A View Of The Future

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Freemasonry is many things to many men. As often occurs when any number of masons get together, the topic of conversation eventually turns to the state of the craft. My young friend was especially pensive one evening as we were en route to visit another Chapter. He was obviously lost in his own thoughts for some time before he asked, “what is masonry really all about, and what’s in it or me?” As might be expected, the conversation went ‘round and ‘round for some time until we finally agreed that Freemasonry could be defined as kindness in the home, honesty in business, courtesy in society and concern for the unfortunate, resistance toward the wicked, help for the weak, trust in the strong, forgiveness for the penitent, love for one another, and above all reverence and love for God.1 “So” he concluded, “Freemasonry is many things but most of all, Freemasonry is a way of life!” ‘Aha’, I thought, ‘he’s got it!’

It has been often said that the purpose of this organization is to make good men better and the conversation continued in this vein until my young friend asked, “Why is it then, with in excess of 170 members on our roster, we only typically have 25 or 30 out to a meeting Who’s fault is it ‑ theirs... or ours...?” That set us all back for a minute. Then he said, “Every Chapter has the same complaint. What is it that Chapters are not offering to the brethren that they will want to stay involved? What are we missing, and what can we do about it?”

Someone in the back‑seat suggested a lack of good leaders could be a factor, but I didn’t agree ‑ we have the best leaders from every walk of life represented in our Chapters ‑ schools, politics, medicine, government, industry and even religion. Unfortunately, potentially great leaders are often overlooked in our Chapters just because they are just that, potentially great leaders.

Now, not all men who are capable of being great leaders desire to be leaders and they are quite content to fill minor roles within the organization. Unfortunately, all too many men proudly enter the west gate full of enthusiasm and silently leave by the east gate, disillusioned and seldom to return.

So you ask, “what is the answer”? The answer to that is twofold ‑ EDUCATION and LEADERSHIP!

For centuries after Freemasonry was formalized, men were taught arts and sciences that they could never learn elsewhere. Down through the ages, speculative masons have been taught to be better men by learning to love one another, to be charitable to mankind, to be faithful husbands and fathers, to be loyal citizens, to assist anyone deserving their aid, and to be loyal to their employers and their employees. Undoubtedly, this is Freemasonry as its best, but it is not enough!

We must give every Freemason something of Masonic interest to him because the only thing he can get in a Masonic Chapter that he can not get better elsewhere is Freemasonry. Unfortunately, we are often guilty of bringing men into our Chapters[1] and teaching them little about masonry except the ritual. We tell them nothing about our traditions and history and give them no real need to return to Chapter.

There can be no dedication without education. We must develop the potential for imaginative and inspired leadership by making our new candidates informed and knowledgeable masons. We must mould our younger members by focussing and concentrating their latent abilities. We must draw on the knowledge and experience of our senior brethren by using their skills to better advantage.

No organization can be stronger than its leadership. You may recall that the First Principal of a Chapter is not required to meet even a minimum standard of proficiency in ritual, history, philosophy, jurisprudence, or Masonic etiquette; the only requirement is that he shall have served one year as a Warden. In reality, we can only get the best leadership at the top if we start at the bottom.

In any capital venture, profit is defined as income less cost; if a company realizes insufficient financial gain, it folds. In non‑profit organizations there has to be a profit or they too will fail. This profit can not be measured in dollars and cents but rather in the value of the benefits offered less the undesirable considerations. If  they enjoy a surplus of these benefits, these groups show a “profit”. In either case, LEADERSHIP will ultimately determine the amount of profit enjoyed.

Big business has discovered that a lack of planning brings hesitation, false steps, changes of direction, and chaos to their operation. Every corporation in the world is investing vast sums of money in the development of employees. They know that planning does just not happen ‑ managers have to make plans work and they must be taught to be innovative leaders. However, fraternal organizations in general, and Masonic Chapters in particular, have ignored this method of solving their problems.

Managing people is an art ‑ an art that requires sound personal judgement and compassion. A good manager is a coach; he is a teacher; he gets things done through other people. A great manager is also a dreamer, a planner, and a leader. Such traits do not come naturally to most men. We must now identify and develop these talents in our future managers if we ever hope to improve our lot.

In essence, we must learn to educate, persuade and entertain our members if we are to keep them active. We must provide them with a variety of activities to keep them interested by keeping them informed and involved.

“It is one thing to bandy ideas about,” my young friend challenged me, “but what steps can our Chapter take to get the brethren involved, to begin this educational process  and to develop our future leaders?”

“Well”, I replied, “that requires both present and long‑range planning.” For example, we should recognize that Freemasonry is not for everyone. We must begin seeking quality over quantity by telling candidates initially what Freemasonry is and what it is not. We should be training brethren slated for the investigating committees how to interview a potential candidate, what to watch for, which questions to ask, and how to interpret the responses.

We should also avoid making our Chapter a “degree mill” by instituting significant waiting periods between degrees to allow sufficient time to teach our candidates more about

 Freemasonry. We could offer schools of instruction during their progression through the degrees, and even enlist some of the senior brethren to act as mentors. Every brother should have something to do in the Chapter. We should develop man‑LEADERSHIP training sessions for committee‑heads so that traditional controls can continue to be given up. In turn, this would encourage the participation of our members by allowing every man involved in each activity to establish goals, develop strategies, make decisions, resolve problems, and set the measurements to determine success’ or failures.

We have to search our non‑active brethren and re‑kindle their interest by keeping them appraised of what our Chapter is doing. Communication skills are the key here! Our telephone committee should be ascertaining why the non‑attenders have been missing so appropriate steps can be taken. Perhaps they have been away for some time and are reluctant to return because they have forgotten the signs, or how to enter the Chapter, or balloting procedures. A workshop or two may be all that is required to regain their support and participation.

We should initiate the formation of our own Toastmaster’ group with the same aims and goals as the local chapters already active in the area. Attendance would be encouraged of the membership at large but obligatory to all officers and newly admitted Masons.

On an even broader scale, consider the instructional sessions at the annual Masonic Spring Workshops,  It is now appropriate that we consider the development of a series of training sessions for our Officers - past, present and future. There are many Masons out there, both active and non-active, who possess the skills and expertise to help us in this regard.

In fact, is a Masonic School that far out of the question ‑ complete with formal certification of attendance and Grand Chapter recognition? Course content could include sessions from conducting ‘regular business meeting,’ to brain-storming techniques; from preparing a budget to arbitrating dissension; from formulating committees to preparing a report; from Masonic history to ritual and floor‑work; from the responsibilities and duties of each Masonic office right down to interpersonal skills.

A pretty tall order?... perhaps. Can it be accomplished?... definitely! Be aware that it will require considerable time, effort, and dedication. None the less, we must start the  education process now for if we do not, who will? Tomorrow is here; the time has come.

By preparing and following an established plan, we can be assured a continuance of excellent leadership. We will develop leaders constantly, something that is necessary for the perpetuation of any organization. The judgement of our officers will be relied   upon and they will be emulated by those who follow in their stead. We will have members who will inspire confidence by their own competence and have the ability to make decisions.

If I had to name the one thing we have to look for in future leaders, it would be “imagination”. With imagination, everything else will fall into place. To put our brethren to work requires imagination. To be an effective leader requires imagination. To plan for tomorrow requires imagination.

Simply stated, we have to start today to do things we never before imagined .

Reference: Key to Freemasonry’s Growth, Allen E. Roberts, McCoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Limited, Richmond VA, 1969.