New Approaches to Old Problems: The College Fraternity Connection

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Chris Streeper

I have been a Freemason for ten years now. During my travels throughout my Masonic career I have had the good fortune meet many brothers and visit several lodges throughout the United States and internationally. Throughout my short time as a Mason I have read dozens of books on the Craft, participated in several surveys, and attended countless conferences and seminars. Nearly the entire time I have been a member of the Craft I have been subject to discussions about how to solve the overall decline in membership.

To say that membership is on the minds of our Masonic leadership at all levels of the fraternity would be an understatement. Most of the discussion over the past years has dedicated itself to lack of interest expressed by young American men in joining fraternal organizations of any type. (Membership is not exclusively a Masonic problem.) Recently I have observed a shift in the discussion moving from our membership problem being a recruitment issue to a retention issue. I would agree more that we have a retention issue than anything else. This idea however would be better discussed at another time, but it should be mentioned that Bro:. John Ruark of the Masonic Roundtable has begun working on a survey dedicated to shedding more light on our nationwide retention woes. The following, is an “outside the box” approach to advertising Freemasonry to vast group of potential members whom we already have close ties with; the collegiate fraternities.

When leaders discuss new member recruitment and retention at our various conclaves I cannot help but wonder why Freemasonry has not reached out to its collegiate counterpart. Not through a formal recruitment initiative, but via a constructive approach involving members of local lodges in college towns who happen to be members of social Greek Letter fraternities. The men of the Greek system have already demonstrated an interest in fraternalism and have already had exposure to ritualism. In fact, a large amount of the social fraternities owe at least some of their existence to Freemasonry. In a sense, these men are already our “friends and brothers” who could easily make the transition to membership in the Craft.

I am a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity. At least two of our three founders were documented Freemasons. Brother James Frank Hopkins was chiefly responsible for drafting Sigma Nu’s rituals and ceremonies. Although very thinly veiled, the tenants of Freemasonry found their way into the forms and ceremonies of Sigma Nu where they remain mostly unchanged today. My father was a member of Lamba Chi Alpha Fraternity while he was in college. He has mentioned to me that there were many similarities in the rituals and symbols used in his fraternity and the Scottish Rite. From Kappa Sigma, to Alpha Tau Omega, to Sigma Chi, to Sigma Alpha Epsilon... there are many Freemasons who were members of social fraternities during their college years. The question is not the relationship between Freemasonry and the Greek system, but how we capitalize on what seems to the next logical step in these men’s fraternal profession.

Many of the graduates from my own chapter of Sigma Nu have approached me about Freemasonry over the past few years; most recently at our annual spring formal. From discussions I have with other masons in similar situations with other Greek letter organizations I hear similar stories. A solution to our membership woes is staring us in the face, the question is how do we develop a relationship with the Greeks without actively recruiting their members; a clear violation of our core tenants. The answer I believe, is proper marketing.

The first step is to identify members of the Craft who have Greek letter affiliations. This could be done via a Grand Lodge survey, or via a committee at the individual lodge level. Once those members are identified, the secretary should create a log these affiliations and they should make an effort to reach out to the closest chapter of their college fraternity. Dependent on Grand Lodge legislation, these members could even extend the use of the lodge room for initiation ceremonies once a semester. (The building would be opened by Masonic alumni who then sits in during the initiation of which ever fraternity is using the lodge.

Of course this only works if you have Master Masons who are members of the local fraternities, but odds are you do.) The Worshipful Master could host a dinner for the chapter presidents all the local fraternities or invite the chapter officers to attend open meetings and events. The activity matters not, the point is to develop a relationship with a seemingly unending reservoir of potential members whom are already familiar with the workings of the Masonic Lodge. Obviously lodges which are situated near a college will experience the most benefit from this idea, but lodges in large metropolitan areas could benefit also as many fraternities have alumni chapters in big cities.

This proposal is just one of many fresh approaches to issues which have lingered within lodges for decades. I am firmly convinced that if lodges were to identify their members who were initiates of college fraternities that we could develop a positive and lasting relationship with a seemingly unending source of quality new members. All it takes is a little initiative to identify the members of your lodge who were Greek and put them to work. I’m certain that they will readily and happily accept the charge.


Bro. Chris Streeper
is a York Rite Mason and a member of Dickinson Lodge #1324 AF &AM in Dickinson, TX. He is an alumnus of Sigma Nu Fraternity, a veteran of the United States Coast Guard and a professional educator.

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