Why It’s Time to Eliminate Education from Your Lodge’s Stated Meetings

by | Feb 21, 2017

Last year in the Masons Lead Better Workshop “The Masonic Leader’s Trestle Board” we asked the Brothers to express their thoughts on what might constitute a “perfect lodge” and a “perfect lodge meeting.”

In the various workshops, lodge education was identified as an important basic purpose of a lodge and an essential element of a lodge meeting. However, during the dialogue, it was discovered that many lodge meetings had little or no education or, if they did, it was a short and sometimes boring presentation.

When the thought was expressed that the entire purpose of a lodge meeting was to impart knowledge, some Brothers stated they would have a problem implementing an educational based, stated meeting agenda in their lodge.

The prevailing thought seems to be is that education is an agenda item rather than what it should be; an ongoing, planned process to accomplish the purpose of a lodge. That purpose, simply stated, is to make Masons.

So rather than struggle trying to change a lodge’s ingrained stated meeting culture, why not take the education item off the agenda altogether and create a true lodge educational system regularly conducted in a separate meeting designed for that purpose.

A Proposed Educational Meeting Model – The meeting would be a called special meeting in the EA degree for the purpose of Masonic instructional education and/or further enlightenment. These education elements would be defined as follows:

Masonic instructional education

  • The progressive study of the ritual and degree lessons with emphasis on their practical application.
  • The study and dialogue of selected Masonic texts and publications.

Further enlightenment

  • General dialogues on moral, educational or personal enrichment topics.
  • Other topics as determined to be valuable by the participating Brothers.

Other elements of the meeting model:

  • The meeting will be opened and closed in a dignified and solemn manner.
  • Brothers will be dressed in a manner that reflects the importance of the meeting.
  • Pre and post gathering for general fellowship should be a part of the process if practical.
  • There should be an opportunity for men who are interested in Masonry to participate either in a pre or post meeting gathering or when the lodge is at refreshment and the subject matter permits their inclusion.
  • Education will be facilitated by Brothers who have demonstrated a knowledge of the subject matter to be presented.
  • Proper planning and consistent execution is required

This is not something that should be done on the spur of the moment but should be given careful and thorough thought.

Here are some key steps:

  • Begin with a core group of Brothers who believe in the concept and are willing to organize and develop the programming.
  • Meet and outline the topics to be covered. Consider using the ritual first and logically follow the degrees by selecting tools or lessons from each degree.
  • Once the topics are determined, select the most qualified Brother to prepare for each topic. Remember these topics shouldn’t be lectures but structured in a manner that allows for participation from the Brothers.
  • Schedule a series of meetings – call special meetings for a least six months. It will take time for this to become an expected part of your lodge and gather a following.
  • Design the format of the education meeting. Here are some suggestions:
    a. Pre- meeting fellowship – could be dinner at a local restaurant or just informal discussion at the lodge before opening the formal meeting.
    b. Opening of Lodge – make this special so that you are creating an atmosphere of something distinct and important. Consider dimming the lights, adding music and allow for a period of silence.
    c. Topic and dialogue – Again, this is not to be a lecture but a participatory exercise of education. Find Brothers who are knowledgeable and able to facilitate. Reach out to Brothers from other lodges if needed.
    d. Closing of Lodge – as with the opening, make this solemn and distinct.
    e. Post-meeting – an informal gathering may or may not become a part of evening.

All Brothers of the lodge should understand the meeting’s purpose is to use Masonry as a means to improve themselves. Everyone will be welcome to participate but with the understanding that it is anticipated that individual study outside the lodge is encouraged and sometimes may be necessary.

Even though many lodges have expanded their educational effort in stated meetings, the education element is sometimes being over-shadowed by the business of managing the lodge. Giving Masonic education its own night may just solve this problem. What do you think?

Have a Great Masonic Day!

