"Oh Brother where art thou?"

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin Lahners

The first article I wrote for the Midnight Freemasons was about my trepidation on becoming Worshipful Master of my Lodge. I wrote out my mission statement and emphasized how I wanted to make the lodge a place where brothers and their families wanted to spend time. I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to arrange some events for the brethren to get together socially. My last two attempts have had attendance from myself and one other member (and Midnight Freemason). Our November stated meeting barely had enough members for a quorum to open lodge. Granted, I knew that we had a few members that had other obligations due to their familial obligations, but I still wonder, is there something I’m doing wrong?

The writing has been on the wall for some time. We have seen declining interest in events such as Worker’s Club. My Junior Warden has received a wonderful opportunity to continue his education, the downside being that his class meets on Thursdays, which means he’s been missing some of our stated meetings. My Senior Warden has a job which requires a lot of travel, so I’m lucky that he can make the stated meetings, but he doesn’t have much time to make other events. On top of this, we just won 2nd place for Lodges under 80 members in the State of Illinois for our Grand Masters Award of Excellence. All this adds pressure to try to make sure we do equally as well next year. But still it makes me wonder, why aren’t many of my other brethren as concerned about keeping the high level of excellence we’ve set?

Worshipful Bro. Scott Dueball just wrote a really interesting article regarding this: Read it HERE.

He challenged the incoming leadership of his lodge as outgoing Master regarding creating a membership-centric plan for their lodge. His main points were eloquently summarized as:

  1. Identify where the lodge has gaps in what needs to get done.
  2. Identify brothers with those talents.
  3. Identify ways to attract the interests of those brothers.

In my home lodge, we are particularly lucky to have 3 members that work in the kitchen of a local restaurant. Our food when we have degrees is spectacular. I’m not taking advantage of this as Master. We should have food before our meetings at the lodge, instead of me meeting a few brothers for dinner prior. Masons like to eat right? But this only really applies to brethren that want to be active in the lodge.

The question remains for me: “How do I attract inactive members to come to lodge?” I came up with a short survey. As I just sent it out. I have no idea how it will be received. I have no idea if anyone will reply to me. I’ll share the results in a future article. However, the survey is below:

1. If you are not currently regularly attending the stated meetings, what is keeping you from coming?
  • Personal reasons. (Work, Family, Etc.)
  • Lodge is boring.
  • I've forgotten the passwords and I don't want to embarrass myself/I feel awkward attending by myself.
  • I have better things to do with my time.
2. What would make our lodge more attractive to you?
  • More family events like dinners, picnics, etc.
  • More Educational programs.
  • More fellowship activities (going bowling or other group activities, dining together, socializing as brethren).
  • Focusing on doing community service/charitable works in our community.
3. What would attract you to come to a stated meeting?
  • A nice dinner prior to the meeting in our dining room at the lodge.
  • Guest Speakers (Notable Masonic scholars and the like).
  • A short meeting followed by fellowship off of lodge property at an establishment that serves Adult Beverages.
  • Nothing, I'm fine just paying dues.

My struggles led me to think about how we select members. There seem to be two fundamental philosophies regarding prospective members at play within Freemasonry. The first philosophy is based upon a fear that we are dying as an organization, and we need membership. If a man meets the basic criteria for joining the lodge and petitions for membership, assuming he meets this criteria, he should be allowed to join. We need bodies to pay dues and to pay per capita, and as long as they are doing this, it’s fine if they don’t engage in the lodge.

At least once a year I hear one brother in lodge talk about how electing a candidate to receive the degrees of Freemasonry should be a mere formality. The same brother thinks that we should never throw a black ball (black cube in Illinois), because by the time a candidate has his petition balloted on, that he has been thoroughly vetted by at least six other brothers. The 3 brothers that have signed the petition as well as the 3 or more members that have served on the investigation committee all have essentially vouched for the petitioner. So the petitioner’s election at this point should be a given and anyone who has an issue with the candidate should have addressed it to the lodge prior to the vote.

However, I think we all might have a regret of not throwing a cube at some point during your Masonic journey. I personally have two candidates that I thought long and hard about black balling. I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it because their top line signer was and still is a personal friend and a masonic mentor. But I often wonder, should I have? The two candidates in question now are absent from lodge and we are chronically chasing after them to pay their dues. I regret, not doing it in retrospect. But what does that make me? I feel complicit in the situation.

The other fundamental philosophy is that we need to make Masonry somewhat elitist. This idea is based upon a thought that we should only admit men that have a desire to improve themselves and dedicate themselves to the craft. It also argues that we are not maintaining our historical identity by letting every man of good character join. It believes that we are essentially causing the status quo to be lowered because we should only allow men that are going to act towards being morally and intellectually superior. If we institute some form of entrance prerequisite, we will separate the wheat from the chaff. We must Guard the West Gate against men who do not share these ideals.

This idea has come up again in discussion recently due to this recent post by Illus. Brother Chris Hodapp. If you’ve not read it, I suggest you do so (click)-> HERE:

While I caution against elitism, I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing to re-examine ourselves as a Fraternity. Sometimes a good hard look in the mirror reveals flaws that we’ve been ignoring for far too long. Yes, we need to attract a certain type of member, but I wonder if the West Gate had been strongly guarded when I joined, would I have made the cut? Would you have? But then again, had it been guarded more strongly after I was a member, would I have the same issues with lodge participation that I have today?

I guess these are questions that can’t be answered because the past is set in stone. We can only decide for ourselves at our local lodge level, what we want to be going forward into the future. Each individual lodge is different. Each member is different. I can only state for myself that I have become a better person due to the lessons of my degrees. I can only say that I feel blessed for the friends and mentors that I have made along the way. I can only state that Freemasonry has unlocked a desire to write and to create that lie asleep in me. I would hate to take that opportunity away from another man who is just as qualified as I was for Freemasonry. However, I also believe that I need to be protective of the craft. So I will end with this, we are given the power of the ballot as a Master Mason for a reason. Don’t be afraid to use it to protect Masonry if you feel a man is unworthy or will prove himself to be so. Just be sure to use it responsibly.


WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D. and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. When he’s not busy enjoying Masonic fellowship, Darin spends his time as a DM for his children’s D&D campaign, reading, golfing, watching movies and listening to music. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.


  1. I’m going to make this short, by saying this article is one of the top three I’ve read yet!

  2. Definitely one of the top three articles I’ve read yet, thanks!

  3. What a most interesting provocative article I'd love to print it out and present this article in open lodge. I consider that we all should look within so we can positively approach this issue.

  4. I'm all about being more elite, having Masonic education and discussion at every lodge meeting. Table lodges are good. This is an ancient fraternal order so not so much into family festivities, fish fries, and pancake breakfasts. Great article!!!