Per all of the conventional wisdom I can find, I am a Millennial. The funny thing is, I thought I was Jared.
Every time I hear it mentioned that we have to find a way to reach, appeal to, and engage Millennials, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up just a little.
Consider this conversation from another perspective. Why can we not get better attendance from baby boomers? What an incredibly, yet unintentionally insulting question. Should you find yourself in the “Baby Boomer” generation, I suspect that you would rather be considered as an individual, not as some vague group spanning across two decades. YOU may attend lodge regularly, or YOU may not attend lodge for several reasons, but how dare anyone assume that someone else’s reasons are also yours.
Yes, generalizations can be made, but most do not hold water. Sure, people born after 1981 have never known a world without computers. Similarly, those born after the 1970’s never knew a world without central air conditioning, those born after the 50’s never knew one without nuclear power, and those before the 20’s may have never expected the automobile to become commonplace. You get my point. Times change, and we change with them – yet still, the individual remains.
Moreover, focusing on Millennials is already old news. Generation Z, those born after Millennials, are already old enough to petition for membership.
Here is something: Men over… oh, pick an age… know exactly what attracts a 20 year old to Freemasonry, because it is the same thing that always has: The example of other men in their life, a sense of being part of something larger than yourself, and a dash of mystique thrown in. The only “catch” in all of this is if the man is more interested in the mystique, or our ‘mysteries’, or if he is mostly there for the fellowship. His age does not guarantee which of those might be the case – but I might make a suggestion…
So, here is some input from just one Millennial:
- Everyone is an individual, treat them as such. Just because I get communication from a text, email, or Facebook message, rather than a telegraph, does not make me all that different than you.
- Give me something to do. If I am just sitting around idle then all I will think about is all the other things I could be doing with my time. Engage me, or lose me.
- Educate me. Those Liberal Arts & Sciences were all well and good in school – but YOU can teach me how to apply them practically, to lead a project, a group of men, and more. Mentor me.
- Expect questions. On first pass, our rituals lead to a lot more questions than answers. If you are not prepared to answer esoteric questions, please be prepared to refer me to someone who can. I promise to come back to you for learning my catechism.
- Give me a chance. You cannot save the Lodge by doing everything yourself out of the fear that I, in my youth, might ruin our centuries old Fraternity. You save the Lodge by whispering good counsel in my ear, not by never letting me hold the gavel, so to speak. No, I will not do everything just right, but if you let me fall off of the bike, and you are there to encourage me to get back up, we can all work through any tumbles that might happen.
- Finally, before you question a new method being used to accomplish some goal, such as using a Facebook message group rather than using a call tree or sending out letters, remember that there just might be a Lodge minute book out there, somewhere, where Brethren debated if the cost of electricity in the Lodge was really better than candles. As you soak up the air conditioning while you ponder that – smile to yourself and realize that everything will be okay.