Tuesday, October 14, 2008

When Do You Guys Have Fun?


This question is by far the single most important question that I have ever received about my lodge. It is one question that, if it can't be answered effortlessly and truly, will be the single greatest contributor to the death or growth of a lodge, and I can honestly say that I struggled to answer that question. It was put to me by a dear friend and Brother who is wondering to what end do all of these degrees lead. If it be to sitting through more degrees, which has been the end result at my lodge, than the light is dimming and may never shine like it once did.

What is the use of going through a long and serious initiation into a "brotherhood" if at the end you are treated to watching and performing initiations and nothing else.

My lodge is not fun. Alright, I admitted it.

We have had occasions where we almost reached a level of fun, but, they have been too few and far between. Too often, as I have lamented numerous times, the only thing you hear after a degree or meeting is the squeal of tires leaving the parking lot. The meals we have before the meetings are superficial to say the least because they are more obligation than true brotherhood. The "veterans" are so happy to see newbies that they rarely take the time to familiarise themselves with them because they are too busy venting old stories or gripes about the world. Since no one becomes really familiar with the new guys, they feel left out and if they come back at all, it is only out of a sense of obligation and not because they want to come. There is the crux of the problem at my lodge. Nobody wants to come, they feel they have to be there. Burdens do not make Brothers. Apart from a few including myself, the majority of office holders in my lodge come to our meetings because they have to, and some don't even live up to that obligation.

So how can we change?

Another lodge officer, around the same time as the question was asked of me by the new brother, called me with the identical question. He said our lodge was in dire need of fun outside of lodge. This other officer is the only officer I have met up with outside of lodge on our own time, which says a lot. His idea was to get some kind of get together organised at a restaurant or bar for the purpose of planning a fun activity between the brothers. We both agreed that if something wasn't done very soon we would start to loose all of the new brothers we have gained this year. It has already begun. Out of the five new MM's we raised before summer only two have come back since, and only one regularly. It may be too late.

Our biggest problem is that the one who is supposed to lead us does not and has not. The title was what he wanted not the role. This is the biggest problem of the progressive officer line, not everyone can effectively lead but as long as they are on the ladder they will reach the top. My lodge unfortunately has not the participation required to reject the progressive line so it is what we have to live with it. Has anyone who reads this blog been in a similar situation and overcome it? Should someone lead from another cardinal direction? What does your lodge do for fun?
P.S. I want to give a huge thanks to Bro. Chris Hodapp for the great speech he gave here in my state and a certain Right Worshipful Brother who posted it to our G.L's Website so people like me who could not attend, could still receive the light spread by our famous brother, and most of all, to my readers who helped me get back on track and for being patient as all I have been doing here as of late is bitching and complaining.

12 comments:

Jay Simser said...

Excellent Post. Someone once said to me: "If it isn't fun, why do it?" It wasn't so I soon got out of that position.
To me Lodge is fun. I belong to two lodges. At one of them we hold stated meetings (limited to about 30 minutes) and the go out to eat and listen to a paper or have a Masonic discussion. It is very satisfying and a lot of fun.
In the other we have gone to the Theater and the movie, held family picnics and other events and even stop by a local watering hole to continue the conversations begun at Lodge. All this and we still do degree work, and the necessary business. I am secretary for both Lodges and I don't run either of them. I think you have hit the proverbial nail on the heat. We should be having fun. That said perhaps your lodge members define fun differently than you and I do. j

Tom Accuosti said...

I generally don't meet up with the bros outside of lodge, nor do we have dinner together or go to ball games.

I do, however, have a lot of fun at my lodge when we are together. We laugh, joke, swap stories, plan events, and poke fun at GL officers. For some reason, this works for us.

But several of the guys do get together quite often outside of lodge. For them, it works.

I guess it depends on what you want to get out of lodge.

The Millennial Freemason said...

I have to concur with Tom. I think what really should happen in Lodge is to make friends. It is those connections between brothers that make Lodge a good place to meet.

One of the best Lodge activities to increase Fraternal ties is a Table Lodge. In my Lodge, the mixture of alcohol and celebration makes for an enjoyable evening. No one gets drunk, but it is the toasts that make brothers have fun. When you go through 7 toasts with brothers charging their cannons, etc., everyone leaves having fun.

I love Table Lodges. You can even have them before meetings, during non business meetings, even during a weekend. Just a lot of fun.

Nick

Justa Mason said...

There are actually two subjects in your post. One is social and the other is philosophical. Let me address the easy one first.

Fun. What do your guys like to do? What are they into? If there's some kind of comment interest, then why doesn't someone put an event together?

This month, one of my Lodges has a hockey night; they're getting together to watch the game on the big screen. Next month, they're doing the same thing with the Grey Cup. Next month, there's a Christmas thing with families and the widows.

If your members are moaning they don't do anything, it's simple. Do something. All they have they have to do is make the commitment to organise and follow through. What's stopping them?

Btw, I've never understood why American Lodges insist on having dinner before meetings. Our festive board is after the meeting.

Now, you commented:
It was put to me by a dear friend and Brother who is wondering to what end do all of these degrees lead.

They lead to, one hopes, self-improvement through contemplation of symbols and stories, that's what. Isn't that why they joined?

One of the things I explain to each petitioner is the novelty will wear off. Business meetings are a dull routine by nature. There are only three degrees so they won't see ten or 12, they'll see the same three. One thing they can do is learn two or three parts in a degree; it will help them understand the ritual and make the degrees less monotonous, if that's how they feel about them.

Justa

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

Bro. Nick,
I agree the Table Lodge is without a doubt my favorite Masonic thing to do, but they take so much planning and preparation that they can only occur once in a while.
Bro. Justa,
My lodge stopped doing dinner after the meetings because "the old dudes" didn't like eating so late and wanted to go home after meetings that is probably the main reason us American do it that way. As for your second point, I understand the meaning and self improvement of the degrees but you can get stuff like that from countless sources. The degrees can't be the end all of the lodge existance there has to be brotherhood to go through the degrees for.
MMM

Justa Mason said...

Hi MMM. You mentioned:
I understand the meaning and self improvement of the degrees but you can get stuff like that from countless sources.

You can get fun from countless sources if you want to use that logic. Why join at all then?

But back to a Lodge itself. You hit it right here:
The degrees can't be the end all of the lodge existance [sic] there has to be brotherhood to go through the degrees for.

At every installation in most Lodges from BC to Quebec, the words are heard that "The object of meeting in a Lodge is of a two-fold nature: moral instruction and social intercourse." There has to be a balance of the two. Not too much of one or the other.

In your original post, you mentioned leadership by a certain officer. The guys in my Lodge don't need the WM to get them together outside Lodge. They do it on their own. They communicate via e-mail and Facebook. If one is doing something, like watching the baseball playoffs, he'll fire off a note to everyone else to meet him at X pub. Sometimes, it's even to say he's visiting a Lodge and invites anyone to go with him. None of this takes a Lodge meeting or even a lot of organisation. It's just simple communication. Someone has an idea and gets word out to the other guys.

Does your Lodge have a phoning/e-mail list the members receive?

Justa

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

Touché Justa! And thanks for pointing out my horrible spelling problem! I can't live without spellcheck.

Paul Chapin said...

A little bit of a tangent but....you talked about progressive lines and officers, etc.......

As I am finishing my time in a progressive line in a few months I have been debating a similar question; what is better recycling good leaders or developing new ones. While we all recognize the need to develop new leaders, often we simply fill the sits with who ever is willing. As you touched on there is nothing worse than poor leadership especially in a volunteer organization. Blog on my friend.

Justa Mason said...

Paul, I touched on this on my own blog. If you ran a business which changed middle managers because of a calendar, you'd be nuts. But we do this in Freemasonry. And the problem with changing it is human nature.
I know of a Lodge which just installed officers; everyone moved up a chair. Two weeks later, the SD announced he was moving away for good. It was suggested a Bro. who had been SD and dropped out for awhile due to work but was active again be placed back in his old chair. This annoyed a new Mason who felt he was entitled to jump another chair.
Another Lodge had a situation where the Deacons are now out of the jurisidiction. A recent affiliate had agreed to serve as JW if he were to be elected. He wasn't; he admitted before the election it might cause work and home problems and interfere with his duties in his Mother Lodge. But when he wasn't elected he was ready to quit in a huff.
You see, everyone's in a big hurry to be WM. They want their turn. And they get angry when someone puts the brakes on it.
It makes sense to keep a good leader when you've got one; you simply are not going to get one every year no matter how many chairs someone sits in. But our system's not designed that way and too many noses would get bent out of joint to change it now.

Tom Accuosti said...

Our lodge is active enough not to have repeated a PM in 30 years... but that's not to say that we've always had the best WMs. We've had holes in the line from sickness, job transfers, and personal issues, but have usually patched them by forcing everybody up, rather than by putting a PM in a seat. That's not necessarily the best way to handle it.

However, we had two holes the year that I joined - and we moved people up, and everybody did a great job. Which way is the best? Hopefully the lodge members (or the senior officers or the PMs) can best decide that.

Steve said...

MMM - way off topic.

I am just finding out about these Masonic blogs, and I saw your bio - if you like the Pogues and BNL, I would urge you to give a listen to Great Big Sea. The lead singers look nothing like Shane MacGowan, and neither sound like BNL, but the music is truly infectious and FUN!

Now, back to topic: Fun is where you make it. I enjoy the humor of the guys in my lodge, but even when the subject of the night is serious, there is a sense of 'order' in lodge that I find as my wages. (Nick's Table Lodges aside;) ).

The fun is just icing on the cake!

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

Thanks for the music tip Steve I'll check them out and there is only one Shane MacGowan (thank God!).