Worshipful Brother Frederic L. Milliken
As a Worshipful Master of two different highly regarded and very active Lodges
in Massachusetts I devoted my terms in office to increasing membership in
those Lodges. The fall off in new members is not something new to Freemasonry,
nor is it confined just to the Craft, but can be found across the board, in
many other clubs, organizations and societies. Even churches have been
affected by a decline in attendance.
The seminal work in the reasons behind the rise and fall of societies, what
Scott Peck called “Community,” was a book written in 2000 by professor
Robert D. Putnam titled, “Bowling Alone.”
The 60s seemed to change everything. The Vietnam War and the corresponding
sexual revolution had some effect. The drop out generation literally did
exactly that – dropped out of everything. But there were other factors – the
breakup of the family, changes in the role of women, the rise in popularity of
computers and the Internet, even video games have been blamed for a loss in
participation of group activities.
Professor Putnam’s work has now become dated even though he has moved on to a
follow up book titled “Being Together.” His warning that the
national stockpile of "social capital" – our reserve of personal bonds and
fellowship – is seriously depleted, has remained, however, as still something
we need to attend to.
Getting back to steering the ship of those Lodges in Massachusetts the things
that I tried have also become dated and they didn’t work. So let me tell you
what isn’t going to solve the problem so that you don’t have to beat your head
against the wall.
One of the things tried was to make the Lodge more social. It was thought at
the time that if the Lodge offered more in the way of both Masonic and family
social events that that would translate into attracting more members. It
By far the biggest method tried to attract new members around 2000 was one
that remains today. It goes something like this. Since most of society does
not even know who we are, then the best way to attract new members is by
community action, involvement and charitable work. Get out there and improve
your community, do some good works and people will recognize you and want to
become part of the Craft. It doesn’t work. I have tried it and seen it tried
by Grand Lodge after Grand Lodge with little success. And when the community
involvement, the charity is chosen by its publicity value then you have moved
away from helping people as your top priority to helping yourself as the top
priority. That is a corruption of Freemasonry as we are charged to give of
ourselves expecting nothing in return.
Neither do TV ads, radio ads, banners or billboards bring you new members. The
plain fact is that you cannot market Freemasonry. And why would you even want
to? Our grandfather’s or great grandfather’s Freemasonry was very tight
lipped about any mention of the Craft in public. Yet they seemed to have few
problems attracting new recruits. It’s the reputation that Freemasonry has not
how hard it can blow its own horn that counts.
As membership continued to decline at the turn of the century Mainstream
Masonry turned to One Day Classes, making a Mason in a matter of hours. But is
not a Brother who has little knowledge of the Craft and who has not been
mentored or instructed and educated really a Mason in name only (MINO)? And
does not this solution turn Freemasonry into the “Rotary with Regalia,” as
Stephen Dafoe contended?
No one seems to have the definitive answer to increasing membership. But
through years of trial and error and study and research I have some
The first thing we have to recognize is that membership is primarily an
individual problem or concern.
Consequently we need to realize that old time Masons have already tapped all
the friends and relatives and acquaintances that they know to join
Freemasonry. If you have been a Masons for 20 years, you have run out of
people to steer into the Fraternity. So why are we asking these Brothers to
bring in new members?
So who should we be asking? Why the brand new Master Mason(s) who was just
raised, that’s who. Here is a Brother who most likely has not even mentioned
his involvement with Freemasonry to anybody but his family. Here is a Brother
who has a full plate of possible joiners.
And the best way to see to it that he does bring in new members is to so
inspire him at his degrees, especially the third degree, that he wants to sign
up the world. That means doing excellent degree work with feeling not just a
monotone reading out of a book. That means an excellent Charge delivered from
the heart. Perhaps at the end of his raising you present him with a Masonic
Bible that every Brother present signs.
For sure the officers of the Lodge should see to it that every relative, every
friend, every co-worker who is a Mason is invited to his raising. But why stop
there? Why not ask the Grand Master, or the Deputy Grand Master, or the Grand
Senior Warden, or the Grand Junior Warden or the Grand Lecturer? Can you
picture the Grand Master giving you a big hug on your raising?
Every effort should be made to make this a super special occasion for the
Brother(s) being raised. A meal should be served or at the very least
arrangements to go out after Lodge for pizza and the beverage of choice.
Brothers should be encouraged to make presentations and gifts to the newly
raised Mason. If the members wear a Lodge shirt, one should be given to him as
a present from the Lodge.
Just before Lodge closes the Master should speak to the newest Master Mason(s)
who was just raised and remind him that the Lodge is counting on him to bring
in at least two new members in the ensuing year, cautioning him that we make
good men better, we do not make bad men good. Freemasonry is not a
rehabilitation society, and the Lodge needs to make sure that the new Mason
We have said that membership is primarily an individual concern. But,
secondarily, it is also a Lodge concern. A well run Lodge that is inspiring
its members has less problem obtaining new blood. But when you make
Freemasonry boring, you drive Brothers away. And they are not going to
That means that if your Lodge meetings are all business and nothing else you
are cheating your members. If meetings are consumed with support this event
and support that event and the Sisters ……and on and on then you have forgotten
that Freemasonry is a voluntary organization. Remember that Brothers didn’t
come to Lodge to be treated like oxen.
That includes too many fund raisers and turning the Lodge into a Service Club
in order to impress the world how great Freemasonry is.
I have a friend, Brother Errol Hinton, who once compared the three legs of a
three legged stool to the tenets of Freemasonry. One leg is Brotherly Love and
Affection and alludes to the camaraderie and social part of Freemasonry.
Another leg is Relief which is the charity and community service Freemasonry
provides. And the last leg is Truth which is the search for knowledge allowing
the virtues of Freemasonry to touch your heart. The three legged stool is used
for milking a cow. If one leg is longer than the other two then the stool will
tip over, its occupant spilling to the ground.
The moral of the story is that a successful Lodge maintains a good mix, a
balance between all three tenets of Freemasonry. And sadly the one most often
neglected is Truth. Think about a Christian church that has a lot of church
parties, suppers, trips and mission work but never has a Bible Study. That’s
not the way to run a church and that’s not the way to run Freemasonry.
Brothers need to grow in knowledge of the Craft. That is a big part of making
good men better.
So we have seen two good suggestions on growing a Lodge – run a good, well
balanced Lodge and inspire and charge your newly raised Master Masons to bring
in new members.