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Blue Lodge Membership Problem
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Post Blue Lodge Membership Problem 
In a response to the author’s comments on Mackey Twenty Five Landmarks, a Past Master sends the author an email stating his disapproval of the “solicitation” of members in the Blue Lodge and implied that the York and Scottish Rites causes or contributes to the declining membership. The PM stated that if he had been sitting in the East during the “little solicitation speech,” he will instruct the speaker to sit down as he (the speaker) is out of order.

The lack of participation in the Blue Lodge is a Blue Lodge problem world-wide. To partly use the PM’s words, “how can you do that,” How can our Worshipful Brother blame the York Rite or Scottish Rites if his members “never return to the Lodge.” Study shows that those who don’t showed up in the Blue Lodge also don’t show up in York or Scottish Rites. And if the PM pays any attention to the regular attendees of the Blue Lodge, he might notice that most of them are active members of the York or Scottish Rites. The Rites never intended to “lure away” his or anyone members. Case in point is that membership in good standing in the Blue Lodge is a prerequisite for joining the York or Scottish Rites. So blaming the “higher bodies” for the failure of the Blue Lodge is unfair and way “out of order.”

There are many reasons for the decline of the Blue Lodge membership. Allow me to elucidate some of those glaring defects and not by the order of significance. Poor Blue Lodge leadership as demonstrated by favoritism and politics---we don’t have to be rocket scientist to figure that one out. Poor or amateurish degree conferral---first impression as always is critical in maintaining the new members--- that goes back to poor leadership. The tendency to use cheap products or services--- you got what you pay for. Ask ourselves of why does country clubs have a year-long waiting list for membership? Despite of expensive membership fees, men who can barely play golf lined up to get in? Why? Because they expect quality; be it may in service, using real glass instead of Styrofoam cup, real sit down dinner instead of being catered by amateurs or kids, or even showing up in a meeting in a business clothes than jeans and open neck shirt! Men who understand quality dressed up for important events, they “adorn great and important undertakings.”

Men used to flock in our Fraternity because they expect that the Craft were “above” or rather, not like Lions or Rotary Clubs. Masonry is not about coummunity service, bussiness development or some religious support group. While those activities are worthy of thier time, they are not the focused of our Craft. We used to attract men who are not “ordinary” people; they may be living better than "ordinary" folks or working in a profession that pays a notch or two higher than “ordinary.” The fact was that during the Golden Years of Freemasonry, members of the Fraternity were not your everyday “ordinary” men. This is the cycle that attracts men to join. Men wanted to be with a group that is not “ordinary!” Not everybody can get in, there are requirements to be meet such as ability to meet its financial obligations, mental ability to meet what are needed in the rituals, availability of time for the Craft without concern for “second job,” etc. The lowering of standards such as financial requirements to afford those things that are not “cheap,” and taking anyone who ask without regard to the issue of “bringing honor to our ancient institution” are some of the reasons why Blue Lodge membership continue to decline.

If the brethren did not show up in the Blue Lodge and prefers to attend the York or Scottish Rite, our Worshipful Brother should be asking himself why, instead of blaming others for his failure. As a Master of the Lodge, what did he offered to in his Lodge that will make them look forward/anticipate the next meeting instead of boring reading of minutes of the meeting or internal politics such as awarding another PM with the “highest honor” for doing his job. There was a time that being elected as the Master of the Lodge is an honor by itself! How about the quality of degree work, was the candidate impressed by giving him a quality ritual which most of the time was the result of regular degree practice and not the last minute shuffle?

Worshipful Brother, “Your Lodge dieth and wasteth away” not because York or Scottish Rites “lured away” your members, but because lack of participation was due to the absence of “their roots” and never knew “whence they came!” You, my Worshipful Brother Sir, should be the one that needs to sit down for “in today’s age and the lack of participation already in the Lodge” cannot be blamed to York or Scottish Rite, it may be fashionable but you cannot pass the culpability to the Grand Lodge, Grand Officers or District Inspectors either. You as or was the Master of the Lodge rule and govern your Lodge---you are responsible. And if I maybe permitted to ask, what action did you made after seeing “newly raised Master Masons be lured away from the Lodge toward Scottish Rite or York Rite, and never return to the Lodge.” Blaming others especially your brother Masons is very much un-Masonic conduct and to this I regret to see/hear it from a Past Master.

Rudy Olano, IPM
Visalia Council # 43 Cryptic Masons (CA)

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Perhaps a rule should be installed that all Masons must return to their Blue Lodge once a year. It can't hurt, and maybe some will stay longer.

Birmingham # 44
Michigan, United States of America.
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All to often the Blue Lodge is used as a stepping stone to get to the Shrine or the York or Scottish Rites. There are some that advocate that you must be a Mason for 1 year before you can move on to the other appendent bodies. I like this idea myself. I joined both the A&ASR and York Rite before my year was up, but I had made and continue to make the Blue Lodge my focus. This year I am the Secretary and am sitting on several of the committees for our Lodge.

