The modern business author Patrick Lencioni entitled one of his books “Death by Meeting” to illustrate that oftentimes in business and life at large we tend to talk things to death. He explains that there is a time for talk and a time for action. Our lodges can serve to illustrate this fact; many of our lodge meetings drag on interminably. I have attended quite a few meetings that last more than 2 hours. Why is this, exactly? Sometimes these are the same lodges that are shrinking in attendance. Is that any surprise, really? In today’s world, there is no earthly reason for a meeting to go over 45 minutes unless it is filled with rancor, endless debate, or some other trivial rationality. Some members just like to hear themselves talk. Others are just plain upset about every aspect of the order. But this is no excuse to punish everyone else in a lodge. Unless your lodge is doing something of interest to each attending member, you might reconsider your 2-hour meeting. I often sit and watch lodges diminish in attendance month after month simply due to the length and often the solemnity of the meeting. Is it any wonder that these are the lodges that diminish in attendance? And I find that the non-attending members find every excuse not to attend. Most are too polite to say, “I find our meeting more boring than chopping wood”.
Of course, there are reasons for some meetings to take longer than others. Some lodges have extensive committee reports, but if this is the only reason for a longer meeting, there are ways to shorten these reports as well. Many lodges now print or post their event listings and minutes for all members, which shortens the secretary’s report, but also serves to notify all members of all pertinent news. If your lodge is having personal issues between members, consider if it is proper to have arguments within the lodge at large or whether these issues can be resolved by meeting privately before or after a meeting. Some lodges have turmoil because members simply don’t talk with each other enough. Unfortunately, lodge meetings in and by themselves often don’t resolve personal disputes since they are more public than the disputing members may prefer. Many of the lodge meetings I attend seem to have members who arrive at the exact time of the meeting, and seem to have an issue to deal with. If this is the case, why not appear earlier than meeting time, and discuss it with your fellow members in a more casual setting prior to the meeting? I have seen many seemingly prickly issues alleviated simply because the members discussed the nuts and bolts of an issue prior to bringing it up in lodge.
A funny story involving my own lodge happened a couple years ago. The movie theater in my town shows classic movies the same night as our lodge meeting. A friend of mine from lodge called me and said he was under the weather and would not attend lodge since he did not feel well. I said, no problem, since I was sick also. That same night we ran into each other at the classic movie showing which had “Double Indemnity” running the same time as lodge. When we saw each other, we laughed and agreed that the movie was much better time spent then a similar expense of time at lodge. This is what we as an order are up against. We must compete for people’s time, and it’s not easy. We should ask ourselves how can we hold our members’ interest?
If we have a sincere desire to get and retain new members, we must look at our members as an entertainer or public speaker would view an audience. Would you sit and listen to someone drone on interminably without some rationale for doing so? Conversely, if you are a leader in your own lodge, why do you expect other members to sit and watch paint dry endlessly? And, if you do, is it any wonder that eventually all members refuse to do so? Lastly, lighten up. What to one person may seem to be a life and death issue may be trivial to another. To get along, we need to empathize with each other, and not just punish someone for a difference of opinion. A smile and a friendly word can make a world of difference, and perhaps keep your lodge from dozing off.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles