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Masonic Mentoring

Sunday, 19 April 2009
James Bartlett Explains What It Is All About 

Masonic mentoring has been with us for many years in various guises and yet Grand Lodge records show that we are still losing one in four of our initiates within the first five years of membership. Somewhere something has failed.

A brother who was questioned why he had put in his resignation within just two years of joining gave this reply:
‘I didn’t really know what I was joining, but I knew that my Proposer was a decent and honourable man and he always spoke so highly of Freemasonry. My first night was overwhelming and I’m still not sure what it was all about. I remember everybody was very friendly, so much so that I was struggling to remember everybody’s name. My Proposer was an active officer in the lodge, but he made sure he had plenty of time to look after me that night.’ 
‘Everybody was asking what I thought of it all and a few said that it would make more sense if I quickly visited another lodge in the area, so that I could watch the ceremony from the sidelines. My Proposer said that this was a great idea and he would give me a ring to arrange it. Well, everyone was busy and I never managed to visit before the next meeting. The next meeting was a little confusing, as I was asked to leave quite soon in the ceremony and I had to sit in the dining room. I had a good chat with the Stewards (and a pint!), but before I knew it everyone was leaving the Lodge room and it was time for the meal.’ 
‘As I said, my Proposer was an active officer and he was really busy that night so I had to spend the rest of the evening with people I didn’t know. They were very nice but I felt as if I couldn’t really ask them the questions I wanted to, maybe I didn’t even know which questions to ask. My wife and grown up children showed interest at first, but when I couldn’t answer their questions their interest soon waned.’ 
‘I’m afraid the rest of my short masonic career was a bit like that, as I never got to do much visiting and I went through all my degrees without really understanding any of them. As soon as I had reached my Third Degree, someone asked if I wanted to join something called the Chapter. It was at this point I stopped and asked myself what I was doing. I was in something that I didn’t really understand, nobody had the time to tell me what was going on and I was being asked to get involved further.’ 
‘That was when I decided to leave. I’m in business and when my company takes people on, we make sure that they are looked after until they know their way.’

You may think this statement a little contrived, but it is a true story. Fortunately, the Brother concerned was persuaded to hold his decision and, with a little support and encouragement, he is currently an active officer himself. Furthermore, he has now proposed his son as a candidate. 
This letter and comment are taken from a case study in the ‘Mentoring Toolkit’ CD a copy of which has been sent to every Province and the contents will soon be available to every Lodge over the internet.

Mentoring In England

In his Address to Grand Lodge in April 2008 the Grand Master talked about the work of the Rulers’ Forum on mentoring and the presentation by the Working Party made to Grand Lodge in March. The full text of the Presentation is set out in the Report of the Proceedings of the March Quarterly Communication. We found that many Provinces and Lodges had very effective mentoring schemes in place, but that this was not universal. 
The dictionary describes a mentor as ‘an inexperienced person’s guide’. The idea of giving a new member of staff a ‘buddy’ to show them the ropes is a well established practiced in business and it is rare these days for there not to be an Induction Course to explain the systems and procedures as well. 
Many people have thought of mentoring just as an educational process. But really it is not, it is also about the pastoral care of our members. 
I first learnt about masonic mentoring in 1994 when I was very concerned that my mother lodge had had very few initiates for a number of years and even our joining members were drifting away. There was very little information available in English Freemasonry, but I found a rich seam of information through the Masonic Service Association of North America who were marvellous and gave freely of their knowledge and advice. I set about adapting their system to the needs of my lodge and now some fourteen years later we have fifty-four enthusiastic members and a waiting list to join. 
All this did not happen overnight in fact in 2000 I wondered how long the lodge would last in the new millennium. Fortunately some of the ‘mentees’ were approaching the Chair and they together with some joining members took up the challenge and I am now confident that the lodge will be a beacon of masonry into the future. 
I tell this story to show that mentoring is not just a good idea it really works and it is working in hundreds of lodges across the country. 

Mentoring Coordinators

The Rulers’ Forum Working Party recommended that each Lodge appoint a mentoring co-ordinator and that each Province should appoint a Provincial Mentoring Co-ordinator following the example already set in a number of Provinces. It went even further to request that they be given an official rank and Jewel. One Province has adopted the title of ‘Lodge Membership Steward’ and ‘Provincial Membership Steward’, the remit is wider than just mentoring and includes organising White Table evenings, liaising with the Provincial Orator and facilitating discussions and workshops. 
You do not have to wait for your lodge or Province to adopt a mentoring scheme all you have to do is to make a new member feel welcome and ensure that he is not left on his own in lodge, or at the Festive Board or most especially if he leaves the Lodge Room during a ceremony in a higher degree and help him to understand what Freemasonry is all about. In my own Province if a brother is seen to leave the lodge by himself during a higher degree ceremony a Grand or Provincial Officer - having ascertained that no provision has been made to look after him - is expected to do so himself. lodge members soon get the message that every brother is worthy of our care and such neglect does not happen again! 
The future of Freemasonry really is in our hands – make sure our brethren know they are important all of the time and not only on the night of their initiation.

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