Thank You,

Darrell Hook
Utica Lodge #337 F & AM
Watson, Indiana
32° Scottish Rite Valley of Louisville, KY
New Albany Chapter #17 Royal Arch Masons
Indiana Council #1 Cryptic Masons
Knight Templar New Albany Commandery #5
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Some of the problems are being caused by the short term solution of "member gathering" where numberous candidates are being brought to MM straight away and all at once.

If you have a number of new initiates there will be a wait to get on the floor and involved, the more you bring in at once the longer the wait becomes for some. Would you return every month knowing you've got another 5,6,7 years or more before hitting the floor and getting really involved.

Another solution to the problem would be GL's not stating that attendance is optional (but preferred), make it a rule, lack of attendance, obviously depending on cirumstances, would result in voluntary demit, it't not just about numbers, but more importantly quality.

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Hook9773 wrote:
All to often the Blue Lodge is used as a stepping stone to get to the Shrine or the York or Scottish Rites.

For lack of a better word, Blue Lodge is a stepping stone since active membership is required for joining appendant or "higher bodies." It is a fact that majority of Master Masons were content of knowing the "substitute thereof" and seems uncaring to discover "that which was Lost." That there are knowledge and opportunities waiting to be discovered beyond the degree of Master Mason.

I dont know about the rule to return to Blue Lodge once a year. Our Craft is a voluntary organization therefore, people shows up because they want to and not because they have to. No threat of rules nor cajoling even from the Grand Master himself will make a member to "like" the Fraternity. We all came in "of our own free will and accord" and have the freedom to do otherwise. Bro Bondi was right on the target--- its all about quality. An argument could be advanced that the Fraternity was never conceived to be a large group. All the indications to limit the membership were still being practiced and observed despite of the attempt of those who craved for change to "adapt to modern times." We should be more focused on quality instead of quantity. We should be more concerned of retention and holding the interest of current members. The Craft needs brethren relations (BR) rather than public relations (PR).

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One of the many suggestions of the recent past has been to raise the dues amount. I only pay alittle over $100 per year for mine. Others pay around that, up to around $300. The Prince Hall masons in my area have dues that sometime run into the thousands of dollars per annum. They have an excellent turnout every week and Lodge work, floor work, etc etc is perfect. Many, if not all of their brothers, attend the weekly meetings and have a deep devotion to the Blue Lodge.
Raising the dues is one of many suggestions I've seen. You wont find many people that will be "no shows" in their lodges. Is this because of the high dues ... creating an atmosphere of seriousness and dedication to the Lodge? I'm not sure of their appendent bodies and I'm unsure the effect is/would be similar. Of course you'll lose a large pecentage, but they probably were not showing up anyway.
Of course, raising dues to the Lodge, even $5.00, has and will cause a fit among the majority. I see this as one way to ensure a dedicated/I-want-to-be-there type of gentleman. You pay some serious cash to a fraternity and you'll find yourself making that extra effort to show up.
The PMs MUST keep a hand in their Lodge. Young people should have a constant "mentor" available to them, and their ideas must be respected as the same as the older guys... an important thing. The feeling around one's Lodge should be like belonging to a family. These few things, of many, I've heard that make some sense to me inorder to keep and grow a Lodge.

Birmingham # 44
Michigan, United States of America.
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Post Brothers' retention 
While there's no magic wand, one can look at the retention issue from a family building standpoint. Ask brothers what they want. Give them what is reasonable. Give them the Esoteric and fellowship meat in order to give them a reason to return. A huge aspect of who and what we are is the philosophical, the social and, when needed the mutual aid facet.

Keep it simple brothers.

Frat :.
Bro. Jeff Ballou,Junior Warden
Social Lodge No. 1, PHA, D.C.

Bro. Jeffrey P. Ballou, 33'
Social Lodge No. 1, Prince Hall Affiliation
Jurisdiction of Washington, D.C.
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Post Brother's retention 
In addition to Bro Jeff's KISB and maybe rationalize Bro marsh’s take on the financial angle, each Lodge and not as much as the Fraternity as a whole, should give each member a real reason to attend their meetings and/or works. Something to look forward to and anticipate the next gathering instead of boring reading of reports or embarrasing/amatuerish excuse of conferral. Maybe a serious discussion of something worthy of a mature person time and thought. Could be a genuine fellowship without the tint of being intellectually or otherwise engrained superiority.

The bottom-line is that our Fraternity is a volunteer organization where one is free to come and go. The challenge to the leadership is to find a way or means to keep the membership engaged. BTW, not attending meetings or conferrals does not mean one is no longer a Mason. A valid dues card inside a wallet, a possession of ring with square and compass nor a car decal does not make a person a Mason.


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I've seen several good posts with good ideas posted and elsewhere. My own Lodge, like so many others, is experiencing issues with aging membership, retaining members, and initiating new members to carry the fraternity forward. As one who has just started my journey of discovery in the Craft (I'm presenting my Fellowcraft proficiency in Lodge tonight, as a matter of fact), I'd like to offer my perspective thus far in my Masonic experience.

