Thursday, July 3, 2008

Too many meetings? - Part 1

Have you ever heard any of the following statements by your lodge brothers?
  • I can't wait for the lodge to have its summer break!
  • It feels like we're meeting all the time!
  • I don't have much free time at home because we're meeting so much.
  • I can't come to all of the lodge meetings, because we have too many.
  • If we schedule another degree, I think my wife will kill me!
I have definitely heard these statements and many more regarding the number of meetings we have. In fact, I have personally said all of these statements at one time or another. At times, lodge brothers can feel inundated by the number of meetings that is required of them. In addition to stated communications, there are Fellowcraft Club meetings, Building Association meetings, planning meetings, funerals, social functions, special communications, etc. etc. The time commitment for lodge can be quite extreme for many brothers.

At the last meeting of my Blue Lodge before we went on our two month summer break, I decided to propose two potential bylaw's changes. The first proposed bylaw's change was an increase in our lodge dues. This motion needed to be made before the summer, so that we could send out the proper notices for the vote prior to next years dues notices being sent out in the fall. I hope in the future to discuss further my proposal for a dues increase, however this post will focus on my second motion.

The second piece of legislation was a change to how often we meet. Currently, we meet twice a month for ten months out of the year. The change I proposed was that we meet once a month for ten months out of the year. I proposed this legislation because like many Masonic lodges we still suffer from what many brothers perceive as a membership problem. My lodge typically has 10-15 members at its stated communications and 20-25 members at degrees. Many brothers, myself included at times, believe that these numbers are too low and that we should have a much larger turn out. In the past, we have tried many different approuches to getting members to come to the meetings. Some ideas have worked for a time and some have not.

When I proposed this bylaws change, I stated unequivocally that proposing this motion was by no means an endorsement of the motion. I stated quite plainly that I believe that this idea has some merit, but I was unsure if it was a good solution. The main objective of this proposal was not to have it passed, but to get the brothers of my lodge to start thinking and to discuss the problem; do we have too many meetings?

This is not an easy question and it doesn't have an easy answer. I want to use the next few blog posts to explore this topic. I plan to ask several questions regarding this topic, contemplate the root causes of the problem and deduce if my proposal is in fact a good solution. I hope that you stay tuned and give some valuable input on the subject.


M.M.M. From the North Eastern Corner said...

Moon Lodge???
I understand what you are trying to do but I am not sure if that will be the answer to the problem. Even if you cut it down to one meeting a month you would still hear the same gripes. We changed our by-laws so that the first meeting of the month is the only stated communication and that the second is informal to be used at the WM's discretion and we still dont get the numbers you are currently getting!

Chris said...

I think that the number of meetings is probably not material to the question of attendance. We in UGLE meet regularly only 4 times per year, with Lodges of Instructions at various intervals (ours is every two weeks except in the summertime). We still struggle to get a full house for most meetings.

We are doing bette,r though, and I think the key is to have interesting things to do, get as many brethren involved in what's going on as you possibly can, and honour their attendance by giving them a lively and true degree ceremony (if that's what's on the schedule).

Ask a brother who hasn't attended in a while to deliver one of the lectures, perhaps. Another brother might want to give a reading of a Masonic essay or have a discussion on some Masonic topic during a meeting that doesn't have a degree ceremony.

Just off the top of my head. It's working for us at Goliath Lodge, slowly but surely.

Chris Hansen, JW, Goliath Lodge #5595 UGLE

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I agree with Chris. The guys who generally attend are the diehards; they'll come if there are four meetings or one.

A Lodge I know reduced its meetings to once a month. Attendance didn't improve; members found/had other reasons for not coming.

Charles Tirrell said...

Thanks Brothers,

This is exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for to help me come to a more well informed decision. I should have the next post in a few more days, which will include several of the experiences that you have stated. Keep it up!

Tom Accuosti said...

Bro. Chas - No, I don't think that fewer meetings are the way to go. Some guys will show up most of the time anyway, and others will show up when there's a good reason to do so.

Paying bills = not a good reason.

Dinner & a movie = good reason.

Historic speaker = good reason.

Costumed degree team = good reason.

Visit from the District Lecturer = not a good reason.

Anonymous said...

I think what everyone is saying is the meeting should have something of interest to the members .. and in many cases, Lodges haven't a clue what their members' outside interests are.

While I prefer having Masonic topics discussed at a meeting, there's certainly nothing wrong with inviting non-attending members to come and give a little presentation about one of their other interests, eg. a guy who collects model trains.

In some cases, these guys have voted with their feet because they've been to enough Lodge meetings to know they don't want to make the effort to come. So you're giving them an incentive to come.

