STEMMING THE FLOW
(M.S.A. is indebted to M.W. Brother E. R.
Minchew, PGM of Louisiana, and Director of
Masonic Education for the Grand Lodge of
Louisiana, for sharing his thoughts on "stemming the flow" of membership losses.)
Most Grand Jurisdictions, if not all, are
concerned with the loss of members. Basically,
there are three categories of membership losses
that claim their attention: by demits, by nonpayment of dues, and by candidates who fail to
complete the degrees.
With reference to the first category --
Demits. In Louisiana, as an example, the
number of demits that were granted in 1976 was
284; in 1977, the number was 64; in 1978, the
total was 317. While it is true that some of the
demitted Masons affiliated with other lodges, it
is roughly estimated that two-thirds did not.
This is a loss that is worthy of attention. Louisiana has about 47,00(' Masons. Other Grand
Jurisdictions report comparable losses through
What can be done to reduce the losses by
demit? It appears that the cause for demit losses
should be examined. There are at least three
reasons why a Mason gets a demit and never
affiliates with another Lodge:
First - He feels that he is too old to be of
service to Masonry.
Second - He has lost interest in the
Third - He cannot attend Lodge.
There are probably other causes for a demit,
but these three are certainly worthy of consideration.
The solution to the problem must rest with
each lodge, particularly with the three principal
officers. There is no doubt but that some members of the Lodge have been neglected.
A well-planned program by the Lodge is
necessary, a program that will involve as many
members as possible. Specially planned programs will attract and encourage the presence
of members. Homecoming, Father-and-Son
Night, etc. Each Lodge meeting should include
a discussion of some Masonic topic for
information when no degree work is on the
agenda. There are many sources for information topics on Masonry; probably the best is the
Short Talk Bulletin. (Ask M.S.A. for the
catalog listing the more than 680 titles.) Most
Masons are interested in learning more about
the history, heritage, philosophy, famous men
in Masonry, and ideals of the Fraternity. Open
meetings, where the doors are opened to non-Masons, are excellent opportunities for good
fellowship and for improving the image of
In other words, A MASONIC EDUCATION PROGRAM in each Lodge is a MUST.
In such meetings, a special effort should be
made to acquaint all members with what the
Lodge is doing and how each member is a part
of the program. The Lodge program should
include opportunities for the members to discuss what each wants out of his Masonic life. It
is surprising how many good ideas for improving the interest and attendance of the members
can be provided by the members. Too frequently they are not encouraged to let their wishes be
Some Lodges send out questionnaires to all
members asking for the members' desire to do a
certain work in the Lodge. This method gives
every member the opportunity to let his wishes
be known. A follow-up use of members is the
result. Other Lodges have seminars with members to get the members' reaction to what the
Lodge should do. It all boils down to what has
often been said, "A working Mason is an
Some Lodges use a Contact Committee to
get in touch with Masons who do not regularly
attend Lodge and inform them that they are
missed and that they are needed. When such
efforts are exerted, the members will feel a part
of the Lodge, and many even become regular in
Members who are unable to attend Lodge
meetings should be visited by the Contact Committee as often as possible, and by the principal
officers. Telephone calls can be used by the
Committee to prevent disabled Brethren from
feeling a sense of neglect, and to assure the aged
and infirm that they are still a part of the Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons. On
special occasions, such as when honoring the
members with long years of service to the Craft,
the Committee should arrange transportation
for the disabled.
The second category of membership losses
is through suspension for non-payment of dues.
Some Grand Jurisdictions report as many as
five to eight hundred per year. Of the total
number that are suspended, about fifty percent
request reinstatement. Again, a sufficient loss
to cause concern.
There are sundry reasons for failure of
Masons to pay their annual dues. The primary
causes might be loss of interest, living in
another location, financial difficulties and a
feeling of neglect.
Some Lodges have sought to solve this
problem by making personal calls on the delinquent Brothers. When this is not possible,
Masons in the vicinity of the domicile of the
delinquent Mason are asked to make a personal
contact. In some Lodges the Worshipful Master
appoints a committee to visit a Brother who is
suspended and persuade him to pay his dues.
