As part of an ongoing "Meet the Team" blog series, we invited the Directors from each of Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's various departments to share some of their insights based on their specific area of expertise. We kick off our first "Meet the Team" blog with Michael C. Russell, 32°, CAE, who gives us an inside look at the work of the Path Forward team and how members can help expand upon its mission. Michael is the Executive Director of Supreme Council and Chairman of the Path Forward Team.

Michael Russell, 32°, Executive Director, Supreme Council

We walk through life one step at a time. That is no different than our journey in Freemasonry. The path is marked with obstacles that will most certainly deter you, distract you, and disguise your mission, vision, or purpose. In 2016, the Path Forward for Freemasonry was brought to light in a survey and subsequent book aptly titled Reclaiming the Soul of Freemasonry. The purpose of this article is not to serve as a recap of that publication, but a memorandum of some steps taken since its findings were made public.

In 2016 and 2017 the Path Forward team, then led by David A. Glattly before he was Sovereign Grand Commander, had one goal: To put together a plan to solve the one main question that lingered from the survey results. More simply, put in plain terms, “There is nothing wrong with Freemasonry, we just don’t know how to market it to the regular man in the modern era. Men want to join; they just don’t know how to join. How do we ‘advertise’ Freemasonry?”

That is how Not Just a Man. A Mason.TM was born. A catchphrase, direct and to the point. The root of the idea is that men are striving to be something more, something that can and will resonate with every man. As Freemasons know, you are first prepared to be a Mason in your heart. The goal for the campaign was to plant the seed for Freemasonry to start. Scottish Rite, NMJ provided the seed and Grand Lodges WORLDWIDE provided the water. This campaign is now in every Grand Lodge in North America. We certainly hoped this project would go to a few Jurisdictions in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction but what we didn’t realize was how big it would go or how far it would journey. Lodges around the world are asking for the Path Forward to develop or augment their recruitment efforts. What I love about this program is that it shifted the paradigm of “if you build it they will come” to “we still have a lot to build before men continue to knock our doors down.” What I most love about the impact of the Path Forward is that it changed the question of “How can we promote Freemasonry?” to “How can we better promote Freemasonry?”

The uses of the videos “Even Better” and “Nice Guys” have been shown in small market buys during large scale events, including the Super Bowl. Ads have been placed on billboards around the US in many jurisdictions. In late 2019 the Chicago Tribune called Not Just a Man. A Mason.TM “the organization's historical motto” (little did they know the famous slogan was only 3 years old then!).

New Jersey "Not Just a Man. A Mason." Billboard

The next step after the beautiful imagery and videos was, “OK, what is next? What is the 'call to action'?” A quip from the back of the room said, “If we want a full Super Bowl commercial, where do we send people?” The Path Forward team went to work.

The landscape had already been set; “Be A…” seemed to fit into the entire landscape. You don’t join Freemasonry on a whim, and when you do join you are ARE a Freemason. BeAFreemason.org was the next big step in the natural progression of the campaign. The most incredible part of this site was that it developed and fostered an historic partnership between three of the largest appendant bodies of Freemasonry: Scottish Rite, NMJ, Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction, and Shriners International.

Just over a year has passed since the launch of the website and more than 7,700 leads to Grand Lodges later, the site was most definitely a hit. Of those men who reached out, many have not yet been contacted per a follow up survey with them -- those results can be found here: http://srnmj.us/BAF_survey. Many Grand Lodges are now formulating task groups for leads, treating them as if they are commissioned salesman, ready to grow the fraternity and help ensure the success of Freemasonry in their state, now.

The next step on our Path Forward happened in mid-February 2021: we are now officially multi-lingual, with English, Spanish, and French translations now available in all print ads, some videos, and yes, BeAFreemason.org. These were not literal translations; every word was vetted to ensure it made sense to the native language reader. More languages will be added as translations are given. That list will grow.

BeAFreemason.org website

What can you do to help the Path Forward? Share! Like! Enjoy! And use the material for your lodge events, state efforts, and recruitment goals. Help us grow this great fraternity.

Will it take time? Yes. Will it take relentless work? Yes. Will it take ALL of us? Yes. Can we do it? ABSOLUTELY. How? Well, if you don’t already know the answer, should you even be reading this far… Our Path Forward is together, one step at a time.