Sunday, October 26, 2008

The World is a completely different place

by Greg Goding PAGM
Special Envoy of the MW Grand Master
Chairman of the Membership Committee
United Grand Lodge of Queensland
May 2008

One of the main problems that established institutions have is recognizing that the world is a completely different place to what it was 30 years ago. This is a major issue that we as Freemasons have to be prepared to acknowledge and more importantly address.

In fact, it has been readily stated that the world has changed more in the past 30 years than in the previous 40,000 years and I can see no reason to doubt that. Imagine being told 30 years ago what the world would be like in the year 2008? There would have been much that we would have doubted and plenty more we would have rejected completely.

Imagine being told 30 years ago that in 30 year's time
  • We would all have a tiny little phone on us where ever we went.
  • That there would be people making a good living mowing others lawns.
  • That vans would drive the streets dispensing flash coffee with flashier names.
  • That some of us would pay others to come to our homes to wash our dogs.
  • That letters would be transmitted around the world in the form of an email.
  • That we would be using a new language while sending text messages instantaneously.
  • That there would be a world wide library that we could all access in the form of the Internet.
  • That a piece of machinery called a computer would become the greatest Invention of all time and without it the world would grind to a sudden and severe halt.
Our attitudes have changed so dramatically in the last 30 years. What was acceptable back then has become so foreign in the world we presently live in . I think that we all agree that in the modern world in the year 2008
  • It is no longer in any way acceptable to drink and drive.
  • The world no longer turns a blind eye to the ill treatment of women & children.
  • Bullying in the school yard has been identified as a real social problem and real efforts are being made to remove it from society.
  • Young men are taught and encouraged to be a vital part of the parenting of their children.
  • The world has realized that a "balanced life" is the most conducive to a happy life.
  • We are taught that leisure time is just as vital as any other part of our lives.
  • We want to spend far more time with family & friends.
  • We have the income and the desire to wine & dine far more than we ever did.
  • We are generally far more "money rich but time poor."
  • We jealously guard our "downtime" and strongly oppose the wasting of that "precious downtime:"
One of the biggest problems we have is that we are trying to run our lodges in the year 2008 using the management tools that we used 30 years ago and it doesn't work.

Can you imagine trying to run a retail business in the modern era using accounting methods of a generation before? Imagine a builder trying to build a home today using only the tools he had 30 years ago? What if all that modern medicine could offer was that which was available all those years ago?

That is not to say that the important things from that era are any less important in the year 2008. I am yet to find that newer Freemason who wants to discard anything that we, the purist would find sacrosanct such as the Ritual or the dress code - they simply want to cut out the time wasting, irrelevant practices that many in our lodges find hard to change.

Sadly there is an "Expectation Gap" in many of our lodges. That is, what we think (& honestly believe) we are delivering to our members as opposed to what they really perceive it to be. Many of those who are "running our lodges" sincerely believe that "this is as good as it gets" and strongly reject any idea that they might see as "attacking their power base." We, as Freemasons have to be aware of what those men (who we claim we want to attract into our lodges) are really like.

They are
  • Far more professional.
  • Non-confrontational.
  • Taught to walk away from an argument.
  • Generally far better educated than we ever were.
  • Encouraged to be inquisitive and ask "why is it so?"
  • Generally are far better off financially than we ever were.
  • Looking for a balanced life where downtime/leisure time is jealously guarded.
  • Want to be told facts and not fiction.
  • Not naive and no matter how much we may think it, we cannot "put it over them."
They want clear, precise & correct instructions. Want to be kept interested and not bored out of their minds. Want to be encouraged & guided. Do not mind paying for value and in fact demand value for their money. Are taught to have a hands on role in parenting and that there is nothing more important than their own families.

So those that we do attract into our organization - what do these new men dislike?

