Year Members per congregation
- 1975 - 438
- 1980 - 368
- 1985 - 394
- 1990 - 429
- 1995 - 412
- 2000 - 427
- 2005 - 464
- 2007 - 474
Looking at these numbers, members per congregation fluctuated between 368 and 474 since 1975. Every year since 1999 has seen an increase in this ratio. So if this increase is not simply due to inactivity, then what is it?
Between 2000 and 2004, most countries in Latin America experienced decreases in the number of congregations. Chile, the example that illustrated this most clearly, had over 300 congregations closed during this time. Peru lost 200 congregations and so did Brazil. What happened?
It is important to remember that these are countries where rapid growth took place. One of the measures to accommodate this growth, retain converts, teach members, and build up the Church is to create small wards and branches. This can also help invest in future growth in the area. This tends to be an "offensive" tactic for missionary work. When conditions for missionary work deteriorate, or members are in need of more support and fellowship, the opposite can occur, or a "defensive" tactic. So this could be one of the reasons for why we see such a fluctuation in the number of members per unit worldwide.
Another reason for the fluctuation of over 100 members per unit we've seen in the past 30 years is similar to the last reason. Sometimes many new units are created at once. For example, in 1979 there were 1,632 new units created and 1,105 in 1980. However, the years before 1979 saw around 500-600 units being created a year and after 1980, most years saw around 300-500 new units created. A similar "burst" can be seen in the 90s where up to 1,271 new units were created in a single year. Although we have not seen a large burst in new congregations worldwide recently, we have seen this phenomenon recently in countries such as Suriname, Guyana, Madagascar, Cambodia, and the United States.
I don't want to say much more about this, other than that these are my own ideas and not something that the Church has come out and said.