Are lodge members prepared to accept unknown candidates ?
Do you have a social media marketing campaign ?
Can your lodge manage the impact of these new members ?
This article is the first in a series of three articles to be published over the next three issues.
This the first starts with preparing members for change and understanding the mindset for change.
Are members prepared to accept unknown candidates for initiation?
This might be a very odd questions for some readers, as their lodges already welcome petitions from unknown candidates for initiation. Other lodges have never considered such a proposition let alone accepted such an enquiry.
The second article – To prepare a social media marketing campaign, a practical guide to understand how to use social marketing channels and understand the basics of a sales strategy.
The third article – Managing the impact – to prepare lodge officers and members to ensure the new members feel connected with the lodge and retain and develop their Freemasonry. Its starts with the initial enquiry.
On the 9th April 2020, I undertook some very unscientific research. I posted the meme “Has your lodge accepted candidate from the internet?” to a few Masonic Facebook Groups and had a variety of responses; some positive, a few negative.
Below are just a sample of the replies in their own (unedited) words:
EMC: Interesting concept. My concerns are this: social media and video platforms are entirely inadequate to truly guard the West gate. Although a partial electronic investigation can be accomplished, much can be hidden from the investigation committee that comes to light throughout a physical in person investigation. The Brethren cannot truly get to know the “Zoom” petitioner. Are we to suspend the rules and abandon Masonic Codes and Laws during this time? Most Grand Jurisdictions require a secret ballot. Will this lead to Video performance of the degrees? If so, will that cheapen the experience? If not, will this lead Lodges to petition the Grand Master / Grand Lodge to allow them the rights to make Masons At Sight?
Much of this cannot nor should it be discussed here. I imagine that my Grand Lodge would frown upon this practice. I cannot say that it sits well with me.
CL: Our last few candidates have contacted us through our GL website (Alabama). They have stuck with the Craft and progressed, they have been active and participated in events and work.
Last year we initiated 4 EAs on a Saturday. We were not even close to being in a good position to mentor all 4. There was 2 of us that knew the lesson proficiently. Those of us that knew the lesson had to carry the entire weight of all 4 EAs.
|JdM: In the past some ppl checked our website and asked to particiate in a special evening for potential candidates. So the internet is a source to get new candidates for us.|
|MS: GL of Ohio insists on us contacting web generated information requested, already got burned on one. Not a fan.|
|MS(2): Yes in England but we still go through a ‘get to know process’ over several months.|
|JM: This is not even up for discussion in my lodge. Have not yet, and we never will|
|ELK: in Russia, it has been a very common practice since 2001 – 1. new jurisdiction, the social network was only building up, 2. no temples, masonic journals, the net being the only source, 3. around 100 masons for a huge country where only 20% can travel due to low overall income. So by now, we are still under 1500, but we did it accepting candidates via internet and raising money for them to come to large cities for initiations, and flying to install lodges 6000 miles away etc. and if it were not for our constant quarrels and resulting 12 conflicting obediences, we would have been way more numerous.|
MM: I approached my province about becoming a freemason at my own free will. Other than friends who were on the square and who live 120 miles away from me, I had no direct Masonic connections.
After initial contact I was contacted by my now mother lodge secretary and all the traditional joining procedures were then practised.
I guess if the internet and email were not available I would have wrote and posted a letter instead.
In my personal opinion the internet made it quicker for my first enquiry to be delt with as what I wrote on first contact is what I would have written in a letter.
RMK: While I would be happy to have enquiries from an internet source I would NEVER accept a person into a Lodge until I or an other member had at least six months personal knowledge of their character and standing in the community.
This headlong rush to get members at any cost is diluting the purpose of freemasonry and changing us into a replica of the rotary club.
If you do not believe in God and have no moral worth join something else. freemasonry is not a Fund Raising Charity, It is something far beyond that and our charitable giving and work is a side effect not the objective.
|ML: My lodge did and at our next meeting he is going to be installed in to the chair.|
|ML: About half of our candidates have come to us this way for the last few years now.|
|DD: I managed my Lodge’s prospective candidates for six years and processed over 180 enquiries with 60% from our website. The process from enquiry to initiation averaged 22 months and included monthly social meetings and volunteer work. They were affectionately known as e-Candidates.|
MF: I’m the membership officer at The Paddock Wood Lodge, and we have used both social media and a web site to promote the lodge, our charitable affairs, and social functions.
