Thursday, July 10, 2008

Too many meetings? - Part 2

The initial question that I proposed, "do we have too many meetings?", is intentionally a simplistic question. Answering this simplistic question will in no way describe the problems that Masonic lodges are facing. It does not propose a solution to these problems. Nor does it suggest what alternatives a lodge may have to remedy the opinions of meeting-weary and exhausted brothers.

However, this simplistic question serves a purpose. At times, a simplistic question needs to be asked to allow for further probing questions to be formulated. When the source of an issue is not readily apparent, it is sometimes beneficial to pose an open-ended question with the expressed objective of generating further inquiry and to develop ideas. This was precisely the intention of my proposal. I don’t have an answer to if we have too many meetings. However, I do have some further questions.

Are our meetings fulfilling and exciting? If a brother feels that we have too many meetings, perhaps he’s not enjoying himself at the meetings that are being held. Will having fewer meetings make the meetings we do have more interesting? Some brothers hold the old axiom, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, to be true and that meeting less will naturally make the meetings that we do have more meaningful. Other brothers counter that if someone doesn’t enjoy 20 meetings, he won’t enjoy 10 meetings. It’s not quantity; it’s quality, according the counterargument.

What are the aspects of a Masonic lodge meeting that makes a brother want to attend? Is it possible for a lodge with a diverse membership to implement a schedule of events that will be pleasing to all brothers? Some brothers enjoy ritual, while others enjoy fellowship. Some brothers enjoy family events, while others enjoy brothers-only events. Some brothers enjoy presentations, while others enjoy interactive activities. It is impossible to please everyone all of the time.

When a brother states that he would attend more meetings if they weren’t as frequent, is he being sincere? Is this just an excuse for not attending? If the lodge meets less frequently, would he continue his same level of inactivity? Brothers have many different reasons why they do not attend meetings; work, family, personality conflicts, boredom, sickness, etc. A brother may just be using the time commitment of lodge as an excuse.

Do we have a membership problem or do we have a problem with our membership? Is having 10-15 brothers at a stated communication and 20-25 brothers at a degree a failure? How many brothers should attend a stated communication or a degree for it to be considered a success? My lodge has approximately 150 members. If only 15 members show up for a meeting, that means we have a 10% turn out. Is this a problem? Should Masonry be an organization where nearly all the brothers of a lodge are present for all of its meetings? Or should Masonry be more passive, where the important aspect of the Fraternity is that a brother lives our excellent tenants, rather than spending most of his time at lodge meetings? If you have 20 members at a meeting and enjoy yourself and feel fulfilled, isn’t this a success?

These are just a few of the questions that have come to mind regarding the “problem” of too many meetings. If more questions on this subject come to mind, please post them in the comments section below. With this set of questions as a suitable foundation, a more thorough analysis of my lodge’s meeting frequency can be performed. In my next post, I will attempt to analyze the meeting situation of my lodge as an example. It is important to note that the purpose of this series of posts is not to solve the “problem” of too many meetings for all lodges. The important aspect of this series is to assist brothers to analyze if their lodge has a problem and how to develop a suitable solution. My forth and final post on this subject will be a proposal that I hope to present to my lodge in the early fall.


Tom Accuosti said...

When a brother states that he would attend more meetings if they weren’t as frequent, is he being sincere? Is this just an excuse for not attending?

Do brothers - should brothers - feel compelled to attend every meeting?

Would fewer meetings be a deterrent if some members had fewer opportunities to get to a meeting? Or would it make meeting seem more "valuable" as a scarce resource and entice them to attend?

Hell, have a meeting every other month, and make it even more valuable.

Or have it once a quarter... hey, now it sounds like a British lodge.

Anonymous said...

Tom wrote:
Hell, have a meeting every other month, and make it even more valuable.

Why does meeting less make a meeting more valuable? Is Freemasonry like corn futures?

What makes a meeting valuable is a competent Master with a plan. It’s content, not numbers.

You could have two meetings a year, but if the guy in the chair hasn’t a clue what he’s doing, there’s less incentive for non die-hard members to come back (for die-hards will come no matter what). A poor Master’s shoddy work doesn’t generally end with his year, just as it takes time to fix shoddy workmanship on a building.

I know of a couple of Lodges which felt cutting the number of meetings would somehow increase attendance. It never happened. There's no (Seven Liberal Arts Alert!) logic to it. If a guy is turned off or unable to attend, what difference does it make if his Lodge meets once a month or once a year?

Charles has hit it. What a Lodge needs is a diverse programme of interest for its diverse members, year after year after year. In return, the members have to accept there’ll be boring stuff because business is, by nature, boring. The only solution to that is to cut business to the bone without harming the operation of the Lodge.

Justa Mason

The Millennial Freemason said...

It is very easy to cut down on business during meetings. I believe that committees are essential to divide up the business and require that those that are putting forth ideas to bring them to the members in an agenda before the meeting starts. Just as successful companies divide the hardest work amongst many workers, so should Masons decide who best can work.
As to the number of meetings, at the Grand Communication, I learned from a contingent of English Masons that they only meet four times a year and are expected to come to each meeting unless there is a good reason. The Lodge sends what is called a "Summons" whereby the Brothers are called out to meet at the Lodge. It seems much more reasonable as the average size of a Lodge is 40. In the US, a Lodges can easily have 300 members.
In North America, I believe we have a different sense of what brothers expect in Lodge. When I enter the Lodge, I feel that I am accomplishing many skills at once, learning Rhetoric, management, leadership. I also gain a feeling of belonging, giving to the needy and becoming a better man in Society. These are the qualities that we must explore.
I have been discussing with my Lodge what we as brothers would like to see in Lodge. (I have been writing about these on my site.) I think we have gotten many good suggestions.