Saturday, December 06, 2008

The decline in Membership in Masonry- and what we can do about it.

Here is the state-by-state breakdown as of the end of 2007:(This data is for the mainstream lodges, and does not include Prince Hall, or any other Masonic group, nor co-Masonry) is the last year, in which statistics are available. We can be assured that 2008, will be worse. Only Delaware and Massachusetts showed any increase. The numbers are B-A-D. Not shown here, is the average age of Masons, which is creeping upward every year. We can take some solace, is that some Grand Lodges are addressing the problem. The Masonic Renewal Task Force ( ) has been developing literature, programs, and plans to reverse the decline. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, won the Nobel Peace Prize. Her organization has a rule, it is forbidden to say the word "problem". You must say "gift", instead. I think that Masonry should take a lesson from this soon-to-be Saint. If we are serious about reversing the trend, and keeping Masonry (and the appendant bodies) healthy in the 21st century, we need to look on the trend as a gift and act accordingly. I am appalled that every lodge in the USA does not have a website. They can be had for FREE, so there is no excuse why every lodge does not have one. The quality of the Grand Lodge websites varies all over the map. Some are excellent, some are mediocre, some are an embarrassment to Masonry. Every grand Lodge website should be state-of-the-art, with precise instructions on how to petition Freemasonry, how to locate the nearest lodge to your residence, a sample petition, that can be downloaded, etc. We live in the internet age, and the first knock on our West Gate, is most often an electronic knock. Every Grand Lodge should have a toll-free number, for information, so that individuals who are interested in Masonry can call in! Every lodge should be having regular "open houses", where the lodge is open to the public. People can visit, get a cup of coffee, obtain literature on Masonry, and learn about the Craft. Massachusetts has two (2) statewide open houses every year. EVERY lodge in the entire state is open on a Saturday morning. The event is publicized on statewide media (The Boston TV stations and newspapers are state-wide). People visit the lodges, some lodges have Ben Franklin impersonators, and music. Massachusetts had an increase in membership in 2007. HELLO!We can do other things. We should strive to keep all of our current membership active and participating. One way is through "Rusty Nail" nights. Virtually every Mason has male relatives, we should be looking to them as our new membership base. We should reach out to Masonic widows- They have sons and grandsons, who are our future membership.We should be pushing hard to have Masonic youth groups, especially DeMolay, in our communities. Over 90% of DeMolay graduates go on into the Masonic lodge, when they reach the age of Majority. The working tools, to save this Craft are in our hands. It will take courage, and hard work, and sweat, to get our craft growing again. Masons will have to "think outside the box", and apply new techniques and methodology, to get Masonry relevant to the 21st Century. We will have to have the backbone, to apply ideas and techniques from other organizations, and not be afraid to experiment. "The dogmas of the quiet past, are not relevant to the stormy present" - Abraham Lincoln"If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got' - Cromwell"It does not take a Majority to effect change. But an irate and tireless Minority, to light brush fires in people's minds" - Samuel Adams"We live in a world, in which the only constant is Change" - Heraclitus, Greek philosopher 4th century BC. --------------------

Not all churches are seeing a decline in membership. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) are seeing an explosion of membership. This church, which started 170 years ago, in a farmhouse in upstate New York, now has over 12 million members. The LDS church sends out over 50,000 missionaries per year. They have a huge media program, to get their presence out in front of people, worldwide. There are many reasons why the Mormons are exploding. They have an extensive person-to-person outreach program. "Every member a Missionary", is one of their fundamental beliefs. Their public relations program is modern and state-of-the-art. Each new member is meant to feel special and welcome. They have a program, where every church member is visited in their homes on a monthly basis. The church has vibrant youth and women's programs. I call this a combination of "high-tech", and "high-touch". The church operates on a "local" basis, where every member can participate, with as much involvement as their situation permits. This "tailors" the church experience to the individual. The LDS retention rate, is around 95%. There was an obscure religious sect called the "Shakers". Their rules forbade any missionary work, any discussion of the religion with outsiders, and required strict celibacy for all members, including married members. The Shakers died out.Who do you think we should imitate? The Mormons or the Shakers?

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