Saturday, April 19, 2014

Countries with the Highest Members-to-Units Ratio: 2013 Figures

The members-to-units ratio is a statistic ascertained by dividing church-reported membership by the total number of congregations. Countries with high member-to-unit ratios invariably experience low member activity rates as there are an insufficient number of active members to create additional congregations.

Below is a list of the 20 countries and dependencies with the highest members-to-units ratios for 2013.

1. Chile - 950
2. Nicaragua - 836
3. Northern Mariana Islands - 779
4. Bolivia - 733
5. Hong Kong - 721
6. Ecuador - 720
7. El Salvador - 715
8. Honduras - 710
9. Peru - 701
10. Colombia - 699
11. Panama - 695
12. Mexico - 679
13. Macau -  674
14. South Korea - 673
15. Uruguay - 667
16. Kiribati - 641
17. Brazil - 634
18. Paraguay - 624
19. Dominican Republic - 617
20. Venezuela - 600

Member activity rates have appeared to worsen in most countries within the past decade as evidenced by substantial increases in the members-to-units ratio. This finding is supported by only two nations in 2003 reporting members-to-units ratios of over 600 (the Northern Mariana Islands and Chile).


Jim Coles said...

I'm wondering if we could get a list of the lowest to unit ratio as well.

Eduardo said...

I have enjoyed reading this blog over the years, reading and interacting with others, while at the same time analyzing my personal experiences and the larger picture in Chile and Latin America, and thus the entire world as far as the Church has grown and continues.

Hopefully my particular comments and insight have helped shed some light and perspective on Chile, as I was able to live there three times, 1990-91 (mission), 1994 (student) and teacher, father, second counselor in bishopric (2005). Since Chile is at the top of this list and I have recounted before some of the "easy" nature of conversions and baptisms of Chilenos from my own and others' observations, just a couple of further comments.

One, I find it interesting and heartening that the Philippines is not on the list. Based on sheer numbers in the 1990s and later special apostolic missions, these two countries posed unique growing pains to our faith. Good and bad. President Hinckley always remarked that growth was the faith's biggest difficulty and concern, and this website is conveniently dedicated to that phenomena.

Thanks for that, blog creators and contributors.

A real story of a "quick and easy" Chilean baptism... While in my first area Mulchen, 8th Region, Chile, my trainer and I who had already taught and baptized a handful of people in early 1990 met Claudio Orlate, who was 18 or 19 years old. Claudio had attended the Mulchen Ward numerous times, was dating an active member named Eva, personally knew many members in this town of 20-30 thousand, and perhaps been approached by the missionaries before us.
He wanted to be baptized the next Sunday (announcing this on Monday or so), so we taught him a "charla" (lesson)once per day, with the 6th and final the Sunday after his baptism.

Were we wrong? Should we have told him, even though he had attended multiple times going back to previous years, or at least months, that he was going too fast?
We felt that it was his decision, and he passed the interviews and requirements.
Within a few days after his baptism, he did recant his commitment (yep, not the first or last time for such things, in Mulchen, Concepcion Mission, Chile, or other places), but simply one example of the 900 plus members per unit in this unique nation.

And as expressed before, hopefully Africa and other new growth places (of course LDS leadership and planners) can learn from such past experiences and growing pains.

coachodeeps said...

My ward, the Sunnyvale Ward, Granger Salt Lake Utah South Stake, will be consolidated with the other wards in the stake next Sunday. There are currently 9 wards in the Stake (one Samoan ward), so there will be 8 wards in the Stake after the changes.

Rolf said...

It is not acceptable – period! We cannot live with a retention of 10 -25%. There is something wrong with the missionary program. It is impossible to work in a ward with that many inactive – it’s like producing 900 cars and only around 100 of them work. If I was hired by BYU to recruit students for their classes and I qualified & accepted 900 students for their fall semester, and only 100 showed up for classes – I would lose my job. It’s all about stewardship – what is needed to achieve over 85% retention?
Mission presidents should be informed that they need to achieve at least 85% + retention or they have to change the program. I think if Church leaders did in depth interviews with Bishops and Branch presidents in the mission field – they would understand that the members and missionaries are not one with regards to missionary work. We need to be one, if we want the Lord to bless this work. I believe that those who have the keys and stewardship – should change the program until it works. I’m hoping and praying for a change to the program – in the mean time, I’m doing my best with the program we have. Please, give a thought to the local wards & branches that have to deal with an increase of inactive members – this is crippling the local resources. We cannot let this continue.

