Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Declining membership claims many victims in a Lodge
One victim may be the inability to fill all officer positions. Another victim may be the lack of talent to fill specialized positions such as Treasurer, or to fill leadership positions such as Noble Grand. Another victim may be so few members that the officer positions simply rotate among a handful of members, year after year. Still another victim may be the inability to have sufficient numbers of members to organize functions which might attract new members. The list goes on and on. And the conundrum grows more intense and convoluted as the years go on.
Another victim of declining membership that doesn’t often attract mention is the District Deputy Grand Master (DDGM) program. This was a program developed decades ago when the Order was large, with hundreds of Lodges and tens of thousands of members. It was devised to assist Grand Masters. DDGMs were to be the eyes and ears of the Grand Master. Clearly, the Grand Master could not visit every Lodge in a far-flung state like California. And even if a very vigorous Grand Master could do so, the visit would only be a brief one for an evening and only perhaps once a year. So the DDGM system was devised as a way for deputies to be charged with a manageable district of Lodges. The DDGM could maintain regular liaison with those Lodges in his/her district, could install the officers, attend to problems, and provide regular reports to the Grand Master. In fact, the DDGM system was so vibrant, that DDGM’s appointed subordinate officers – such as District Deputy Grand Secretary and the like – to assist the DDGM at installations of Lodge officers, and otherwise. It was an intelligent approach, and good management in a fraternal system.
However, the reality has failed to live up to the ideal.
The steep decline of our Order’s membership has converted the DDGM system – at least in California – into a facade. In California, we have devolved into 24 districts. Some districts have as few as 3 or 4 Lodges. How is it failing in California? Let me count the ways. We have districts where no one serves as DDGM – primarily because no one volunteers to serve. We have a system in place where Lodges must submit their recommended candidates for DDGM by February 1. As of this date, only 4 recommendations have been submitted statewide. Some DDGMs don’t visit the Lodges in their districts. We have districts where the DDGM does not appoint subordinate officers, because no one is available or no one is willing to serve. And it is the rare DDGM who submits reports to the Grand Master.
How have we fallen into this well of inertia?
The reason comes back (it always comes back) to the lack of members in this Order. As membership declines, we have fewer and fewer members capable of, and interested in, serving as DDGM. Frankly, it is virtually impossible to maintain a system which supports 24 DDGMs.
What’s the solution?
In my opinion, we need to eliminate the DDGM from our Codes and move to a Special Deputy program. Special Deputies would be appointed by the Grand Master for one-year terms. The Special Deputy should be a Past Grand, but the Grand Master should not be restricted to choosing a Past Grand if, in the Grand Master’s opinion, no suitable Past Grand is available. The Grand Master will assign Special Deputies to Lodges, and the intent is to assign to all Lodges in California. The Grand Master should have the flexibility to appoint as few or as many Special Deputies for the state as he or she feels a need to appoint. For example, the Grand Master might appoint as few as 10 Special Deputies, or he or she might appoint as many as 40. And the primary function of the Special Deputy should go back to the original purpose: being the eyes and ears of the Grand Master. Special Deputies should not be obliged to conduct the installation of officers of a Lodge, and the Grand Master should have the ability to appoint any Past Grand of a Lodge (at the request of the Lodge) to conduct a Lodge’s installation of officers. In this fashion, the Grand Master is given flexibility, but more importantly, the Grand Master can appoint truly competent and experienced members of the Order to assist Lodges in their operations, to ensure that proper procedures are followed, and to report back to the Grand Master any problems that are observed.
F – L – T
Deputy Grand Master