Saturday, May 29, 2010


Over the past decade, the Church has taken several steps to help increase the number of converts retained and to improve the depth of conversion of new members. The Preach My Gospel missionary guide was implemented in 2004 and new emphasis has been placed on training local leadership.

Although some progress has been made improving convert retention, little if any progress has been made in reactivating inactive members and increasing growth rates. Improving convert retention rates should not result in fewer members joining the Church, but many missions who make major adjustments to curb poor convert retention often see a major slow down in growth. We have seen these results recently in Armenia, the Philippines, and the West Indies Mission. Some missions purposefully reduce convert baptisms in an effort to improve convert retention by lessening the demands of local and mission Church leaders on supporting and teaching new converts. Although new converts should receive adequate teaching and fellowshipping from missionaries and members before and after baptism, with proper planning and foresight missionary work does not have to sacrifice greater amounts of time to increase convert retention rates. Holding cottage meetings is typically an effective activity which helps find, teach, fellowship, reactivate, and retain members. Cottage meetings are usually held by missionaries or local Church leaders who teach a small group of individuals (a mix of active, less active, and investigators) a Sunday school lesson or missionary lesson. Many missions report success using this tactic which often greatly assists in expanding national outreach, particularly in Africa.

Below is a list of the countries which likely experience the highest member inactivity. Ascertaining activity rates per country can be difficult as the Church does not publish sacrament meeting attendance or other indicators of Church attendance and activity. However, comparing congregation and membership growth rates provides some insight into activity rates. Countries are provided with the average number of members per congregation for 2009. Typically countries with more nominal members per congregation have lower activity rates as congregations require a certain number of active members to function and divide once active membership grows too large for one congregation to administer.
  1. Chile - 915
  2. China (Hong Kong) - 754
  3. Northern Mariana Islands - 735
  4. Nicaragua - 673
  5. Bolivia - 671
  6. El Salvador - 655
  7. Ecuador - 641
  8. Peru - 628
  9. Colombia - 622
  10. Honduras - 620
  11. Mexico - 597
  12. South Korea - 593
  13. Brazil - 585
  14. Uruguay - 580
  15. The Philippines - 577
  16. Dominican Republic - 573
  17. Kiribati - 567
  18. Portugal - 566
  19. United Kingdom - 554
  20. Venezuela - 538
  21. Paraguay - 532
  22. Guatemala - 531
We have experienced a major increase over the past decade in this statistic. Below is a list of the countries with the most members per congregation in 2000.
  1. Northern Mariana Islands - 856
  2. Chile - 579
  3. El Salvador - 567
  4. China (Hong Kong) - 531
  5. Bolivia - 503
  6. Mexico - 499
  7. Colombia - 465
  8. China (Macau) - 464
  9. Haiti - 463
  10. Honduras - 458
  11. United Kingdom - 458
  12. Samoa - 455
  13. Peru - 454
  14. Ecuador - 453
  15. Puerto Rico - 447
  16. Brazil - 440
  17. Uruguay - 438
  18. Suriname - 438
  19. Venezuela - 438
  20. Dominican Republic - 436
  21. Nicaragua - 430
  22. South Korea - 426
Comparing and contrasting these two lists reveals that over the past decade, most of the nations with the largest Church memberships have seen much lower congregational growth compared to membership growth. Reasons for slow congregational growth include smaller units combining to form larger congregations, new converts in many of these nations not remaining active, problems developing local leadership to lead new congregations, and increased standards by the Church in many areas for groups to become branches and the number of active members required to divide congregations. In Chile for example, many of the congregations which were discontinued in the early 2000s had less than 50 active members and were wards. Today, we see many wards which have between 100 and 200 active members in Chile.


rfelsted said...

The members per congregation in the US on 12-31-2009 were 450, but the average ward total would be considerably higher because there are 2074 branches, many of which have very few members and serve specific needs, such as Young Single Adults, language groups, retirement centers, correctional faclities, etc.

Also, in the 2000s there was a proliferation of wards dedicated to these special demographic cohorts (even stakes, such as Spanish-speaking, Tongan, and student stakes), which usually have fewer members per unit. These specialized units rarely exist in most of the other nations.

rfelsted said...

The members-per-congregation for 2005 were 446, very close to today's total of 450.

rfelsted said...

The 446 figure in the last post was for US congregations.

Felipe said...

which is the reason for the success of the church in africa, they have the lowest levels of inactivity, what can we learn from them, what we have not done in our countries.

Margalho said...

not exactly related to the subject, but the Macaé District, in Rio de Janeiro Brazil will become a stake soon. apparently it has already been approved by the Church. as soon as I have more info about it, i will post here.

rfelsted said...

To Felipe,

Yes, it is wonderful how devoted many of the members in Africa are! There are even many groups of people meeting in some areas where missionaries are not yet approved to be sent who are not yet baptized. Nigeria has already had 8 new wards and branches in the first 5 months of this year, the most new congregations in the world after the US and Brazil.

keith said...

This may be some of the reason for church growth and especially high retention rates in Nigeria:

"The 1997 University of Michigan study on rates of weekly church attendance worldwide found that 89 percent of Nigerians surveyed reported attending organized religious meetings of some kind at least weekly -- the highest rate of reported church attendance in the world"
quoted from the book: "Law of the Harvest".

Perhaps the church should send some african missionaries to Europe also, to reach some of the many African immigrants living here.