This profile raising has brought us several candidates and joining members.
As said last year, “are you risk takers, caretakers, or undertakers”.
|TH: The Members Pathway (United Grand Lodge of England guide) is a great way to start the process of attracting new members and gives guidance on how to review your Lodge, create a development plan, a candidate profile and how to respond to and get to know unsponsored candidates who approach the Lodge as a result.|
|DW: Its a no from me|
JW: IME most external Candidates who make it through the initial screening process espoused in the Members Pathway have been knowledgeable, keen enough to join to approach us and also want a logical and open interview process.
Young blokes nowadays do not necessarily know a large pool of older blokes to happen upon a Mason.
These young men are looking for all the things that we offer, and in my Province have been some of the most involved and contributing Brethren.
Your Province should be able to give good advice on how to proceed with external Candidates in a methodical and appropriate manner.
As one VSL puts it:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you
|GG: No, must be interviewed face to face.|
|DP: We accept applications from the internet, but they always go through several interviews with different members of the lodge, and finally they meet the Past Masters – I don’t think any lodge would accept someone without meeting them face to face|
|RK: No… we still recommend.|
|SA: Yes, our last meeting prior to the lockdown we raised a brother who came to us via the Internet. That is the Members’ Pathway which UGLE introduced in 2017.|
|GS: Not a very wise idea. I would hope we Freemasons are smarter than this.|
|MC: We’ve had applications and introductions via the internet, but those candidates are always screened in person and over a period of time.|
|WB: I feel the internet application should be aloud, but coupled with in person screenings and background checks.|
BM: The GL of Massachusetts fields hundreds of inquiries via their website every year. Most of the men are interested in Boston (1st District). These prospective candidates are initially screened by the 1st District membership chair. He then directs them to the membership chair for individual lodges who are looking for members.
The 1st District also frequently holds social hours for these men with representatives from each lodge. After that, the application and vetting process gets pretty analog with personal meetings, invites to dinner after lodge, etc.
I actually designed and built the websites for both of my lodges as well as the FB pages. The sites are mobile-friendly and Search engine optimized.
Once the C-19 lockdown ends, at least one of my lodges will probably start running geo-targeted Facebook ads.
PDK: The Grand Lodge of India does not permit the use of Internet or social media to promote freemasonry.
Although I feel the opposite.
Number of masons in most Indian lodges are dwindling.
Use of technology with proper screening and vetting process of a new candidate via internet can revive the numbers as well as propagate freemasonry.
If we can use internet for inter lodge communication, documentation etc.
Then accepting a candidate via internet should also be allowed.
JP: I think a number of brothers here are fundamentally misunderstanding the question in this post which asks about outreach and exposure, not the vetting process. Without stopping to do the research, I’d be willing to bet most lodges that have an online presence still “vet” in person.
I think online outreach is a key part of extending beyond the normal “father-son” pipeline. I found a lodge via the Grand Lodge of NC’s website and before hitting 30 was sitting in the east and nearly wearing a purple apron (DEO). I mention that to say that I’m an anecdote of what you CAN get from an online petitioner, but obviously with more volume you have a greater chance of attracting less-than-amazing brothers. In my experience, the internet increases the burden on the lodge to appropriately vet and engage with new candidates in a way that the “good ole boy’s network” doesn’t require. When your online pipeline is interpersonal connections there is a sort of “vetting” built in to their recommendation. In short, it’s “more work” but it ultimately makes it easier for worthy individuals to seek out a place to start their Masonic journey.
In my ministry life, we use websites and social media to make it easier for individuals to find our congregation and ministry opportunities. That doesn’t compromise the integrity of our mission or message. Masonry is not too different in this regard. It’s 2020 and many lodges still struggle to fully grasp where “the interwebz” fit in their lodge. As I’ve said time and time again, we can stand on some self-defined wall of tradition and refuse to change, but eventually we’ll be standing in that wall alone because we decided that all technology after 1973 was somehow more profane than what came before it.
Has the question of introducing unknown candidates into the lodge been discussed with lodge members?
