A conference was recently held at grand lodge to bring together Masons interested in the idea of forming (or have formed) a group of brethren whom are new to Freemasonry and/or are young members.
Early impressions of the current situation indicated that these clubs are not common place, they are small in size and are poorly supported or publicised. Feedback from the audience showed that new and young Masons (not necessarily both) would like it to be easier to attend social events with other people, whether they are Masons or otherwise. It was discussed that having a group of like-minded people within a club type setting would make this much easier.
From this identified need, some Provinces have started up ‘New Masons Clubs’ in a variety of formats. The origins of the majority of these clubs (of those represented and spoke on the day) lay with only a couple of people getting together and then approaching their lodges/groups/Provinces, following which they started their club. On average it took around a year for these clubs to get up and running and involved a lot of effort from the founders. Once established they all required the approval of their Provinces and all found that they needed to formalise themselves. This was achieved in a similar way to running a lodge by appointing members to offices, including chairman, secretary and treasurer, agreeing a constitution or charter, creating a digital presence, (Facebook, twitter, mailshots) and creating a formal system of membership was seen as being important.
Most of the current clubs are quite young, i.e. less than 5 years old with only one or two being older. Some clubs charge fees, others do not. With regard to new and young members, each club chooses how it enforces this, some set age limits say 35 to 45 years, some do not, some set rank limits (light blues only), some do not. There is no standard format that all the clubs seemed to follow, each is unique and was set up through the needs of the founders and of their particular Province.
Overall the clubs present seemed to have been quite successful. Masonic non-Masonic, private, family, friends, and charity events had been organised. The way they decide which events are good is by trying them. Some of the events described were a big success others a big failure. Some clubs received huge amounts of support from their lodges/groups/Provinces which was a big help whereas others received a lot of resistance.
During the conference some benefits were perceived, one being the effect on improving membership retention. If members were to start to drift away through lack of engagement for whatever reason, the club environment could provide an avenue that can bring them back in and maintain their interest. Another benefit discussed was the emphasis on the new and young aspect. Whereas new Masons are more than happy to socialise with other brethren regardless of age, there is something more that can be gained from socialising with members of a similar age or experience.
At the end of the conference a lot of points were raised. One recommendation was that it may be a good idea for there to be an overarching committee meeting to assist all the clubs to share best practice and improve each others clubs. This could be attended by the chairman and secretary of each club. It would also be a central point where others could approach if they wanted to help set up new clubs in their own province.
It was felt that the Warrington group already do this to some extent, but is at a very early stage. The group mentors act as the central point and arrange social events. The reason this works well with the Warrington group is that the mentors put in a lot of their time to ensure that this happens. The current number of people they are in contact with is relatively small, around 18. The mentors are proactive and try to bring the newer and younger Masons together in an attempt to help them to integrate properly and to prevent them falling into the side lines or even leaving.