A council's greatest asset is its members. The council officers must value member judgment, solicit their opinions, and rely on their participation for continued success. Get to know your members and what activities and issues interested them. Introduce them to the framework of opportunities offered by the many programs of the Knights of Columbus.
Some of our councils are quick to suspend a member without sufficient attempts to save that member. We know that recruitment is an investment that helps to build a strong and vibrant council. When a council drops members to "clean house" or just suspends members without a retention process they destroy what may have taken years to build.
This poem by Fr. Mark Link, S.J. parodies building a council with builders and those willing to tear it down:
I watched them tear a building down;
A gang of men in a busy time.
With a mighty heave and lusty yell,
They swung a beam and a sidewall fell,
I said to the foreman,
"Are these men as skilled
As the men you'd have here if you had to build?"
He laughed and said, "No indeed!"
Just a common laborer is all I need.
And I can wreck in a day or two
What it took the builder a year to do."
And I thought to myself as I went my way,
"Which of these roles have a tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care
Measuring life by the rule and square,
Or am I a wrecker as I walk the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?"
Reflecting on this poem should encourage council officers to be builders and not the wreckers.
Step One: Proposer Involvement
Proposing a new member is a commendable achievement and one in which to take much pride. However, as a proposer, turning over a completed Membership Document (Form #100) is not the end of the job but a beginning.
You must also take the responsibility to see that your recruit becomes fully accepted by his fellow council members and stays involved in council activities. Don't let your new member become "The Guy" who never came back. There are several steps you can take to ensure this.
Explain to him that the council's Admission Committee will examine his qualifications for membership and accompany him to the Admission Committee meeting. Introduce him to the members present.
After he has been accepted, escort him to his First Degree and remain with him throughout the event. Following the exemplification, introduce him to his fellow council members.
Take the newly initiated member and his family "under your wing". See that he learns council procedures, such as meeting times, committee assignments, etc. Introduce him and his family at council events. Encourage him to involve his family in council-sponsored activities.
Accompany your recruit to his Second Degree and Third Degree exemplifications and stay with him throughout the day.
Contact him before each council meeting and bring him to the meeting if necessary. If the new member becomes inactivate for some reason, try to find out why. Call and ask to visit with him. Explain your concern about his absence and offer support or assistance.
Encourage him to earn "Shining Armor" status within the council.
If the Knight becomes inactive, his proposer should work with the retention committee to find out the reasons for his lapsed interest and try to conserve his membership. The proposer should be a part of the "We Miss You" visit.
With a little personal effort you can help guarantee that your recruit becomes an active member of the Knights of Columbus and a lifelong friend & brother.
Step Two: Keep Them Active and Keep Them Knights
Many new members upon joining the Knights of Columbus have yet to become familiar with many varied programs of involvement — programs where each member can personally apply their talents and fulfill their ambitions. Introduce each new member to not only what your council does but what is done across the state. He may be enthused about starting a program of his interest in your community.
In an effort to satisfy member desires and interests, it is advantageous that each member complete the Member's Interest Survey and return it to the council program director for evaluation and action.
Remind your new Knights that it's not only what he can do for the Knights but what the Knights can do for him and his family. Familiarize him with the many fraternal benefits of membership.
Encourage him to continue doing the many things he does now but with a new spirit of Knightly Fraternity. Introduce him to the concept of the 24 Hour Knight.
Step Three: From First to Fourth
The Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus is committed to the preservation of the Church, the Order, and the many nations where Knights serve. It should be a natural progression for First, Second and Third degree Knights to aspire to join the Fourth Degree. Membership in the Fourth Degree allows a Knight to display pride in his country and his faith all the while continuing to serve his community and Church.
Promote Fourth Degree membership to all members of your council. Assign a liaison from your council to your assigned assembly. The liaison serves as a means of promoting the Fourth Degree to prospective council members and can also answer any questions about the Fourth Degree at council meetings.
If members are aware and informed of the Fourth Degree they are more likely to join this most visible part of the Order.
As a last resort a council may need to begin proceedings to remove a member from its ranks. This must be done according to established procedures found on the 1845 form from Supreme. It is critical that the timing be observed and that copies be sent to your district deputy and state retention chair.
Your state council has established additional procedures to be followed to ensure fair and even treatment of brother Knights. Each brother is to be personally contacted about retaining his membership by his council brothers with emphasis on his proposer or mentor being involved.
The council contact & retention attempts are to be documented on a 1845a Retention Contact Worksheet. This record is to be forwarded with the 1845 copy to the state retention chair who then attempts to contact the member. Councils are requested to process unretainable members during the July to December time frame and refrain from any suspensions from January to June each year.
We Miss and Need You Brother
Every effort must be expended to encourage members to remain with the Knights. Ideas for "retaining" a member in danger of losing his membership are available.
Consider using a “We Miss You” campaign to reach out to brother Knights who have not been active with your Council and who may or may not be current on their dues.
Send them a post card indicating “We Miss You” at our Council meetings and “We Need You” in our Council. Indicate to your Brother Knight on the card you or your committee will be contacting him and then personally visit the member and his spouse reminding them of the fraternal benefits they may be forfeiting should they decide not to retain membership in our order.
If he is still interested in the Knights of Columbus, consider dues forgiveness for any back dues. Welcome him back as a valuable member of our fraternity and our activities. This gesture will go a long ways toward building good will that will live far into the future and bear fruit another day.
For those too busy to be active right now, encourage them to pray for your Council and activities; and you in turn will pray and care for him and his family through the fraternal benefits available to members. Many of us are too busy for another meeting. Most of us have time to pray, to help someone in need and to love our family as a Catholic Knight of Columbus.
We should never presume to know the mind of our Brother Knight simply because he hasn't recently come to a meeting or is in arrears on dues payments. Only members who are proven to be unretainable should be processed for removal from our ranks.