by Jeffery P. VanCuren, Grand Master of Masons in SD
We always talk about getting new members into the lodge but, what about keeping members in the lodge?
One of the reasons that your Grand Lodge Officers go to the Conference of Grand Masters in North America is to get ideas from other jurisdictions. While in a breakout session talking about membership, a common theme started to emerge, it was Fraternity and Brotherhood. For me personally this is what masonry is all about. It’s about being around other good men and making myself better. It’s not about how I look to the outside world but it’s about how I look to myself, my close friends, and my family. It’s about building my Temple, about being a better person, and about my practice of Faith, Hope and Charity.
I was recently reading a book written in 1931 about masonry. It seems they had the same problems then that we have now. One of the major questions that the foreword was asking is how do we retain members? How do we increase attendance?
The jurisdictions that were speaking at the Conference of Grand Masters also made a good point which I think is often overlooked. When we join an organization, we need more than just one reason for joining that organization. Over the years I’ve heard members say that we must get the members just to focus on Blue Lodge until they have met a pre-requisite amount of time In Lodge before they move on to something else. After listening at the conference, I think we’ve been going about that the wrong way . We need more than one reason to be in an organization.
I saw it at the Masonic festival when my Lodge brought three candidates. We initiated the candidates before we brought them to Sioux Falls so, they already spent a couple of weeks together. After the festival those candidates had a bond, they all went through the same shared experience at the same time. Now, those candidates have two reasons to come to Lodge; they have the obligation that they took to the lodge and they also have that bond and accountability that they owe to each other.
What if we took that concept even further? What if we got two or three more reasons for a member to be a part of our fraternity? What if they found a passion for the Education of the Scottish Rite Valley? what if they found a passion for the beautiful degrees of the York right? What if their spouse wanted to be in the Eastern Star together? Or what if they got fulfillment for helping the children from the Shriners Children’s.
Why do we deprive a full member of our fraternity from seeking fulfillment? Why do we push our values and our desires on others? Moreover, what if someone had four or five reasons to stay with the Fraternity, do you think they’d have more reasons to stay?