I agree with the writers that posit that the key to revitalization is in action. Members need to be involved at all levels and in more than just the necessary business operations of the Lodge. Dovetailing with the challenges surrounding membership are historical image and perception issues with the fraternity as a whole that, I believe, each Mason is obliged to address because it directly affects our ability to attract energetic, committed men.

I would, therefore, humbly submit the following thoughts :

[list=]Raise dues. People tend to value more the things that sting when they pay for it and devalue things that they can rationally compare to other, less significant expenditures.
Raise expectations. Ritual work, attendance, payment of dues... yes. As well as being actively involved in their Lodge and being public ambassadors of Masonry. Ambassadors, mind you, not recruiters.
Improve communication with inactive members. Knowing that they don't show up anymore isn't really enough. Contact them and try to find out why, without cajoling or coercing them to come back. If there are issues that can be addressed, address those issues and contact the members as they're being fixed and after to let them know. If not or if they have no addressable concerns, accept that they may not come back. Wish them well and keep them in periodic contact as Brothers should.
Improve the stated communications of the Lodge. Education, instruction, clarification, refreshment... all these are important and should have greater attention in Lodge.
Improve the ability of Entered Apprentices and Fellowcrafts to participate in Lodge and the work of the Lodge. There is a lessening attraction over time when one is technically a member, but one is not allowed to participate. For example, with the help of their mentor, prepare and present tops of Masonic education to the Lodge concerning elements of the degrees, respectively. Discuss their presentation in Lodge for their own and possibly other Brothers' benefit.
Have more than just a mentor involved in initiate preparation. Enlist a panel to have discussion groups regarding the preparation to have degrees conferred and proficiency tested.[/list]

Frankly, I believe that the key to attracting men to the fraternity is to be proud to be a Mason and do the work of the Craft. Be a beacon of all the values that we encourage and the quality of man that we expect. If there is a need, meet it. If there is a void, fill it. If there is a job that needs doing it, do it. Join forces with local community resources to find ways to increase exposure to the Lodge and the Craft and take the initiative to be active. As people see what comes of the work that we do (as proud Craftsmen) some of them will be drawn to the fraternity and they will help invigorate it. Be present. Be proud. Be available. I would think that new generations would be more likely to apply if they had a personal experience with a Brother rather than spontaneously decide to contact a local Lodge from the phone book. I also think this is a key difference with the current situation as compared to previous generations -- it seems reasonable to me that in the early and mid 20th century that it was more likely that men would have had personal contact with a Mason (and known it at the time.)

An example: My Lodge is in a small-ish town that has a small, private college. The Lodge would do well to partner with student activities and community outreach programs at the college to do work in the community, probably not financially, but with donations of time and effort. If the interaction is made regular and repeated, it would be a great asset to exposing the students, their instructors, and the community to Masonry and could, without recruiting, provide opportunities to answer questions and introduce them to the light of Masonry.

Contrary to one of the sentiments expressed in the original post, I think that while we may not focus on community service and the like, it is a natural extension of applying the working tools of the Craft. I do agree, however, that quality of applicant is more important than quantity. I think that simply increasing numbers of applicants is not enough and that the one-day seminars/etc do more harm than good. I don't believe that a Master Mason can be made in a day nor that it's a good way to go. It gives the impression that the values of Masonry can be condensed into a day's instruction and devalues what we have to offer. Besides, my understanding is that retention is not really any better for those that go through the boot-camp programs as opposed to a regular initiatory process and they all had to present themselves for consideration in the usual fashion, so why spend the effort there in those sorts of activities.

In any event, I don't know if any of this adds to the discussion, but I have been thinking about it a lot recently and thought I'd throw my hat into the discussion.

Yours Fraternally,
- Frank Blair, FCM
Union Lodge #3, AF&AM
McMinnville, OR

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In California Freemasons On-Line Magazine, MW Arthur Hugland, PGM, wrote an article titled Freemasonry and Its Need for Change. The piece was about declining membership, which cannot be argued; since this is a worldwide issue not just California. As a Grand Lodge officer who sees the wider picture of his jurisdiction, the downward slope is certainly caused of concern. However, being a member who believes in quality against quantity, I oppose the notion of changing Freemasonry for the sake of numbers.

Our Craft was not meant to be large or to be popular. It is neither about "interesting" social activities nor influencing government, financial and educational institution. The call for defining and understanding the purpose of the Craft might shed some light of the root cause of problem--- do we know who we are and what Temple we are building for? Each Mason need to answer that questions in this heart for without understanding the concept of what the Craft is about, changing course is a kin to sailing wherever the wind blows, without destination, without purpose.

One embark on a journey knowing that somewhere and sometime at the end of rough and rugged journey, the voyage will end. A place where he hope to be welcomed and able to present his white lambskin apron in which he can explain each spots stained as record of his travel. Where at the end he may hear the welcoming words, "Well done."

Full article:


May we all find what we are in search of
May the GAOTU give us directions
to see Further Light,
in seeking the
real Word

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