A Matthew 18:20 Lesson
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR
I make a lot of Masonic presentations. A lot. It's always an honor that my Brethren think I can somehow enhance their Masonic experience with the things I talk about. I thoroughly enjoy researching Masonic topics of all kinds and condensing that material into something I can share.
Enjoyment aside, it's also a lot of work. Hard work. Putting a presentation together is much more than just researching facts and events and preparing to deliver them to the audience. Facts are facts, but facts in and of themselves can be mighty boring. So I am particularly aware of presenting those facts and events in an environment of graphics, color, action, music, and sometimes video. I try to hone each one to the point I think the audience, in spite of the speaker's shortcomings, will get something out of it, be able to remember what he saw and, yes, be entertained. Did I mention this is a lot of work? And time-consuming?
So imagine yourself putting in all that effort to speak at a gathering and walking in to find exactly six Brothers had shown up. It's happened to me and, take my word for it; it's discouraging. First, it makes a speaker wonder if all that hard work is worth it and, second, it terrifies me that membership and participation are sinking so fast that this is the best we can do.
At one point last year, it got so bad I was invited to speak at an open house to talk about Freemasonry in general. I had a hum-dinger of a talk ready to go and found I had prepared to speak to a crowd of… zero. Not one single person turned up to hear about the exciting world of Freemasonry.
To digress just a bit, Freemasons are good at a lot of things, but promotion, in general, is not one of them. Many times we go by the "if you build it, they will come" marketing philosophy. That worked in the movie "Field of Dreams," but it lays a big stink-bomb in real-world practice. In that particular open house, the full extent of the Master's promotion was to put a sign outside the Lodge announcing the event. And don't get me started on the guy who posts a single announcement on FaceBook and thinks he's a marketing genius.
Enough said about the highway of broken dreams that is Masonic promotion.
I know I'm not the only speaker who shows up to speak at a less than well-attended event. In fact, I've been in audiences where the Grand Master himself shows up to a disappointing turnout. In order to mitigate this kind of thing, I've considered saying I won't speak unless a Lodge can guarantee a certain number of attendees.
I've never done that, though. Even if the crowd is small, it doesn't change the importance of the message or the impact it will have on those present. We should take a lesson from Matthew 18:20, "whenever two or three are gathered…" in the name of our truth-seeking Craft, we should give it all we've got, just as if it was a crowd of two or three hundred.
Still, if you're putting an event together, put some effort into getting the word out. Here's an idea: I know of one group in my area that will plan an event, set a date, and get a commitment from 25 Brothers to attend before proceeding with the plans or inviting a speaker. I have spoken to this group. It's amazing how 25 guys can seem to fill a room, add to a discussion, and turn a disappointing evening into a meaningful one.