Why Lodges Need to Stop Going Dark During the Summer

It would seem to me, given that volumes are written about the decline of the fraternity, that taking a break from the duty of a Masonic Lodge to make Masons, is counterproductive and contributing to our decline.

Think about it. Let’s say you have a man who has petitioned your lodge. He is investigated, found worthy and elected to receive the degrees. Unfortunately, the vote was taken on the last stated meeting before your lodge goes “dark.” So now he waits a minimum of two months before he can begin his Masonic journey. How will this be explained to him and what impression might he have?

Will someone say to him, “Well, our lodge doesn’t meet during the summer months because a lot of guys are on vacation and it’s hard to put on a degree.” That very well may be true, but does it make him think: “I thought Masonry was important and now they’re telling me everyone needs a break from it.”

Or might he think: “I thought Masons were committed, laying off two months doesn’t seem committed to me.”

So why risk giving the wrong impression and just continue the work of Masonry during the summer?

I’m curious, does your lodge go dark and why do you do it?

Have a Great Masonic Day!

3 Things to do when you feel no one is listening to your vision

not-listeningEvery leader encounters a time when despite their best efforts to inspire others to buy-in to their vision, they don’t feel enough people are paying attention. When this occurs it is time to stop, reevaluate, realign, re-prioritize and begin anew with a positive attitude. However, if may be difficult to motivate yourself because the prevailing thought in your mind is “why bother if no one is listening?”

So to refocus your thinking in a positive manner you need to do the following things to get you back on track.

Talk to your mentor – Go back to the person you confide in and tell them how you feel. They will provide you an honest assessment of your situation. Tell them of your efforts to achieve your vision, your successes, your failures and your plan to continue. Ask them to help you to evaluate your plan and provide you advice on how to proceed. You should leave this meeting with a better attitude because you needed someone to listen; a good mentor is a good listener.

Talk to your inner circle – With a preliminary adjusted plan in hand, meet with your leadership inner circle and discuss it with them. Together go over the vision, the goals and the action plans you all originally agreed upon. Determine what is working, what is not and make the necessary changes to continue toward the vision.

Talk to the influencers in your organization – These are people whose opinions are respected by a large number of followers. Discuss your vision again, share with them your revised plan and ask them for their thoughts. Spend more time listening than talking. If they agree with the vision and the plan to achieve it, ask for their support. If not, go back to your inner circle for another discussion and revisions. Continue doing this until you have buy-in from the influencers.

This process will help you rid yourself of the thought that no one is listening. It focuses you on the positive aspects of your vision and connects you with people who are supportive and encouraging.

Another situation to be aware of is your sense of urgency to achieve the vision and your organization’s urgency will probably be on two different levels. Even with a well thought out vision, a well defined and communicated plan, organizations tend to be very complacent. John P. Kotter, author of “Leading Change” and “Our Iceberg Is Melting,” in his book “A Sense of Urgency”  said, “Highly destructive complacency is, in fact, all around us, including in places where people would deny it, deny it, and deny it still more.”

This organizational complacency will eventually discourage a leader, especially if he has a vision that he believes, if achieved, will greatly improve the organization. A leader with a drive to achieve a vision has a great sense of urgency. He is impatient and sometimes cannot stand to watch as the organization continues its complacent plod toward nowhere and without a unity of vision.

As Masonic leaders we need to be aware that casting and communicating a vision is a sometimes a frustrating process. You will sometimes be discouraged and feel that no one is listening and that no one cares. You will also find that if they do care they may not be moving at the same speed you are. When you get discouraged, talk with all the people you rely on for advice; they are a great help and will lift your spirits.

Have a Great Masonic Day!

Jack Prepares For His Performance Review

Jack just couldn’t get John’s statement about his annual job review out of his mind. After their last meeting Jack had returned home and wrote in his journal about John’s suggestion that he could use the lessons from the Entered Apprentice degree during his performance review. 

Jeff, his supervisor, had already said some crazy things about Masonry, so if Jack did present some plan to accomplish his goals and said it came from being a Mason, it probably wouldn’t go over very well. Jack thought maybe the better thing to do when presenting his life plan was to tell Jeff he had begun working with someone who had agreed to be a mentor and leave Masonry out of it. After all it was true, John was becoming someone Jack looked up to and valued his opinions. 

Jack was beginning to understand that Masonry wasn’t something you should have to tell people you belong to, it should become apparent you’re a Mason by your actions and behavior. 

John had given Jack a manual entitled “Becoming Masonry” at their first meeting. He told Jack this would guide him in writing a personal values statement, a mission statement and a comprehensive personal development plan. The plan will include goals, strategies, and specific action plans for five areas of his life; personal, relationships, Masonic, professional and community. 

Jack had just browsed through it once and then tossed it on his desk. He thought he would wait until John mentioned it again, but he didn’t.  That was strange Jack thought, John is pretty attentive to details and to give him what appears to be something of importance and then not mention it again, doesn’t make sense. 

Jack found out why when he opened the manual again and begin to read the preface. As he read the words the reason became crystal clear. 

“This manual was designed to assist a Brother to Become Masonry. It is a guide and the basic framework from which to build your Masonic edifice. To assist you a caring Brother has been assigned as your mentor. He will be your initial source of knowledge and encouragement and will answer any questions you may have about the tasks and responsibilities in this manual. 

You may be puzzled why your mentor gave the manual to you, briefly explained it and then never mentioned it again. This was deliberate and intentional. Masonry gives us all wonderful tools to use for building a better life for ourselves and our families. It is up to each Mason to take those tools and use them or not. 

