institution. I was at a wedding when one of the bride’s brothers asked me about my ring. When I told him it is a Freemason’s ring, we entered into a thirty-minute conversation. I was buying fruit at a fruit stand when the man running the stand asked me about my ring. Turns out he had served in the military recently with some Masons and is very interested in finding out more about Lodges in the area.
You are the packaging that inspires interest. Package yourself well.
Exhibitionism—No, Not That Kind
When I first joined this amazing organization, I was the seventh active member of a Lodge that was in the process of being reborn. My mentor and instructor was the Senior Warden at the time and he dedicated himself to the growth of the Lodge. His efforts included exhibitions in public education and interest in Freemasonry flourished in our area.
Arrange for public lectures about the history of Freemasonry, what it is that you do today, how it has been vilified and misrepresented. Use the opportunities to educate, promote the good, and speak frankly about the Fraternity. Dispell the myths while still promoting the mystery.
Most Masonic temples aren’t on major thoroughfares or right in the Public’s eye. At least that’s been my experience as I’ve traveled. Hold these events at libraries, private schools, universities, or city halls. Spread the word through social media, flyer placement, and word of mouth.
You don’t need to have more than one speaker—a man who is well-informed, a charismatic public speaker, who develops an engaging presentation, but you can have as many as three and still keep the event to a short hour and a half with each speaker taking one-half hour. Make sure you leave the opportunity for questions and answers at the end because I guarantee you’ll get them. Not once in these presentations was anyone asked to join Freemasonry. The entire event was educational and people ate it up.
Our petitions exploded. Our meetings were well-attended. We were one of the best-functioning Lodges in the state and were highly recommended by the Grand Lodge. When this Brother stopped his work and it wasn’t picked up by others, the proof of its success was easily recognized in the decreased petitions and general lack of public awareness.
Invitation & Engagement
There is this gentleman who I’ll call Dave for the sake of anonymity. He’s a Master Mason, raised in another Lodge in another State. When I discovered that he is a Brother, I invited him out to my Lodge. He declined, stating that he had a family obligation that night. A while later, I invited him to another gathering. He declined again and gave another reason why he couldn’t attend with me. I never tested him, but he knew enough to never have me doubt his membership. I invited him to various Masonic meetings, events, and activities for close to two years being turned down every time. I’m a bit slow, but I finally asked him why he wasn’t interested in attending anything with me.
“I’ll get back into activity when I’m an old man and have the time to devote to it,” was his answer.
That’s basically saying that Freemasonry is an old man’s game, which is wholly untrue. Young men need teachings and instruction. You need this in your life. You need to engage in your Lodge so you can reap the benefits and collect the wages. Consider this your invitation to engage.
Lodge officers, you have a duty to make sure that your Brothers are invited to attend meetings. Call them. Email them. Text them. Don’t let them expire on the vine. If you don’t already have a Brotherhood Committee, put one together. The members of this committee should be actively engaged in the work of invitation. There’s more to this work than simply informing Brothers of the times and dates of events. You must find out why your Brethren aren’t already attending. What are their barriers? What are their reasons? What is going on in their life that is keeping them from their commitment and obligation to the Craft? Then you must help them see how they can benefit from a return to full active participation. You have to help them feel welcome and wanted within the Lodge. You must help them feel valued. If you are the one who is not active in your Lodge, you must become active and then you must engage.
People being who they are—even those who are striving to be better every day—form cliques and friendships naturally grow within the Lodge based on similar interests. No man should be made to feel excluded but it is up to the individual to include themselves just as much as the Lodge to be inclusive. Step out of your reservations and into the Light of Brotherhood. Extend yourself and accept the invitation to return and engage. Then, extend the invitation to your absent Brothers as one who has challenged yourself to full activity.
We cannot continue to pretend that our numbers aren’t dwindling. Some jurisdictions are seeing new blood but overall, Freemasonry is suffering a decline rather than a growth. While there are many contributing factors, all of them can be overcome by being loud, with a little pure and clean exhibitionism, and through invitation and engagement. Be the new voice… determined, unashamed, and vibrant in your representation of the Fraternity. Contribute to the growth of that which is good and true.
What other ways have you found that help with the growth of Freemasonry in your area? I’m very interested so comment and enlighten.
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