Sunday, February 7, 2010

Another Mission to be Discontinued

Missionaries report that this July the Korea Seoul West Mission will be discontinued. I am a returned missionary from the Korea Seoul West Mission and it does not surprise me that the mission will be absorbed into the Korea Seoul Mission not because the mission has been unproductive but rather because of the small number of missionaries serving in the Korea Seoul Mission and the few baptisms they have had over the years. The Korea Seoul Mission will also include stakes formally covered by the Korea Seoul West Mission with the exception of the Suwon Korea Stake which will go to the Korea Daejon Mission. The Seoul West Mission typically has around 300 baptisms a year while the Seoul Mission has had around 100 to 200 a year.

Furthermore missionaries report that as many as 16 missions may be discontinued this summer. As noted by the mission president in the Spain Malaga Mission, reasons for the large number of missions to be discontinued include the decreasing number of men mission-aged in North America and realigning missions in less productive areas to shift resources to more productive areas. It appears that the decision to discontinue so many missions this year was a decision that has been considered for many years and linked to the 2002 announcement of the discontinuation of stake missions and missionary programs with a ward and branch mission focus. Areas experiencing mission consolidations have so far been ones which have or will soon have stakes established, indicating that one of the purposes of missions is to not only teach and baptize converts but to also mentor local members in order to become self-sustaining. Once members become more self sustaining in less productive areas the number of missionaries and resources are reduced.

With so many missions to be discontinued we may see a few more missions organized. Likely candidates include Africa and Central and South America as these regions have many areas which experience rapid growth and rely on foreign missionaries. I also wanted to stress that many areas of the world with high retention and rapid growth do not have foreign full-time missionaries, suggesting that oftentimes members grow too dependent on foreign missionaries to run the Church.

13 comments:

Michael said...

No unhallowed hand can stop the work of God!

miro said...

I heard today at church that the Zurich Switzerland and the Hamburg Germany will be discontinued in July.

The Zurich mission president told it.

I am from Zurich and I think it is a bit sad, because the Zurich Mission was one of the oldest church missions.
The hole mission will move to the Munich Germany Mission wich will include following stakes:
Bern, St. Gallen, Zurich, Stutgart, Munich, Vienna, Salzburg.

--- said...

Actually this massive drop in the number of missionaries and in the number of missions (as a consequence) does scare me. Allow church leaders will work their best to make the missionary resources they have as productive as possible, there is a large scale chance this could have a knock on church growth. The only suggestion for this would be for first presidency to strengthen ward mission programs to make local congregations in certain areas sustain themselves more with door-to-door missionary activity.

This problem seems to reflect in my ward in england now, we currently have no missionaries at all. I hope this doesn't turn out to be as serious as I imagine to be.

Matt said...

It is troubling that the number of missionaries hasn't increased over the past decade. However I would note that although as many as 16 missions may be discontinued in July, this is less than 0.5% of the Church's missions worldwide. Nearly a third of the missions serve only 5% of the world's population and as the number of missionaries hasn't really changed over the past five years the Church must redistribute missionaries and resources meet the needs of new areas opening. We will have to see in April how many missionaries are serving and whether the highest increase in children on record in almost 30 years will repeat itself for 2009.

The problem in the United States with the decrease in the number of young men missionary age is a temporary problem that I imagine will change in the next couple years. The greatest factor in limiting growth with missionaries appears not only the large number of young men who don't serve missions but rather the large number of single members who don't get married or marry outside the Church and become less active. Many nations have really struggled to produce full member families over the years while others have seen a lot of progress towards establishing families in the Church (like Mongolia recently). The Church has focused on this issue quite a bit in Europe over the past five years with YSA outreach centers which have resulted in increases in marriages and more convert baptisms.

The percentage of young men in the US who serve missions I don't believe has changed much since the mid-2000s. Young men serving missions definitely helps growth over the long run as it greatly improves activity for those who serve missions after they return home. However senior missionary couples seem the most successful when it comes to having large numbers of converts who tend to stay active. Perhaps we will see a greater increase in senior couple missionaries in the next few years.

Jeff said...

I doubt that these changes will "have a large impact on growth" as our anonymous friends suggests. Missionaries are being moved out of relatively unproductive areas and being moved to more productive areas. In most cases, missionaries in North America, Europe, and East Asia are underutilized--spending much time in unproductive finding activities while spending less time teaching. So spreading them a bit thinner in such areas will not be a huge problem, and there are many areas of the world that really need more missionaries. Matt has identified hundreds of cities in countries open to receiving missionaries that have never had a church presence. That is where our missionaries need to be! So yes, this is a positive, exciting, and inspired shift in mission alignments.

Rick said...

Elder L. Tom Perry speaks of "mobolizing the ward missions" in this excellent instructional video. Convert baptisms and retention doubles when the principles he presents are followed. In areas where the Church is well established, I believe members and full-time missionaries working effectively together do a greater work than even if the number of full-time missionaries is doubled. Full-time missionaries are most needed in areas where the Church is young or just beginning.

Missionary work has been the focus at the most recent Coordinating Council Meetings (regional meetings of Stake Presidents) that my Stake President attends.

The Burila Bunch said...

I think the Lord wants us to talk to our neighbors. The missionaries are the full time teacher, the members are the finders. I think that is what Elder Bednar tried to tell us. There will always be missionaries to teach, if we find someone they can teach. It is probably not as hard to find someone to teach as we make it. Replace faith with fear.
Thank you for the note about the missionary numbers, this is something we, my family, will talk about in FHE tonight. I think talking to my three sons about preperation so that they may be ready and committed to go where they could be of good use to the Lord. Not every young man can serve a mission but his willingness should be there.

Matt said...

Please keep comments related to the post. Like I've said before, negative or inappropriate comments will be deleted.

Brian said...

Is anyone surprised that LDS proselytizing efforts are not particularly successful in most developed countries?

Tom said...

Brian,

It's worth noting that the United States always accounts for 50% of church growth, having 90,000-100,000 members added annually.

So I'd say that claim is slightly exaggerated. However I don't think its anything to do with "the internet revealing church lies" as the anti-mormons like to put it. But rather on the fact that in some developed countries, people with more money tend to have their own interests wrapped up due to personal affluence, and thus are increasingly becoming less focused on religion generally. Of course the same thing cant be said about all people.

Brian said...

Well, clearly the U.S. is an outlier in terms of religiosity in terms of developed countries, although secularism is increasing here. That's why I said most developed countries.

In terms of efficiency, these closings are obviously not going to affect LDS conversion rates generally, given that most of the missions were not particularly productive compared to missions in developing countries in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Phillipines. It will be interesting to see how successful local efforts in Western Europe and East Asia will be in terms of growing the church's presence or at least maintaining the status quo.

ADT said...

Missionary redistribution to the areas of growth or new areas is a much better system than an inflexible system of 'we must have a mission in this city or two in this city just because'. I am sure that this will bring greater growth.

Some times on my mission with so many missionaries in the mission and very little member work, we would tract and re-tract areas time and time again without going to new towns or cities.

I am enjoying this site, thanks

Helena said...

I served in Korea Taejon (now spelled Daejeon)in 92-93. At the time there were about 200 missionaries in each of the four missions, and rumors that they were going to split off a Taegu mission. This does feel like going backwards.