There are fewer Masons today — by nearly a million — than there were in 1941 as the country came out of the Great Depression, says Richard Fletcher, executive secretary of the Masonic Service Association of North America. There are an estimated 3 million members worldwide and 1.5 million in the USA, he says, compared with more than 4 million members in the USA in 1959.
Why? Blame the Baby Boomers, Fletcher says.
"We had what I call the '60s syndrome," he says. "That was the whole concept of the generation. You turned against anything that was mainstream."
In 2005, the association produced a report called "It's About Time," which encouraged lodges to invite the community in, Fletcher says. But most didn't start opening their doors until Masons in Massachusetts saw successes in 2009 with the policy, he says.
Since then, a growing number have opened their doors:
•In Asheville, Mount Hermon Masonic Lodge 118 allows prospective members to dine with members before official meetings to learn more about Masonry. The effort has paid off. Seven years ago, the lodge was struggling with low attendance and now has about 500 members, says John Burchfield, the local district deputy grand lecturer.
•In Ellwood City, Pa., three lodges in 37th Masonic District held open houses in August.
•In New Hampshire, Freemasons held statewide events in March and October. "It was very well received in New Hampshire," says Nashua, N.H., Rising Sun lodge member Bob Porter. The Nashua lodge got 30 new members, Porter says.
The Mason decline is mirrored by other fraternities.
Amos McCallum, a chairman of the past national presidents of the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks, says his group has 900,000 members, down from 1.6 million in 1980.
Membership in Rotary clubs has dropped nearly 42,000 since 1995 in the USA to 360,790 last year, says Rotary spokeswoman Elizabeth Minelli.
Some civic clubs say they are starting to see an uptick. Lions Club International reported 20,000 new members last year after decades of decline. It has 1.35 million worldwide, says spokesman Dane La Joye.
Reaching out to women has been key, La Joye says. "Women are the fastest-growing segment of our membership today," he says.
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Monday, January 31, 2011
USA Today: Masons, other service groups fight membership declines
From USA Today article today, "Masons, other service groups fight membership declines" by Jon Ostendorff: