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January 2023: Get Your Year
Off to a Great Start: Tips and Advice from Past Masters

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    Get Your Year Off to a Great Start:
    Tips and Advice from Past Masters

    As we enter the new year, lodges up and down the state are preparing for a changing of the guard, bidding farewell to one master and welcoming a new one in for their year in the east. It can be an overwhelming feeling for a new master, who no doubt has a year’s worth of ideas and priorities to set in motion, plus a mountain of to-dos looming over the not-so-distant horizon. Being a lodge master is, as one past master puts it, a full-time job—in addition to whatever other full-time or part-time job they do outside the lodge. Keeping all those balls in the air is a real challenge—though one that can be incredibly rewarding, too.

    The good news is that a new master doesn’t have to go it alone. They have their entire officer’s line, plus the lodge’s past officers there to help guide them and help out. And that’s not all: They have an entire fraternity at their back, ready to be tapped into for advice or council. (One of the most significant benefits of attending the annual Leadership Retreats.) That’s why, as we turn the calendar to a new year, we’ve asked some recent past masters to jot down a few notes about their recent year in the east to pass along to the next generation of lodge leaders. Here are 10 of the best.

    Advice for a New Year

    1. Communication Is Key
    “Make sure your officers are all talking to each other regularly. A group-chat over text works well for us.” —Mark Burger, PM, Pacific Grove No. 331

    One of the most frequent pieces of advice we heard had to do with staying in touch with the other members and officers of the lodge. Technology has made this easier than ever—text groups, email, even work software like Slack works well for that. Figure out what your group prefers and then use that to stay tight as a group.

    Further Reading:
    The Zoom Boom
    At Lodge, Gen Z Is in Charge Now
    What the Youth Orders Can Teach Us About Staying in Touch

    2. Seek Out Support—and Use It
    “Use the Grand Lodge support staff and materials as much as you can. It’s crazy that the Grand Lodge does so much for our leaders that they know so little about. It can make their jobs so much easier. The Grand Lodge wants you to have a great year, and has created scores of tools for you to use.  (Including the 2023 Leadership Retreats.) Familiarize yourself with them! It’s likely no one else in your lodge knows much about them—but they are a huge help.” —Doug Ismail, PM, California No. 1

    California’s is one of the largest and best-staffed Grand Lodges in the country. From member services to accounting, communications, real estate, tax services, and legal department, they have people and tools that can help you achieve your lodge goals. Not sure where to start? Email

    Further Reading:
    Looking for Something? Grand Lodge Resources Guide
    iMember 2.0 Secretary Worksheet
    Download a Free Guide to Freemasonry

    3. Remember the Middle
    “Lodges have a tendency to focus on the top and bottom of the fraternity—the officers and the candidates. However, the overwhelming majority of our members are in the middle. If your program is primarily focused on degrees and the business of the lodge, you are not servicing the largest segment of your membership. Give brothers a reason to want to come back each week or month.” —Michael May, PM, Saddleback Laguna No. 672

    Once a member has progressed through the three degrees, they’re essentially done with their Masonic journey. So what else is going to keep them coming back to lodge for the next 20, 30, or 40 years?

    Further Reading:
    Next Up: Meet the 20- and 30-Somethings Pushing the Fraternity Forward
    The Lewis Degree: A Ceremony Generations in the Making
    Mentors in the Field: How Support for Masonic Youth Enlivened a Lodge
    Worth the Trip: In Barstow, One Lodge’s Reputation for Camaraderie Is Known for Miles Around

    4. Make Your Stated Meetings Count
    “Plan your stated meetings with the same passion that you plan your other events. You get 12 opportunities to make an impression on visitors, prospects, family—and your members. Think through the year early and fill it with interesting and engaging programming.” —Ismail

    One of the age-old issues facing lodge officers is finding ways to enliven their stated meetings and turn them into must-see events that draw members to lodge each month. From tapping into guest speakers, inviting members to make presentations, or inviting a representative from Masonic Outreach Services to speak at your meeting, there’s no shortage of good ways to pep things up. (And keep it moving!)

    Further Reading:
    For Some Lodges, a Change of Pace
    Masonic Lecture Series
    Brave New World
    Masonic Speaker Series Archive
    Getting Back in the Swing of Lodge

    5. Set Specific Expectations
    “Words are power. Setting explicit expectations that you can refer back to gives people structure and grants them autonomy within that structure to achieve their goals.” —Daniel Tao, PM, Morning Star No. 19

    Managing people can always be fraught. Being clear and direct is one of the strongest ways to display consistency and fairness as you deal with a group of people with their own ideas and motivations.

    Further Reading:
    How to Really—Like, Really—Listen
    Spanning the Divide: How to Repair a Lodge and Restore Harmony
    Is Forgiveness Manly?

