How Can We Keep The Young Mason Interested?


How Can We Keep The Young Mason Interested?

 2002 by W. Bro. Jim Bennie, P.M., Plantagenet No. 65

Brethren, if I had the answer to this perplexing problem, I would be lauded as a
genius, and no doubt be immediately asked to take over as Grand Master and
dispose more wisdom.  Unfortunately, I don't have the answer (and we have a
pretty good Grand Master anyway), but I have several comments and suggestions
about this dilemma.

A CHANGING WORLD

We as Masons have to realise the world has changed in the past seventy-five,
fifty, even twenty-five years. In the good old days, men in their 20s and 30s
would leave their job downtown, take a short trek home (say to Mount Pleasant or
the East End a few miles away) and after ingesting a meal prepared by their
dutiful wife, indulge in the pleasantries offered by their nearby lodge, as
there would be little else happening that evening. Today, men of that age have
to brave a slow and painful rush hour as they drive home to Maple Ridge, Surrey
or Langley. Often, the wife is working, so dinner isn't piping-hot by the time
he gets home. And then, despite television, local sports activities,
organisations not even thought of when the century began and plain old
exhaustion, he's expected to drive back into town to attend lodge. If that's the
case, we had better have something to offer him. Far too often, we don't. In
fact, we do things that seem designed to discourage that man from even coming
back.

MEMORY WORK

Does this sound familiar? A young man has just been put through the degrees of
our Order. Now, he's being handed a piece of paper with the instruction of
"here, memorize this." How often is the newcomer left to fend for himself? How
many times do you hear members take the attitude "oh, it's up to his SPONSOR to
teach him and I don't know him anyway." I've seen this happen. The Worshipful
Master should ensure someone is assigned to help the new initiate with his
ritual work, and at the new member's own speed. Some Lodges like to set up their
schedule of degrees, and then expect the newcomer to fit into the scheme.
Doesn't this seem backwards to you? Why not let the new member learn his work
when it's convenient to him? It'll show a little consideration.

And why is it Lodges feel a new member has to take part in degrees immediately
after being raised? Put yourself in the new member's place. You've just finished
memory-work for three degrees. And NOW you're being asked to learn something
else? So far, the only impression you've given to your new member is all we
Freemasons do is an awful lot of memory-work. And that isn't the reason anyone
joins an organisation, is it? Don't turn off your new Freemasons by shoving
memory work at them at the beginning. Let them sit and watch for a bit. Give
them a bit of a breather.

ATTENDANCE

How often do you tell a prospective member at his investigation that
"Freemasonry takes up only a couple of nights a month"? We all know that's not
true. Members, new ones especially, are bombarded with meetings. There is a
great deal of pressure put on Masons to attend fraternal visitations. And
District Deputy visits. And Installations of other Lodges in the District. And
the meetings of the Board of General Purposes. And if they don't attend, you'll
be sure to hear a few Lodge members grumble that "so-and-so doesn't get out
enough." Remember the Lodge isn't, and shouldn't be, the only spare-time
activity of a new member. Don't expect him to be out every night at Lodge, like
some of our members are.

THE CHAIRS

Do you know of any Lodges where, no sooner do they get a new brother, than they
stick him in as Junior Steward and after a few months make unveiled hints that
they'd like him to continue through as Worshipful Master in six, seven, eight
years? I have. And I've seen young members fall by the wayside because of it.
The worst thing a Lodge can possibly do is start putting undue pressure on a new
member. If you want to give him a chair, perhaps give him one that isn't hooked
up to "the line" that exists in all Lodges. That way, he'll get his feet wet and
not feel pressured to "continue on." Remember as well that in today's transient
society, people have no idea where they'll be two or three years down the road,
let alone eight.

ACTIVITIES

Years ago, a Masonic Lodge would have clearly offered the best after-work
activities for a young man. Maybe at home, someone played a piano or a neighbour
would come over and sing. But a Lodge could get a whole group of people together
for a skit, a band or whatever. Today, that young man can get world-class
entertainment in his own home with the flick of a remote control switch. Lodge
today have been placed in the uncomfortable position of trying to compete with
that 20-inch box in the living room. How well do we do that?

Are Lodge meetings of the variety that motivate young men to attend them? Is
ritual performed well (and NOT out of a book)? Is the Worshipful Master in
control or is there "dead air" as he whispers to the Secretary, Director of
Ceremonies or I.P.M. to find out what to do next? Are discussions short and to
the point? If you can answer "no" to any of these questions, you're giving a new
member a great excuse to stay home and catch the ballgame on TV. Our
Installation ritual tells us "the object of meeting in a Lodge is of a two-fold
nature." You know the line. In what way are we giving "moral instruction and
social intercourse" to our new brethren? It's an excellent idea to have some
kind of education at a Lodge meeting, but too often, it's someone at a podium
reading off a script. While a member may have constructed his talk with the
utmost sincerity, very few Masons can stand up before an audience on their own
and deliver an effective and informative speech that will hold a crowd's
attention for its duration (I'm sure my address today doesn't do that). Think:
how often do you turn on a television and see a man staring at a camera with
nothing but a script in his hand? You don't. It's too dull. So why should our
lodges take this kind of approach? Obviously, you can't have computer graphics
in a Lodge room, but you can liven up your education portion. How about a
Masonic-related film or video? What about a Masonic quiz, where all the members
(not just the Past Masters) are involved? You could even try a baseball format
and set up a "baseball diamond" in your Lodge room (after you closed the
meeting, of course). Use your imagination. Maybe even ask the younger members if
they have any ideas. Avoid a static presentation. Strive for some movement. Make
it interesting. What kind of social activities does your Lodge have? Are they
something that appeal to people in their 20s and 30s? Many times, they're not,
and that gives your new member another excuse to stay home. When you play music
at your Lodge dance, is it something younger people will dance to, or something
popular when people used ration cards? Try music of the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

Does your Lodge have a sports team, say a baseball team? Probably not, because
most of the Lodges have too few young members to put together that kind of
thing. But among the Lodges in a District, a team should be able to be put
together. Why can't Districts play each other in a sport event? Why can't a
District Sports or Social officer be appointed? By the way, if you're worried
about older members not taking part in these kinds of events, you can create
something for them, perhaps a bowling or backgammon team.

COMMUNICATION

Finally, has anyone in your Lodge taken the time to talk to your younger
members? Have you asked THEM what interests them? If they've stopped coming to
lodge, has anyone picked up the phone and TALKED TO THEM to find out what's
wrong; why they like or DISlike about the lodge? Or is your lodge content to put
young men through the degrees with the attitude that "if they really care about
the Lodge, they'll show up"? If that's the case, I can guarantee your Lodge is
in serious trouble.

We must keep the lines of communication open to our new brethren, especially the
rare ones who haven't been privileged to blow out the candles on their 40th
birthday cake. Show that you care about them, that you're interested in them,
that you won't put undue pressure on them. Above all, remember these younger men
are not only the future of your Lodge, but our great Craft as a whole.