Meetings, meetings and more meetings, is that all I have to do as Master?
Assembling your officers and members, soliciting their input and judgment in a properly managed meeting is a primary function of the Master. There is no question that your effectiveness in the East will be greatly enhanced if you manage your meetings properly. Conversely, your Lodge will suffer if you fail to execute this important element of your leadership responsibility.
Many types of meetings will be held. Some will be small, with individuals or committees and some will be large to include Stated Meetings and Degrees. The important principles of managing meetings remain the same. Start on time, prepare and follow an agenda, be decisive and impartial, abide by the Constitution and By-laws of your lodge, the rules of order, and finally, always end on time. A properly planned and executed meeting results in good participation. A poor meeting achieves the opposite results. For the purpose of this discussion, meetings are divided into three categories: stated meetings, degree meetings and committee meetings.
A. STATED MEETINGS
The primary forum by which the business of Freemasonry is conducted in your Lodge is the stated meeting. You may make decisions, committees may meet and agree on specific issues,
but nothing is firmly resolved until it has been brought before and voted upon by the brethren at a Stated Meeting. Then and only then can these decisions be considered the policy and practice of the Lodge. An astute Master will realize the limits of his authority and seek approval, by a vote of the membership, prior to proceeding on any new policy and/or practice. Even if the issue is insignificant, the brethren will be offended if not consulted. Your Stated Meeting is of utmost importance. If you use it to your advantage, you will be successful.
1. The Stated Meeting As An Event
A simple line in the trestleboard Stated Meeting – Thursday, July 6, at 7:30 pm is totally inadequate to inspire the brethren to attend and participate. Each Stated Meeting should be promoted as an event not to be missed. Something important,
interesting and exciting are the ingredients for a good evening program. Plan and develop exciting evenings and then promote them extensively. You might consider appointing a chairman and small committee for each stated meeting. This will give others a sense of involvement and, if a junior officer is delegated, it will offer him some vital training and experience.
Start with a supper for the members, their families and even invited guests. A good meal at a reasonable price always attracts additional members. Follow up your supper with a program of activities, i.e., guest speakers, awards, etc. Always have some program that will attract the interest or encourage others to feel an obligation to attend. Everyone should feel that they should attend so that they will not miss out on something important.
Following your program, adjourn to the Lodge room, but provide for additional activities or programs for the ladies and guests that you have left behind.
2. Planning a Stated Meeting
Prior to every Stated Meeting, plan your agenda for the business that must be transacted.
Do not leave agenda planning to others such as the Secretary. Stated Meetings are your meetings and must be planned and executed by you alone with input from others. Delegating this responsibility allows others to dictate the priority of business and severely reduces your authority. YOU ARE THE BOSS.
Once the agenda has been developed, publish the highlights of the next meeting in the trestleboard to attract the interest of the brethren. Let them know what business is to be conducted, what decisions are going to be made and perhaps, they may find something of interest and attend. If there are a number if important items to be considered, place a stack of prepared agendas outside the lodge room for every member to take a copy for reference. Everyone can now be aware of the order of business and can become involved.
3. Start On Time and End on Time
The By-laws of your Lodge dictate the starting time for your Stated Meeting. The starting time is specific. A meeting should not commence either before or after the designated time. Meetings that start on time, end on time. Meetings that start late, either end late or the business is rushed and poorly transacted. If the meetings begin to start late, you can depend upon attendance declining. When the clock strikes the designated hour, the gavel must sound.
4. Stick To The Agenda
The order of business is clearly outlined in the Officers Manual – follow it. Conduct your business by the numbers, and you will find that decisions are made, time will remain for a lively informal time after the meeting. The brethren can then depart at a reasonable hour. A meeting that lasts approximately an hour should be sufficient to conduct your required business. Anything longer, on a routine basis, will result in declining participation.
The evenings of degrees are of vital importance to the success or failure of your Lodge.
