When the average Mason hears the term “lodge education,” he immediately thinks about the short presentation his lodge education officer makes at a stated meeting. This is lodge education, but only a very small piece of what should be included in overall organizational learning.
An organizational education program serves a vehicle to further the guiding principles and ideals of the group. It educates its members so that they properly practice and demonstrate the values of the organization and strive, in an educated and organized manner, to carry out the organization’s purpose of achieving its vision.
The education program of a lodge should be producing knowledge to build the capacity for purposeful action to accomplish the lodge goals and moving the lodge in a measurable manner toward its vision.
So, if the purpose of organizational education is to produce meaningful knowledge to create action, then, a random, short presentation at a lodge meeting isn’t enough.
The basic elements of an integrated education program for a Masonic lodge should provide for the following:
- Lodge members gain a basic understanding of the history and meaning of Masonry.
- Lodge members gain an understanding of the beliefs, values, and lessons imparted by Masonry.
- Lodge members are taught a method for personal growth and mastery using the lessons of Masonry.
- The Brothers gain an understanding of the mission and vision of the lodge and where they may use their talents to contribute.
- A defined process for the acceptance, initiation, assimilation, and education of all candidates.
- An ongoing forum for the Brothers to exchange ideas, experience, and knowledge.
- A system of continual evaluation and improvement of the program.
Each of these elements requires a great deal of thought, understanding, and a large amount of hard work. Also, they may require, a very radical change in the lodge’s current culture.
I once was talking with a Past Master of a lodge who was complaining that someone at his lodge had proposed a more extensive education program. His comment to me was, “Masonry is not about education.” I knew there was nothing to be gained by disagreeing with him, so I remained silent.
Masonry is an educational process. Our job, as a Masonic Lodge, is to provide an atmosphere and a well thought out process for each man to learn and practice Masonry. A well-prepared presentation at the lodge is a start, but should not be where your lodge’s education efforts end.
Have a Great Masonic Day!
Do you ever think the brothers in your lodge are confused about why your lodge exists? If so maybe it’s because a clear, compelling vision has not been created, communicated and understood by all the brothers.
“A vision is perhaps best understood as a dream of the future. It is where you define what is important to the organization and hope that it is important enough to others to inspire them to join and to participate.”
Now, why is that important? There are several good answers to that question.
- A good vision statement brings people together in a common effort to realize a commonly desired future
- It gives hope for a better future
- It inspires people to realize their dreams through positive action together
- It provides the basis for the organizational planning process because it defines the destination
So many times the leaders of organizations assume everyone knows the vision. These same leaders are then surprised to learn that there may be many versions of the organizational vision. It may be that is was never created or created and never communicated; so everyone used their own.
Don’t assume everyone in your lodge has the same vision and is headed in the same direction. If you are a leader, you should give direction and that direction should come from a clear, agreed upon vision.
Have a Great Masonic Day!
There are several keys to successful planning and one of the first is to be aware of some of the major barriers that will trip you up.
Fear of Change – the apprehension about stepping out into the unknown will limit your creativity and send you down the path of least resistance. You fall into the trap of using “cookie cutter planning” where you just do what’s been done before because you know that most of your followers are comfortable and familiar with the norm.
Ignorance – Most people will resist what they don’t understand. Your plan will not succeed because the benefits and the process have not been properly communicated and explained.
Uncertainty about the future – Your plan to achieve your vision will not be accepted if there is doubt about the future effect on the organization.
Lack of Creativity – Limiting your thinking to what’s been done in the past will not lead you to discover new ways of doing things.
So now that you are aware of the major barriers to successful planning why not use them to your advantage. Let’s take them in reverse order and see what can happen.
Be Creative with your planning – Gather your team together and assess your past programs and practices. Start asking each other, “What if we….” List each idea and then evaluate it by discussing what it would take to make it a reality. Don’t dismiss it until you have thoroughly discussed the pros and cons and determined if it is consistent with the goals of the organization.
