Why should we care about what is happening in freemasonry? Read on and you’ll quickly see the point.
Freemasonry is in a tailspin. In England, nearly 1000 lodges have closed since 2006. While only 12% of lodges have closed, they’ve lost 24% of members in the same period – down 60% from their all-time high of half a million in England’s post-war years. What has caused the freefall?
According to them, their inability to recruit Millennials. Those aged 21-30 account for only 2% of total membership. The United Grand Lodge of England has opened their eyes to the looming crisis and is in a rush to appeal to young potentials to keep their institutions alive. According to The Independent, “Older freemasons are being told to smile, look like they are enjoying themselves, and avoid criticizing as the movement seeks to keep millennial masons happy.”
They have found freemasonry “as is” doesn’t appeal to Millennials – which is the polite way to say it seems irrelevant to them. What does this have to do with church? The same trends are seen in the Western church. Churches are in decline across Europe and closing, often a fair indication of what American churches will experience over the coming years.
I know church leaders who deny there is a problem. I know church leaders who agree the problem exists but deny it’s their responsibility. They don’t feel churches need to reform, they don’t believe churches should ever have to adapt, and they neglect their obligation to evangelize those who disagree with them.
I know church leaders who agree the problem exists yet are happy about it. They believe Millennials fleeing the church shows how pure the church is and how wayward Millennials are. They are glad to feel confirmed in their prejudices and are glad to feel “persecuted.” They feel they must surely be on the narrow, if people are turning against them. This pride is the most dangerous of all.
But many leaders are waking up to the crisis and earnestly desire to do something Godly about it – something that reflects his love, openness, sacrifice, and will for all to find him. As church leaders realize Millennials are staying away, even after settling down and starting families, they’ll start looking for the same answers the Freemasons search for now.
So here’s a quick peek into what Freemasons are trying to bring Millennials on board – as you read, consider which might be important steps for churches to take.
- Increase transparency to “shed a reputation for secrecy and conspiracy” – they even invited a documentary crew to record preparations for their 300th anniversary
- Create campus lodges to recruit among college age students
- Make meetings more respectful of members times – such as eliminating the “reading of minutes” and allowing members to read those online
- Reduce member fees for younger members
- Advance in their use of social media
- Focus on encouragement and congratulation over routine castigation. Grace is the new motivator in the modern world and among Millennials. While senior members used to be unsympathetic to new members who have a few lapses, many now realize the exact opposite reaction has the right effect
- Suggest members of failing lodges to visit thriving ones, even in other countries, citing West Africa and the Caribbean particularly as upbeat and positive examples
- Avoid insulting youth instead of getting to know them. A 75-year-old member was asked how he viewed the Millennial “generation snowflake” and he adamantly insisted against such caricatures. “Delicate? No. They are a pretty tough lot, far more self-confident that I was at that age. We are very lucky to have [them].”
What would this look like in the church?
- More transparency with less closed-door meetings and more involvement in church members in leadership discussions and decisions
- Focus on campus ministries and having ministries specifically for young adults
- Focus time usage on important things – less wasted time for entertainment, more time to deal with real problems through prayer, worship, Scripture study and learning
- Less focus on money and more grattitude for those who contribute in other ways – through time, energy, skills
- Use social media as an opportunity to build community and teach as opposed to mere advertising
- A focus on positive discipleship and an encouraging atmosphere, as well as true advocacy for those who sin and true dedication to creating redemptive paths for when failures occur
- A focus on cross-denominational sharing of ideas and combined ministry efforts and services to learn from others in neighboring churches
- An open dialogue with Millennials in your church about what problems they perceive and how generations can work together to foster both respect and solutions
What do you think? Comment below!