Freemasonry is Worth More Than...

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Robert H. Johnson

Often while swiping through the conversations on Facebook and social media regarding Freemasonry there are numerous threads talking about the lodge dues. Too high, too low… When we advocate for higher dues, the argument is that we’re pricing good men out of the craft. When we price too low, we argue that the craft will surely die.

Arguments for both sides are many. Some argue that dues should remain low and that a lodge should off set costs by holding fundraisers. Others say that the public shouldn’t flip the bill for an organization's existence.

Others maintain that the cost to join has been kept the same over the years, which is why the big temples closed. While the cost of everything around us increased the dues stayed the same. Those who advocate for higher dues structures will point out the Freemasonry doesn't cost that much, in many cases yearly dues are less expensive than the monthly cost of a service a brother indulges in.

Recently, a brother posted something interesting on Facebook. He said, “Add up all your dues, divide by 365 to determine the cost of Masonry per day, post your results below!” Tons of people did this. I decided to take the data and determine the average. Out of fifty random responses, the average a man pays for membership in total for all the bodies he belongs to is about $1.12 a day. The highest amount a man paid per day was $5.38 per day, whilst the lowest was a mere $0.10 per day.

Compare these numbers with the average services or indulgences we pay for today:

Sunday Ticket: $269 per year, $0.73 per day

Cable in whole: $1,188.00 per year, $3.25 per day

Starbucks: $1300.00 per year (5 days a week), $5.00 per day (5 times a week)

Tobacco: $2,321 a year, $6.36 per day

Netflix: $100.00 per year, $0.27 per day

Hulu: $96.00 per year, $0.26 per day

Microsoft Office: $84.00 per year, $0.23 per day

Alcohol: $548 per year, $1.50 per day (2011 survey adjusted for CPI)

Fast Food: $2,619 per year, $7.17 per day (2011 survey)

Lottery Tickets: $52 per year, $0.14 per day (One ticket a week)

Gym Membership: $360 per year, $0.99 per day

Freemasonry $408.80 per year, $1.12 per day.

So I think this is an interesting and solid way to look at things. The fraternity surely needs the funds, there is a lot to pay for. Meals, per capita, buildings, maintenance etc. Look at the gym membership numbers alone. To quote WB:. Scott Dueball, "Shouldn't we at least value spiritual and mental health as much as our physical?" Surely Freemasonry is worth more than all the things in the above list, isn’t it? In fact, I’d say it's worth more than all these things combined! When you say that Freemasonry isn't worth $100 or more a year, you're directly saying that you value any one of those things listed above (or anything else you want to figure out the values for) more than Freemasonry. It's hard to see the value in Netflix or Hulu when you don't turn on the TV, the same could be said by not attending the lodge. Perhaps, it might be time to reevaluate things.


RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 where he is a Past Master. He also serves as the District Deputy for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry and is also an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.


  1. In 2004-5, I worked in the Bahamas for a year. At that time, dues were $2,000.00 annually and Initiation was $2,000.00 for the local Lodges. Four met in the same building. When I showed up to Lodge with my credentials from my Grand Lodge, and my then, paper dues card, they looked at me like is this some kind of joke. Reason being, they all carried leather bound passports. I learned quickly how we have "devalued" Freemasonry in the States.

  2. The challenge with increasing dues is not with the value of Freemasonry per se. My home Grand Lodge of Colorado continues to raise the per capita so that it is nearly twice what the lodge receives, and most of that per capita is spent on whatever the current GM wants to do for his project so that he can say he did more than the previous GM (an affliction I have seen in many locales).

    The simple fact is that the value of what happens in Lodge, Chapter, Council, Commandery, or SR Temple (Shriners excluded on purpose), is that we find a great gulf between the assumed skills a man ought to possess before becoming a Mason by which he could appreciate the moral philosophy of our Craft, and the weak and shallow doctrine of our Craft that seems to center around Kabbalistic hodge-podge and some kind of amoral hatred and contempt of Christianity.

    Oh the meals are nice, the handshakes in Lodge and on the street are hearty, but wherein does the Craft benefit her members--so her members can bring benefit to her.

    What does it say of the value of our due and ancient processes when we will accept a clean criminal record as proof of someone being worthy, but will not accept the word of a brother who makes the recommendation of a man who is good even if he failed at some time in his past?

    Masonry--in my heart, from a youth, I devoured every book printed by the Craft, and every book against it, on which I could lay my hands. I fell in love with all of it. In almost 20 years though, what I read then and the stories I was told about the brotherhood of Freemasons by Masons and non-Masons alike have I seldom seen amongst our brothers (when I have though it exceeded the stories I heard, but those times have been few).

    Masonic preference in all things, obligations to be taken literally---in my Lodge when I was raised these were taught to me. Now I am told that we do not want to offend the profane and so we should not give that fabled preference, and that the obligations are merely historical and do not mean anything even remotely close to what we say--except the parts about not copying the secrets of Masonry to print whereby they can be discerned ( many still think that has any reference to rituals, passwords, signs, amd tokens!

    In the list given only Hulu and Netflix applied to my money usage. Sadly, they are worth more to my time and energy that what happens overall in the Craft. (Oh and please reserve the brotherly admonitions telling me to just quit then, because that will only prove the point about our Craft not being what it ought).

  3. I think it's less about the cost, and more about the value. Cable, the gym and netflix have INCREASED the value they provide. More channels, more control over what to watch and when, or what machines are available. Etc.

    They've done this by having a constant finger on the pulse of their customers. Adding things they think are valuable and taking away others which didn't deliver the value expected.

    If anything has changed over time it's the value a lodge had to a man or a community. It used to be the gathering point, the center of a town. Where widows and orphans could seek refuge, and men could meet to grow in their professions in addition to expanding their views.

    For better or worse what people want to get from a lodge has changed. And yet, we talk about what it used to provide (Comradely, a gathering point, etc) and try to make it provide that again. We need our finger on the pulse of the membership to adapt to what they want it for. It varies by person, and although we can't be all things to all people, pretending we can go back to what a lodge was and everything will go back to as it was before is setting us up for failure.

    One of our district initiatives is "To have brothers travel more". It's not new. I tried it when i was master for my lodge, and DDGM's have pushed it before. But if people aren't looking for that, say they are more into the internal journey they get, then we're forcing people to do what WE want under the assumption it'll make things better.

    Some people join this just for the internal journey and meeting new people is the challenge they're trying to overcome.

    Now I'm not saying that's always the case just one example of our disconnect with what people may want from lodge and what lodges have/do provide.

    As we have moved into the "recruiting mode" to "grow our membership numbers" the variety of things people want to get will only continue to vary.

    But, if we can get back to listening to our membership, and understanding what they want, compared to what we're asking from them, or what we're providing, then cost will never be more than a 5 minute debate.

    I should say we've increased our dues TWICE (from $45 - $65 then to $100) and there was brief discussion as to why and unanimous approval.


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