OVERTURE: A Two-Initiative Leadership And Development Program For All Lodges

R.W. Grand Master James L. Ernette has set a membership development and retention goal of Net Zero beginning in 1998 and announced a two-initiative program to make it happen.

The Grand Master said that he is determined to take a giant step for Freemasonry toward solving what is undoubtedly the most perplexing problem faced by every lodge in Pennsylvania and all of Freemasonry. The Grand Master has instituted the OVERTURE Program, a leadership development and action program that he believes is destined to make the difference.

For more than four decades, membership in Masonic lodges has been declining at a rate equal to about 3.5 per cent a year. Since the post-World War II hey day of the Craft, when there were more than four million Masons nationwide, the decline has been gradual, but steady. Changes in lifestyles, the economy and the needs of men and their families have accounted for much of the decline. In recent years in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, there have been efforts to attract new members and turn the situation around, generally with mixed results. Further, in too many cases, new members appear interested in what Masonry has to offer and join, only to lose interest in their lodges, or allow their membership to lapse.

The Grand Master commented: "We've acted too much like a fraternity with a guaranteed future and not enough like a business organization whose very existence is threatened. Whenever I've seen a business or an organization get into trouble, I can trace the problem to two sources -- either their products lost appeal and don't work, or they've lost touch with the customer and failed to treat new customers for what they are, the lifeblood of the organization. I'm committed to the concept of concern for the customer in my business life; and I'm committed to that concept as being crucial to the future of Masonry. While I am Grand Master, and I hope beyond that, we want to think of our members as customers and put them first in our lodges and first in our thinking about the future."

Though it will be more comfortably referred to as "The OVERTURE Program," its official designation,"The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania's OVERTURE Program for Membership Development and Membership Retention Through Excellence in Leadership," clearly defines its purpose and target. It is made up of two initiatives: the Overture Series and the Conductor's Series.

The Overture Series will comprise six workshops to be offered around the state this spring. They are designed to train the leadership of the lodges in their roles and responsibilities for membership development and retention. The Conductor's Series, beginning in the fall, also will include six workshops. They are designed to help lodge officers with effective lodge management and administrative details, with a special focus on membership management.

There will be eight Overture and eight Conductor's one-day workshops planned for Saturdays in 1998 and 1999 at convenient locations for the lodges throughout the state, each beginning early in the morning and concluding by 4:30 p.m.

Invitations will go to all lodges very soon, encouraging each to send the Senior Warden, Junior Warden and one member who is specifically designated for membership development. Grand Master Ernette said, "We believe that by paying attention to the future leadership of the lodge, we can develop both momentum and continuity for this effort. We encourage each participant to attend both the Overture and Conductor's Series so that they can become a force for change in the lodge."

To emphasize the importance of attendance by the leadership of the lodges, the Grand Lodge will reward each lodge with $500 if at least two of their participants attend both the Overture and the Conductor's series.

With the help of the District Deputy Grand Masters, a District Membership Development and Retention Chairman has been identified for each of the 58 Masonic Districts to help facilitate the goals of the program. Grand Master Ernette said that these individuals were selected based upon their backgrounds in business, customer service and commitment to serve.

Both initiatives will be coordinated by Past District Deputy Grand Master G. Kent Hackney, who will serve on the Grand Lodge staff and be responsible for their successful launching and implementation. Bro. Dudley Davis, who has been involved with leadership development programs in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, is developing and will facilitate the Overture Series. Bro. Hackney will develop and facilitate the Conductor's Series.