Tom, I'm afraid dinner and a movie wouldn't do it for me. Members can do that any night of the week.

Justa Mason

Tom Accuosti said...

Justa - even if it were, say, a theme dinner and "From Hell" or "The DaVinci Code"?

But that just goes to show - some bros would find it a neat thing, and others wouldn't care. You can't be all things to all people, but mixing it up a bit can't hurt.

The Millennial Freemason said...

Did you check your Masonic Code or Constitution and your bylaws? In MN, we are only required to have one stated meeting per month and have begun to have degree work on days that we don't have meetings. I think it has more to do with having meeting as usual but reducing the amount of discussion on the work. I have also called on my members to join in a membership committee where we plan out different ideas for the social aspect of the Lodge with some overlap in the other parts such as LEO and charity work.


The Palmetto Bug said...

First of all, I'm from a "one meeting a month" Lodge, for whatever that is worth.

Reducing the frequency of your communications will, as I see it, only have one positive outcome: the time commitment of the officers and "doers" will be reduced.

Anonymous said...

Tom, if I were interested in either movie, or any movie for that matter, I'd have seen it when it came out.

I'm not how effective it would be to get non-attendees away from their TV sets by offering, well, something on a TV set .. but it's better than minutes and correspondence and arguments over minutae.

The Millennial Freemason said...

I have been using a Membership Committee to talk to the brothers about what they want, and through their thoughts, I think that I have really gotten a good list. I am continuing to write about what the brothers want and hopefully I will be able to present more on my site. (I have already posted some ideas including some thoughts from a brother in my Lodge, Steve, who had some well-thought out critiques that I think will serve us well when we come out of Darkness) I think it is the idea of getting brothers involved in projects and less about the business aspect of the Lodge.

The Millennial Freemason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles Tirrell said...

Hi Brothers,

Thanks for the continued input on this subject. Personally, I'm leaning towards keeping both of our meetings, but switching to having one formal meeting a month and one "working" meeting a month. At the "working" meeting, we can open and close quickly and then move onto an activity. The brothers of my lodge want to do more organized community service and the "working" meeting would be a good opportunity to get a lot of work done on this front. Although, I'll go deeper into this idea in the next post and pose some of the questions I have about making this paradigm shift, I'd love to hear more of what you think.

Justa, Bug and Millenial, I've dropped links to your blogs into my blog list. I've enjoyed your blogs and look forward to more of your work!

The Palmetto Bug said...

"I've dropped links to your blogs into my blog list."

Thanks. I have responded in kind.

Chris said...

I concur with the others that less meetings probably won't help. I am blessed to be part of a very active lodge that has something all 4 weeks (or 5 when the month happens to include 5 Fridays) except for the 2 summer months.

As was mentioned, I think high-quality and costumed degree work is definitely an important aspect. We do degree work at least 2 weeks a month (often on multiple candidates each week.) This activity brings higher attendance and more candidates in a sort of self-feeding cycle.

However, just as importantly, we address the issue of the family supporting the member's attendance as well. The last Friday of the month is generally what we call a "Fellowship Club dinner" which is open to family and friends. We often top 100 in attendance. The club/lodge provides the entree and the sides and desserts are pot-luck. People really seem to enjoy it and it makes the families feel like they are a part of things. We also try to have entertainment that doesn't cost a lot (speaker, band that includes some of the brothers, etc.) I highly recommend trying this.

So, in general we have 1st week = degrees, 2nd week = stated, 3rd week = degrees, 4th = dinner.

Also, we have relatively substantial refreshments after every meeting. There is definitely some cost involved but as a large lodge (over 1,000 members) we can handle it. Never underestimate the food aspect of attendance. They don't joke about the knife and fork degree for nothing!

Good luck with whatever you decide.

Chris Thomas, SD
Norwood-Winton-Carthage Lodge #576

Anthony Williams said...

Bro. Charles,

From someone on the other side of the pond (just like Bro. Chris), I have to agree that the best part of 20 meetings of one lodge per year does seem excessive. I am a member of three Craft/Blue lodges, one Mark lodge and a Royal Arch Chapter, and even with all of those combined, it only accumulates to 16 meetings a year!

Still, I understand that things are very different over there, and the number of meetings that most lodges seem to have seem to be more in line with the number of times that lodges in Scotland meet. If it's not working for your lodge, then change it. However, if, as you've suggested in some of your subsequent comments to this posting, there's a way to improve attendance without reducing meetings, then do it :)

Anthony Williams
several lodges and orders
Rough Ashlar