Investing in the Next Generation of Masons
In our last Stated Meeting, an address to the Brethren from our Worshipful Master resonated with me and encouraged me to expand on it. Worshipful Brother Dillon reminded the Master Masons of the Lodge that it is their duty to mentor our new Brothers and support them on their journey toward becoming Masters themselves. Every Master Mason holds his degree and is proficient in it because one or more Masters took an interest in his development. Every Master should be willing to pass this investment on to future Masons who stand where he once did. Maintaining this progression of Brothers is essential to the fraternity’s survival. Once a Lodge runs out of new Masons and does not have enough existing ones to do the Work, it ceases to exist. This grim outcome is preventable by taking responsibility, living the tenants of Freemasonry, planning, and working together.
The future of Freemasonry rests upon the shoulders of Master Masons who are proficient in the Craft. These Brothers have demonstrated a mastery of the Work and dedication to the fraternity. After completing the Master Mason degree, some become officers of their Lodge. After several years of service, these officers can earn the title of Worshipful Master. During their time as Worshipful Master, and the years leading up to this station, they conduct ceremonies for candidates working through their degrees and handle the business of the Lodge, keeping the lights on and ensuring everything else in order. Yet, not every Master Mason needs to pursue a career as an officer to make a difference in his Lodge and keep it going.
All Master Masons can be assets both inside and outside of the Lodge. Inside the Lodge, they can volunteer, help with committees, mentor newer members, and be a role model for their Brethren. Outside of the Lodge, Masters are ambassadors for the Craft, completely proficient in the Work and knowledgeable of the responsibilities that come with it. This is why they have the freedom to represent themselves as Masons in public with Masonic rings, hats, bumper stickers, and so on. These Masters represent the fraternity, both in the real world and online. Within their social circles, they are someone else’s example of a Mason. They may also be the first point-of-contact for a man interested in becoming a Mason. So, their conduct must be exemplary to ensure they are attracting potential candidates of similar character. Masonry does not recruit members. The fraternity relies on Masters engaging with men interested in joining our ranks and, if found worthy, helping them earn their degrees and become Masters themselves. This chain of Masters receiving candidates and developing them into the next generation of Masters has extended for over three centuries of Freemasonry, and even longer under the names of various orders that existed long before the establishment of the first Masonic Grand Lodge in 1717.
So, what can Masons do to keep this chain from breaking and ensure our fraternity is still around for generations to come? Unfortunately, there is not a universal solution for this challenge across the fraternity. This question is for each Lodge’s consideration because they each face unique challenges. Reflection on these questions should yield a strategy, or a larger goal, followed by specific tactics to execute it, and milestones to confirm the completion of work along the way. Countless leadership and management frameworks and tools exist for this purpose. One very simple and useful one that works for me is the POLC framework: Planning, Organizing, Leading, and Controlling. Planning is assessing challenges within the organization and the surrounding community and creating a vision that includes goals and methods to achieve them. Using the SMART goal framework helps set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based goals that support every level of the plan. Organizing is applying existing resources (people, time, assets, etc.) towards your goals. Leading is inspiring the team to achieve the goals and providing them with whatever support is necessary to do so. Finally, the most important of these is Controlling, which is monitoring the processes, ensuring the completion of goals, and any making adjustments when necessary. Controlling is the most critical component and often overlooked. Anyone can produce ideas and plans, but these plans mean nothing and will not yield results if they are not monitored, followed through, and completed. For your benefit, here is an example of a one-page plan using POLC to address member development:
- Challenge: Entered Apprentices are not passing their proficiencies and moving on to the higher degrees.
- Goal: All Entered Apprentices, initiated before the second quarter of 2022, will become proficient Master Masons by end-of-year.
- Method: Establish a process for member development and designate stakeholders.
- Brethren are responsible for completing their proficiencies with assistance from mentors.
- First signer of the candidate’s application will be his primary mentor.
- Second signer will be responsible if primary is not available or cannot fulfill his duties.
- Senior Warden will supervise the process and be the fallback if the two signers cannot execute their duties. He may delegate the work to other Master Masons, if necessary.
- Entered Apprentices and Fellowcrafts finish each of their degrees within two months after receiving them, and Master Masons finish theirs within three months. (Not strict requirements, but goals to work towards.)
- Mentors set milestones for candidates to complete specific tasks or advance to certain points of progress on larger tasks by specific dates.
- Mentors schedule regular training sessions between themselves and candidates: once per week for the first four weeks after a degree and bi-weekly thereafter – unless a candidate requires more direction.
- The Worshipful Master communicates this process to the Brethren in the next Stated Meeting.
- Mentors lead by example and know the work. A mentor cannot teach something unless he is proficient in it himself.
- Mentors are available and patient. The candidate may need a lot of help to finish his work. Everyone learns at different paces and in different ways.
- Mentors motivate their candidate! Be persistent and keep him engaged, while also taking the time to recognize his progress.
- The Lodge encourages candidates to reinforce their learning by forming study groups and working with each other as well.
- Mentor checks in with his candidate’s progress at least once a week and provide extra support if the candidate is not on-track to hit his next milestone.
- Senior Warden checks in with candidates bi-weekly to ensure they are progressing and getting the support they need.
- Senior Warden may counsel mentors and transfer the candidate to other mentors as needed.
The specific needs and goals of each Lodge may differ, but, on a larger scale, all Lodges have a shared mission to continue growing by attracting candidates and developing Masons. Every Master Mason has the ability to effect positive change in the world around him, and especially within his own Lodge, and more especially with a good plan and the support of his Brothers. The Masters of today are here because over 300 years’ worth of Masons invested in the next generation of Master Masons. Every Master Mason has a role in investing in new member development and keeping the fraternity moving forward – not only a handful of Lodge officers. Likewise, every new Mason should prove his commitment to the fraternity by working through his degrees and becoming a proficient Master Mason. After which, he can take the torch from the existing generation of Masons and carry this Light on to the next generation of Masons.