Those who use them will truly Become Masonry, and those who don’t have squandered valuable assets. Masonry does not make the choice for you. It is yours.” 

Wow, thought Jack, that was a pretty “in your face” statement. But it made sense. He remembered his Uncle Ted telling him that Masonry was something that had great value but he would have to discover it. I guess this was the beginning of discovery. 

 Jack made an entry in his journal;

“today I learned that I will have to make a choice whether to live as a Mason or not. No one will force me and no one will make me use Masonry’s tools. My Brothers will explain the lessons and mentor me, but it will be up to me to apply them in my life.” 

Jack turned back to the manual and the first section entitled “The Journey of Personal Improvement.” In the introductory statement it said this; 

“This section is to introduce you to personal development and present you some basic tools to help you get started. Developing yourself personally not only benefits your Lodge by making you a more effective leader, but allows you to improve your family relationships, your professional career and be a more productive person in your community. It also may help you discover your true passion in life and lead you in an entirely different direction. “ 

The words about discovering your true passion and going in a different direction in life caught Jack’s attention. He knew he didn’t want to stay forever with the company who gave him his first job. He was grateful but he had dreams of something better. Masonry was now going to help him do that. 

He had another week before he would sit with Jeff and discuss his performance. He wanted to be ready and had already decided that John’s suggestion of presenting a life plan was a good one. It would take some work to get it done but he knew it was the right thing to do. 

He had just started reading the first chapter of the manual “Awareness” when his phone rang. It was his Aunt Betsy and in a panicked voice told him his Uncle Ted had been rushed to the hospital with an apparent heart attack. Jack threw on some clothes and was out the door in a few minutes. 

Next: Brotherly Love

Have a Great Masonic Day!

Jack Learns More Masonic Lessons

Note from Mike: This is part of a continuing  story of Jack as he learns to Become Masonry. See previous blog posts to catch up.

Jack was running a little late but managed to get to his Lodge’s parking lot just as John was pulling in. Jack had been looking forward to tonight and learning more about Masonry from the EA ritual. In the last two weeks he had been trying to read the strange words and had managed to decipher the more common ones but was still a long way off. He knew John would take care of that tonight. 

“Hey Jack, good to see you,” John said as he approached Jack’s car, “Any more strange comments from your boss?”

“No, not really, He’s been absorbed in looking his best the last couple of weeks; annual evaluations are coming up.”

“Oh is that right? Does this include yours as well?”

“Yes it does.”

“Let’s talk about that later. We need to get you started on learning your EA exam first.”

Jack and John found a quiet place inside the Lodge building and John began reading the EA examination ritual to Jack. He read a page and then Jack repeated. John continued through the book in that manner until they reached the end. He then had Jack begin reading from the beginning and when Jack got stuck he prompted him. By the end of the 45 minutes they had allotted, Jack was beginning to catch on and was doing well on his own.

“Well Jack do you have any questions?”

“Yeah, what’s the Lodge of the Holy Saint John of Jerusalem?”

“Good question and one that a lot of Masons don’t even bother to ask.” John continued, “The Masonic tradition is that the primitive or Mother Lodge was held at Jerusalem, and dedicated to Saint John, first the Baptist, then the Evangelist, and finally to both. Hence this Lodge was called “The Lodge of the Holy Saint John of Jerusalem. This is the Lodge, according to tradition, from which all Lodges have descended.”

“Is there anything else from the degree or the exam you have a question about Jack?

“Well, I don’t know. I guess it’s all pretty new and I’ll have to think about it. I’m sure I’ll have some questions as time goes on.”

“Jack I want to make sure that you understand the importance of the working tools of an Entered Apprentice. Do you remember what they are?”

“No, I don’t think I do,” replied Jack.

“Turn to the next to last page in your examination ritual and read it again.”

Jack found the page and the line where the tools were described. He thought a minute and finally remembered what was said when they were introduced to him during the degree.  John purposely waited a few minutes; he knew Jack was thinking.

Finally John said, “Jack, can you think of some ways these tools can be useful to you?”

“Well, I suppose so, but nothing jumps to mind immediately.”

“Let me ask you a question then. How do you keep track of all your activities in life and how do you decide what things should be priorities?”

“I guess I really never thought about it. There are things that just have to be done. You know, like work, pay the bills, and stuff like that. Other things I guess just happen when they happen.”

John could see Jack was starting to get confused so he said, “Jack the first tool of an EA is reminding us that there are priorities in life. The degree outlines some basic responsibilities and some basic divisions of our time, but intends that each of us should fill in the details. We should each think about what is important and then devise a plan to ensure these important items are given priority. By doing so, we have outlined a plan to live our life in a manner that strives to reflect the values of Masonry and honors our god, our family, and ourselves.”

“What about the second tool?” Jack asked.

“Well to me it is there to remind us that once we have determined our priorities, we should constantly find ways to improve ourselves so we can accomplish our life plan. Remember when we first met you told me you had some dreams for your life; the second tool is there to shape you so you will continually work to realize your dreams.”

“Wow, that’s pretty powerful John, I didn’t know Masonry would do that.”

“It’s almost time for Lodge to start so I want to leave you with this thought. You mentioned your annual review at work is coming up. How powerful would it be if during that review, you outlined to your boss your plan to achieve your dreams?  I think you would truly impress him and I want you to do that. The working tools in the EA degree are there to be used. Use them Jack.”

On the drive home after Lodge Jack could only think about John’s final words about using the tools of Masonry. Once home he pulled out his laptop and begin to write.

Next: Jack’s annual review.

Have a Great Masonic Day!