    6. Put Your Best Foot Forward
    “Keep the lodge maintained. When things look sharp, people are proud to be there and show off what they are part of with their friends and family. That includes keeping the lodge clean and well-stocked (including things like having bathroom tissue in the women’s room), having soda and coffee always available, and not a lot of stuff sitting around—no broken furniture or walls that need paint, no lights out.” —Burger

    What’s more inviting and intriguing than a beautiful, ornate Masonic temple? Or rather, what’s less inviting than a dingy, dirty one? Money and effort put into maintaining your space will pay off in terms of new prospects coming in and old members coming back.

    Further Reading:
    A Spit-Shine at Santa Barbara No. 192
    At a Masonic Cemetery, a Forever Home
    In Benicia, a Historic Masonic Hall, Now with LEDs

    7. Enjoy the Voyage
    “Appreciate every second of your experience. It will be over far quicker than you expect. It may seem like the sky is falling at times, but you’ll look back fondly upon every bump, hiccup and situation that arose while you were in the east.” —May

    Further Reading:
    Spanning the Divide
    Nights at the Round Table 

    8. Make Support a Mindset
    “Continue with the mentality of supporting the lodge as your only motive. Over the years, you labor in the position your seniors tell you to go, commit to memory the portions of the lectures of each degree and so on. And years later, before you know it, that support mentality will take you to the oriental chair of a masonic lodge, which is the greatest honor that comes to any brother.” —Victor Sardilla, PM, Hemet San Jacinto No. 338

    Further Reading:
    How to Really—Like, Really—Listen
    Outstanding in Outreach
    In the Face of Fire, a Heroic Act of Masonic Relief 

    9. Challenge the Status Quo
    “The most dangerous thing that can be said in lodge, when asked why we do something a specific way, is ‘because we always have.’ Think outside of the box. Breathe new life into your lodge. Fail forward.” —May

    Freemasonry is a 300-year-old tradition. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for experimentation and new ideas in lodge. Keep pushing the envelope and be willing to fail in order to succeed.

    Further Reading:
    The Deconstructed Lodge
    Brave New World: What Can Lodges Learn from the Worst Year Ever?

    10. Think About Graduation Day
    “Have a past master’s project in mind for when you are done with your year. The transition to being a past master doesn't have to be jarring if you have plans for afterward. Also enjoy ‘graduating’ to the PM corps and see how you can support your lodge from that position and point of view.” —Tao

    You’ll be a past master for much longer than you’ll be master. Don’t let your influence stop being felt once you’ve moved through the chairs. As past master, you still have a great opportunity to effect positive change.

    Further Reading:
    The Road Trippers of Texas No. 46
    Challenge Accepted: Highlights of the #BlueLodgeChallenge

    January Officers' Checklist

    Stay on track of lodge business and prepare for important deadlines. Here’s your January checklist.

    Executive Committee

    Senior Warden, along with Executive Committee

    • Urge presumptive master, wardens, and senior deacon to perform their Master Mason’s proficiency soon, if not already completed.
    • Prepare 2023 budget to present to the lodge in January.
    • Budget for, and prepare to attend, 2023 Leadership Retreats.
    • Ensure that all committee assignments have been determined. After installation as master, confirm audit, charity, and membership retention committee appointments.
    • Review all candidates’ progress toward advancement.


    • Continue sending out dues notices and collecting member dues.
    • Begin preparing secretary’s annual report to present to the lodge in February.
    • Review the list of suspended members sent to you by Grand Lodge and determine if your lodge wants to participate in the 2023 Restoration Campaign.
    • Budget for, and prepare to attend, 2023 Leadership Retreats.


    • Begin preparing treasurer’s annual report to present to the lodge in February.
    • Budget for, and prepare to attend, 2023 Leadership Retreats.
    • Ensure that the lodge financial records are up to date and bank accounts are reconciled.
    • If you haven’t yet, enroll your lodge in the Dues Invoicing Service. Lodges enrolled in this program saw more members pay their dues compared to lodges that did not participate. All lodges that participated last year will be enrolled again this year. Lodges enrolled in the program will be emailed about dues through December. To opt into or out of the program, contact Member Services.

    Questions? Contact Member Services at or (415) 776-7000.

    For Your Trestleboard

    Use this content to spread the word about resources provided by the California Masonic Foundation, the Masonic Homes of California, and more.

    Masonic Health Services:

    Services at MCYAF Across the Lifespan

    The Pavilion at the Masonic Homes

    Masonic Homes of California Resources

    Masonic Value Network

    Masonic Philanthropy:

    Masonic Youth Order Resources Library

    California Masonic Foundation Cornerstone Society

    Question of the Month

    Last month we asked how many degrees your lodge is preparing for in 2023. Of those who responded:

    • 5 to 10 - 43%
    • 3 to 4 - 24%
    • More than 10 - 19%
    • 1 to 2 - 14%

    Here's your next survey question