Scottish Rite Best Practices
Scottish Rite Best Practices

Scottish Rite Best Practices

By Paul R. Swanson, 32°

Scottish Rite Best Practices gathered in 2022 from visits to Jacksonville Scottish Rite during their reunion and the Des Moines Scottish Rite during their reunion.

 As most brothers know I have a business background educationally with an MSM (Master of Science in Management) from Troy State which was built on an undergraduate in Sociology. The emphasis educationally was on people and their motivations. My USN and later industrial work experience since retiring involves quality management (Lean and Six Sigma) and industrial cultural changes.

While I am capable and may in the future elaborate this effort into a proper SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats) analysis along with the more in-depth McKensie 7-S analysis for the soft skills this report is just a quick summary of applicable benchmarks which we can lift from the very successful groups visited and hopefully shorten our time to achieve similar results to what they are seeing. If someone has an interest or other ideas for building membership, please feel free to contact me.

Most of my brothers know I wrote a book on rebuilding volunteer group membership years ago. The Empowered Volunteers Rebuild America: One Fraternal, Civic, and Veterans Group at a Time, By Paul R. Swanson, has not resonated with any masonic groups in the country to date.

My efforts to put out this paper on best practices reflect many of the ideas from that book which have proven valid and worthy in industry or other applications. This is a short summary for immediate action if the group feels so inclined to build the membership with an emphasis on younger men of energy and quality.

Setting the tone for Masonic cooperation.

Each year after the lodges have elected their officers (in January) the SR of DM hosts all 19 area lodge officers and interested members who wish to attend, a sit-down meal, for free. The idea is to gather any ideas on how to help the newly elected members have a successful year as well as to introduce the SR and what the SR can do to help them immediately in their efforts to be successful. This first impression is vital to changing the perception if any exists from the past. I am told this really works wonders for changing perceptions and setting the tone for the year of cooperation rather than the potential conflict and poaching of potential membership by other Masonic bodies. Real-world efforts are made for cooperation for the benefit of everyone! They position themselves as the leaders early in the year and they don’t stop all year with this message.

Reunions, set up, and execution.

Reunions are NOT the primary focus of the group, fostering a proper Masonic public perception is. Reunions are very heavily attended and are of course important. But the biggest selling point for a visitor to SR of Jacksonville is their huge emphasis on comradery. Every visiting brother is welcomed, if they are interested given a tour of the building, which depicts the 31st degree. The enthusiasm and energy are infectious. A similar experience was had at the SR in Des Moines.

Both groups have had years to get to this point of excellence. Ten to twenty years in both cases to fully see the results I experienced. They put on all degrees, with the Valley of Des Moines doing one degree as a full musical. Both have prop rooms that issue costumes, people dedicated to setting up props, etc. They also have huge buildings which they rent out, use as tax shelters, etc. None of this building maintenance pertains to us so I only note that it is part of their journey. We don’t have a large building so our time to achieve a membership upswing of young brothers need not be so involved, nor as long. One recently spent $350,000 just for a roof.

Reunions are now reflecting the 2005 revisions for degree work. Each degree presented has a degree master. The Valley of Jacksonville sends out to the group a digital copy of the degree. They shared all of the degrees with us, so we now have a digital copy of each degree as well. The members receive the copy, and in working with the degree master pick parts and print copies and practice. It is a group effort for each degree. I was told that in the last few years, the Valley of DM has finally been showing all the degrees, with no cards or prints, all memory. It took time to build up this talent. Jacksonville is also nearly all memory.

Double Eagle Awards vary.

In Des Moines, the awards are very few, around 15 to 20 for a population of nearly one thousand. Jacksonville was nearer to our criteria and it was also more present on the membership as I talked to them. The Valley of DM criteria can be viewed on their webpage, but I found it not something we are likely to want to copy.

Showcase the group.

A huge factor in building membership for the Valley of DM is what they call showcase. It involves both showing off the membership, the building, and the fraternity of Freemasonry. It is a meal, well provided where members bring prospective recruits for either Freemasonry or Scottish Rite or both. They give a rotating 20-minute presentation, which is not the same each time and the guests eat free. This is credited with lots of bonding and membership building! Since our building isn’t as grand or old to showcase, it was suggested we eat out and do the presentation at the venue we eat at. This would take some organization.

