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Bringing Masons Back Into the Fold
Membership in the Masonic fraternity is a lifelong commitment, but as we all know, over the course of a man’s life priorities change and issues arise that demand their time and attention—and make attendance at lodge meetings difficult. The fact is that most absentee Masons aren’t kept away by a lack of interest, but rather by everyday obstacles and busy schedules.
That doesn’t mean we should simply lose touch with those members, however. With a little planning and forethought, officers can keep absentees from straying too far away, as Doug Ismail, the Worshipful Master of California Lodge No. 1 explains—and remind them of what attracted them to the fraternity in the first place.
Planning for Success
One of the most important methods of keeping in touch with members who’ve missed lodge meetings is through an annual Roll Call dinner, Ismail says. As the name suggests, Roll Call is a chance to bring as much of the lodge membership together as possible at once. The event began as a way to bring Master Masons back to lodge for a stag night, and has since become an annual lodge tradition.
The agenda for these evenings is straightforward, Ismail says. After a nice dinner, the Master of the lodge begins roll call, starting with the newest Master Mason and continuing to the most senior. Following roll call, a presentation is given honoring those brethren the lodge had lost over the previous year. “It’s really a chance to bring guys back into lodge and reintroduce them to what is really an anchor of the fraternity: the concept that we make and keep life-long friendships,” Ismail says. Each year, Roll Call attracts a majority of those members who live within driving distance of the event; for Lodge No. 1, that means between 90 and 110 members.
The effect is twofold, Ismail explains: For one thing, the event is a reminder of the importance of fraternal friendship—and typically one of the biggest reasons members joined up in the first place. That tends to spur some Masons who’ve been scarce to start coming back to lodge more frequently. The other important aspect of an annual roll call is that it’s a way to keep in touch with older members, some of whom simply have a hard time coming to events. “Roll Call is a way for them to come back to lodge without having to worry about remembering the signs or modes of recognition—it’s basically a light-touch reentry into the Fraternity,” Ismail says. Even for those who are unable to attend, many brothers send written apologies along with an update on their own lives. These letters from absentee members are read during roll call.
The night ends with the singing of Auld Lang Syne and one final toast. Then, breaking off into casual conversations over coffee, the membership eventually disperses until they meet again—for some, at the next stated meeting, for others, perhaps until the next Roll Call. All members, however, walk away refreshed and once more mindful of why they originally joined the fraternity
Tips for Reaching Out
Events like the Roll Call dinner are great for bringing members back into the fold; however the best way to deal with absenteeism is to prevent it in the first place. Here are a few tips for keeping members engaged, excited, and showing up.
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.
- Throw social events. Check out this simple (and fun) approach to holding lodge parties, fundraisers, and prospects’ nights. Read More.
- Get schooled: Masonic education programs create opportunities for research and discussion, and events often draw a crowd. The Grand Lodge website offers lots of videos and articles on Masonic education, all free. Watch Masonic education Videos.
- 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.
Keep Past Masters engaged
- Having Past Masters stay involved with lodge business sets an important precedent for the entire lodge and is important for longtime members in particular.
- Have each incoming master ask a few Past Masters to serve as on-call advisors.
- Ask Past Masters to mentor new officers. Encourage officers to solicit advice on their abilities, blind spots, and conditions (for more, see page 80 of the “From Leader to Mentor” book).
- Pair a potential officer with a Past Master to discuss their workload. Those who have served as officers can dispel incorrect assumptions, identify areas in which brothers need extra support, and share the benefits of serving as a leader.
- Ask Past Masters to fill in for officers who cannot attend stated meetings or degrees.
- Encourage Past Masters to help think about the lodge’s future and develop strategic and tactical plans for long-term goals. Include them on the team assigned to oversee the plan’s development and use.
Your July checklist
Stay on track of lodge business and prepare for important deadlines. Here’s your June checklist.
Senior Warden, along with Executive Committee
- Identify and approach members for 2020 open elected and appointed officer positions
- Identify and approach members for the 2020 Audit, Membership Retention, and any other committees.
- Set calendar for 2020 and identify event leaders.
- Continue preparing 2020 budget.
- Set installation date and approach installing officer, master of ceremonies, and chaplain.
- Review all candidates’ progress towards advancement.
- Continue tracking 100% officer giving to the Annual Fund, with officers setting an example through gifts that represent their capability as well as their commitment to our charitable programs.
- Begin preparing semi-annual report of membership activity, due in August.
- If your lodge has employees, file quarterly federal payroll tax form 941 (unless IRS has approved an annual filing of form 944, due in February).
- If your lodge has employees, file quarterly state payroll tax form DE9/DE9C and deposit form DE88. (Using the Grand Lodge Intacct Payroll system; Financial Services will complete the above quarterly payroll tax returns for you).
- Begin preparing semi-annual report due in August. (The report is available and auto-generated from the Intacct system).
Questions? Contact Member Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 776-7000.
Find it on freemason.org
California Grand Lodge is always looking for ways to better serve its membership. One way it does this is by providing Masonic education videos online for free. Masonic education videos offer a compelling way to inform yourself, candidates, or the general public about the history and culture of Freemasonry. Topics these videos cover include:
- Diverse, Yet United.This video explores the many aspects of California Masonry’s rich cultural influences—from the state's original settlers to new immigrants who have made California their home today.
- The Art of Masonic Education. Dive into the history and significance of art in Masonic education from the 18th century to today, as told by historians, Masonic scholars, and the artists themselves.
- The Holy Writings. Described as the "first great light," the Holy Writings provides a link to Freemasonry's historical beliefs. This video documentary short, produced by the Masonic Grand Lodge of California and the Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry, offers new insight into one of Masonry's most treasured three great lights.
Question of the Month
Last month we asked what public communications tools your lodge needs help developing? Of those that responded:
- 82% - A Publicity 101 Guide
- 55% - Guide to Advertising on Facebook
- 45% - Guide to Building and Maintaining a Facebook Page