Other Lodges use different appeals. Financial
aid is often provided for the Brother who is in
Whatever is done when a Mason becomes
delinquent is like locking the barn after the
horse is stolen. Rather than treat the disease,
perhaps more attention should be given to
Again, a well-planned program of Masonic
Education that will touch the lives of all of the
members is suggested. Several Grand Jurisdictions are making much improvement in Grand
Lodge oriented and sponsored educational programs that are directed toward improving
attendance at Lodge meetings and having a
better informed membership on Masonry.
There remains much to be done. Perhaps too
much money is being spent on administration
and other acute needs of Masons and Masonry.
There should be some kind of an annual program in every Lodge to reach as many members
The third category of membership losses,
and the one in which the writer is personally
interested, is in the loss of candidates who take
the first degree and then drop out of Masonry.
This problem has been discussed with Grand
Lodge officers of several Grand Jurisdictions
and there is a kindred anxiety and concern.
For instance, in Louisiana in 1976, 1187
candidates were initiated and only 874 were
raised. In 1977 there were 1279 who were
initiated while only 901 were raised. In 1978 the
number initiated was 1139 with 886 being
raised. In three years there was a total loss of
944 Master Masons. Most of these will probably not repetition for advanced degrees.
There would have been a gain in membership in
Louisiana if the losses due to not completing
degrees could have been drastically reduced.
Why don't candidates complete the three
degrees? The writer has made a study of this
problem and presents one actual case.
In one of the Louisiana Lodges there were
twelve petitions for degrees that were formally
approved by the Lodge. Seven of the applicants
completed the degrees within the required time.
The other five went no farther than the first
degree. The degrees, in each instance, were well
conferred. Each candidate received the same
information before and after each degree. The
five who did not pursue advancement in
Masonry beyond the first degree were interviewed and asked "why"? Here are the
answers: Two said they did not have time to
learn the catechism; one said that he petitioned
only because his wife wanted him to become a
Mason, and that Masonry demanded too much
of him; another said that he could not abide by
the moral teachings of Masonry as exemplified
in the first degree, especially the obligation; the
last one said he couldn't learn the work.
The result of the interviews were reported to
the Master of the Lodge. He appointed a committee to visit each of the five candidates and to
persuade him to continue his Masonic career.
The committee was successful with only one--
can you guess which one? Yes, it was the one
who said he couldn't learn the catechism. He
tried, did his best, was not perfect in his recita-
tion but was passed and finally became a
Master Mason. You will be glad to know that
this Brother is now one of the most used
Masons in his Lodge in everything except
The reasons given by the five Entered
Apprentice Masons in the example that has
been cited are probably the most often found
excuses for not completing the degrees. They
might give a hint as to what is needed to be done.
In Louisiana the Grand Lodge is working
on a statewide program to educate the applicants for Masonry through the appointment of
a committee in each Lodge to visit the petitioner
after he has been accepted for the first degree.
This is called the Lodge Program of Masonic
Education. The appointed committee (this
committee is not the investigating committee),
visits the candidate and his wife (and older
children if possible) to give to them the philosophy of Masonry that will inform him of the step
he is about to take. After the discussion, the
committee gives to the candidate a copy of
SEARCH FOR MASONIC LIGHT entitled
PREPARATION. (This is the first of four
small books that have been prepared by the
Committee on Education of the Grand Lodge
of Louisiana and are available from the Service
Committee of the Grand Lodge.) Preparation
further enlightens the candidate on Masonry.
After the first degree is conferred, the committee again visits the E.A. Mason, further enlightens him on the Philosophy of the E.A. Degree
and answers any questions that may be asked.
This process is continued through the second
and third degrees. The program reduced the
losses by seventy-five in 1978. (A similar program is contained in the new M.S.A. Digest,
"Tried and Proven.")
Another suggestion for reducing the losses
through failure to complete the degrees is that
of "Sponsorship." When the applicant's petition is presented to the Lodge and favorably
received, the Master appoints a well-informed
Brother to act as the candidate's sponsor. The
sponsor works with the candidate throughout
his degree career. The duties of the sponsor
supplement the work of the Education Committee and assures the candidate that he has a
friend to guide him through the three degrees,
to arrange for a lecturer and assist the candidate in any way necessary. (In some Jurisdic-
tions, this is called "the Mentor System.")
In summary (l) Losses in Membership must
be the concern of both the Grand Lodge
officers and the Lodge officers; (2) The Lodge
must include and involve as many Masons as
possible in the annual program of the Lodge;
(3) A definite program of Masonic Education
on a personal basis is essential.