Membership appreciation night.

The emphasis for both valleys is on fun, fun, fun. They keep in touch with the membership and especially the younger men and what they want. Both groups said their success is to stress community and comradery. Socializing, particularly family-friendly events are what they are looking for as younger masons.

Please note, both valleys will serve forms of alcohol at select events. This too is popular.

This membership appreciation event is free, and very fine food is served and directed toward family involvement. It has several aspects which we might need some creativity to copy like different presentations in different rooms for the different guests’ tastes (history, old relics to be viewed, etc.), but we could solicit input and act accordingly. Again, this event helps get the brothers not involved back into the building and potentially back involved while the family members are seeing that the mason, whom they know isn’t involved in anything nefarious. This aspect helps settle any issues that develop over time with the family. The De Moley and other groups often help at these events, further helping families understand the fraternity.

It is hard to overstate the pattern of success, do things that the membership like as a group and as individuals, stress fun for the member and his family and to encourage a feeling of community and comradery. Meet the needs and wishes of the younger masons in particular was repeated to me over and over.


Fun and a place where the family could occasionally get involved is the key.

After each reunion on the final day, they have a gala or party with a theme and a band. It is the highlight of the 5-day reunion, spread out over two weekends and one Wednesday in the Valley of DM. The Wednesday degree is a full musical for all the acting participants.

Both valleys had passports that encouraged participation in viewing each degree so the complete experience was supported, with a nice large certificate given when a member completed all of the degrees. It also forces the viewing member to get up and not be lethargic!

Note, both valleys highly encouraged the Master Craftsman course too. Jacksonville incorporates the course into their initial cost to join and they see the candidate through the process up to the completion of one test just to ensure the candidate is set up for success for the entire course. The course has in the past been hard to complete. This initial direction and help have proven very successful they report in completion rates.

Another item for membership building used in the Valley of DM is poker chips with a QR code which is used by a phone camera to go to a very robust website. These are given out to prospects at local lodges or if someone is interested in a common interaction. The SR members use these very effectively to gain attendance to the showcase or other common gatherings during the year.

One other item. The valley of DM doesn’t meet monthly as we do. Nor do they do the ritual when they meet quarterly. They found monthly meetings unproductive. They have committees meeting monthly of course. Their quarterly meeting has the flag presentation and the pledge. Business is conducted so that they can get back to fun and socializing.

I personally believe the Valley of Tallahassee could set a goal of some years to achieve most of the items above and become the best of the smaller population valleys in the country.

Respectfully submitted,

Paul R. Swanson, 32

November 3, 2022

  • Turn less-than-necessary meetings into social gatherings.
  • To encourage younger members to join, emphasize fun.
  • Emphasize family social events. Occasionally alcohol is served.
  • For more information on rebuilding, see the book The Empowered Volunteer Rebuilds America: One Fraternal, Civic, and Veterans group at a time, by Paul R. Swanson.
  • Double Eagle programs vary by Valley.
  • Showcase the program (not the building), including a nice meal for prospects while socializing and/or learning.
  • Set the tone for the year by holding an all-masonic officers and members meal in January for newly elected lodge officers. Emphasize we are here to help them succeed this year and propose ideas on the helping process.
  • Reunion degrees are a product of membership growth, not the goal. As the membership grows, so do the degrees presented and the quality of the degrees. Hold a special family-friendly social activity at the end of each reunion.
  • Membership appreciation night every year, free for members and families with events for all ages and interests!
  • Request the membership complete a survey for future planning with the goal of 100% participation in the next year. Take the answers seriously for potential change.
  • The Master Craftsman course completion is key.
  • Create a robust Website for the Valley using Vistaprint or Word. Place at least two members to maintain it.
  • Send out digital copies of members’/actors’ respective degrees early so that all parts can be learned in order to avoid memory cards. Each degree needs a designated leader.