Nick Johnson, the Millennial Freemason, has posted his musings on what’s probably been an unexplored topic—how the lifestyle of Generation ‘Y’ is different and how that will affect Masonic membership. Nick quotes an expert who opines Y’ers are living with mom and dad longer than we geezers did (I left home at 18), getting married later and settling down later. You can read it HERE.
While Nick’s post muses about the future, he’s avoided an issue about the here-and-now for Lodges, probably because it doesn’t really involve the types of people he’s dealing with. But it’s something I’m seeing more and more in Lodges and nobody seems to grasp it as a problem, let alone bring up a solution.
There are more and more Lodges today where the old stalwarts have passed away. Members of the generation after them rarely joined a Lodge. That means a small core of men under 40 (even younger in some places) has been left behind to try to keep the Lodge going by filling all the offices necessary to ensure its proper operation.
And they’re fighting a losing battle. Through no fault of their own.
Far too often for the health of a Lodge, young men who have assumed the mantle of office drop it on the ground and disappear. It’s because their lives haven’t settled yet. I’ve lost track of the number of Masons under 40—Entered Apprentices even—who suddenly change jobs, move away, decide to get married, or have a child, and then realise it means they have less or no time for their Lodge. And none of this was expected when they signed their name on the application to become a member.
Consequently, Lodges are forced to, somehow, fill several holes in their officer corps, year after year. Band-aids are stuck in place and everyone seems to think that’ll take care of things for 12 months. But a doctor doesn’t just put a band-aid on a patient. There’s treatment, too. And Masonic Lodges don’t bother with treatment.
The problem is the “it’s always been done that way” syndrome. Years and years ago, officers learned the ropes by going through all the chairs, getting experience, while watching the officers ahead of them so they knew what they’d have to do next year. But officers don’t go through all the chairs today, and they haven’t for an awful long time. And instead of taking into account the reality that officers are being fast-tracked and have to pick up knowledge about Lodge operations faster than their predecessors, Lodges are content with the old, easy-going, watch-and-learn method of the 1920s because it’s always been done that way and it doesn’t involve a bit of effort on the Lodge’s part; the onus is on the member to learn through osmosis.
Osmosis isn’t working any more. And judging by the number of confused “what-do-I-do-now” Masters I’ve seen (shockingly, some are even recycled Past Masters), it hasn’t worked for some time.
Lodges have to accept the fact that officers jump chairs. A lot of them. That means they have to prepare officers for that eventuality and to be able to serve in ANY office.
If your Grand Lodge has come up with an officer training programme, use it. Adapt it for your Lodge, as all Lodges have their own quirks about how they do things. Don’t let an officer learn about a Lodge custom for the first time when a Past Master snaps at him for not knowing “our Lodge does it THIS way.” If you haven’t got a programme, Masters should get the guys together and develop one, then fine-tune it. And, above all, train your junior officers in the duties of ALL the chairs. Spread it over several sessions and reinforce what they’ve been told before. You, and they, will never know when they have to jump past some office because a couple of holes have unexpectedly developed.
Masonry involves labour. It doesn’t involve just sitting around and hoping things work out. Pro-active Lodges are the ones who develop a string of successful leaders, and a string of successful leaders means a successful Lodge.