As you know, a rough ashlar is a stone taken from the quarry in its rude and imperfect state. It is made ready by the hands of the builder to be used in construction of the building. The stone is made perfect by removing imperfections. Nothing is added. Each stone becomes an integral and important part of the building.
In Wisconsin we have 176 lodges as of this writing. Just as each stone is important to a building, each of these lodges is important to Wisconsin Freemasonry. There is always work to be done, but that is part of the journey!
As part of this year’s journey, we’ll focus on “Rough Ashlar Lodge.” Good old Rough Ashlar isn’t a real lodge, but in many ways it represents a little bit of each of us. We won’t focus on what’s wrong with Rough Ashlar, but we’ll focus on what is “inside” each of our lodges.
Remember that the Perfect Ashlar was always inside of the Rough Ashlar.
Hopefully, you’ve already heard our references to the “4 P’s” – People, Planning, Programming and Proficiency. As part of our journey with Rough Ashlar Lodge this year we’ll refer to the 4 P’s often. Just as a four-legged stool is always in balance, a lodge that pays attention to these 4 P’s will be well balanced.
Today we’ll focus on “People.” Let’s drill down even deeper and focus on “Outreach.”
Brotherly Love is one of our tenets. To love our Brothers means to care about them. When we care about our Brothers, we may need to reach out to them. Even though our meeting dates are posted well ahead of time and we send templegrams, emails and flyers, there are still members that we don’t see.
There are many reasons members don’t attend. It may be that they were very active in the past. Perhaps they have moved away, or gotten older. Perhaps they have been ill. Their job may be getting in the way, kids activities may have become a priority. Maybe there was a bad experience in the past. There is no reason to judge, but we should care. That is what Brotherly Love means . . . we care!
So what does it mean to reach out? How do we go about it?
The first step is to know who our Brothers are. Each lodge has access to MORI – our online membership tool. This is a great place to start! Let’s print out a few copies of the roster and gather together the officers and regular attenders to talk about outreach. This is a great lodge night, or fellowship hall activity.
As a group, take a look at your lodge roster. It’s easy to break down the membership into several simple categories. Once you’ve looked over your list and added some categories, the real fun starts! How can we reach out to each of these groups of members and let them know that we care about them? How can we make outreach a regular part of our lodge activities?
Here are a few thoughts – add your own ideas, there are no wrong answers here!
- Older members – Get out and visit them! Send them a handwritten note, offer to pick them up and bring them to lodge. Offer to take them out to breakfast with a few brothers.
- Out of towners – Send them a “State of the Lodge” newsletter. What’s new and exciting? How is the Lodge doing? Send them an annual Masonic Anniversary card. Call them on their birthday. Try to connect them with a Masonic Lodge closer to their home (don’t worry about losing them, worry about keeping them active.)
- “New” members – Involve them! Ask them for their ideas. Invite them to travel to other lodges. Involve them in an Ashlar Award team. Call them and talk to them on a regular basis. Ask them what the lodge can do to make their next steps in Masonry meaningful.
- Past Masters – Hold an annual Past Master’s dinner. If you can afford it, pay for their meal (or at least the oldest or senior PM’s.) Send the Past Masters your “State of the Lodge” newsletter. Introduce all of the PM’s at your stated meetings.
- Current officers – Hold officers meetings – these will help with communication but also with bonding. Share the workload, try to encourage all officers to chair a committee or event. Be realistic about memory work expectations. Celebrate successes!
- Boomers – This category is gold! These brothers may have been very busy with careers and families and might just be ready to get more involved in lodge. Take a careful look at the roster to find those leaders that may have been busy with other seasons of their lives. Grab them before they get involved in other things! Call them on a regular basis and ask how things are going. Consider holding a “Rusty Nail” welcome back night.
- Younger – Ask for their opinions often. Give them leadership opportunities. Consider events that might appeal more to the younger crowd. Don’t fall into the trap of running the same events and programs every year. Invite them to help with communications like social media or Constant Contact.
- Regular attenders – Officers arrive early and greet every attender. Don’t take regular attenders for granted. Find time for one-on-one conversations or a phone call to see how they are doing. Be sure to involve the regulars in an important committee. Ask their opinions. They may not all choose to speak up during lodge.
- Honored Ladies (widows) – Each lodge absolutely needs to maintain an up to date roster of honored ladies. Contact them on a regular basis – at least a couple times a year. Invite them to special events. Think of them around the Holidays, deliver a plant or floral arrangement. Keep your records up to date as they may have remarried. We still care about them!
We often talk about membership challenges in our fraternity. So often we discuss ways to attract men that don’t yet belong to our lodge. Let’s be sure that we pay attention to the men that already belong to our lodges. Reach out to your Brothers. Show them how much we care. This is what it means to be a brother. Our lodges will benefit but more importantly, each one of us will grow and become better Brothers and better men. That’s what Freemasonry is about.
Donald W. Hensiak