Three Five Seven – # 220

Three, five, and seven
3 5 7
By Stan Shapiro MD, Grand Lodge Education Officer G.L. of MN

“The productivity of a work group seems to depend on how the group members see their own goals in relation to the goals of the organization.”-Ken Blanchard

What is causing the Masonic membership decline and what is leading to poor member retention?

Since 1961 we have been experiencing a decrease in Masonic membership. Some have believed it is because there are too many activities and fraternal organizations competing, or a change in family structure or our business meetings are too boring. Others think we are too anxious to increase our numbers and do not make sure the candidate and his wife understand what to expect from Freemasonry, or we don’t provide a deep and moving initiation, or the explanation of the ritual or why symbols are significant, or we do not have enough education, mentoring and social and community events. Still others think it may because the things brothers learn in Masons are not carried into their life outside the lodge to benefit their loved ones and the community.

In 2005 a task force of past Grand Masters published their conclusion in It’s About Time, a publication of the Masonic Information Center which is a division of the Masonic Service Association. Their report argues that membership loss is only a symptom of what they consider to be the core problem which is a loss of Masonic identity and a lack of energy invested in Masonry.

There are changes in our culture that can have either a negative or positive effect on membership:

1. We have less face to face interaction. Families don’t eat together as frequently as in the past. The younger generation spends more time by themselves using digital media. Today 50% of American adults are single. In 1950 it was 22%. People younger than thirty-five lack organizational awareness, are less likely to be interested in volunteering and may not trust organizations. People used to join organizations because they liked the company of others. Now many people don’t know their neighbors. Some forget people are more important than things. When we surround ourselves with possessions, we can lose contact with people. It is too easy to slam people on Facebook, twitter and other digital media.

2. Life has speeded up and is more complicated. There are many other activities that compete for our time. When both the husband and wife work, they want evening time together or with their children.

3. Many people are not thinking critically, perhaps because they have less time.

4. There is a loss of male identity. Single women under thirty earn more than single men in that age group. Women are earning as much now as before the recession but men aren’t. Women have taken some of the jobs men held before the recession. Woman can dress in suits and ties and more have entered sports, professions and business that was once male dominated.

5. We have seen a change in moral values, etiquette, and respect for others.

In Masonry we have time for face-to-face interaction, fellowship and an opportunity to learn how to think critically. Brothers have an opportunity to improve their male identity with mentoring and by bonding. As Freemasons we can improve our virtue, etiquette and respect for ourselves and others. Masonry requires time and interest in self discovery and our relationships with other people. When we are involved in our community, we help non-masons become aware of who we are and our values of integrity, charity, brotherhood, and our principled lifestyle.

There are many ways we can invest energy in Masonry including: group activities and workshops which provide education, and opportunities for self improvement, learning more about leadership, mentoring and Freemasonry, improving our community accessibility through program hosting and visitor programs, strengthening our fellowship and communication skills and serving on a welcoming or other committee.

Freemasonry also gives us the opportunity to accomplish four things that researchers have found make people happy.

1. Control over what we are doing.

2. Progress in what we are pursuing.

3. Being connected with others, and

4. Being part of something we enjoy and that is bigger than ourselves.

Words To Live By: “What we do is not going to be successful unless our members care about it.” -Joan Blades

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