Like I said in Part I, the Millennial Generation, that generation born between the early 1980's and the early 2000's, seem to be natural born Freemasons. They are generous--81% of them donate to charitable causes in one way or another. Three-quarters of them are unwilling to compromise their personal values. They are educated--on their way to being the most educated generation in history. The majority of them see themselves as personally responsible for solving the world's problems. And they are tolerant--they believe in equality. As I said before, they already possess many of the characteristics that Freemasons value. So why aren't they beating a path to our door? There's a couple reasons perhaps--and I'm speaking in broad terms here, so I know it doesn't apply to all Millennials. But here are a couple things that come up over and over again when I speak to Millennials about Freemasonry.
The majority of the Millennial Generation believe Freemasonry is a philanthropy. It's no wonder. Ask a Mason about Freemasonry, and you won't get far into that conversation before he brings up his Lodge supporting Little League, or the Shriner's Hospitals, or the Scottish Rite Learning Centers, etc. One of the members of my Lodge when asked always says the same thing "we raise money, and we give it away."
These are great works, and Masons should be proud of them. But that's only part of it. That's not all we do, and that message is being lost. As I said, Millennials are already generous. They already donate time and money to causes they believe are important. Why would they go to the trouble of joining a Lodge and paying dues just to continue doing what they are already doing?
Most Millennials have no idea our main purpose is making good men better--making better men, better husbands, better fathers, better leaders, better communities. We're an institution of learning, of self-improvement and personal growth. Charity is a part of what we do, but building men is our primary goal. If that message were getting through to Millennials, we'd see more of them knocking on our doors.
Mistrust of Institutions
The Millennial Generation is suspicious of large institutions. They believe corporations are inherently greedy. They believe government is corrupt. They've seen the level of disorganization in public education. They see organized religion as outdated. They even question large charitable organizations--they are more likely to donate time and money to a local cause than donate through a large charity. And they view Freemasonry as a large charity.
For at least a couple generations, being a charitable organization appealed to perspective members--naturally we began emphasizing that aspect of our Fraternity. This generation--well, not so much. They already know how to give, and how to volunteer. It's how they were raised. What would appeal to them is much different than what might appeal to somebody my age, or my father's age.
They want to learn. They want to grow. They would be interested in finding an organization that's values based. They value honesty and integrity. They are doers. And if they become interested in joining our Lodges, they are going to want to be involved. Too many of our current Millennial Masons complain that they aren't given the opportunity to be more involved in the lodge. If we want them to join, we have to give them an opportunity to be as involved as they are willing to be. That means a fundamental shift in a lot of lodges from our existing members being leaders, to becoming teachers.
And we have to think about what we say when we're asked about Freemasonry. We have to be ready for the question. We have to say a little more than just "did you know George Washington was a Freemason?" or "have you heard of the Shriner's Hospitals?"
We don't have to make Freemasonry seem "hip and cool" for this generation. It will appeal to them just as it really is, because that's what these young people are looking for. Perhaps a better way to begin to answer that question when asked is to start with something more like "so are you interested in becoming a better man?"
All we have to do is be ourselves. Know thyself.
Todd E. Creason, is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is also the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog, where he posts on a regular schedule on topics relating to Freemasonry. 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, and is 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