Mike Johnson said...

List of lowest membership to unit ratio:

Guernsey 46
Slovakia 60
Israel 63
Rwanda 74
Turkey 80
Croatia 98
Nauru 105
Slovenia 106
Cyprus 107
Serbia 111
Moldova 118
Poland 130
Benin 131
Saint Lucia 132
Iceland 134
Niue 140
Solomon Islands 141
Finland 162
Guadeloupe 163
Malta 168
Dominica 173
Angola 180
Czech Republic 184
Lithuania 187
Romania 187
Greece 187
Central African Republic 187
Denmark 189
Togo 192
Saint Kitts and Nevis 194
Vanuatu 197
Martinique 197
Latvia 200

Anonymous said...

Rolf - I can't speak for all countries. But the majority of inactives in North America were born in the church. In North America we only retain about 25% of our Youth. Most People leave the church between 14 and 24

Downtownchrisbrown said...

As I read these posts I just wonder what things were like before the change to the three-hour block. Is it possible that retention was better then, when the church was always being used and was more of a central part of the community?

Also, we find that when things are more difficult when people make a commitment, they are more willing to keep those commitments. I wonder what effect there would be if it switched back. There is something to be said for less convenience

Adam said...

You make it sound so easy Rolf.

(Most colleges only have a yield percent in the mid-30's FWIW)

Even in countries where they have strict baptismal requirements the only mission I've ever heard of retaining higher than 80% is only part of the Provo Utah Mission.

So do you think they should raise the standards to 2 months instead of just one? Will that let us hit the 85%? Simply having keys doesn't mean you will simply have revelation fall from the heavens, or we would have never been in this situation. I would personally LOVE to hear how you would fix it, instead of just being a problem finder and saying it is unacceptable. A bulk of the inflated numbers came from the consolidations of units. Had they kept the same number of units as they had at their peak it would be much lower. While investigators should be well prepared for baptism, it eventually falls on the shoulders of each individual whether they choose to continue to follow Christ or not.

If you have kept up with church growth in the past decade you will know that there have already been large changes made to increase the activity rates with the implementation of PMG and the outlawing of tracting in many areas. Many missions now have standard that the investigator has to go to church 4 straight Sundays in order to be baptized, miss once and you have to start over. If we applied those same standards to members in America we would likely only have 30% that would comply. Had we done things in the 60's the way we do now we wouldn't be having the problems we do, but you learn and adjust.

Eduardo said...

In the case of Claudio Orlate in 1990, other than a couple more Sundays attended consecutively, what else? A calling before baptized? Home teachers the evening of his first Sunday? A big test like the Jehovah's Witnesses? Free will and personal character are large determinants. But Chile did have a long run of quick and heavy baptizing. I was below average...It has slowed down the last 15 years.

Downtownchrisbrown said...

We're told that the Book of Mormon is for our day. The prophets in those days had troubles with retention as well. At least the less actives these days aren't grabbing their swords and coming after the rest of us.

Downtownchrisbrown said...

Also for some modern history comparisons, apostles called while Joseph Smith was alive had a life-time activity rate (remained active for entire life) of 39%.

Eduardo said...

I forgot to mention: part of the reason I mentioned Claudio by name was that maybe he would eventually read this and know that I remember him. Others from Mulchen in my time there...Chery Burgos, Juana Rifo, Elizabeth Yanez (with tilde), Carolina, Jimena and Faviola Valdebenito, Juan Villalobos, Maria de Villalobos, Claudia Riquelme, Jose Varela, Maria Capot, Marcelo Munoz (with tilde, Alex and Dina...
Many were members of part member families, and we helped re-active a few, one of whom became a counselor to Bishop Hinostroza.

Could social media end up retaining a lot of converts? If we had had email during and since my mission, let alone Facebook and blogs, maybe many of them would still be activated...

I understand Rolf's angst. I think the Lord speaks passionately about his chicks/sheep throughout the scriptures with lamentation and remorse, for lack of better words.

Eduardo said...

We worked a lot with members to re-activate them, throughout my mission. Sometimes successful. Alex and Dina, I do not remember their last names, but it inspires me to research my records and find out. My last companion in that area, Andres Miranda from Rancagua, baptized their mother before he left. Bishop Hinostroza ended up moving to Angol where I saw him in 2005. Great lifetime member.

Rolf said...

Hi Adam, I truly don’t think it is easy, but I think we are too focused on the “rite of passage” for the missionary and less on the lasting fruits of their labours. One of the reasons the missionary program does not work is because non committed people are being baptized far too often. The local members observe this lack of commitment and therefore have lost faith in the discernment of the missionaries. The missionaries and local members are not one.

