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SPOTLIGHT ON MENTORING
I guess that mentoring is a bit like Freemasonry itself; nobody is quite sure when it started. It must have been practiced since time immemorial. Surely we have been looking after our fellow man, teaching, coaching, advising, counselling etc for all time? So, it’s not new in its concept but perhaps our approach and awareness is. Suffice it to say, it is a very important part of how we manage and is here to stay.
A few years ago I got a call from the
Province asking me to produce a paper
on the subject of Masonic Mentoring
and this, I was pleased, honoured and
excited to do. I spent some time thinking
and looking at what was needed. I had
used mentoring in my work in the Prison
Service and although it had not been a
formal part of my remit, it was an entirely
necessary, very useful and effective
management tool which certainly
made life better, and indeed easier,
in managing both my staff and our charges. Not only does it produce better man-management but needs, at it’s core, a positive commitment to good quality communication between the experienced and the newer staff in order to provide and enhance their education and progress within the service.
So, taking into account all my positive experiences at work, the “Caring for Our Brethren” initiative introduced, in 2004 by the then Provincial Grand Master, Brian Bellinger, and the various studies commissioned by Grand Lodge, I set about producing the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Masonic Mentoring Paper we are now working to in the Province. My brief was to keep it simple; entirely appropriate as mentoring is not a complicated issue, just simply caring for and looking after one another.
When I had finished the paper and Province had approved it, The Revd. John Harvey was invited to act as Provincial Mentor and oversee mentoring. I had the privilege of being appointed as his Deputy and we started to get the message out to lodges via workshops around the Province.
John Harvey and I attended the first Grand Lodge-sponsored Mentoring Conference, opened by the then Pro Grand Master, The Lord Northampton, in February 2009. On that day we were left in no doubt just how important the mentoring initiative is and just how much of a push it was getting from Grand Lodge. Since then, this conference has become an annual event with regional meetings regularly held around the country which take forward the latest thinking from the centre and the ideas emanating from around the Provinces.
So, what is mentoring? The textbook says: mentoring is a fundamental form of human development where one person invests time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth and ability of another person. This all makes sense, so perhaps we can define masonic mentoring as: a learning process where a more experienced brother invests time, energy and masonic experience in assisting and caring for a brother so that he may enjoy his masonry to the full. However, what do we mean by the expression “to the full”? Well, not everybody wants the same from their masonry. The main thing is to ensure that our newer brethren are enjoying their masonry so much that they not only wish to stay but also wish to take an active part, and introduce new members.
Although a mentoring programme may be primarily aimed at new candidates and we often refer to newer brethren, it may also be used to encourage others, older members, past masters etc and those who have stopped attending. Whilst any mentoring scheme, by its very nature, must inevitably be tailored to the needs of the candidate, it is not only the candidate who will ultimately benefit. In the longer term, the lodge will also gain in terms of continuity and by ensuring
active younger men are available to pick up and carry the baton.
On the ground in our lodges, the Lodge Mentor is there to manage the initiative. He identifies and appoints the most appropriate personal mentor for each brother, taking all relevant facts into account such as his proposer and seconder, and the character and needs of the candidate. Thus the most important decision in the whole process is choosing the right mentor, most especially if the obvious choices of the proposer or seconder are unable to carry out the role. They could be in office or perhaps are not yet sufficiently experienced masonically, however they can still play an important part in caring for their candidate.
The role of Personal Mentor is the key position within the whole mentoring process. It is he who imparts his knowledge, spends time with the
candidate, and guides and supports him throughout his initial masonic journey. By helping him take the correct first crucial steps, he will be setting him on a path that will change his life, and the lives of those around him, for the better. His responsibilities are great, but his role should also be an easy and enjoyable one. Mentoring is not rocket science. It is simply a process of spending time with and caring for a candidate. He should expose him to information in a controlled manner; that is in small understandable chunks that he can easily digest, whilst making sure he starts to understand what is happening around him. Once he has the basic knowledge, the role will then morph from teacher to mentor. This may involve some elements of counselling, acting as a confidential advisor and being a role model. These are all things we have all done successfully many times before.
So we advocate a team consisting of the Lodge Mentor, Personal Mentor, proposer and seconder, plus others who are introduced as time passes such as the Charity Steward, Almoner, Visiting Officer etc, all of whom have knowledge and information to impart and will provide a comprehensive education to our candidates.
Now well established and regularised, I’m pleased to say that mentoring has been well received in Hampshire and Isle of Wight. The Group Mentors are providing training where needed and passing down useful information and guidance from Province and Grand Lodge.
The future of Freemasonry is, of course, in the hands of our newer members but in whose hands are they?
Mentoring will not only help them embark on a full and enjoyable career in the craft but also safeguard the future of our lodges and ultimately the fraternity.
Ken Young (Pictured) Connect with us through social media
@HANTSMASON #HIOWINSIGHT5
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