Is this a topic that would simulate a constructive discussion, or shot down in flames at the first mention of such an idea?
Have these discussions progressed to a point where lodge members have agreed in principle to accept applications to join a lodge from a previously unknown candidates ?
Are lodge officers prepared to undertake additional ceremonies as needed to complete the work?
Do all lodge members understand that to retain those candidates and to continue to be a successful lodge, it will take a lot more energy than being a failing lodge?
You might be a member of a lodge that has not undertaken initiations for some time, and quite rightly concerned for the long term welfare of the lodge, and would like to open discussions with lodge members, but fear these will not be recived in a positive light.
Some lodge members do not want to accept, or fully understand that at some point every member will leave the lodge. No exceptions. Everyone will leave the lodge. Therefore to maintain the lodge and Freemasonry in general, new members are constantly required.
We are a previous member’s replacement. New members are our replacement.
Some lodges rely exclusively on personal introductions from an existing lodge members. These could be family members, work colleague and close friends. But as the average age within a lodge starts to climb, it becomes less likely that the existing members will have any new family members to approach, they might no longer work, and their close friends are fellow Freemasons.
The lodge needs a new injection of blood so to speak. New younger members who have a wide circle of family, work colleagues and close friends.
Then there are situations where existing lodge members do not like change. They are comfortable with the lodge as it is and don’t really want to change it by adding new unfamiliar faces. A lodge with 15-20 members does become quite a close knit unit.
It becomes a real challenge for a few proactive lodge members to persuade some other members to consider change. It requires to move their fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Don’t think for a minute that it is the long standing members that exclusively have the fixed mindset to change and the new younger members have the growth mindset. Many new members once they joined a lodge, they then want to keep it exclusive and resist others joining.
They want to maintain that exclusivity. They don’t yet understand Freemasonry, and they don’t fully appreciate membership numbers.
A rough set of calculations – there are an estimated 7.8 Billion people on the planet (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/) There are an estimated 6 million Freemasons globally. Therefore there are 7,800 people for every six Freemasons, less than 1 in 1000 which is 0.1% .
It could be a factored in that half the population would not be eligible, either they are too old or too young, have inefficient funds, no access to a lodge etc. Then the figure is 0.2% . So if Freemasonry doubled to 12 million members, then doubled again to 24 million, and doubled again 48 million, that would still only be around 1% of the eligible population.
And if as we believe that Freemasonry is a good thing, would it be such a terrible place to have 1% of the world’s eligible population as members ?
We are not necessarily talking about quadrupling the membership over the next five years, but more likely, looking at just increasing by two or three lodge members each year as that is a healthy place to be.
Professor Carol Dweck ( https://profiles.stanford.edu/carol-dweck ) has presented ground breaking work on ‘What Predicts Children’s Fixed and Growth Intelligence Mind-Sets?‘, and the concept of ‘yet’.
The TEDx Talk video presentation – ‘The Power of belief – mindset and success’ by Eduardo Briceno takes a more general approach and can be applied to everyone:
If you are reading this article during May 2020, then we are in COVID-19 lock down. This makes discussing the acceptance to change at face-to-face meetings impossible with lodge members. Nevertheless, to facilitate change you will find a way; maybe, as an example, using Zoom technology.
You could also share this article with lodge members. Some will understand and they will become supporters to change. Other members will resist and not understand the need for change. These will need extra counselling.
Social Media Marketing – A Practical Guide
Next month, we will present a practical guide to social media marketing. Once the COVID-19 lock down has been lifted, there may well be an appetite for people to reconnect on a social level with like-minded people, and Freemasonry is ideally placed to fulfil that need.
There is an opportunity to use this down time to plan and implement a social media marketing strategy in readiness for the COVID-19 un-lock.
Article by: Nicholas J Broadway
Nicholas Broadway was initiated into Freemasonry in 1989 in Stonewell Lodge No. 9137, Essex England and was Master in 1995, 2011 and 2016. He also joined other UGLE Lodges and is a PZ in the Holy Royal Arch.
He moved to West Sussex and assists the Provincial Grand Lodge of Sussex Communications Team with Social Media activities. He acquired the title of The Square Magazine in January 2020 and oversees the technical running of the digital publication.