Thursday, January 15, 2009

Assessing Inactivity

I have discussed recently how inactivity can be expressed by a ratio of Church membership over congregations. The logic for this statistic is that you have to have a certain number of active members to have a congregation and once the congregation grows too large it is divided. This also assumes that the Church has kept congregations the same size over time. The above graph shows how this ratio has fluctuated over time. Notice how members per congregation today is about what it was in the 1940s. Much of the recent increase in members per congregation is due to inactivity in Central and South America, which unfortunately is worsening overall considering this ratio. Most countries in Latin America add around 10-20 members per congregation because new congregations are not being created at the same rate membership is increasing.

4 comments:

Anthony E. Larson said...

I'd like to know about the inactivity ratios of LDS congregations in the U.S. Is it not true that inactivity in the American membership of the church is up? Or, is that just a distorted perception?

Bev said...

I'm sorry my comment is not on the topic of this post. I looked at your profile and the about me section to find a place to email a link to you on the topic of the church in Russia, however I did not find one.

I was catching up on podcasts and heard an NPR religion report on the issues non-Russian Orthodox traditions have developing in Russia. Here is a link to the article and a link to the audio is on that page. It's short but the perspective of the Bishop or Branch President they interviewed (the only identify him as "local leader) is interesting.

Matt said...

In response to Anthony's question about whether inactivity is increasing or decreasing in the United States, I would say it is not moving much in either direction, but perhaps improving. The number of members per congregation in 2001 was 459 and that ratio has dropped to 445 at the end of 2007. Usually around 200 or so congregations are created in the United States a year, and are usually wards. I belive the reason for this decrease in the ratio is because of Young Single Adult (YSA) and Spanish speaking congregations being created more frequently. However these oftentimes are usually branches, but can quickly mature into wards. Hope that answers your questions

Brandon Plewe said...

This line of reasoning is plausible, but I wouldn't trust it too far. In different areas and at different times, the "normal" size unit varies. For example, during the 1990s, the Church experimented with smaller wards and stakes in Chile, at the same time as inactivity was at an all-time high. Before the 1900's, ward structure was vastly different (e.g., most members didn't have callings), so the membership needs were different.