16 Comments

  1. Gerald Garrison

    I am in charge of the education portion of our stated meetings so the title of this post really threw me off. But it made me think that maybe I could implement something like this for our lodge. It can be a little tough to put together a presentation that fits within a 10-15 minute window because I know the brethren want to tend to business and get out in a timely manner. So It already feels like the education is the least important aspect of the meeting. Something that has to be done. I want it to have meaning and feel like other guys feel the same way. This could be a good approach for us. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Mike Clevenger

      Brother Gerald, thanks for your comments. You are so right that when business is the main reason for meeting, education the lowest of priorities. I hope your lodge gives this a try, and if you do, let me know the result. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of assistance in any way. Email me: mike@masonsleadbetter.com

      Reply
      • Alex

        You got to be really ignorant to state that education is the lowest priority. To men who share your thoughts u ask why not join the Elks or the Lions?

        Reply
        • Mike Clevenger

          The point I was making was education should be the highest priority and if it being over shadowed by other agenda items, give education its own special meeting.

          Reply
  2. Eric Kletrovetz

    Brother Clevenger, I think this is a wonderful idea. Masonry needs a more profound and dynamic impact on the craft. Learning lectures seems to be a weakness of masonry generally speaking. We should understand the words and work we are presenting to new candidates/brothers. Our knowledge is ever changing and our growth through the early 1950’s might have been our biggest mistake from and educational and growth perspective. It appears to me that the growth of lodges during this golden period focused more on the process of getting candidates through the degrees than what we were actually trying to accomplish in this era. I am about to propose to our lodge that each candidate present to the lodge (in the meeting following their degree work) their interpretation or message they received from the degree work. This will allow instant feedback to the officers on the quality of the work and reflection on improvements. The message of the work, in my opinion , is the most important role we undertake.

    Reply
    • Mike Clevenger

      Brother Eric, thanks for your comments.I certainly like the idea of having each candidate reflect upon the degrees and present their thoughts in lodge. Let me know how your proposal is received and if I can help in any way. Just email me. mike@masonsleadbetter.com

      Reply
  3. Dave Olmstead

    While I agree with part of the core premise- we must have better Masonic education within Masonry- I think you’re over simplifying the concept by suggesting just have another meeting. At J. B. Covert #437 we have adopted a more streamlined approach to our meeting agenda which has given us 20-30 minutes for education and we still get out by 8:30 pm.
    Our 2017 education plan includes the following topics:
    DISC- Personality study and how committees work
    EA Lessons- Challenge- track your application of these lessons
    EA Applications- discussion
    FC Lessons- Challenge- track your application of these lessons
    FC Applications- discussion
    MM Lessons- Challenge- track your application of these lessons
    MM Applications- discussion
    Generational Theory
    Masons and the Movies
    Our goal was to increase the value of investing time away from family. Time is one of the most valuable resources a member can give a lodge and we need to eliminate extraneous meetings and time wasters.
    An active lodge needs to make sure it is not over burdening its officers. To add another meeting in full form ritual seems counterintuitive. I also question why your model even has the statement- “Brothers will be dressed in a manner that reflects the importance of the meeting.” We find that for stated meetings we get a higher level of participation from members under 65 when they’re encouraged to come wearing what they wear to work. On a degree night, every officer is in his suit and looking sharp, most of our members don’t wear suits to work. To have to go home from work and change or take a suit with them to work and change is a barrier to involvement. I seem to remember a line that says, “the internal and not the external qualifications of a man are what Masonry regards.”

    We are also taking the approach of intentional relationship building. We are actively working to build stronger fraternal bonds with each member of the lodge, thereby deepening their level of commitment to each other and ultimately Masonry. We are simply trying to “do life” together. Whether it’s brothers going to lunch and talking about raising kids or issues at work, going to rifle range together, or working on a project at someone’s house we are investing time with each other outside of a tyled lodge.

    I have said for years- “you can spend a year sleeping in the garage and it will not make you a car- just as you can go to every meeting on a Masonic calendar and unless you allow the lessons and the commitments of your obligations into your heart it will not make you a better man, husband, father, or Mason.”

