Missionaries serving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo report that the Church has initiated a new meetinghouse construction program to meet the urgent need for additional LDS chapels for the increasing numbers of convert baptisms in the country. In recent months, the two missions in the DR Congo together report approximately 500 convert baptisms a month with 95% convert retention over the past year. Most wards and branches have higher sacrament meeting attendance than the number of church members on ward or branch records. Increasing numbers of isolated members and investigators have also petitioned mission leaders to establish the Church in additional areas, resulting in accelerated growth.
To meet these new and exciting opportunities for rapid growth and high self-sufficiency local church administration and missionary work, the Church has recently decided to train groups of returned missionaries in various construction skills to build additional meetinghouses. This program is designed to meet the immediate need for building additional meetinghouses and to provide skills to unemployed returned missionaries, not to provide long-term employment to participants. At present, there have been only a few groups of returned missionaries who have been trained and are working on two new meetinghouses in the Kinshasa area. Missionaries report that there are about 20 meetinghouses in the planning stages in other locations in the DR Congo. It appears that at present there are dozens of large wards and branches that are in need to be divided into smaller congregations, but current meetinghouses lack sufficient space to hold church services for additional units.
As a church growth researcher, I applaud the decision for the Church to implement this program which will provide more economic solutions to spur church growth, build meetinghouses that are more culturally-appropriate to local conditions, and rapidly capitalize on high receptivity. Additional meetinghouse will likely reduce travel times and increase the feeling of community in wards and branches. The Church instituted a similar meetinghouse construction program in the South Pacific in the mid-twentieth century, resulting in accelerated growth that has resulted in the LDS Church numbering among the largest denominations in some nations like Tonga and Samoa.