This paper is designed to be read out in open Lodge to give a brief explanation of the Masonic Mentoring programme, its background, current activities and future developments.
Brethren, let me ask you a simple question. Where does the future of Freemasonry lie?
“Ah, that’s easy” I hear you say, “it’s in the hands of the younger Masons.”
But in whose hands are they? Who is shaping those that will shape the future of the Order?
As I look around this room I can see that it is filled with a great deal of Masonic experience, experience that is held by those with a love and a passion for their Freemasonry.
We must harness this knowledge and hand it onto the next generation.
To this end the Province has launched a programme of ‘Masonic Mentoring’ as an extension to our “Caring for our Brethren”.
We will provide Masonic Personal Mentors with a structured training and support programme to enable them to stimulate engage and develop Newer Masons to take a thriving Freemasonry well into this new Century.
This paper is designed to provide a short overview of the subject; its background, current progress and future developments.
What Is Masonic Mentoring?
Mentoring is a process where an individual can pass on his Masonic knowledge and experience to a less experienced brother. Mentoring is widely used in the business world as part of a person’s career development, and what we are trying to do is to map that process into our Masonic lives.
Think back to when you first came into Masonry and you will realise that entering Freemasonry can be a daunting and, often, overwhelming time. The very nature of our organisation often leads to men joining us with little, or even no, idea of what it fully entails and what they can gain from membership. A Personal Mentor should be there to help during these formative and crucial years.
But, I hear you thinking, that is the job of the Proposer or Seconder. At this point I must stress that a Masonic Personal Mentor in no way takes the place of a Proposer or Seconder, but is there to provide support and guidance in ways which I will explain later.
Why do we need it?
It is a sad fact that recent years have seen a steady decline in the number of Freemasons within the United Kingdom. That is not all, two further worrying trends compound the situation. Many of our newer brethren leave within the first 5 years of their Masonic life and the number of active masons in each lodge is often declining.
It is this situation that has prompted our Province to implement the Mentoring programme. It has the full support of the Provincial Grand Master and is seen as an integral part of the development of Freemasonry in this Province.
What’s happening in the Province?
A Programme has been designed and implemented to create Masonic Personal Mentors in Lodges to help them with the retention and engagement of our newer brethren. This was launched in (month and year) at a Mentoring Workshop held in (location), and it is hoped that these will become regular events.
At these workshops, the role of the Lodge and Personal Mentor is explained and discussed and those attending are given a pack with useful information on how to carry out their duties.
What does a Personal Mentor do?
The role of a Personal Mentor is to ensure that a new brother becomes engaged, included and cared for and is educated in respect of the ideas and aims of our Order.
By engaged we mean someone who is committed to their Freemasonry; regularly attends their Lodge and takes an active role in Lodge life. By comparison someone who is disengaged may be a Mason by right of membership, but not in tune with the aims of the Order, not regularly attending and certainly not trying to apply their Masonic learning to their everyday lives.
But isn’t that what the Proposer and Seconder are meant to do?
In an ideal world, the answer to this is YES but unfortunately this does not always mean that either the Proposer or Seconder is able to effectively act as Personal Mentor, for a number of reasons:
- The Proposer or Seconder may hold an office in the lodge and may not be able to spend quality time with their Candidate on a Lodge evening.
- The Proposer or Seconder may be relatively new to Freemasonry themselves and may not have the experience and knowledge required.
- A situation may arise where the Proposer or Seconder cannot attend a Lodge.
It is in such situations that a Personal Mentor is essential, to provide the Candidate with support, advice and above all, friendship in partnership with the proposer and seconder.
How do they do that?
The key to doing this is to take everything one step at a time. The Candidate has a great deal of information to assimilate and the Personal Mentor has a wealth of knowledge to impart. Controlling access is perhaps one of the most important tasks, for the process must be governed by the Candidate’s ability to digest the information and not by any wish on the part of the Personal Mentor to proceed quickly to the next stage.
It is therefore important to bring some structure to the programme and identify what the Candidate needs to know and when he needs to know it. This is perhaps best achieved by splitting the programme into four stages, namely
- What is expected of me? These are all the basic questions, such as: When do we meet? Who’s who? What are the fees that I owe? What’s a Warden etc?
- What do I have to do next? Once the basic ‘administrative’ side is dealt with, the next stage is to ensure an understanding of the relationship of the three Degrees and the symbolic meaning of each as he completes them in turn. It is only with a full understanding of our ceremonies and their meanings that a new brother will realise the essence of Masonry. Without this, he will never become fully engaged in the Craft and it will be impossible for him to maintain further interest.
- Do I belong? This is when the question arises “Now that I understand it, do I fit in, is it for me?” The answer to this can only be ‘yes’, if the first two stages have been completed. This is when the Personal Mentor asks if the Candidate wishes to be involved in performing part of the Ceremony and ensures that he is fully immersed in the social activities of the Lodge.
- How can I advance? At this stage we have a brother who is enjoying his Freemasonry, has struck a happy balance with his home/work/Masonic life and wishes to progress further. Such progression could be ‘up the ladder’ towards Worshipful Master, or into an acting role such as Charity Steward or Treasurer. It is here that a Personal Mentor will guide his charge along a sure path, guiding him in the right direction and providing support and encouragement whenever required.