There are five basic causes for the Masonic Membership Crisis.
Problem #1: In many lodges, Freemasonry fails to deliver on what it promises.
We initiate men into Masonry with three ceremonies of high drama. We present him with a treasure chest full of symbolism, and a truckload of philosophical principles and ideals. In effect, we promise that we are going to teach him how to be a better man, and how to better approach life and The Mystery Of It All.
Then we deliver business meetings with all the spiritual content of a phone bill.
Is it any surprise that the typical lodge does not see in attendance, I would guess, even half of the candidates that they initiated, passed, and raised three years ago? Go through your Lodge’s minutes. See whom you initiated three years ago. Who among them attends lodge today?
Problem #2: Masonic education is usually conducted very poorly, if at all.
Lesson topics are picked willy-nilly from a grab bag of Masonic ideas—including ‘Masonic baseball players.’ There is no real objective to the lesson that involves actually developing the lives of the brothers in attendance. Often, that lesson is presented poorly, too.
Today’s man is hungry for spiritual and moral nourishment. Masonic initiation parades an array of principles and symbols before him—but these themes are barely touched upon in many lodges, when they even bother to hold Masonic Education at all. Is it a shock that many brethren leave our lodges, never to return?
Problem #3: Very few men in the general public have an accurate idea about what Freemasonry is and what it stands for.
For the most part, men either don't know that Freemasonry still exists, or they think that you have to be invited, or it’s only for old men, or it’s only some kind of antiquarian society, with no relevance to life in the 21st century.
A wise Mason once asked, “Who would join a Fraternity that he knows nothing about?” I would add, “Who would join a Fraternity that he doesn’t know even exists?” Is it any wonder that our initiations are down?
Problem #4: Some of our candidates simply are not interested in what Freemasonry is really about.
They may think that the Fraternity is simply a way to get ahead in business. Men in this category simply feed the river of demits and NPDs farther down the line.
Problem #5: Anti-Masonry.
Many men who think they know something about Freemasonry believe that it is some kind of conspiracy against the world. Millions of men even believe that Masons are devil-worshipping front-men for the Illuminati, serving the shape-shifting reptilian space aliens that seek to enslave humanity. Go on YouTube, search the term “Freemasonry,” and half of what comes up will be an ocean of anti-Masonic trash.
This problem is a misery in two ways. First, when men interested in the Fraternity find all the anti-Masonic lies out there, they decide not to get involved with Masonry. Second, when people find out that a good man is a new Mason, if they have seen all this anti-Masonry online, they—and I mean people like this new brother’s family, or clergy members—they will pressure this good man to leave the Fraternity.
In future episodes, I'll go into more detail on each of these causes of the Masonic Membership Crisis. I'll explain how to take effective action to counter each one of them.
Amazon listing for Mark Koltko-Rivera’s book, The Resurgence of Freemasonry:
Music: “Dreamer,” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/