"Gateway Lodge No. 29 Oration" Gavin K. K. Wardrope, W. Grand Orator
Most Worshipful Grand Master, Most Worshipful Past Grand Masters, Right Worshipful Brothers, Worshipful Brothers and Brethren all, Good Evening.
Masonic mentoring has been with us for many years in various guises and yet how many Candidates do we lose in the first couple of years of Membership?
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 honorable 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.'
This was an actual letter sent by a Brother in England to his Lodge.
I would be grateful if you would allow me the indulgence of spending 5 minutes or so allowing me to talk about Mentoring.
You may ask why we need Mentoring when we already have a coach assigned to a Candidate.
A Coach teaches the Candidate to learn the Catechisms, which can eventually, through repetition be recited competently enough to be able to progress to the next Degree or to become a Member of the Lodge entitling him to all the benefits and privileges that it can offer.
I am talking about something more. We have to change our thinking. Times have changed and there are so many distractions that a Candidate, unless properly Mentored, will disappear as has so many before him.
So, what is a Mentoring program?
The purpose of a Mentoring Program is to ensure that every member enjoys being a Freemason, understands what it is about and becomes involved in his Lodge, both in the work and all its activities.
Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximize their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.
Eric Parsloe, The Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring
Under no circumstances does the Mentor replace the Coach, rather he complements him. Think about it, how many questions did you have that were not answered because of the time taken to learn the Ritual.
Remember when you first joined everything regarding Masonry was so unusual, you did not know where to sit and hopefully, you had a friend who would be able to tell you when to stand, sit and even explain that the comfortable seats belong to the WM and Wardens not you. The effective Mentor will be a Candidates sounding block. Allowing the Candidate to give his thoughts on Ritual, the running of a Meeting or why some people always seem to do all the talking without berating him or saying he is just plain wrong and does not get it. Encourage and nurture and being a good listener.
Mentoring is nothing new. You can swap the word 'Mentor' and replace it with 'Brother.' It simply requires you to do what you promised to do: be a true friend to all your Brethren. Listen when you need to and speak when actions are needed.
Take nothing for granted. Remember the obvious. Mentoring is nothing clever. It is about the simple things we forget to do and which we take for granted. A potential or new member does not know the questions, never mind the answers. Think how you felt and what you wanted to know. No question is too obvious. Just being there can be enough.
Make every Mason count. Mentoring is not for one member to sort out and do. It is a matter for every member to get involved with. If everybody takes the trouble to ask how brethren and their families are, ask where they are (if missing) and vitally, when they will be back, we might stop the problems before they take hold. Don't ignore the warning signs.
Make every Meeting count. There is absolutely no reason why any Lodge should be plain old boring, people want to enjoy themselves. An engaged Lodge is a successful Lodge. Make it fun. If it is not fun, then why are we doing it? If a member is no longer finding it enjoyable, we all have a responsibility to do something about it. If it is fun and enjoyable, people want to come back; if they come back they stay and if they stay, they might want to introduce a friend. And if everybody does a small part in the ritual, we all enjoy it.
Make it repeatable. If a meeting has gone well, don't take it for granted. Learn from what works and keep it going. Learn from what doesn't and avoid the same mistakes again.
Mentoring involves everybody. Each Lodge must have a Mentor, but they are there to coordinate what happens, not be everything to everybody. Each new member, be they an Initiate on Joining, should have somebody to look after them - a Personal Mentor.
That is ideally their Proposer or Seconder, but if not, it is the one with the Time, the Talent and the Temperament to do the job. Put simply, a Personal Mentor cares to care.
Mentoring is for everybody. Irrespective of age or seniority, we all need at least one person to be there for us if needed and if we have been given a job to do, a helping hand or a friendly ear can make all the difference. It can simply be to know that you are a phone call away.
Masonry is unique. Remembering that keeps us focused on the special place Freemasonry has in the lives of its members and their families and we must not forget our families and ensure they are not left out or left behind. Mentoring ensures a Masonry/Life balance.
Understanding is one key. If you understand something, you want to know more about it. Discovering more about it then can also assist in understanding yourself and make you a better person. It then becomes enjoyable and not a chore. It can then be much easier to learn. Mentoring is about ensuring our brethren understand why they have joined Freemasonry, what they can do for it, how it can help them and vitally, the reasons why they should stay. Understanding our ritual and ceremonies is the fundamental of everything.
Quality is the second key. Quality Men Means Quality Masons; quality Masons means quality Freemasonry... and ritual. Freemasonry revolves around its ritual and our ceremonial and the standard of meeting/work must be memorable for the right reasons. Freemasonry does not just happen, it is hard work but fun and Mentoring supports and reinforces that.
Mentoring is not about numbers. Mentoring is not just about getting new men through the door. It is also about keeping who we have because they want to stay - and due to the fact they feel part of a warm, welcoming and supportive family; then it is about men joining for the right reasons. They are right for Masonry and Masonry is right for them.
We are not the first to come up with these ideas, there are many Grand Lodges that now see the benefit of the Mentoring process and even the Grand Lodge of England has enthusiastically embraced it.
If we make Mentoring work, we make Masonry work.
For your information the Brother whose letter I read at the beginning was persuaded to stay and is now an active Member of his Lodge.
Most Worshipful Grand Master, I once again thank you for allowing me to say these few words and enjoy the rest of your visitation.
Fraternally, Gavin KK Wardrope PM Grand Orator May 14, 2013
Sources: Grand Lodge of England,Province of East Lancashire