One topic that is always on my mind is mentoring and how in this area we need to step it up! You see, it is each and every Master Mason's job to mentor the next generation of masons working their way through the steps of Freemasonry. The problem seems to be that most Master Masons have no idea what they are doing. Perhaps, because they've never been taught, so here are some tips.
First and foremost, and I cannot stress this enough, encourage the possible candidate, from the first time they petition until a year after they are raised to keep a journal of all their experiences, their feelings during the degrees and possible problems they may have encountered during these times. At the end of the time frame, let them have the floor in lodge to tell about their experiences. This will not only benefit the Brother, but the lodge in general!
Second, and equally as important, is to make sure you have an available "class" to present to potential candidates and their families and yes I said families. The Grand Lodge of Illinois already has one available for you, it's called "On The Threshold"! I'm sure there are other Grand Lodges that have similar items, but I can only speak from experience. DO NOT just hand the potential candidate the material and say something like, "Call me if you have any questions." Oh how I hate this, for the main reason of missing an important opportunity. I've said it before and I will say it again, no one takes a step in Freemasonry alone! Sit down with the potential candidate and their family members. Remember, once a person simply takes their degrees, without an bonding or fraternalism, , their family will feel like they are in the dark, something we need to avoid if we are to have active Masons and supportive families. Take the time to answer all their questions to the best of your ability. At this point you should know what is actually a secret and what is not. I would suggest you end this session with a tour of the lodge room.
After this, if they petition, the mentoring continues. Invite at least the candidate, if not their family, to dinner to break bread with and talk before lodge. Also, if you see persons like this at lodge, everyone should make themselves available to them. Let them ask questions and feel like part of the family. If your lodge does not do meals, at least invite the candidate to come for fellowship before lodge starts so they may be able to meet the brethren. Remember, all this is still even before they are initiated into the craft.
After they're initiated, at least in my jurisdiction, the new brother will receive an official Intender or Mentor. I suggest we stop waiting until the end of the initiation to introduce them to each other, let them meet and talk beforehand so the Intender can give some advice, something simple like, "Make sure you try and listen to everything going on." or something similar. Afterwards, make sure you as a Mentor are available to the new Brother for questions, and also before leaving the lodge room make sure the new Brother knows how to say and perform their newfound craft fundamentals. I remember when I was initiated, it was unlike anything else I had experienced and I remember my "Nic at Night" from basic training. The new Brother will probably feel the same way as well as overwhelmed with all that had happened. At this point DO NOT just give the new Brother some material to prepare for the next step, make time together to prepare and study for their next step together.
Know the material, try to have answers ready for questions, but DO NOT be afraid to tell the Brother that you honestly don't know an answer to a question and that you will find out and get back to them, oh, and then actually get back to them with the answer! Once the Brother is made a Master Mason, DO NOT just hand them the last bit of material and then not continue to be available. They finally have all the information, now you are there to help them process it and help them grow. Another note, love of Buddha, if you have a short or fast version of the steps, that is a quicker version of proving you're ready for the next degree, DO NOT push the new Brother to do this, the joy is in the journey not the destination. Let them experience the full version of Freemasonry, not just some quick version just to be lazy!
A few final thoughts, protect the new Master Mason from the petition vultures and encourage them to process the information that they have just received in Blue Lodge. Second, DO NOT stop teaching, they are as impressed upon and overwhelmed as you were when you were raised. Finally, and most importantly, never say, and I know I'm repeating myself, but this is important, never say, "Ok, call me if you have any questions." Continue to set time aside, let them continue to learn from you and ask questions of you. Be the Freemason that the Craft needs you to be!
Daniel Doc Gentry is a Freemason out of the 1st NE District of Illinois. He belongs to Milburn Lodge 127, in Milburn IL. He is also the Associate Patron in Chapter #570, Order of the Eastern Star, Millburn Illinois, where he and his awesome wife both attend.