L&D: Engaging Freemasons, developing Lodges

The Metropolitan Grand Learning and Development Officer writes…

By now you will be aware of the Members’ Pathway, which contains practical ideas drawn from the successes of Lodges over recent years in engaging members, ensuring meetings are well planned and enjoyed by all, stemming losses and growing memberships.

It is the ideal catalyst to help re-build our Lodges and re-engage our membership. The Metropolitan Grand Lodge website, Rosetta, http://www.rosetta.london/ contains links to the Members’ Pathway.

The Members’ Pathway provides a universal framework to help Lodges to: 

Plan Lodge and Membership Development 
Attract and welcome new members 
Engage with new and existing members to reduce losses through resignations, cessations and exclusions, and 
• Find ways to retrieve those who have drifted away, re-kindle their interest and encourage them to re-join. 

The aim is to help all Lodges become vibrant, in which every meeting, including dining, is so enjoyable and worthwhile that every member looks forward to the next meeting with an enthusiasm that is infectious.
Under Engage, ‘continued learning and development’ features five threads:
• Fun and Enjoyment
• Guided Learning
• Personal Learning
• Introduction to the Royal Arch
• Managing Migration
Fun and Enjoyment
People join Freemasonry for many different reasons, but among the many reported benefits of membership are fun, enjoyment, making new friends and a sense of personal achievement and satisfaction. 
Lodges can undertake a series of positive activities to help every member to grow in his satisfaction, enjoyment and – therefore – commitment, as well as preventive activities, to respond to disengagement. These include:
• Encourage members to undertake regular learning about Freemasonry, using Solomon (https://solomon.ugle.org.uk/), UGLE’s online learning platform, and other reliable sources.
• Review Lodge traditions to confirm whether they are still relevant and serve the Lodge well. Change or evolve any traditions that might harm the future health of the Lodge.
• Plan meetings to be enjoyable, interesting and informative, with a good atmosphere and good ritual, to meet the expectations of members and to assist their self-improvement.
The guidance also highlights the valuable role that Special Interest Groups such as  ‘New Masons’ Clubs’ 
(e.g. London’s Connaught Club https://connaughtclub.org/) in keeping members engaged.
Guided Learning
Learning about Freemasonry, developing an understanding of it and taking part is central to our enjoyment of it. New members in particular have a need for learning and these needs fall into two parts: 
• What Freemasonry wants or expects them to learn, so that they can participate. 
• What they wish to learn about Freemasonry, to satisfy their own interests and motives for joining. 
Experienced members also find that, at different times in their membership, they need to learn new things; especially as they approach the chair, become a Past Master, take on continuing office in a Lodge and, perhaps, become Metropolitan or Grand Officers.
In recent surveys, new members expressed concern that there were not enough opportunities to learn about Freemasonry in their Lodge. Conversely, those newer members who report satisfaction with the learning they receive about Freemasonry also tend to report greater satisfaction with and commitment to Freemasonry. Freemasons who have a good understanding of the Craft and their Lodge – of what we do, why we do it and how we do it – are better equipped to help their Lodges sustain their long-term future. 
In addition to explaining the importance of guided learning, this thread on the Members Pathway has material explaining the Lodge’s role in helping members to learn, guidance on preparing for the second and third degrees, and topics for defining and delivering a Lodge’s Learning & Development programme. It also has a useful short document with tips on learning ritual.
Personal Learning
Curiosity and a desire to learn “something” underpins many people’s reasons for wanting to become a Freemason. Enquirers often cite curiosity as a motive for joining in its own right, and this was certainly the case for me.  This quest for learning can continue throughout a Freemason’s membership. Our research tells us that members expect their Lodges to help them satisfy these personal learning needs.  Indeed, we know that when Lodges don’t do this, members can become frustrated. As well as Lodges guiding members through what Freemasonry wants them to learn, the most successful Lodges provide direct support for this personal learning, via the mentoring process.
This thread on the Members Pathway includes guidance on how Lodges can achieve this, and specific advice and role descriptions for Lodge and personal mentors. It highlights the importance of orders beyond the Craft and Royal Arch in keeping Freemasons engaged and fostering their curiosity.

Introduction to the Royal Arch
Within English Freemasonry an indissoluble link exists between Craft Freemasonry and the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch. Together they constitute “Pure Antient Masonry”. The Royal Arch is therefore the completion of the journey in Pure Antient Masonry, and a Master Mason’s knowledge of Pure Antient Masonry cannot be considered complete until he has been exalted as a Royal Arch Mason.
In this thread you will find guidance on the role of the Royal Arch Representative in a Lodge and on introducing the idea of the Royal Arch, discussion of the ‘right time’ for a member to join, and finally where further information can be obtained.
Managing Migration
It is inevitable that from time to time a Mason will need to leave a Lodge – through work commitments, moving house to another part of the country (or even world), or perhaps their confidence means that travelling in the evenings is no longer comfortable. This thread describes the process used by the Metropolitan, Provinical and District Offices to support Freemasons through this process, and help them find a new Lodge that ‘works’ for their new circumstances.
As we all work to bring to life the new UGLE strategy (https://www.ugle.org.uk/discover-freemasonry/blog/forging-thriving-future-strategy-freemasonry-2022-and-beyond) with its key pillar of ‘thriving membership’, the tools and guidance in the Continued Learning and Development element of the Members’ Pathway have never been more important and timely, and I commend them to you.

This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 52 August 2023 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 52 here.