The first impression that you and your Lodge make upon the candidate occurs during his initial exposure to the manner in which the degrees of Masonry are conferred. For the purposes of this publication, we have not dwelled upon ritual. However, you know in your heart the importance of properly executing our ritual to make that first impression positive and lasting. That lasting first impression can also be greatly enhanced by proficiently organizing, planning and executing the degree nights of your Lodge. The following are some helpful hints that can assist you in achieving successful degree nights:
The orientation of a candidate starts before he is initiated into our fraternity. A simple letter or conversation with him is not enough to provide him and his family with the necessary information on what is expected of him during the process of his becoming a full member of your Lodge. After the election and before his initiation, schedule a meeting with the candidate and his family to discuss exactly what is going to happen to him and what are the expectations of your Lodge.
He should be fully informed on the process, his proficiency requirements, and the proper conduct and dress expected within the Lodge. A candidate embarrassed over a trivial mistake is a candidate that may never return. After the initial meeting and the initiation ceremony, the candidates coach should be fully trained to continue the education of the new member. There is ample information available through the Grand Lodge assist you in this endeavor. USE IT.
2. Consistent Scheduling
Attending Lodge is a duty that must be ingrained into the membership. Consistency in the scheduling of the dates and times for your degrees is desirable if candidates are available, or at least a practice, on the days chosen,
if candidates are not available. If this is Thursday, there must be a degree, should be the scheduling system with every Lodge. Scheduling degrees on different nights and at different times will confuse the membership and result in less attendance. Establish a system and, except for unusual circumstances, stick with it. Always be consistent! Although it is not always possible in each Lodge, an example of such a system is as follows:
1st Thursday Stated Meeting 2nd Thursday 1st Degree 3rd Thursday 2nd Degree 4th Thursday 3rd Degree
If a certain degree is not scheduled for a particular month, leave the night vacant or schedule an additional practice. If a double degree, especially a third degree, is scheduled, utilize the vacant night. Keep with your schedule and your members will know what to expect.
3. Have Your Act Together
The number one order you must give to each officer concerning degree nights is that arrive they must notify you, in advance, if they will be unable to attend a specific degree. To at the Lodge, with the candidate standing by and not have a full complement of the required officers to properly confer the degree is inexcusable. To hurriedly scramble to assemble a degree team, immediately before a meeting, certainly puts doubts in a candidate’s mind as to the quality of your organization.
Every officer cannot be present at every degree. Recognize this fact of life and prepare for the inevitable. Maintain a list of the members of your Lodge who can properly perform the required ritual in specified stations. Call the day prior to each degree, make a list of the stations required for the specific degree and personally confirm with each individual that he will be present and ready to participate.
Your other officers should always be present and only notify you when they cannot. You need to keep a list of members who can do the parts in each degree. If a vacancy occurs,
fill from your list. Always accomplish this task well before arriving at the Lodge, never just before.
4. Greet Your New Brethren
Special care must be made to assure that the new candidate is personally greeted and introduced to each member in attendance. Delegate this task to one of your officers on a permanent basis. Your Head Candidates Coach may me a good selection for this assignment. The new candidate should feel that he is among brethren, not strangers.
5. Dont Forget The Family
The first degree evening also presents an excellent opportunity for the wife of the candidate to meet counterparts within the Masonic family which they are soon to join. Make this a full evening by scheduling, during the degree, a meeting at a home with all the ladies of your Lodge. After the degree, invite the brethren to the home so that they can also meet and socialize with the new candidate and his lady. They will be able to enjoy new friends and, most importantly, learn the practices and customs of your Lodge and its Masonic Family Try it – You will enjoy it and so will your new candidate and his lady.
6. Keep on Schedule
Degrees can be as short as the ritual requires or as long as you allow them to drag out.
The secret to successful degree nights is to (again) start on time. Secondly, make the required breaks in ritual short, but adequate, for the brethren to take a break and briefly socialize. Lastly, keep the comments at the conclusion of the meeting pertinent to the situation. Some comments are best left to the banquet room during refreshments. If you run an orderly and efficient degree meeting, the brethren will appreciate it and your attendance will reflect your efforts.
7. Have a Supper
Take the necessary time and make the necessary effort to make the refreshment time an enjoyable occasion. Poorly prepared refreshments and sloppy presentation in cluttered surroundings equal a negative impression on the new candidate and also with your membership. There is no excuse for poor refreshments. Your Junior Warden has the specific responsibility for this task. He should do his job. If he isnt, your job is to correct the situation. At a minimum, the following standards should be met:
a. The tables should be arranged in an orderly fashion, properly covered, set and ready for use.
b. Either the Stewards or the Refreshment Committee should be dismissed, prior to the closing of Lodge, so that refreshments are served and waiting on the table for the arrival and enjoyment of the brethren.
c. The Stewards or Refreshment Committee are standing by to serve the needs of those attending. They, themselves, should not be seated until all have been served and no further service is required.
d. Conduct a short program: introductions, comments, etc. Make it short and to the point so that the brethren may depart at an appropriate time.
