Taking the Digital Analog
Zoom fatigue is a real ailment that lodges are facing as they struggle to reengage their membership in the work of the lodge. With some members still reluctant to return to indoor, in-person events, lodges should return to the basics, according to Chris Smith, chief technology officer for the Grand Lodge. “I know it sounds ironic coming from a tech guy,” Smith says, “but I really think lodges need to find ways to make the digital analog again—that is, they need to go back in person safely.”
During the pandemic, lodges across the state found innovative ways to stay in touch, from Zoom whiskey tastings and movie nights to remote funding drives and charitable efforts. Lodges have shown they can navigate the digital universe when they have to. But now they face a new problem: getting members out of the digisphere and back together again. “It’s important to validate the fears of some members,” Smith says. Since Past Grand Master Arthur Weiss issued the directive allowing lodges to return to in-person meetings last May, following strict but necessary guidelines, most lodges have shown they can return to in-person meetings safely. “But that doesn’t mean the pandemic disappeared,” Smith says. “Some members remain conflicted about meeting up, and lodges need to allay those fears if they want members to return.”
One way that lodges can do this is by holding pandemic-proof events—think socially distanced outings. “So many Masons are golfers,” Smith says. “So go analog. Close out Zoom and head to the links.” If golf isn’t your thing, try a hiking meet-up, or a group bike or motorcycle ride. “The point is to think of ways to engage in fellowship in a way that still takes into consideration the reality we find ourselves in,” Smith says.
It’s also important to keep in mind that while some lodges were able to keep their members’ attention during the pandemic, others struggled to do so and now find themselves with members they haven’t communicated with in months. “If your lodge has MIA members, the first thing to do is get back in touch with them,” Smith says. Although seemingly a no-brainer, you’d be surprised how easy it is to get paralyzed by inaction. Take the first step and pick up the phone. Check in with members and see how they’ve fared over the pandemic. And be sure to have a plan for getting them back together again. “Reaching out to members without having something for them to look forward to is a wasted effort,” Smith says.
In the end, if you’re struggling to figure out what activity to entice your members back with, just ask them. “Endeavor to reach members by the methods they want, rather than those that we prefer.”
Here are a few tips for getting members reengaged, excited, and showing up again.
Keep in Touch
- Send brief, weekly email updates to all lodge members. Members will get used to hearing from the lodge, and those who live far away will feel included.
- Build out the lodge email list. Call members whose email addresses you don’t have and update their records. The initial time investment will pay off quickly.
- To connect with less active members, pick up the phone. Don’t just invite them to lodge; ask them to attend on a specific date.
- Have members "Like" your lodge's Facebook page or the Masons of California Facebook page. If your lodge doesn't have one, let them know that brothers from throughout the state and beyond connect on the Masons of California page and content is updated daily.
- Get schooled: Masonic education programs create opportunities for research and discussion, and events often draw a crowd. (A safely distanced one, that is.) Freemason.org offers lots of videos and articles on Masonic education, all entirely free.
- Ask the question. Follow up with members to see if they’re getting what they want out of Masonry. What kinds of activities would help deepen their involvement? Then call for volunteers to lead planning.
- Assign jobs. People like to feel helpful. Even if a member isn’t inclined to attend stated meetings, he may be willing to join a committee or contribute from home on a project.
- Assign ritual responsibilities. Give new members, even Entered Apprentices and Fellow Crafts, the chance to learn and deliver ritual charges.
Stay on track of lodge business and prepare for important deadlines. Here’s your February checklist.
- Schedule inspector’s official visit and examination of the books, due by end of March.
- Share with your lodge the date and topic for the UCLA International Conference on Freemasonry: April 9, 2022.
- Registration will go live on February 2.
- Review all candidates’ progress toward advancement.
- Begin preparing 2023 program plan.
- Begin preparing 2023 budget.
- Begin preparing 2023 officer appointments.
- Begin preparing 2023 installation of officers.
- Present secretary’s annual report to the lodge at stated meeting.
- Continue to collect delinquent dues from members (were due on January 1).
- Send list of members with late dues to the master for the Retention Committee.
- Send any suspension notices.
- Charity Committee considers remissions.
- Present treasurer’s annual report to the lodge at stated meeting.
- Prepare financial reports for Grand Lodge, to be filed by end of March (unless your lodge uses Intacct, in which case you do not need to submit anything).
- Submit semi-annual report to the lodge at stated meeting.
- Begin auditing lodge books, to be completed by end of April.
Last month we asked who manages your social media channels? Of those that responded:
- A volunteer member - 39%
- The lodge master - 11%
- Another lodge officer - 34%
- We do not have social media profiles - 9%
- Someone else - 7%