The West Gate

There is a lot of talk out there about how our numbers are dwindling and we need to get more members. We've gone from "2B1Ask1" to "Want2B1?"

I've seen on many occasions where a prospective member will show up to dinner for the first time, talk with one or two brothers, and then he's handed a petition! Our DEO and fellow Grand Lodge Education Committee Member, Brother RJ Budler of Lombard Lodge 1098, gave a presentation at our lodge recently which included an excellent quote, "Those who join without much consideration, will often quit without much consideration."

I agree that we should find ways to increase our numbers, but ONLY with men who are sincerely interested and who meet our criteria for joining. Those are qualities that cannot be determined in one meeting, and if I've learned anything from my position as a job search coach, it is that you can't give people advice if they don't ask for it.

Well, you can, but very rarely is it received well. On literally dozens of occasions I've attempted to explain to people that typos on their resume will hurt their chances of landing a job, but I'm consistently met with, "Listen, I'm not an English major, I'm a [job title], so back off!" Then 6 months later they sign up for my job search coaching program because they are still trying to find a job.

In the same way, offering someone an opportunity to "become a better man" when they already think they are a great man won't be effective. I think that's why the very wise brothers who started this fraternity set it up the way they did. If someone is going to join, they need to ask us.

How can we grow if we are forced to wait until they ask?

Easy. We live our lives in a way that others will gravitate to and want to emulate. When they see that it's because of Masonry, they will ask.

If you don't think that will work, or you say, "I've been living a life of integrity for years and my lodge is still hurting for members", then try this:

The next time someone makes a comment to you admiring a character trait such as, "I really respect the way you handled that situation..." (btw, if you're not occasionally hearing comments like that, perhaps this is an opportunity to improve.) Respond to them with a story of how Masonry helped you to develop that trait. "Thank you, I learned that from a brother at my Masonic lodge when he was..."

Just be sure you do NOT finish the story with, "so you should join too!" and pitch them on Masonry. Instead just close your story with a satisfying, "That's one of the things I love about Masonry" and then move on to another subject. If he's interested, he'll start asking questions.

If we want to grow our numbers, we'll need to intentionally create interest in the craft. By "create interest", I don't mean push it onto people, or sell it, advertise, beg, and offer deals. This isn't about trying to talk someone into something, it's about creating circumstances that allow them to make an informed decision about what our fraternity is really all about.

2 Concepts to Create Interest

1, To get people interested in you, you must show interest in them. One of the best sales trainers who ever lived, the late Zig Ziglar, once said, "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get people interested in you."

The first step is to show sincere interest in other people instead of just trying to promote your agenda. If someone joins you for dinner before a meeting, instead of trying to sell them on how great the fraternity is, spend that time learning more about them. Ask them questions about their job, their hobbies, and their interests to get to know them and to find common ground.

2, There is an old saying that goes, "If you run at a dog, it will run from you, but if you run away from a dog, it will chase you." In my earlier example I recommended closing the conversation by simply stating why you love Masonry, and then change the subject. That was purposeful.

When you ask someone to buy, or join, or do something that's in YOUR interest, they will bristle and think, "eew, sales person, no thank you", but if you tell them about something you have that is really cool and how an area of your life (which they can identify with) is now better because you have it, then they'll ask about it if they are interested in seeing improvement in that area of their own lives.

When you know you have something that will sincerely help someone, it's something they truly need in their lives, but they might not yet understand why they need it (like removing the typos from a resume for example), then it's worth presenting in a way that allow them to see what it really is, to ask questions meaningful to them, and to form their own opinions.

There's too much misinformation out there which leads to men joining for the wrong reasons, and they get disappointed when they find out that movies and books like, National Treasure, or the Dan Brown stories were fiction. However, for those of us who have experienced it, we know that the real treasure of Masonry is far bigger and better than any movie has ever been able to describe.

Guard the West Gate

I'll leave you with one last, critical thought to help reiterate my first point about how increasing our numbers is important, but ONLY with men who are sincerely interested and who meet our criteria for joining.

A few weeks ago I attended a Grand Lodge Masonic Education Committee retreat in Champaign, IL and had a conversation with another member, RW Brother Chad Lacek, who shared an alarming story with me.

He explained that years ago he was on a vacation in Florida with a friend and on their first day they ran into someone at a function who he discovered was a Mason. Within 7 minutes of learning Chad was a Mason and not from the area, this brother invited Chad to cancel his hotel reservation and stay with him. Chad already had accommodations, so he thanked the brother and politely declined. Later in the week as they got to know each other more Chad learned that this brother had a wife, and two young children.

The first thought might be that this is a very nice brother who was willing to inconvenience his family to take in a traveling brother whom he didn't know very well, or at all really, but that wasn't the message Chad took from this meeting.

He reiterated to me that he had only known this brother for 7 minutes when the invitation was made, and that he had a family with young children. What if it wasn't Chad there that day? What if it was a brother who was talked into joining and was someone who wasn't of the character we require to be a Mason? What could have happened in that brother's home and to his family?

The next time a prospective member joins you for dinner before a meeting, please remember Chad's experience. When asking questions to get to know them and show your interest in them, really listen to them. Before handing them a petition, ask yourself if you would be comfortable bearing the responsibility of opening the doors to that Florida brother's home and family to this man who sits before you.

That blank petition in your hand represents the keys to his home, and to many other homes just like his around the world. Let's live our lives in a way that attracts good men to our West Gate, but let's also think very carefully before opening it.

Written by:
Brother Paul Cameron
Junior Warden, Wheaton Lodge 269
Grand Lodge Masonic Education Committee Member
Originally posted on

Written with full permission of everyone named in this article.