Creativity reduces Future Uncertainty – If you assess your creative planning ideas by asking yourself “Will this idea get us to where we want to go?” and find that they do, then the unknown future starts to become a clearer.
This helps eliminate Ignorance – You now can communicate your creative plan to the organization and explain how it achieves the goals and reaches the vision. You replace ignorance with understanding.
Fear Goes Away – Now that you have properly communicated your plan and explained how it will accomplish the goals and achieve the organizational vision, the fear that may have existed, along with the comment “we have never done it like that before,” will start to diminish .
Have a Great Masonic Day!
I always wondered what happened to dinosaurs and now I know; they missed the ark. This cartoon sent to my wife by a friend points up some very important things leaders need to do.
- Include deadlines in your plans
Leaders who fail to include a deadline in their action plans will find that without specific target dates to achieve the goals, there will be little progress. Plans without completion targets are just vision without action. Also, without a completion date the action plan becomes something that you believe can be worked on when you get around to it because you have not imposed a deadline for completion.
- Review the progress of your plan and complete important items first
After putting completion dates in your action plans, you must continually monitor the plan’s progress. Leaders revisit, review and re-rank their priorities every day. Setting priorities will help ensure that you will not miss important dates. Steven Covey in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” suggests classifying tasks into four categories. He uses the following grid:
Due Soon Not Due Soon
Important 1. Do these Tasks First 2. Do these Tasks Second
Not Important 3. Do these Tasks Next 4. Complete these Tasks Last
Notice that the first tasks you concentrate on are those that are most important. Even though an important task is not due soon you should still complete it before you work on something that is not important even if there is a looming deadline. This will ensure that the important items will always have your attention.
- Make your deadlines visible
Whatever method you use to track important dates make sure they are somewhere that you constantly see them. There are a great number of computer programs to prioritize and track tasks and dates and display them when your computer comes on. If technology is your thing, use it to make sure you meet deadlines. You can also create a handwritten, prioritized list of tasks with completion dates and put it somewhere you will see it.
You don’t want to end up as a leader who has missed an important deadline and become extinct. Get organized, get prioritized and most of important of all; GET GOING!
Have a Great Blahless Day!
A note from Mike: This is a continuation of the story that began last post. If you missed it click here.
It had been several weeks since John attended The Perfect Lodge Meeting but the thoughts of the experience came to mind as entered he the Lodge building of his friend and brother Mason Ted. Ted had invited John to attend degree work for Ted’s nephew Jack who was to receive his Entered Apprentice degree.
John had attended Ted’s lodge before so he knew that the degree work of the Lodge was usually proficient, but the entire degree experience somehow lacked the dramatic atmosphere that John was used to at his own lodge. Nonetheless, John was looking forward to the evening.
John recognized several Brothers he knew so he circulated through the room saying hello and also introducing himself to the Brethren he had not met. Among the Brethren were several present and past District Deputy Grand Masters and one current grand lodge officer. His friend Ted was a Past DDGM and had invited many he had met while serving his three year term.
The Lodge’s Master, Tom Calvin, headed for the East so everyone, sensing he was about to open, found seats. This was the third time Tom had served as Master. The dwindling membership of the Lodge made it difficult to find those willing to serve as officers so Past Masters such as Tom had been stepping in to fill the void.
“Good evening Brethren,” Tom began. “Before we get started I have a favor to ask. We need to fill a few holes in our stations. Would someone on the sidelines be willing to serve this evening as Senior Warden? I’m not sure why but our Sr. Warden isn’t here. I guess we need a Senior Deacon as well, thank you Brother Secretary for noticing that.”
John was a little startled by admission that the Master didn’t know why he didn’t have a Senior Warden and that he hadn’t noticed at all that the Senior Deacon’s position was unfilled as well. He thought it was a little sad that one of the most important events in the candidate’s Masonic life was about to begin and little or no thought had been given to whether there was going to be enough Brothers to fill the stations.
