Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
I always enjoy reading articles by Past Grand Master Rick Boyles, and he doesn’t disappoint with the article below. Rick, as you know is a founder of Dedicated Members for Change in 2010, and now in 2015-16, Rick serves as Chair of a new Grand Lodge DMC Committee. The DMC Committee is charged with being a think tank of ideas and articles to encourage growth of our Order – because adding new members is our number one imperative.
Below are Rick’s insights.
F – L – T
Jurisdiction of California
Lighten Up! …
We’re an enigma, really. We want new members but have nowhere to seat them and nothing which attracts them. If we find anything out of the ordinary, we are confounded enough to stop dead in our tracks. We show our age in everything we do. Several times in the last couple years, even when I was Grand Master, I have felt unwelcome at an event. This has nothing to do with a political stance, which is ludicrous anyway. The mere idea that we fight over whether or not we want new members is fresh out of the theatre of the absurd! Some members want absolutely no intrusions. Even as a Past Grand Master, I have found events that either have limited space or really don’t want anyone outside their own small sphere of attendees. But this is just a tired belligerence. Try to think outside the box. There is no need to limit attendance anywhere, beyond our own disquieting need to plot territorial boundaries. I have never understood why some members oppose any substantive change so violently that they choose to snub other members. If there remains any question as to why change or a drive for membership is needed, you need only to look at the 20 or so states in the United States that now have less than 200 members! It’s time to wake up! Of course for many old-timers it’s mainly a matter of control. Some members just don’t want to lose control. But control itself is an illusion. Change is an ever-constant. Those in power today are out of power soon enough.
There are a number of almost comical solutions for getting and retaining members. One may be summed up with one simple word: dinner. If your lodge is not already serving dinner, consider doing it. I was stunned in my years traveling our state by the number of failing lodges that did nothing whatsoever for their members, yet were shocked that they could not retain members. Years ago, lodges were the life’s blood for their members; they were the center of their lives. Not only did they provide lunch, dinner, and even sometimes breakfast, as we all know, they “buried the dead”, “educated the orphan”, and many other things. Lodges were the center of members’ lives. Lodges in general have diminished primarily because they have forgotten to appreciate their own members. Now, many lodges guilt-trip their members into attending. This only works for a short while. If the lodge returns nothing to their members, why should the lodge expect anything in return? It brings to mind a famous quote from Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” wherein an Ebenezer Scrooge acquaintance is asked if he would attend a funeral – he remarked “only if dinner is served, I must be fed or I stay at home”. Indeed, why should an intelligent member of society snug in their living room, with their television, their Netflix, their significant others, come to a building with four walls and precious little else? The quick answer is that the overwhelming majority of people do not. The lodges that can’t afford to feed dinner to their members are in essence not far from their own dissolution. And only the members fail to see this fact.
Some lodges are run routinely month after month year after year. They repeat their work by rote memory. So much so that the only thrill they get is by the clear way in which they reel off the code, the ritual, the unwritten work, or anything else committed to memory. Often times, the desk positions are unchanged for decades and only the presiding officer may change, but this diminishes any import at all. Quite often the lodge is manned by a bully or a person who seems to think they have the best way to manage the environment, so much so that when they are not present the lodge fails to exist. This is apparent in many lodges. Here are a few pointers for a more spontaneous lodge setting:
- Arrive early for lodge – about an hour or so. Talk with your fellow members; try to imagine yourself in their shoes.
- Have dinner with your fellow lodge members and guests who may become prospective members. Don’t guilt trip anyone or force people to join.
- Dress like a normal human being, don’t wear a comical formal outfit from 1940, don’t disparage others for their mode of dress, remember that you are on the same level and don’t talk to your fellow members as if you have all the answers. Those who think they have all the answers generally don’t have any.
- Don’t tolerate a prejudicial atmosphere. The world at large now calls out against prejudice – don’t assume that a closed door allows a closed mind. All races are welcome, all genders, all manner of man, so long as they are congenial and show a good heart.
- Have a fun meeting, full of smiles and light talk, don’t treat the ritual like it is a funeral dirge. Remember that the code and our ritual are to be “liberally construed”; don’t wear out your members with talk of your own mastery of cash-handling or the reading of minutes. Remember that boring stuff should not last very long. Don’t force members to do things. Doing nothing with a smile is more inviting than someone’s mastery of the insipid. It’s more inviting to have fun than it is to grind a group of members into dust discussing the same events over and over. If you have something serious to discuss, consider carefully how to approach it without recriminations or verbal abuse. No lodge lasts long that is run using turmoil or disruptive behavior. Your lodge is just like your home.
- After the meeting, suggest a dessert or other way to relax. Perhaps a little more talking and smiling. Smiling is what we are about, isn’t it?
- Have fun! What more is the point to the existence of any lodge setting?
Just a few more ideas from your crazy, friendly, PGM Rick Boyles; please consider that somehow we need to move forward without further delay