They dislike
  • A lack of direction.
  • Indecisiveness.
  • Double standards.
  • Hypocrisy.
  • Being patronized.
  • Time wasting.
  • Waffling.
  • Over explanation.
  • Being pushed into and then through office.
  • Penny Pinching.
  • Being told that something cannot change because "we have always done it this way."
Too many demands being made on their time especially when they see us wasting their or our own time, in many ways.

"A newer, younger member will only be prepared to ask one of his mates to consider joining the lodge when he is 100% certain that he will not be pooh-poohed or ridiculed by that mate for getting him into Freemasonry."

"Even though they may put up with some of the things that go on in their Lodges - they will not inflict that same behavior on one of their mates and so (to save being ridiculed) they never ask their mates to consider - joining Freemasonry."

Word of Mouth Advertising.

We all know that there is nothing better than "positive word of mouth-advertising."
  • It costs absolutely nothing.
  • Your existing customers (in the case of a business) or members of the lodge actively promote your goods & services or in our case the virtues and benefits of becoming a Freemason.
  • You have to do little to justify your pricing or product because your existing member is so happy & enthusiastic, those who we are trying to encourage accept that the pricing and quality must be fair and just.
  • Happy and content customers/members are very happy & willing to promote the organization.
Sadly we are all aware of how destructive negative word of mouth advertising is to a business. Every time we fail to satisfy a customer and they have a complaint, 8 - 10 of their friends & family will hear of that customer's disappointment. We then lose any chance that we would have had of attracting those people into our customer base.

The same must be said of Freemasonry. Every time we lose a member; every time there is a disagreement within the lodge; every time a member feels that he is not being respected or valued; every time he goes to lodge or a practice and doesn't enjoy it - we lose the opportunity for that member to be out there actively promoting his lodge and the Craft in general to his acquaintances .

Fortunately for us very few of those we lose actively "bad mouth us" (some do) but whichever way we still lose that golden opportunity of that member being an ambassador for Freemasonry. We need to be growing branches (and so new growth) in our lodges - not continually lopping off branches to leave just a withering old stump.

So what do we have to do?

We have to accept that the world is a completely different place to what it was five years ago let alone 35 years ago. The world continues, to change rapidly and we have to be prepared to change with the needs of those men who we are trying to attract into the Craft. We can stand indignant and refuse to accept that the world is changing in front of our eyes. To take that attitude is an absolute guarantee that the lodge will fold within the next five years or we can start to listen to the views of those who we are trying to attract.

We have to be prepared to start listening to those among us who we may consider new to Freemasonry. Those that have experience levels of up to eight to 10 years.

We have to
  • Be prepared to sincerely ask them what they think we can do to improve the lodge.
  • Then be prepared to genuinely listen to them.
  • More importantly be prepared to act upon their needs to change the way we do a lot of the things we do.
We have to get our lodges to a point where our newer members are so very-proud of their lodge that they will have no hesitation in actively speaking to their non Masonic friends of the wonderful organization they belong to.

They will not do that if they feel that they have to be the "apologists" for what really goes on in their lodges. They may put up with things they disagree with but under no circumstances will they try to encourage a non Masonic friend to join.

Be prepared to ask them to help us re-build our lodges. Be prepared to put your faith in them - they will not let you down. They are very capable and they love the values of the Craft as much as any other member. Understand that the first time you ask them for their views they may be very hesitant to speak up and even tell you everything is fine. What would you expect them to say, when you consider that their views have never been sought before? Be patient, be genuine and be prepared to listen to and be accepting of their views when they get to that point where they are confident enough to speak up & out.

I ask those newer members of the Craft to give us "older blokes" a bit of a chance to rectify where we have gone wrong but to do that we need your help. We too love the Craft and we have something to offer to you in return for your help. Please be prepared to speak up when you have the chance - when you see us going off on tangents which you know makes you feel uncomfortable and you know will not encourage you to ask your mates to consider joining the Craft.

Working together in Perfect Harmony we can turn around the fortune of every lodge.

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