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Montana Freemason  August 2015                                  Volume 91 Number 2

                   This is the program that will save Masonry!

                                       Daniel Gardiner (3)

  How many times have we been told that
membership numbers are low, but this new
program, idea or scheme is what we need to do
<insert idea here> and we will be blessed with
untold riches in the form of members?

  We will never have again the large number of       the fact that Masons seemed to be deliberately
members that we enjoyed in the post-War years.       unaware that sociologists had been studying
I think that our general membership gets this.       fraternities and their membership schemes for
Grand Lodge O cers around the country seem           decades, and had a lot to say about it, none of it
to be driven to adopt any number of schemes          immediately encouraging.
based on some fantasy of “If we only had more        Did you know that there are whole papers and
members.”                                            books written that study “fraternity” and those
                                                     who join?
  Some of the more recent statements made by         While ipping through a critical journal published
visiting dignitaries in Grand Lodges across the      in the late 1980’s or earlier 90’s once, and an article
country that were supposed to indicate an upward     caught my attention. e article discussed failed
membership growth are:                               membership trends across multiple organizations.

  • We dropped the age to join, especially thinking     e groups involved in this article were those
DeMolay’s would come. Did the young men join         such as the “animal lodges” - Moose, Elk, etc - and
in droves?                                           service groups like Rotary, Kiwanis, and other
                                                     groups to join like the Grange, and even the VFW
  • We dropped our pro ciency requirements           (Veterans of Foreign Wars).
because “young men don’t have time” to show up       At one point in their existence, several of these
to a degree. Are they showing up to the meetings?    “fraternal”groups,inattemptstostaveo dwindling
                                                     memberships, tried several radical concepts.
  • We dropped getting degrees over time, or even    One of the rst was to integrate membership to
in person, by letting someone (or someone else in    join. Some of the groups had historically been
your place) receive all the degrees at once. Are we  segregated, and it was recommended that they be
                                                     more inclusive. ey experienced a brief spike, and
 ush with members?                                   then the same decline as before. Another scheme
  • Programs like “Membership by Design” were        was to allow women to join. If we can’t address
supposed to bring us members. Where are they?        the membership problem with the men, lets get
  • We were told that the “Dan Brown e ect”          the women to join! e groups experienced brief
would bolster members a er the runaway success       spikes in membership, and then returned to the
of a work of ction that involves Masons. Where       sort of track they were on before.
are the Dan Brown Masons?                            What else can we try? How about beer! So,
  • We were told that lodges working the Master      dutifully some of the groups added a bar, and of
Builder program would have the community             course, membership had a brief increase, and then
visibility to gain members. Where are those          returned to the same downward trends as before.
members?                                             Many of the classical fraternities that had emulated
                                                     Freemasonry ( e Fraternal Order of Red Men,
          The Sociology of Joining
                                                        e Patrons of Husbandry/Grange, the
Before I even joined this fraternity, I was reading
Masonic magazines where Grand Lodge o cers
complained that there were not enough members.
Who wants to join an organization that tells
everybody present at every annual assembly and
in every magazine that they are dying? I wasn’t
impressed with that. I also was not impressed with

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