Planning Your Year As Worshipful Master
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB. Adam Thayer
It has been my experience that the difference between a successful year as Worshipful Master and an unsuccessful one is due in large part to advanced planning. As one of my managers taught me early in life, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail!
In many states (my own included), we are preparing for installation for the ensuing Masonic year, and as such many of us are setting their sights on putting their plan into place. I myself am moving from Jr. Warden to Sr.Warden in one of my lodges, and have already begun the process of planning to be Worshipful Master in 2017. If you’re in a similar boat, here are some “on the ground” tips I’ve found that have helped me significantly.
First and foremost, decide what you want to do in your year. What do you want it to be remembered for? Pretend you’re in a lodge where you will never be Worshipful Master again (that’s easy for me, as my lodge has not repeated a WM since the late 1890’s); if you only have the one chance to impact your lodge as WM (Worshipful Master), how do you want to do it? Make a list of everything that comes to mind, no matter how outlandish, because at this point of planning there are no limits. The theme for my year is bringing Masons back to the lodge. I’ve found that roughly 10% of our members are active, and I’d like to find ways to bring some of the 90% back.
Now look at the list and add in any traditional or required events from your jurisdiction. My lodge, for instance, traditionally holds a very nice dinner in memory of our Past Masters, perform a full lodge proficiency exam for the degrees early in the year and a more recent tradition involves the lodge attending a baseball game. I’m sure your lodge has events like this as well; check with your secretary to see if you’ve forgotten some, and add all of those to the list.
Next, ask some of the members who have been there a long time if there are
any events that used to be very successful but have been forgotten in recent years. One that I’ve been told multiple times is a card tournament; our lodge used to hold an annual cribbage tournament, with the winner receiving a nice plaque and a portion of the entry fees. Many of the older members have fond memories of the event, so I added it to the list too.
If you’re like me, at this point you have a few pages of events written out. Don’t let that bother you yet; you’re going to be removing quite a few of them!
The next step I took was to contact our secretary and our treasurer to get a lot of details; I’m a detail person. From our secretary, I got the full membership list, sorted by location. Using this, I can target those members who are close enough to attend lodge, and young enough to be physically able.
From the treasurer, I obtained the total income and expenditures for the past five years. With this, I can set a pretty clear budget, which will tell me how much I can spend without hurting the lodge. This is one of the most valuable pieces of information you can have access to and I highly recommend you make it the largest tool in your planning arsenal!
So, you’re finally ready to start planning! Go back to your list, and start to eliminate events that are too expensive, will require more work than your lodge is able to perform, or will not have any positive impact toward your goals. To aid me in this, I worked out a budget for each event, including mailing costs, food costs, and every other foreseeable expense related to that event. This was perhaps the most difficult part for me, as I had fallen in love with some of the ideas and had a difficult time admitting that the cost to perform them was too high for the benefit we would see in return.
Hopefully, you now have a list which is significantly more manageable. At this point, you should grab a calendar for the year you will be WM and start seeing how your events will fit together.
If you’re really lucky, your lodge owns your building and you are the only tenant, so you may schedule your events whenever you choose. Our lodge shares the building with a number of other lodges, an Eastern Star, and some youth groups. Because of this, we are restricted to one night a week (Friday in our case) without requesting special permission. So, I have 52 nights available to plan events on. You may have more, or less, depending on your situation.
Out of the 52 nights available, 12 of those are claimed by business meetings, and one by our Grand Lodge’s Annual Communication, bringing me to 39 nights left. Our availability for events is quickly dwindling!
In my lodge, and I suspect in yours as well, it is nearly impossible to hold any event after Thanksgiving, as most men are too busy with family events to come to lodge. This removes an additional five nights, and now I’m down to 34! Again, your calendar almost certainly will vary, but the process is very similar.
My next step was to add into the calendar those “unwritten rule” type of events. For my lodge, this used up another 8 nights, bringing me down to only 26 nights left out of an original 52! In those 26 nights, I need to accomplish as much as I possibly can, and let’s not forget that we need to leave some room for degrees and for practices!
So, I narrowed my list further, and chose the five “big” events that I felt will most impact my goal (which, again, is bringing inactive members back to the lodge). You may choose more or less, but whatever you choose you need to be fully committed to them!
Because you don’t want to overload your lodge, it’s important to spread the events out across the year. Looking at the nights you have available to your lodge, you will want to pick dates that are far enough apart that your members won’t feel that you’re putting an undue burden on their time, but still close enough together to keep them excited about what is next!
In addition, remember that your event is almost certainly going to take more than just showing up; you may have performers or lecturers to work with, caterers to line up, and mailings to send out in advance to drive excitement. Now is a great time to start planning these details with your line officers, and getting their feedback on your plans. Not only will they help you see things you may have missed, but it is important to get buy-in from the people who will be supporting your vision when the rubber hits the road.
One big caveat should be mentioned here: let your officers do their jobs, without micromanaging them. Trust your stewards to plan the dinners without asking them what type of napkins they’re using; I promise, they will surprise you at how hard they will want to work to make everything a success, but only if you treat them with respect for their office. My instructions to my stewards was simple; I have one meal that I know specifically what I would like served; everything else is up to their imagination and our budget.
Of course, all of the planning in the world doesn’t mean your year will go perfectly; you will need to make adjustments as you go, all year long. Some unexpected situations will arise, and when these happen, you and your advancing line will need to deal with the situation at that time. With good planning, however, it will be much easier to deal with these situations when they occur, and it won’t leave you in the bad position of constantly playing catch-up!
Hopefully this has helped you to get a handle on the planning of your year, but please don’t let your education on the topic stop here. Your Grand Lodge almost certainly has reference material at your disposal, as will your secretary. Even more important, don’t forget to consult with your Past Masters on this; not only does it make them feel valuable, but they almost certainly can give fantastic advice based on their own experiences. Learn from the mistakes they made, and capitalize on their successes, and everyone will think you’re the genius for it!
Now, how good are you at the ritual work? Maybe you should start practicing…
Bro. Adam Thayer is the Junior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No 54 in Lincoln (NE) and the Worshipful Master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member of the Scottish Rite, and Knight Master of the Lincoln Valley Knights of Saint Andrew. Adam serves on the Education Committee of the Grand Lodge of Nebraska. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org