A recent survey of Grand Masters indicated a need for factual data on

"membership retention. " This Short Talk Bulletin has been prepared

to put the "problem" into perspective.


This is an age of super technology. The electronic hardware, such as

calculators and highly sophisticated computers operated by teams of

programmers, statistical specialists, analysts, forecasters and "whiz

kids," seems to have generated a new breed of "prophets of doom."

They are reminiscent of those of a few years ago who operated the

Ouija Boards and crystal balls, and who were also predicting the

demise of Masonry.


To listen to these alarmists, one would think that shrinking

membership is downright sinful and that within a matter of a very few

years, the only Masons left will be you and me.


Sure, statistics can prove or disprove almost anything. And these

computers can only produce results from the facts which their human

operators provide. A great many of the factors which affect

membership are not easily cranked into a computer. There are such

things as wars, economics, social unrest, population shifts,

taxation, transportation and even weather conditions which can

seriously show its effects upon the membership picture.


To get a better insight into the membership problem, we need to take

a long, hard look over the past half century. During the period

between World War I and World War 11, American Masonry suffered many

losses. The patriotic fervor of the First World War generated a great

deal of lodge activity. That

activity generated interest in membership. following the war, during

the "roaring twenties" social attitudes went through big changes.

Those were the days of wild parties, "flappers" and "bathtub gin."

The automobile became popular, plentiful and affordable.

Consequcntly, lodge attendance and activity

fell off.


In the 1920's and 1930's, the United States was hit by a series of

disasters. Florida was hit by two devasting hurricanes. Floods swept

across Mississippi, New England, and Kentucky. The Western states

were struggling under the effects of drought and dust storms. And

then there was the matter of the Bank Crash and depression. They were

difficult times. And it was a hard period for Freemasonry. In 1941,

Masonic membership had dwindled to less than two and a half million

members. (A low point.)


Hitler's hordes were gobbling up one after another European country.

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor-and America was again at war. The

national will became strong again. There developed a feeling of

togetherness. There was an urgent need for brotherhood . . for

unified efforts. Masonic lodges were a focal point of activity.


During World War 11, Masonic Service Centers were established by the

Masonic Service Association throughout the country near military

bases and in metropolitan Areas. There were also Masonic Service

Centers established in London, Paris, and Aukland. As an example of

some of the services performed by these centers, following are the

statistics for the first months of 1945.


Total attendance, all Centers, 904,847. Of all visitors, 12.86% were

known to bc Masons. Contacts made in posts, 8,460. Contacts outside

of posts, 8,919. Total contacts, 17,379. Checks and loans, 791; rooms

and apartments secured, I8,916; other services rendered, 3,776.

Patients visited in hospitals from hospital visitation Centers,

52,763. Total patients visited 75,559. of these, 15.4% were Masons.


A noble effort-in the name of Freemasonry. M.S.A. was thell, as it is

now, "Freemasonry's Servant. "


Activity at lodge level during the War Years generated involvement.

Involvement spawned increased interest. Petitions poured in. The

membership trend reversed; instead of losses, we showed constant

gains. The trend continued through the post-war years and through the

Korean War period, peaking at a total of 4,103,161 Master Masons in



The decline in membership since 1960 has reflected many of the social

changes affecting the nation. There have been large population

shifts. A large portion of Americans arc "on the move" to warmer

climates, job changes, retirement homes, and just plain traveling.

Air transportation has become an accepted way of life, encouraging

more and more people to travel. Keeping up with changes of address

has become an accepted way of life, encouraging more and more people

to travel. Keeping up

with changes of address has become a Lodge Secretary's nightmare. And

if a Brother doesn't get his dues notice, he frequently overlooks

paying his dues.


There's a whole mass of problems tied up in this situation, each of

which could be a major topic of discussion. A number of surveys have

been conducted regarding the large number of Masons suspended for

non-payment of dues. A basic conclusion is there is a loss of contact

. . . a lack of communication . . . and a lack of understanding. Too

many Brethren are not aware of how to "demit" or how to affiliate

with another lodge when they move. Too many don't know that, if they

cannot afford to pay dues, other arrangements can be made.

Frequently, we find that Brethren in financial

straits arc too proud to admit it.


And, then, once a Brother has been suspended for non-payment of dues,

he doesn't know the procedure for being re-instated. We find that too

often he is under the mistaken opinion that he must pay for all of

the years he has been suspended. This is an area of information which

needs to be made a matter of common knowledge.


The losses through death are normal and must be expected. Remember,

the large number of initiates in the 1940's are now more than thirty

years older. The hourglass and scythe are symbolic of time and the

bringing of human life and its time to a close. We can easily relate

this factor to our Masonic teachings.


The incidents of crime in the metropolitan areas particularly, have

been a factor in lodge attendance. Many are intimidated by the

reports of muggings, thefts, and vandalism. This has resulted in many

lodge consolidations, which in most cases does not make either lodge

stronger or more active.


Too many lodges have lapsed into unimaginative, apathetic, boring,

repetitive business meetings which do nothing to stimulate attendance

or interest. Those lodges quickly develop the problem of not having

anyone willing to take office.


A lodge can be compared to a place of employment, where one must

enjoy what he is doing; receive adequate pay; enjoy certain fringe

benefits and where one feels useful and needed. It helps if the

surroundings are attractive and there is a chance for advancement.

Harmony with the boss and with your fellow workers is also an

essential ingredient.


To be effective, the lodge, too, must provide an opportunity for

useful and needed involvement for a member to enjoy it. It helps

greatly if the Lodge room is clean, attractive and pleasant. The

Master, Wardens, officers and members must work at practicing

fellowship and strive for harmony. If these

elements are all present, the symbolic wages will be received in

abundance. The corn, representing plenty will be paid in plenty of

opportunity, plenty of friends, and plenty of work. The oil will

truly be represented in gladness, happiness and real joy; and the

wine will be that of peace, spirituality and health. The rewards of a

good life represented by these symbolic wages will apply to both the

members and the lodge.


It is not a Masonic "secret" that harmony is an essential ingredient

in a successful lodge. By working together in harmony, putting into

practice our tenets, and keeping the members informed and usefully

"employed," membership retention will not be a target for the

"Prophets of Doom."