A Recipe to Flourish
By S.K. and PGM Thomas Hendrickson
The life blood of every masonic organization is the membership. Without active members we cannot provide the meaningful message and purpose that we are chartered for.
Generally, across the nation all fraternal organizations are suffering from the decline in membership. In my lifetime, I have seen the Grand lodge of Minnesota membership at an all-time high of 68,000 members slip downward so that today there are just under 14,000 members.
My thoughts are to concentrate on active members…nurturing new members as well as rekindling existing members so that out Commandries can be active and strong.
Not so long ago I had the pleasure of visiting another Grand Lodge Annual Communication (you know…I was one of the old guys sitting up front…the one not dozing off after the big lunch). A speaker was introduced to talk about membership. He was a very dynamic speaker who had a very well thought out and pertinent message. I remember this quote “Is your lodge a typical lodge, that gets at least 10% of your membership coming to a meeting? If not you’re not an active and dynamic lodge.”
We can look around and see our Lodges, Chapters, Councils, Commandries, and Bethels that cannot even open their meetings because of a lack of active members. There are many reasons why this is happening. There are some Masonic leaders who are ready to throw up their arms and surrender…just give up in frustration.
I want to tell you that not every case is hopeless. One of the many ways to success is to find 2 or 3 “spark plugs” in your organization and let them brain storm a plan and you can go from being on the verge of having you charter revoked to and active and thriving Masonic body.
When I was traveling the state talking with Masonic leaders they identified a few obstacles that had to be overcome.
In today’s society there is so much entertainment available to the average citizen that they can fill their non-working hours with ease.
In the average household today both parents are working and kids have hundreds of activities to choose from. Most of these activities require transportation. Parents are under pressure to raise a family, provide a home, and manage their careers. Here is a hint…the average male who is 25-38 years old with a family has about 5 hours of free time. We need to provide a good and valuable experience.
Potential members are unaware of us. As our organizations continue to meet in secret, there is not a sign on the building for people to see. The Chapter, Council and Commandery all meet in lodge buildings. The Blue Lodge generally is not aware of who we are or what we do.
Here are three stories of lodges that had not met in years who transformed into thriving organizations.
A Master of a lodge was complaining that members were not attending and when he called them to find out why the consensus was that the members would rather stay home and watch TV. The Master said in frustration “How can I compete against CSI Miami?” I suggested that the Master change the lodge meeting night as well as a few other changes. After the Master implemented these changes membership increased by 50%.
Another Master complained that most of the younger members would rather stay home and surf Facebook than attend lodge. I suggested that he start a Facebook page. The lodge made that change as well a few additional changes and not only did the younger members return to lodge meetings, the lodge received a couple of new petitions.
For the last example, the lodge was basically dead, but 2 very motivated “spark plugs” brought the lodge back to life and turned it into a powerhouse!
They did this by…
getting help from neighboring lodges;
having the local paper write stories about the lodge and publishing their meeting notices every month;
Creating awareness by joining in community events such as participating in park clean ups and supporting other various civic groups;
serving food at the local homeless shelter;
and much more.
As the community gained awareness of the lodge, good men came knocking on the door and wanted to join. Today the lodge is active, they perform all three degrees and they have won the Mark Twain award.
Many of you know that I like to cook. That is obvious from my increasing waist size.
I have learned that lodges that provide meaningful and relevant experiences through fellowship and ritual knowledge have discovered a recipe for success.
So if you are not happy with the number of Sir Knights and visitors at your Commandery, here is a recipe you may wish to try. Just take a look…maybe there is something new you might try?
1 cup of Brotherly Love
1 cup of Relief
1 cup of Truth
1 splash of creative thinking
Mix well and add planning and organization. Serve and Enjoy.
1 cup of Brotherly Love
1. Serve a meal before your meeting.
At Minneapolis Mounted we started having and EXTREME POTLUCK. It is manly dishes served up in man size portions. We’re talking ribs, Swedish meatballs or pulled pork and all the trimmings.
We decided to try this because after taking a poll of our active members, we found that 90% said they came to Commandery straight form work. They did not have the time or opportunity to eat (unless they stopped at a gas station and grabbed a candy bar or a bag of chips). Others (about 2%) live in care home and they have few opportunities to enjoy a home cooked meal.
