SHORT TALK BULLETIN

Vol. LXXIX No. 3 — March 2001

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SHOULD YOUR LODGE HAVE A WEB SITE?

Phillip G. Elam

Bro Elam is a Past Master of Algabil-Freedom Lodge #636, Mehlville, Mo., and Past Grand Orator of the Grand Lodge of Missouri. He has developed over 150 Masonic Web Sites and manages over 1,500 corporate web sites for Southwestern Bell.

Cyberspace is a reality as is the New Millennium. While traditional methods of communication will continue to be used, there is an entirely new, more cost-effective, and considerably faster way to disseminate important information to our Masonic Brethren — the Internet. Many Masonic Lodges and other Masonic bodies around the world already realize this, and are beginning to take full advantage of today's hyper-speed technology (you can send a message half-way around the world in 1/7th of a second). How? They have developed web sites for their Lodges, Chapters, Councils, Bethels, Grand Bodies, and just about everything else you can think of. Freemasons are, of course, builders and, as such, we have launched into the cyberworld and are building Masonic web sites with an unprecedented fervor.

Should your Lodge have its own web site? That, of course, is a question that only you own membership can answer. However, in making such a decission, consider the following important reaons for building a Lodge web site (and there are many others that are not listed here):

WHO IS YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE

one of the first issed to be resolved before building a web site is to try to determine exactly who will be using or visiting your web site. At a minimum, you should consider the following:

Based on who you think your Lodge's web site visitors will be, what can you communicate via the web site that will be of interest and value to them? If they were physically visiting your Lodge, what would you do? In one very real sense, they are visiting your Lodge — at least, virtually. Put the same level of thought and effort into constructing various sections of your web site as you would if you were planning a real meeting.

WHAT WEB SITE VISITORS LIKE

In a highly unscientific canvas of Brethren that frequently visit Masonic web sites all around the world, the following points were mentioned most often as "likes."

WHAT WEB SITE VISITORS DISLIKE

If you want your members and other visitors to continue to access your Lodge's web site, try to avoid the following. Whey they encounter one of more of these conditions, they will most probably stop using your web site simply because it is too slow and cumbersome to work with.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST MY LODGE?

If you or one of your Lodge members has access to the Internet, there there is no cost to build and host a Masonic web site. There are literally scores of free services that wil gladly host your web site, provide you with unique e-mail address, free guestbooks for your visitors to sign, counters to track the number of visitors and so on. In fact, you should not have to pay for anything at all. Many of these services are excellent and easy to work with for the novice, while others would try the patience of a highly-skilled expert. Ask the members in your Lodge or Grand Lodge. The number of Brethren that are "computer savvy," and who will point you in the right direction might just surprise you.

HOW TO GET STARTED

You should check with your Grand Lodge first. Almost all Grand Lodge jurisdictions now have a presence on the Internet. A few GLs have set forth rules and regulations as to what can and cannot be on a Lodge's Masonic web site. Other jurisdictions do not have such guidelines. Regardless, you Grand Lodge can certainly provide useful information on getting started. Also, you can contact the web master of another Lodge web site and seek his advise. The beauty of Freemasonry is that when you have a problem or need help, other Freemasons will "come running" to help — even on the Internet.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

If we, as a Fraternity, hope to attract the worthy young men that will fill our ranks in the future, we have to learn to communicate at their level and using their media. Virtually every young man graduating from High School, in this day and age, is more or less "computer literate." They are familiar with and know how to use the Internet for both entertainment as well as seeking information. If we want to make ourselves easier to find, then we need to have as many of our Masonic organizations on the Internet as possible. If we "are out there," then they will find us.

To restate the original at the beginning of this Short Talk Bulletin: Should your Lodge have a web site? ABSOLUTELY!

The Masonic Service Association of the United States of America