Recently, the Whence Came You podcast put out an episode called Selling Freemasonry, which was a discussion with Scott Dueball and Guide Sobecki about the marketing aspects of Freemasonry. The full audio of the original episode can be found here.
The contributors covered points and topics which included:
- Lack of agreement about what the mission or values of Freemasonry is; there is a “shotgun” type of approach where different groups express all of the different facets of the craft at once.
- Lacking a clear vision or message, it may not be possible to communicate clearly in a way that drives membership
- The apparent conflict between “Big Masonry” (i.e. structures put in place for mass membership peaks of the 1950s, multiple appendant bodies, and so on) and “blue lodge Masonry” which is small or local masonry
- Efforts to date, including both the ineffective programs such as 2B1ASK1, and more modern data-driven efforts including “Not Just a Man, a Mason“.
Visceral Reaction to Selling
We know that a lot of brothers have quite a negative reaction to the idea of “selling Freemasonry”. Candidates need to come to it of their own free will, and it definitely feels like it would cheapen things if the Craft were “sold” like a product. Selling may be the wrong word entirely, and may only get peoples’ hackles up.
No one I’ve run into is against simply sharing experiences with friends. In articles like “What it’s Like to Join the Freemasons“, members simply share what brought them to Freemasonry. A brother telling me about his experience was the very beginning for me too.
That article was notable to me because no one was selling anything; 3 brother were just being forthright about their personal experiences, like friends do.
Good members start with good friendships.
No matter how much a brother may dislike the idea of placing Freemasonry in the public consciousness, it is public communication that is important, not “talking people into joining”. This public communication is what is so often conflated with “selling”. The truth is that confusing messages are ineffective & off-putting messages. Trying to be understood correctly is not selling, it’s simply speaking truth to your community.
Tension of Big vs. Local Masonry
On a local level; you can be honest to your local friends & family. You can be a good member of your own community and let that be seen, and this is the most that the majority of members can or should do, in my opinion. There is nothing to be done to fix global messaging issues associated with Freemasonry, any more than a single worker bee can direct the operations of the hive.
On the state level, Masonry gets bigger, and leadership should pay careful attention to messaging clarity. At the state level, GL officers should strongly consider data driven initiatives to take careful notice. What has been tried? What were the results? I want a Grand Lodge imbued with ideas of continuous improvement over passive stewardship.
On the national level or larger – Freemasonry has no effective body that controls messages or can make positive improvements here. Yes, there are Scottish Rite Jurisdictions that are over 15 states or more, but they do not control blue lodges in any meaningful sense. The Craft’s best hope is for some jurisdiction to take steps, see success, and then use signaling leadership to encourage other jurisdictions to follow suit.
Stop Looking for “the Answer”, Start Iterative Improvement
What this amounts to is that the messaging problem isn’t going to get solved. The decentralized way that Freemasonry operates means that many jurisdictions will experiment independently, no matter what anyone thinks of it.
The choice is not whether we will do the right thing, the choice is whether we will put in place systems & practices to learn from what works, so that other brothers have a chance to replicate it.
- What’s It Like To Join the Freemasons? The Atlantic, 2019
- The Seven Kinds of Freemasons
- Not Just a Man, a Mason