Together we make a profound difference

BEST PRACTICE: Masonic education

HOW-TO: Host a discussion forum

Literacy, your lodge, and 3 ways to make a difference

Click once for leadership


Question of the month



BEST PRACTICE: Masonic education

Two of the fraternity’s major strategic priorities are to improve Masonic education and enhance the member experience.

Martinez Lodge No. 41 found that these goals go hand-in-hand: Give members more education, and you’ll also give them greater incentive to stay involved.

Past master (and current inspector) Richard Hixson explains:

About five years ago, Martinez Lodge wanted to engage more first-time participants in the officer line. To survive, the lodge needed more active members.

A friend of mine works as a coach for business leaders. I asked her to speak to our officers on the importance of education in any organization. It boils down to this: When people are learning, they are more committed.

We agreed to build our lodge’s Masonic education program. First, we created classes for degree candidates. Then we created something for Master Masons: a monthly discussion.

Event details

  • We hold our Masonic education discussions every first Tuesday. (This is in addition to twice-monthly candidate degree classes.)
  • Some of our discussions are open to friends and family. Others are members-only, or even Master Masons-only. It depends on the topic.
  • We advertise the upcoming discussion topic in the Trestleboard, on the lodge calendar, and by handing out fliers at stated meeting. We often invite other lodges.
  • Two of us manage the program. We schedule speakers from inside and outside the lodge. On the night of the program, one of us sets up the room and the other makes a food run so attendees can share a meal before the event.

Member-led discussions
Of the 12 discussions per year, brothers from our own lodge lead four. For example:

  • Several past masters have spoken about the examination process.
  • I drew on my experience as a photographer and gave a presentation called “Light.” I showed some of the ways that light can be used in photography to manipulate an image or emphasize something important. We discussed it as a metaphor for how we need to carefully examine what others tell us is truth, and “find our own light,” or direction, in life.
  • A member developed two presentations out of a paper he’d written called “I’m a Master Mason. Now what?” The first covers what Master Masons can do in the blue lodge, from committees to taking on different parts in degree ritual. The second presentation covers concordant bodies like Eastern Star and Scottish Rite.

Open discussions
Twice a year we hold open discussions.

  • We ask members to come prepared with questions.
  • We also have questions on hand to get the discussion going or in case the conversation stalls. But that rarely happens. Our members really like these open sessions.

Guest speakers
Four times a year, an outside scholar leads the discussion. These nights have included:

  • The early history of Masonry by John Cooper, senior warden and past grand secretary
  • Freemasonry and the Ku Klux Klan by Adam Kendall, collections manager of the Henry W. Coil Library & Museum of Freemasonry
  • The evolution of Masonic documents by Adam Kendall and Shawn Eyer, editor of Philalethes magazine
  • Ritual through the ages by Sam Webster.
  • Special thanks: The support of these brothers has been critical to the program’s success. The depth of knowledge that they bring to our lodge makes a huge difference to our members, and to our craft.


  • When we started the discussions, only two or three members would show up. Now, attendance is usually 20 to 25.
  • Attendance has improved at other lodge events, too. Since launching the Masonic education program, stated meeting attendance has increased 30 to 50 percent.

A word on persistence
It has literally taken years for these Masonic education discussions to grow into the program we first envisioned. You need to be passionate and persistent, and you need to be willing to work at it for a long time.

For more information, contact: Bruce Weissenberger,

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HOW-TO: Host a discussion forum

One of California Masonry’s five strategic priorities is to improve Masonic education programs, beginning at the lodge level.

It’s with good reason: As this month’s Best Practice demonstrates, a strong Masonic education program increases lodge participation and enhances the overall quality of the membership experience.

There are plenty of ways to improve Masonic education at your lodge. One of the simplest is to start a discussion forum. Here’s how.