The meal creates on hour of fellowship before the meeting begins and it creates a nice atmosphere for members to wind down after work.
We invite all Master Masons who would like to join us for dinner and learn more about us and the York Rite. Dinner is served from 5:45pm to 6:45pm with meeting starting at 7:00pm. The only requirement is a notice via email that you are coming. We would be happy to set a place for you at our table.
2. Create a Buddy System
Have your recorder assign each active member a buddy or two. The buddies are responsible to call and remind each other of upcoming meetings and events.
3. Develop and Post a Flyer
Every month develop and post a flyer announcing your upcoming meetings and events. Be sure to leave a flyer in your lodges, Shrine and Scottish Rite for all to see. This will create awareness for your target audience and create opportunities for them to contact you and learn more about the Commandery.
4. Host a Masonic Family Movie Night or a Super Bowl Party
This is a great way for members and others to get together, eat a little popcorn and enjoy an afternoon or evening together. Heck, you can get the Jobbies to pop the popcorn and the DeMolay to clean up.
5. Write an article about your Commandery and have it published in the local lodge newsletter.
This is a great way to build awareness and remember to include the dates and times of your meetings and events.
Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones, a legacy is etched into the minds of others, and the stories they share about you.
Shannon L. Alden
1 cup of Relief
Our values as Sir Knights are based on personal integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. We are taught to practice charity and not only for our own, but also for the communities we live in.
1. Find a local organization that serves your community
Sponsor a drive for the local food shelf, raise money for the local fire/ambulance service for purchase of life saving equipment or help the local habitat for humanity.
2. Give Blood
If you really want to help save a person’s life or help someone your donation of blood will make a real impact. It only takes about an hour of your time and it truly is a gift of life.
3. Knight Templar Eye Foundation
4. Special Olympics/ARC
It is an organization that is state wide and it benefits all parts of Minnesota for those who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. No, you don’t have to do the Polar Bear Plunge!!!!!
5. Have a painting party
Maybe one of your Brothers or someone in the community needs help. Gather the materials, arrange the project and gather the Brothers to help someone in distress.
6. Your Brother
Not much needed to say about this. We all know out obligation. Be watchful and be ready to give your hand.
These are just a few ideas. There are many very worthy causes to which you can donate your time, talent or money that will help people in a time of need. Another idea is that when you are out serving the community, wear your uniform, a Commandery shirt or a Commandery hat to let everyone know who we are and that your are proudly serving.
Help us to help each other, Lord
Each other’s cross to bear,
Let each his friendly aid afford,
And feel his brothers care.
1 cup of Truth
1. Most Sir Knights find truth thru the ritual. Create opportunities for the Ritual to be heard and experienced.
Have practices so officers can learn their parts.
Have a discussion in your aslum and talk about the meaning of certain parts.
2. Provide meaningful education programs. We are an organization that is steeped in history, culture and Christian values. There is much to learn and many ways to be entertained.
3. Invite the Grand Commander or Grand Officer to come and talk about chivalry or other Commandery values.
4. A local Pastor can be invited to talk about Spiritual Warfare or other topics.
5. Request a Pastor who participated in the Knights Templar Holy Land Pilgrimage to show his slides and talk about his experiences.
6. A local college professor could talk about medieval history or the Knights Templar.
7. Start a book club and discussion group to discuss such books as The Templar Code for Dummies, The Templars and the Shroud of Christ or The Templars – The Secret History Revealed.
If you have speakers why not consider inviting or sharing it with other Commanderies and Masonic Lodges? Maybe adding a cup of coffee, a glass of punch or a cookie wouldn’t hurt.
All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.
A Splash of Creative Thinking
Creative thinking is just exploring for many possible ways to find a solution. Every Commandery and S.K. is unique in their own way. This is the perfect place to survey the members and see what they would like to do. Then as a group put your thinking caps on and come up with ways to do it.
There’s a way to do it better – find it.
Mix Well with Planning and Organization
Why? Well it allows proper coordination, it helps organize, it gives direction, motivates the people involved, encourages innovation and helps in decision making.
A good plan is like a road map; it shows the final destination, and usually the best way to get there.
H Stanley Judd
Remember you are not alone in this worthy cause or rejuvenating your Commandery, Chapter, Council or lodge. There are many who would love to help – the spark you create could be all this is needed to create change and growth.