Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Branches Discontinued in the Caribbean (Lesser Antilles)

Since 2009 the LDS Church has closed many of its branches in the Lesser Antilles, with some branches consolidating with neighboring congregations and others being downgraded to dependent branches or groups which are not reported by official LDS unit statistics.  This trend appears primary motivated by increasing standards for independent congregations to operate, such as requiring a local member to serve as a branch president, but is also largely attributed to low convert retention rates and few convert baptisms.  Inadequate numbers of active local priesthood holders in the region is a major concern which continues to stunt LDS Chuch growth prospects.

Below is a list of countries/territories in the Lesser Antilles which have experienced congregational decline in independent branches since 2008
  • Aruba (three in 2008, one at present)
  • British Virgin Islands (two in 2008, one at present)
  • Curacao (two in 2008, one at present)
  • Dominica (three in 2008, one at present)
  • Guadeloupe (seven in 2008, three at present)
  • Martinique (two in 2008, one at present)
  • Saba (one in 2008, none at present)
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis (two in 2008, one at present)
  • Saint Martin/Sint Maarten (two in 2008, one at present)
The below countries and territories have experienced no change in the number of congregations since 2008:
  • Antigua and Barbuda (one branch)
  • Barbados (four branches)
  • Bonaire (one branch)
  • Grenada (one branch)
  • Saint Lucia  (two branches)
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (two branches)
  • Trinidad and Tobago (five wards, seven branches)
  • United States Virgin Islands (two branches)
It is unclear exactly how many dependent branches and groups operate in the Lesser Antilles.  Senior missionaries serving in the West Indies Mission reported 16 dependent branches in the mission at the end of 2010.  It appears that between 10 and 20 dependent units operate in the Lesser Antilles today. 


Adam said...

These are apart of the West Indies Mission correct?

Matt said...

Not all of the Lesser Antilles pertain to the West Indies Mission but most do. The Virgin Islands, Dominica, Saba, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, and Monserrat are assigned to the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission whereas Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao are assigned to the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo East Mission.

Matt said...

I am a recent returned missionary from the West Indies mission, French speaking. Many branches were created throughout the mission from 2007-2009 in hopes to better build the church with more units/branches and more meetinghouses. However the branches were just too small and were not growing fast enough. The majority of the branches had 20-40 members (including children). The activity rate is about 50% and the local members held all the leadership positions, but they were simply overwhelmed running the branch with so few. More baptisms and more growth was seen in the larger branches so many of the smaller branches were put back together and have increased the strength of the branch and allowed for more training and cooperation among the local priesthood leadership.

Matt said...

Thank you for your feedback. This is one of the dilemmas that church leadership often face; how long should small units continue to operate if little growth occurs? Small units present a large number of problems, including few priesthood holders, fewer socialization opportunities at Church for local members, and dependence of full-time missionaries to handle some or most of the administrative tasks. The establishment of groups and dependent branches provides for flexible opportunities for church planting and require less administrative burden for local members as responsibilities and church programs are gradually introduced. Fortunately for most areas in the West Indies Mission, it does not appear that branch consolidations have significantly affected national outreach potential. Are you aware of any branches which became groups/dependent branches instead of entirely closing?

Matt said...

All the branches closed were entirely closed. Except in Guyana (which is still in the mission but not on this list) where a district was closed but you already have an article about that and I have nothing new to add.