Friday, March 2, 2012

Two New Missions in Utah; New Mission in Nevada

This summer, the Church will create two new missions in the Salt Lake City area and one new mission in Reno, Nevada. At present, the Reno metropolitan area is assigned to the Nevada Las Vegas West Mission.

LDS missions in Utah are among the highest baptizing in the Church; the decision to create additional missions in a state already headquartering five LDS missions to service less than three million people who are approximately two-thirds nominally LDS appears linked to meeting the teaching needs for the large number of investigators in the state. Many missions in Utah baptize hundreds of converts a month whereas most missions in the United States baptize less than 50 converts a month. In other words, missions in Utah are among the most efficient as most investigators are member referrals. The Church in Utah also supplies the worldwide church with large numbers of missionaries, making Utah one of the most self-sufficient areas in the Church in terms of meeting its own missionary needs. In recent years, the Church appears to have created new missions in areas which are becoming more self-sustaining in meeting their own missionary needs and closing missions in areas which are less self-sustaining in supplying local members to serve full-time missions.

I will provide more details on these three new missions once they become available.


Jason Jackson said...

This makes 9. Do you think there will be any more in Africa?

Ben Shideler said...

elder holland already said there would be 7 or 8 this year in africa.

Tom said...

Any possibility that new missions in Utah might also reflect, in part, a focus from the first presidency to focus on less active members? I think I read on a recent post to this blog that some missions have been created elsewhere with the idea that full time Elders could help with reactivation efforts.

John Pack Lambert said...

Even when I was a missionary back in 2000-2002 the official policy church wide was to combined conversion, reactivation and retention. In my mission, Las Vegas Nevada, we had many missionaries who largely resisted focusing on anything besides baptisms (with some I hesitate to say they even focused on conversions) and I remember one missionary who had nothing for disdain for "retention and reactivation missions". There are reasons why while on my mission there was one part of Las Vegas where they reduced 6 wards to 3 even though our mission was a top baptizing mission. There are other factors involved besides low retention rates, but they did not help.

On the other hand while people talked about visiting less activites, consistent instruction on how to teach them was rarely given.

I am hoping it will be possible to get detailed maps of the new missions. The Church News maps are too big for me to tell exactly what is going on.

Brandon Plewe said...

For Salt Lake here are the boundaries (matching stake boundaries to the CN maps):
* SLC W: All stakes named Granger, Hunter, & Magna
SLC C: All stakes named Taylorsville, Bennion, Midvale, Murray, and Midvale except Midvale Union Park and Midvale Union Fort, plus Salt Lake Jordan. Yes I know the map doesn't include Murray, but the shape doesn't make sense if Murray isn't included.
These are the two lowest income parts of the valley. I wonder if that is significant.

yeti said...

from where do you get your statistics?

Anonymous said...

Well, I served in the Salt Lake City mission from 2002-2004. Generally, we didn't spend much time on reactivation, unless a less active member or family specifically requested that we teach them. That did happen from time to time (one young couple in particular was among my favorite people that we taught), but most of our time was spent contacting, teaching and baptizing investigators.

At the time, our mission (and the others in Utah) was leading the church in English-speaking baptisms and baptisms within the US. We averaged roughly 1500 per year (about 125 per month), so I think there was still plenty of demand for missionaries to teach new investigators, especially once the overall number of missionaries began to decline after the Brethren "raised the bar."

I think there are several reasons why the new missions are centered in Salt Lake City. First, it is the largest city in the state. Second, nonmembers now outnumber members. This was also the case when I served, and I suspect it's even more the case now. More non-members means more potential investigators and convert baptisms, which should theoretically lead to more demand for missionaries.

Because the Church is so strong in Utah, I think that's probably true. I was involved in about 30 baptisms, and not one of them was found via tracting. Every single one was a member referral, a self-referral (including calling the Church or requesting missionaries at Temple Square), a previous investigator or a person from a part-member family. Granted, I was terrible at tracting, and I know other missionaries had success with it, but that was my experience.

Finally, one thing that people who haven't lived or served in Utah probably don't realize is that the missionaries here are responsible for very large areas in terms of numbers of wards covered. Speaking with other returned missionaries, it seems that one companionship per ward is often the norm (though some have a bit more). And of course, many wards have multiple sets of missionaries assigned to them.

In my mission, we typically covered one stake per companionship. The number of wards varied, but it was typically about seven. My smallest area was three wards in half a stake. My largest was 14 wards in two stakes. There are a lot of benefits to this (most notably, lots of missionary-minded members), but there are a number of logistical problems too.

For one thing, 14 wards means 14 ward mission leaders and 14 bishops. For this reason, we spent a *lot* of time correlating with these leaders. We had to because it was simply impossible to get to know every active member in the ward, as missionaries in many areas are able to do. We relied on developing a good relationship with the leaders, so that they would give their members extra encouragement (as with anything else, some missionaries are better than others, and many members are reluctant to refer their friends to missionaries that they don't trust). The primary reason for this is that we just could not make it to every ward each Sunday. We typically went to three or four Sacrament meetings every Sunday, and it would still take a month to get around to all of them in my largest areas.

Because a large percentage of our investigators (especially those who got baptized) were referred to us by members, I think it would be extremely helpful for each companionship to have fewer wards to cover so that they can get to know the members much better than we could. I'm guessing that the number of referrals (and by extension, baptisms, since member referrals are one of the most effective sources of new investigators in terms of eventual baptisms) will rise if that is the case. The missionaries in other areas of Utah (particularly in Provo) will still face this problem (in fact, it's much more severe here--missionaries I've talked to say that they usually cover three stakes or more), but as I said, there are also more non-members in Salt Lake City. And Provo still has plenty of baptisms.