We are back from Grand Lodge! So I'll share how it went, what we learned, our favorite part of the weekend, and how we can better prepare ourselves for next year.
If you're already a subscriber to our YouTube Channel, then you saw that I posted a video before we left asking for suggestions on how we can prepare, but unfortunately it didn't get any responses. When I asked guys locally who had been there before how we should prepare, and they ALL suggested we just take it all in and enjoy it, which is great advice, but it's not a plan.
So we came up with our own game plan, and learned a TON of do's and don'ts when we got there. Hopefully this will help YOU better prepare for your next Grand Lodge meeting.
A Big Announcement:
I'll start with a really exciting piece of news, which personally, was a huge thrill and I feel very fortunate and grateful to have been appointed to the Grand Lodge State Education Committee. To get to talk Masonry with the amazing list the brothers who are on that committee and to see my name, Paul Cameron, up on the same screen with them, was really exciting. I'm just very grateful to be a part of it and really looking forward to working with them. As we continue to correspond with brothers around the world through this SuccessfulMasons.com project, I think I'll be able to contribute some great ideas directly to Grand Lodge. For those who have already connected with me, let's keep talking, and for those who haven't , send me an email and let's talk!
Each lodge needs to send 3 officers to take part in the voting, so it was me as the Junior Warden, Rich Stark, our Senior Warden, and unfortunately the current Master of our lodge had work obligations that he couldn't avoid, so going to vote on his behalf was Shawn Johnson who is currently our Tyler, but he was Master of our lodge for the last 2 years, so he certainly knew his way around down there and is very experienced as you will soon learn. Rich and I on the other hand were first timers, and really had no idea what to expect or what we were doing there.
What we learned:
Without much direction before going, we inevitably made some huge mistakes right from the first minute we arrived.
Lesson one, make your reservations early! Our lodge is typically dark until the 2nd Tuesday in September, which this year was September 12th, and that's when the Grand Lodge communication was read aloud during the communications part of our meeting, when we learned we need to have our rooms booked by September 6th at the latest. Needless to say, we didn't get that done.
I got lucky and got a room about a half mile from the convention center where the meeting was being held, but Rich and Shawn ended up about 6 miles away in different hotels. Fortunately Rich had someone to drive him to and from the event, but Shawn had to deal with finding a place to park, feeding the meters, and ended up with a parking ticket. So, not the best start.
Next, as you grand lodge veterans already know, you have to bring your own apron and the jewel of your office with you, BUT, if you don't have a carrying case or a bag with you, then you have to roll them up and tuck them under your arm to carry with you, which is awkward. When you're a half mile away on a very windy and rainy weekend, that's not fun. So bring a bag.
Since Rich and I had never been before, we didn't know the dress code. What are the chances we'll have to be sitting at an all-day event in a suit and tie? Well, turns out the chances were pretty good. The advice Rich wanted me to share with you was to wear a suit! Yes, there are some lodges that are casual all the time, and they were there in jeans, but if you're not sure, make sure everyone from your lodge is on the same page with the dress code, unfortunately we didn't do that ahead of time.
Our Game Plan:
We figured the one thing we really needed to learn was how to raise funds for our lodge. So, the 3 of us were asking everyone we could how their lodge raises funds for their own lodge, not for charities, but for themselves because we are just trying to live off the dues coming in and it's just not enough to meet our bills.
Literally every single person we asked said that their lodge lives off their investments! Apparently they all have a big account somewhere and they've invested it really well. That's great, but not helpful because we don't have that at Wheaton Lodge. So if YOU have any suggestions to create some real, sustainable income, beyond just pancake breakfasts or renting out your lodge space, which we're trying to do, we would really appreciate your suggestions.
As you could guess, there are a bunch of vendors there selling Masonic stuff like pins, hats, ties, and bags (which I did get a bag while I was there by the way). While Rich and I were walking around dazzled by all the stuff, Shawn, the more experienced one of the bunch, was walking around with his thinking cap on.
He noticed that in addition to just the 25 year and 50 year Mason pins, they also had 5 year and 10 year Mason pins. He realized that we could get a bunch of these mail them out to our guys. Since we've been looking for ways to reach out to our recent members who have gone inactive on us, sending them a 5 year pin or a 10 year pin when it's appropriate might encourage them to connect with us again. So it's always good to have a guy with you who doesn't get distracted by all the shiny objects! Thank you Shawn.
Experience would have helped us to know about the social gatherings going on in the evenings. If you're invited to an event giving away free snacks and drinks, it's probably from an appendant body who will probably show you all the benefits of joining their group!
As you might guess, based on the grand lodge experience of the members of our group, Rich and I are now members of the Grotto, and Shawn is not. But, I will say that it's a great group of guys and they do support a very good cause, so the reasons not to join weren't very compelling, so we have no regrets there, but I just wanted to let you know so you know what's coming if find yourself at one of those events.
A Blue Lodge Must-Do:
One of the most important takeaways we learned was something I learned a lot of lodges already do, but Wheaton Lodge has not done in recent memory, is that they hold a meeting before Grand Lodge to go over all the amendments that are going to be proposed to get the opinion of their lodge members on how they should cast their votes. Maybe they'll just say to vote your consciences, but maybe they'll have a strong feeling one way or other and you'll know how to vote. Going forward, I can tell you for sure that Wheaton Lodge will have a conversation about the amendments before anybody goes down there to cast a vote.
Our Favorite Part:
It was really great experience to be a part of that voting process, but for all 3 of us, our favorite part of the weekend was getting together with so many Masons from so many other lodges. There were close to 1,200 Masons there, you couldn't walk anywhere in that town without running into a mason, it was amazing.
For me personally, I just loved getting to sit down and talk with guys who I kind of knew, but not really. These are people I've seen from time to time at different lodges if I'm helping out with degree work or something, but I don't really know them. Saturday night for example, I sat down with a brother I'd seen around at the school of instruction occasionally, but I was able to sit down and talk with him and his wife at length and really feel like I got to know them. That was one of the highlights of my weekend. James if you're seeing this, I really appreciated that conversation.
I know Rich and Shawn had similar experiences. Rich was even saying that next year, we should really try to encourage our Deacons to come too so they can not only get the experience we were lacking before we went there for the first time as officers, but also to experience the fellowship of being around that many Masons, and getting to know them, because it creates extra enthusiasm about Masonry which is something I think every lodge could benefit from.
So now we have a good checklist to work from to prepare for Grand Lodge meetings for next year, and in fact, we've created a downloadable checklist you can work from to help you prepare for your next Grand Lodge meeting which we have available in our Private Blog, which is the fundraiser idea for our lodge since we DON'T have a bunch of investments we're living off of like it seems everyone else does.
Plus, we have a bunch of helpful tools in there for you and we're actively compiling a best practices blog in there with ideas from lodges from all over the world, literally, on how they bring in new members, how they retain their current members, how they re-engage inactive members, even how they run their business meetings better. So if you like what we're doing here and you want that extra information for yourself, if you haven't done so already, we hope you'll consider subscribing to that blog.