In John’s lodge the entire year had been meticulously planned. Each officer had been given a calendar of meeting dates, including potential specials for degrees, and asked to identify as best as possible, potential conflicts. At the officer’s meeting at the beginning of each month, each officer reported what dates they had conflicts and announced the Brother they had asked to fill in for them. The Master also confirmed with each officer their attendance one week prior to each special degree meeting. This ensured that all stations were filled.
Luckily, two officers from another Lodge were in attendance and agreed to fill the stations. The Master proceeded in opening Lodge and during the opening John noticed two of the PDDGM’s continued to talk and at times laugh at something they were discussing. John was glad this didn’t happen at his lodge. At his Lodge, prior to opening, the Master reminds the Brethren of the importance of the degree experience and that unnecessary talking detracts from the beauty of the degree. He asks those in attendance to remember that silence and circumspection are to be practiced.
The Master rapped the gavel, announced the purpose of the meeting, rapped up the Sr. and Jr. Stewards and the degree began.
As the Stewards left to prepare the candidate, John noticed that one was wearing slacks and a golf shirt. The other had on a tie but no jacket and his apron was on a little crooked. John cringed because he was accustomed to the strict dress code adopted at his Lodge for degree work. The officers were either all in tuxes or all in dark suits; no exceptions.
This was a part of “The Excellence of the Degree” manual that was used to ensure that all degree work was performed at the highest level and uniformity of dress was an important aspect. The manual also called for a “walk-through” of the degree prior to its presentation to ensure that each officer was comfortable with their part. The Entered Apprentice degree was considered of utmost importance as it was the first impression the Lodge makes on a candidate and John’s Lodge strived for perfection in all degrees but especially the EA.
The degree, lecture and charge concluded and as the Master left the East to congratulate the newly initiated Entered Apprentice, John thought to himself that the experience had been uninspiring. There had been too much prompting, parts that were delivered with no voice inflection or enthusiasm and finally someone read the charge; not very well to boot.
Worshipful Master Calvin handed the degree booklet and a divided ritual to the new Brother and said, “Here is a booklet you can read and the ritual is in code so we will need to find someone to help you learn it. You’ll need to memorize it before you can get your Fellowcraft degree.”
In John’s Lodge careful attention was paid to the instructions given to a new Brother. It was done by the Lodge Education Officer and had been carefully thought out. It reinforced the significant of the duties the Brother had just assumed and impressed upon him that the work of the degree had only just begun. The assignment of a mentor was an extremely important decision and each new Brother’s mentor had been carefully chosen. This Brother would council the new Brother throughout the remaining degrees and helps direct him in preparing his personal improvement and life plan. The Lodge mentors also were a source for recognizing potential Lodge officers and offering training for those with the desire to lead.
As the Lodge was being closed the Brothers had already started talking among themselves and no one thought to instruct the new Brother what was taking place. Once the meeting was closed the Master said, “Thanks Brothers for attending and our Stewards both had to work so they didn’t have time to pick up refreshments, so I guess that’s it for the evening.”
John went to talk with the Master about something that was on his mind. After the discussion he thanked his friend Ted and congratulated Jack on beginning his journey to become a Mason. John then surprised both Ted and Jack by saying the Master had agreed to let John become Jack’s mentor even if he did belong to another Lodge.
Jack asked John how that could be possible and John’s reply was this:
“Masonry is not about joining a particular Lodge; it’s about taking Masonry’s lessons and using them to honor your God, become a better man, a better provider for your family, and a contributor to your community. A good friend and Brother once told me that Masonry is not something you just join, it is something you become. Part of my duty Jack, as a Mason, is to help you become Masonry.”
John thought as he drove home maybe this “Not So Perfect Lodge Meeting” would turn out something perfect after all. He made a mental note to call Jack and set up their first meeting.
Next: John meets with Jack and asks a startling question.