Recruit leaders
Designate members for the following roles

  • Host/Mediator: Invites questions from the audience, keeps the conversation moving, and keeps track of the time
  • Secretary: Records questions, notes any that require follow-up, and looks for topics of particular member interest (i.e. for a future Masonic education event)
  • Historian: Is prepared to address questions when necessary

Identify your audience
Decide if you want your discussion to be:

  • For lodge members only
  • For members and their families
  • Open to other lodges
  • Open to the public
  • IDEA: Partner with a local school or community organization, and advertise the event as “Your Freemasonry questions answered”


  • Run a Trestleboard advertisement for several months in advance.
  • Make an announcement at stated meeting for several months in advance.
  • Hand out fliers at the stated meeting prior to the discussion.
  • Invite elder members via phone call, and offer to arrange transportation.
  • If the public is invited, arrange media advertising and encourage members to invite friends.
  • On all advertising, ask attendees to come prepared with questions.
  • TIP: Consider having members submit questions in advance (an electronic service such as SurveyMonkey will save you time) so you can prepare answers.

At the event

  • Bring a list of questions in case conversation stalls.
  • Bring Masonic education resources such as candidate booklets.
  • Encourage audience members to answer each other’s questions, but have a designated “historian” on hand to assist.
  • Keep track of time, and announce when you only have time for one or two more questions.


  • After the final question, ask for attendee feedback. Was the program helpful? What did they like? What didn’t they like? What was missing?
  • Hold a brief team meeting afterwards. Discuss and take notes on attendee and team feedback. In particular, jot down any topics to develop into future Masonic education programs.
  • Schedule a team meeting to plan the next program.
  • Email with an event summary. Your lodge may be featured as a Best Practice in The Leader.
Have we forgotten something? Please email suggestions to with How-To: Host a discussion forum in the subject line.

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Literacy, your lodge, and 3 ways to make a difference

The Grand Master’s Project aims to bring Raising A Reader, a nationally-acclaimed literacy program, to 250 kindergarten classrooms and more than 6,000 at-risk children in our state.

The crisis: California ranks near the bottom of the United States for child literacy, a crucial building block of education. Nine out of 10 children who cannot read at grade level by 3rd grade will never catch up. The effects last a lifetime.

The solution: By focusing our fraternity’s resources on child literacy, we can make a profound difference in California public education - a 2010-15 strategic objective, and one of our fraternity’s proudest legacies.

3 ways your lodge can help:

  1. April event: Organize a National Literacy Month event as part of Public Schools Month. Use the stated meeting to support literacy awareness, thank volunteers, and celebrate local schools.
  2. June event: Recognize a local kindergarten teacher during the stated meeting and explain his or her important role in child literacy.
  3. Anytime: Make a lodge gift. Checks should be mailed and made payable to the California Masonic Foundation.


We can transform the future of thousands of students, and make a lasting difference in our communities.

Together, we will turn the page for child literacy in California.

Contact the Office of Philanthropy at 415/292-9117 or

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Click once for leadership

In 2011, the Grand Lodge of California introduced online registration for leadership retreats. The streamlined registration process makes it easier than ever to sign up for valuable leadership training, and aligns with the strategic priority to improve leadership and management throughout the fraternity.

  • The Secretaries and Treasurers Retreat focuses on strengthening communication and knowledge of lodge administrative operations. There’s still time to sign up for the Newport Beach retreat, held
    Feb. 24-26.
  • The Masters & Wardens Retreat helps lodges develop a more integrated leadership team through business leadership development strategies. Sign up now for the March and April retreats.


In response to member feedback, both retreats have been expanded in the past two years to offer new opportunities for lodge leaders at every level to develop personal and leadership skills.

As always, you can sign up online for the Lodge Management Certification Program anytime.

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By educating members about Masonic Assistance, you can make sure that your fraternal family knows where to turn when they need support. This section is designed to help.

The Masonic Center for Youth and Families (MCYAF) offers services that many fraternal families desperately need: single-point-of-service care for youth ages 4 to 17 who struggle with behavioral, academic, emotional, or social difficulties.

This month’s resource will inform and remind your fraternal family about this ground-breaking new center.

This month: MCYAF ads
Download these informational ads for placement in the Trestleboard or to print and post at lodge. To request a lodge presentation, call 877/488-6293.

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Question of the month

Last month we asked if your lodge has a website. Of the 147 who responded:

94% - Yes
6% - No

Of those who said yes, 62 percent said their lodge website is updated at least once a month.

Here’s your next question.





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