If you’ve ever visited many other lodges you’ll soon come to the realization that no two lodges are alike. One lodge may be primarily concerned with fundraising while another may be focused on education; there may be a lodge that requires its members to wear tuxedos to stated meetings while the standard dress elsewhere is a pair of slacks and a polo shirt.
In this scenario each lodge is regular and share the same jurisdiction, so why is each one so different? The reason is that each lodge has its own unique culture. Lodge culture can be a good thing or a bad thing and most of us have experienced both ends of the spectrum, but what if we want to improve a lodge?
If you aren’t moving forward then you’re moving backward and a lodge can only take so many steps in the wrong direction before it has to demise or merge.
This series has been heavily inspired by School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess, and Transform It by Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker and I’ll be drawing parallels between what it has to say about school culture and what we know about lodge culture. We all know each lodge is different and we are going to take a close look at why this occurs, what factors shape lodge culture, and what we can do to change lodge culture for the greater good.
Improving A Culture
Every lodge can improve in some way. Continuous improvement is an important concept to all organizations and Masonic organizations are no different. The problem with making changes in any organization is that it can be a difficult and lengthy process, particularly when trying to make changes in Masonic organizations that fly in the face of “how we’ve always done things”. Still, it has to be done because if you aren’t moving forward then you’re moving backward and a lodge can only take so many steps in the wrong direction before it has to demise or merge.
If you’ve ever heard “that’s not how we’ve always done that” or some variation of this then it’s because you’re suggesting or doing something which conflicts with the existing culture within that lodge.
This leads to the question that many of us have asked ourselves in the past, which is “how can we change a lodge?”. Unfortunately, the fact is that you cannot change a lodge directly, many enthusiastic brothers have attempted to do this but they often find out very quickly that they’d probably be more successful if they tried to herd cats. There’s good news, though, which is that even though you can’t change a lodge directly, you can improve a lodge’s culture.
So What Is Lodge Culture, Exactly?
A lodge’s culture is “how we do things”. If you’ve ever heard “that’s not how we’ve always done that” or some variation of this then it’s because you’re suggesting or doing something which conflicts with the existing culture within that lodge. We like to roll our eyes and make jokes about that quote (because let’s face it, most of us have heard it before) but it’s an incredibly useful thing to hear because it tells you a lot about the pre-existing culture at that particular lodge. The fact this is said so often is because it’s a sort of defense mechanism when members are confronted with conflicts with the predictable behaviors within a lodge. This is because “to a culture, any change is a virus” (Gruenert 4).
Each of us is capable of doing great things in our fraternity.
Here’s the thing though, if a lodge is dying then changes need to be made and, as we’ve already pointed out, the only way to change a lodge is to change its culture. You can make short-term changes, sure, but what you’re doing is changing the climate and not the culture itself. This is ineffective, however, and we’ll look at the reasons why in a later post, but it’s worth pointing out right now that cultural changes are long-lasting and sustain themselves while changes to the climate are typically short-lived.
In my next post, we’ll look at some of the differences between culture and climate. As Masons, we need to become change agents in our lodges and work to apply strategies which can begin affecting our lodge cultures. “Members of a culture will help to shape one another, and the culture, in turn, will evolve into a unique group of individuals who share certain characteristics and take some pride in being set apart from those outside the group” (Gruenert 4). Each of us is capable of doing great things in our fraternity and it only takes one brother in a lodge, or even maybe even just one in a district, to begin shaping other brothers and creating a domino effect which ultimately changes the culture in a lodge for the better.
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Gruenert, Steve., and Todd Whitaker. School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess, and Transform It. Alexandria, Virginia USA: ASCD, 2015. Print.