8. Follow up Immediately
The degree night should never end until the candidate has been introduced to his coach and arrangements have been made for instruction in the candidates lecture. The assigned coach should be present at the degree and, before the evening is over, arrangements must be finally established as to the time and location of his first proficiency lesson. Start immediately and your chances of success are greatly enhanced.
The following are some helpful hints for planning and conducting your committee/officers meeting.
As you plan your term, preparation of a calendar of events for the entire year is mandatory to properly schedule and notify members of your activities. Prior to the beginning of your year, you have formed your committees, designated your chairmen and appointed officers. Now is the appropriate time to schedule the dates and times of the your meetings of each committee. It is certainly easier to cancel a pre-scheduled meeting than to hurriedly assemble the brethren for an unscheduled and unplanned meeting.
Some committees must meet frequently and others only on a periodic basis. Determine beforehand the frequency you wish each committee to meet and designate firm dates and times on your master schedule for the entire year. Notify each member of each committee,
in writing, to calendar the date, time and location of each scheduled meeting. Never forget that last minute scheduling will result in low attendance, little interest and a poor product. It is important that your committee meeting be first on a members calendar before other activities create a conflict.
Regrettably, some people forget, others lose their calendars and a few are able to manufacture the worlds greatest excuses why they did not attend a meeting. You may not be able to guarantee full attendance at these meetings, but you surely can increase your odds by utilizing the following system of reminders:
a. Publish your committee meetings in the trestleboard in sequence with your other Masonic events.
b. Routinely publish small articles in the trestleboard on the results of past meetings and items presently under discussion.
c. Order and supply each of your committee chairmen with a quantity of pre-printed post cards and stamps that allow them to fill in the blanks on committee meeting dates and times. Delegate to them the responsibility of mailing a card to each committee member at least two weeks prior to the scheduled meeting.
d. A follow up telephone call, by the committee chairman, the weekend prior to the meeting, will reinforce the importance of their participation. You have now done everything possible to insure full participation. If unsuccessful, your only other alternative is to replace those not attending with others who will. A committee member who does not attend is of no value to your ad ministration.
3. Committee Meeting Procedures
Committee meetings can be short, to the point and very productive if your committee chairmen follow a few easy rules. Hold a planning meeting with each committee chairman and discuss the manner in which all meetings will be held. Share with them the ideas following contained within this chapter and attempt to get everyone off on the right foot and the same format. Committee chairmen should, at a minimum, accomplish the following:
a. Be familiar with your goals and objectives for the committee. Meet with you a few days before the scheduled meeting and prepare an agenda of the work to be accomplished.
b. Arrive at least 45 minutes before the scheduled meeting time. Arrange the furniture,
distribute the agendas, plug in the coffee pot, set the table and be ready to greet the brethren and start your meeting. Do not consume the valuable time of the committee with extraneous nonsense or housekeeping arrangements.
c. Start on time. Waiting for stragglers will certainly agitate those who arrive on time.
The informal message that is being conveyed is that there is no need to arrive on time because meetings never start as scheduled. If delays are allowed to begin, they will compound themselves at future meetings.
d. Begin each meeting with a short overview of the agenda, what business you wish to transact and the goals you wish to achieve at the conclusion of the meeting.
e. Designate a Brother to take minutes and prepare final resolutions to be presented, when required, for consideration by the Lodge.
f. Stick to the agenda. Do not allow any side discussions to occur until all the planned business has been transacted.
g. Follow the established rules of order. (A brief discussion on Rules of Order can be found in Appendix A.)
h. If time has elapsed and business remains, then you have only three options schedule an additional meeting, hold the business over until the next scheduled meeting or extend the meeting for a specified time. If this occurs, (it shouldnt if you have done your job right) seek the will and pleasure of the committee and abide by their majority vote.