    A meeting does not create personal change. Consider the more detailed version of this statement in my January Message From the East: http://jbcovertlodge.com/2016/12/lifes-working-tools-yesterday-today-and-tomorrow-part-one-that-pesky-24-inch-gauge-and-24-hours-in-a-day-correlation/

    Reply
    • Mike Clevenger

      Thank you so much for your comments Brother Olmstead! Your lodge is to be commended for providing the proper focus on education and setting a goal to provide value when a brother attends lodge. This post has generated quite a bit of discussion and I anticipate a follow-up post. With your permission I would like to include some of your thoughts when I write the follow up. You questioned why the need for ritual in the meeting format and also why the comment about dress. Both of these comments are based on my belief that for the fraternity to, as the ritual says, “distinguish ourselves from the rest of the community,” our meetings should be a special event. For me, that includes dressing up and hearing the ritual to remind me of my obligations and the lessons of the degrees. Dressing in coat and tie has always been the culture of my lodge so it seems natural to me. Thanks again for sharing your opinions and your lodge’s successes.

      Reply
  4. Harold Greenman

    Rather than change….Change is exactly what Masonry needs. Moving forward keeps us relevant in an ever changing world. Giving up is the most anti-Masonic attitude I have ever hesrd. Shame on whoever suggested that.

    Reply
  5. Jose Amaya

    I will be sitting in the East next year and I’ve been thinking on having a night of just education, your perspective brother Mike is well taking by me and I would like to have a set of scheduled through my year already set. Will this be smart thing to do?

    Reply
    • Mike Clevenger

      Brother Jose, if you believe the lodge brothers would be receptive to the idea I would try it. You might consider asking your brothers if they have suggestions for topics. If you need some suggestions just email me. mike@masonsleadbetter.com

      Reply
  6. Lucan

    Brother Clevenger, I think this is a wonderful idea. Masonry needs a more profound and dynamic impact on the craft. Learning lectures seems to be a weakness of masonry generally speaking. We should understand the words and work we are presenting to new candidates/brothers. When we studied it enhanced our abilities to learn more and help each other to be strong thank for your inspiration.

    Reply
  7. Alex

    I highly disagree with this article. Let this article serve as an epitome to the fallacy in ‘modern’ Masonry. When a brother first knocked on Masonrys door he stated that he was in darkness and that he desired light… It’s that simple. But I’ll add if one were to take a snap shot of ‘modern’Masonry it would be described as men who desire a chair, tittle, and or some other type of *material recognition. These same men will go to the Scottish Rite and walk with their head held high as if some special knowledge was imparted on them. I have yet to have a conversation with any member of the appended bodies which I would describe enlighten including the so called sacred 33rds. To fix Masonry we need to make it more clear that theres nothing higher than the MM degree. Do away with these material tittles. As an LEO I pride myself in the fact that I present unique PowerPoint presentations and that men who have been around longer than I have state that they found my presentation enlightening. So let’s all hit the books, study hard and expect education, not minutes, to be the cornerstone to all Lodge meetings. Let’s demand more and have more respect for our LEOS.

    Reply
  8. Ben Rosenfield

    Education is the cornerstone of the stated meetings of Alembic Lodge No. 793, where we consider it a key to a complete Masonic experience. We handle most of our administrative business electronically, which allows us to spend maybe two of three minutes in lodge approving minutes and financial reports and to instead focus on Masonry.

    Some of the topics we addressed in educational presentations last year: Emotional Intelligence (including a self-evaluation exercise), Memento Mori and Vanitas Still-Life Paintings, Interpretation of the Second Section of the MM Degree, Masonic Symbols: The Three Steps, Acquaintance Cards, Psalm 133, John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, and Other Lodges Numbered 793.

    Reply
    • Mike Clevenger

      Excellent! Thank you Brother Rosenfield.

      Reply

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