This piece originally appeared on the Midnight Freemasons blog and reposted with permission from the writer.
by Midnight Freemasons Founder Todd E. Creason, 33°
(also a member of Tuscola Odd Fellows #316)
We hosted a Masonic Education Symposium at my Lodge last weekend for the Illinois Lodge of Research. One of the speakers we invited was a Past Grand of the Odd Fellows, Ainslie Heilich, and something Ainslie said stuck with me. Ainslie is what you would refer to as a member of the “millennial generation” and the work Ainslie and a group of predominantly millennial generation Odd Fellows have done building a new Odd Fellows Lodge in Tuscola, Illinois is simply remarkable–most of that group brand-new Odd Fellows members! That is why we invited Ainslie to speak to begin with.
You see, Freemasons and Odd Fellows alike aren’t exactly sure what to make of the millennial generation. We don’t think they’re interested in what we have to offer. We believe they’d find our ritual too “old fashioned” and view our values as a relic left over from the long-forgotten past. But that’s not true at all. Ainslie said the millennial generation is searching for authenticity. They are seeking authentic experiences–something far more real than posting a photo on social media and seeing how many people “like” it.
And if you think about it, I’ll bet you come to the realization that this is absolutely true.
|Wicked Rascal Grooming Company proprietor (and Freemason) “Joe the Barber” on the right, and professional barber Alex on the left (Alex is such a good barber he even makes me look good). Old school trained barbers that offer a far superior product, environment and experience than your typical assembly line shopping mall cutters.|
When this new barbershop opened in a small town near me, I figured it would appeal to guys my age and older. This is a “real” barbershop, with a barber dressed in traditional dress. The barbers have gone to barber school, not cosmetology college. You get a haircut, maybe a shave with a straight edge razor if your feeling brave. The whole hot towel, powder and tonic treatment–along with the conversation barbershops have been famous for since barbershops began. It takes a lot longer to get a good haircut from a barber, and it costs a little more, but if you go once you won’t be able to deny you get a far superior cut from a barber. The quality of a barber haircut and the experience of going to a shop set up with relaxation and conversation in mind is something I’ve missed. But it’s something millennials never knew–and I’d say the vast majority of customers at my barbershop are millennials. And Joe has opened two new barbershops since he opened the first one–the demand is there. And they are busy–you better make an appointment a week ahead, because they’re booked a week out usually. Millennials don’t mind paying a little more for something that takes longer so long as the experience is authentic and the quality is unmatched. On that, we certainly agree.
Another example. We have an annual event in a small town near me. It started small and has ballooned into this huge event that brings in nearly 10,000 people in this very small, out-of-the-way town in central Illinois. It’s a festival that celebrates old fashioned sodas–many handcrafted, small batch, small bottlers. Most of them made with natural ingredients, and with real cane sugar. You’ve never tasted anything better on a hot day than an authentic cola made with real kola nut extract and cane sugar, or a handcrafted root beer made with real flavors like sassafras and sweetened with honey. Hundreds of different kinds of sodas to taste–colas, root beers, ginger ales, orange, grape . . . you name it, and you’ll find it in Homer, Illinois during the annual soda festival. Again, for me, soda used to taste better than it does now, so it’s a nostalgic trip down memory lane for me. The millennials are there because again, they’ve never had that experience, and they realize soda can be so much better than the mass produced and bottled artificial flavors, corn syrup and carbonation you’ll find on the shelf today.
You want to talk about the popularity of craft beers and home brewing with millennials? Same reasons. They are seeking the real and the authentic–a quality some of us older guys remember, but that had left the stage long before they arrived on it. Those of us who are 50+ remember a day when jeans lasted longer than six months. When your t-shirts didn’t start getting holes in them after the fourth wash. Or when a new pair of glasses didn’t break a month after you got them. I’d like to see those days back, and I think the millennials just might be able to get that done.
But don’t get me wrong. I was going somewhere with this. You see, it’s not just products millennials are seeking out to fulfill this desire for what is real and authentic. They are looking for authenticity in their life experience as well. They are looking for real connections in the world far beyond social media. They are looking for a better way to live, and places where they can belong–places where they can learn to become better men, and they can learn about values that will enrich their lives. Values that are genuine and applicable to their daily lives. Moral teachings that are authentic and time honored. Opportunities that offer them the ability to grown as individuals as they get involved in their communities and learn valuable skills in leadership.
|This is a small group from my Lodge, and one thing I’ve noticed is the range of ages of our active members–from early 20s through late 70s in this picture. Freemasonry is without question appealing to younger men IF a mentoring environment exists in the Lodge.|
Is there a better description of Freemasonry? This is without question an opportunity for Freemasonry–but it’s also a challenge. We have to be ready to meet these expectations when these millennials petition. In too many Lodges today, this kind of teaching/mentoring environment just doesn’t exist. I know very few Masons that don’t have an example of “that young guy” that joined their Lodge, went through all three degrees, seemed very enthusiastic, came to a few meetings, and then never came back. It should be easy to understand why . . . he didn’t find what he expected to. New member retention is a really good gauge of how your lodge is doing.
We’ve really got to look at ourselves first. What are we offering these young men? What kinds of programs do we have that would appeal to them. What is their expectation and are we prepared to meet it? Are we ready to begin training and mentoring another generation of men? What do we need to do to get back to our mission of making good men better?
There’s a lot of work ahead perhaps. But there are about 40 million undeniable reasons right here in the United States of America why this might be well worth doing. We are exactly what they are looking for.
Tried. True. Time tested. AUTHENTIC!
Todd E. Creason is an award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the the From Labor To Refreshment blog. He is a Past Master of both Homer Lodge No. 199 and Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL). He is a a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. he is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research (FMLR) and a charter member of the a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org