M.W. Wayne E. Rogers, 32, K.C.C.H.
Grand Lodge of Kentucky
Masonry united can accomplish far more than each of
our organizations going its separate way.
We can look to the animal world for examples of leadership styles. The buffalo is an example of a single strong leader on whom the entire welfare of the herd depends. If he is good at finding nourishment and avoiding danger, the herd is successful-if he falters, all are in peril.
On the other hand, migrating geese are an example of shared leadership in which the strongest at the moment is at the point of the flock’s V-shaped flying formation. The leader of the geese has the most tiring job because he must face the unbroken wind, while all those who follow have an easier flight in the wake he initiates. When the leader tires, one of the relatively fresh followers takes his place, and the flight continues to make the best possible time.
Which style is best? Either one may be appropriate in a given circumstance. In general though, shared leadership, as in Freemasonry, results in the best and most productive organization. With such leadership, our Craft can face-and overcome-the greatest challenge facing Freemasonry today, declining membership. Clearly, the factors that most significantly affect membership are:
-Visibility in the community,
-Non-members knowing they must ask for a petition,
-Quality Degree work,
-Mentoring and nurturing new members.
The first two items affect petitions; the last two affect retention. I have asked my counterparts in Scottish Rite, Shrine, and York Rite to assist in all four areas because Masonry united can accomplish far more than each of our organizations going its separate way.
Fate has dealt the Freemasons of today the awesome responsibility of deciding the destiny of our ancient and honorable Fraternity. History will surely record our decision; either we will be credited for saving the Fraternity, or we will be held responsible for doing nothing. Let us not be the generation that dropped the torch.
In 1960, the Grand Lodge of Kentucky had well over 106,000 members. Today we have just over 67,000. The decline in our membership over the past 35 years is not due to deaths, suspensions, or demits. All of these have remained fairly stable. The cause of the decline is overwhelmingly due to a steady decline in petitions by two-thirds.
In 1960 we initiated 3,173-last year 1,164. That 2,000 difference equals our annual net loss. If we had continued to initiate 3,000 annually, we would still have 100,000 members instead of 67,000. To turn the tide, we must triple our initiations! How to do this?
The “Friend to Friend” program, to cite one example, is an excellent tool for generating petitions and is based on the following realities:
1. The percentage of adult males and professional men who are Masons is far lower now than at any time in our history. Therefore, it is obvious that there are many well-qualified potential members.
2. Each of us has at least one relative or friend who is as qualified as we are to be a Mason.
3. We as Masons know that we do not solicit for membership, but non-members do not know that they have to ask for a petition.
4. The “Friend to Friend” brochure bridges the gap to enable non-members to learn a little about Freemasonry and informs them about the need to request a petition.
The good news is that it works. Last year we initiated 82 more members than the previous year, and the “Friend to Friend” program was introduced only four months before the end of our fiscal year. While 82 additional initiations does not sound like much, the significance is that this is only the second time since 1975 that we increased the number of initiations over the proceeding year.
Given these results, it is clear that every Kentucky Mason-and Masons everywhere-should seriously consider making full use of the “Friend to Friend” brochure and working at its distribution until each Brother has received at least one petition this year.
Brochures alone, however, will not increase petitions. We must make certain we are an organization that is attractive to the men in our communities. We know that the more education a man has the higher his standards for any organization with which he will associate. Those standards include the reputation of the organization, its contribution to the community, what it will do for him, and how it will serve his family.
It must make efficient use of his time, it must be perceived as modern, and it must not discriminate in any way by race, ethnic background, or religion.
Together, we can accomplish these goals. Thus, the motto for my year as Grand Master of Kentucky is “Masonry United-For One, For All, Forever.” It would be well for all Masons to reflect on those words, their meaning, and the guidance they can provide for our actions and relationships as individuals, as Lodges, and as Masonic-related organizations.
If we are united, each of us individually will be stronger and will grow. At the same time, we will be stronger collectively, and Masonry overall will flourish. What we do today will determine Masonry’s success tomorrow. To achieve our mutual goals, let us unite and make Masonry visible, viable, and vibrant. Let us focus on attracting good men to Masonry, providing quality Degree work, and serving the needs of our members and our communities. If we do, Masonry will not only survive, it will thrive.
The above article is a shortened version of an address
by M.W. Wayne E. Rogers at his installation as Grand Master, Grand Lodge
of Kentucky, on October 22, 1996.