Grand Lodges come up with plans to increase membership. Here in Illinois, just since I've been a Mason we've had several different ideas about how to fill those chairs. We went from 2B1ASK1 to being able to ask somebody if they'd like to join our Fraternity. We still have empty chairs. One of our Grand Masters, a good friend of mine, had a great plan. Every member should add a member to their Blue Lodge. He was known to always have petitions in his pocket. We did add members, but we still have empty chairs. My York Rite Chapter back when I joined came up with a magic number of new members they'd like to add that year, and they worked tirelessly, putting on degrees, and putting guys through the Chapter. They added a large number of new members. I was one of those guys that went through then. Guess what? They still have empty chairs!
The problem is, we're asking the wrong question. The question isn't how can we fill those chairs--the question is why are those chairs empty to begin with?
Our chairs are empty because so many of our Lodges have gotten so involved with the business of Freemasonry, they've forgotten the purpose of the Craft--to make good men better by constantly working to improve ourselves. We spend so much time reading minutes, and reciting committee reports, we forget that we're supposed to be learning something as well. The expectation of our membership versus the reality of our meetings is the reason so many of our chairs are empty.
The world is a busy place, and very few men are willing to waste a couple hours of their time once or twice a month to sit through a meeting when the only thing they might learn in that meeting is that the Lodge's building insurance went up 8% from last year, and somebody needs to make sure we have enough pancake mix by Saturday's breakfast.
Todd E. Creason, is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as Secretary. He's also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199. He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL), and a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research. He was recently awarded the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org