If you are not truly converted, you should wait with your baptism. As long as we are not following D&C 20:37 – I believe we will not receive the blessings. We need to get away from the short sightedness that we experience in our missionary work – one way of doing this is to transfer the responsibility of interviewing potential converts to the local priesthood leaders. They are more interested in long term growth than a quick fix – I also think that it would take away the pressure on the mission presidents and their missionaries to focus on short term numbers. We should work hard and God will give the growth.

Just so nobody misunderstands me – I love the missionaries and the mission presidents & their wives. They are wonderful – but I do believe they get caught up in reporting numbers, while the local congregations has to live with the long list of inactive investigator that became inactive members.
I hope we will become better stewards in this great work soon. I really support the focus on social media.

So, in order to become one in this great work, I suggest:

1 – The local ward with the full time missionaries makes a “creative” missionary working plan, which is agreed upon in the ward council
2 – The local members with the full time missionaries work hard together to achieve this plan
3 – Potential converts are challenged to commit to daily prayer, commit to reading the scriptures daily, commit to church every Sunday and commit to using their talents in the local congregation.
4 – The potential convert should be following step 3 for at least 3 months
5 – The potential convert’s progress is a topic in the weekly ward council
6 – When the council agrees that the potential convert is ready for baptism, based on D&C 20:37 – the potential convert is interviewed by the Bishop
7 – Local members gain confidents in the work and are therefore more willing to invite family, friends and people they meet to speak with the missionaries
8 – All new converts are followed up and evaluated (if they remain active – why, if they go into inactivity – why) this is done to identify improvement to the program
9 – We become more and more one in this important work

Matt said...

I have enjoyed following the dialog on analyzing and making sense of these concerning data.

To rectify member activity and convert retention issues, there is a great need for longer prebaptismal preparation. Rushing poorly prepared investigators into baptism within just a matter of a couple weeks typically does not set these individuals up for lifelong discipleship. This short, high intensity, "sensationalized" approach to conversion may yield impressive numbers of baptisms but does not allow for prospective members to begin habitual church attendance, develop social connections and friendships with members within the congregation, and help these new members become an asset instead of a liability to the congregation. Despite the introduction of Preach My Gospel 10 years ago, there remain missions that continue to baptize individuals who have not even attended church once and, in extreme cases, on the same day that they initially met the missionaries! For whatever reason, some mission and area leaders have determined that this practice is okay, particularly in locations where there is a recently established or no previously established LDS presence. Inconsistent implementation of Preach My Gospel remains a serious shortcoming of the missionary program that continues to exacerbate inactivity and retention woes worldwide.

If I were a mission president and had the liberty to determine what baptismal standards I would have missionaries follow, I would require prospective converts to be enrolled in seminary or institute if these programs are available. I would also place greater responsibility on the bishop, branch president, or group leader to determine the readiness for conversion and make this part of the formal conversion process in addition to investigators passing a baptismal interview conducted by a district or zone leader. The goal of these expectations centers on ensuring people are getting baptized for the right reasons and to mitigate the risk of baptizing flaky investigators who convert largely because of pressured tactics implemented by some missionaries or limited understanding of what lifelong conversation and discipleship entails. Until we see more stringent qualifications that require more dedication and preparation from new members, we will likely continue to see the same disheartening and discouraging activity and retention rates for the years and decades to come.

Brooks M. Wilson said...

As a technical note, the members per unit can get worse as retention rates improve if the rate at which units are consolidated is higher than the increase in the rate of retention (more or less). The Church has tightened baptismal standards. Has it helped?

Grant Emery said...

I talked to my friend who served in Hong Kong, and he brought up a good point on interpreting the ratio. He said that one of the big factors in the number of members is how many lost sheep there are. He said that in Hong Kong, everyone is so transient that people get lost that way, increasing Hong Kong's numbers. Yes, that means they were most likely HK converts to begin with (which makes it a fair estimate of retention), but other regions might not have the same problem, thus skewing the numbers. What do y'all think? Is this a factor to consider or is it negligible?

Christopher Nicholson said...

Interesting. I don't know enough to say whether that's a useful factor or not but it makes sense to me. And it reminded me of something else; the fact that in Hong Kong people have inhumanly busy work and school schedules. Just recently I read an article about how church is held every day of the week for domestic servants from the Philippines only get one day off. So now that I think about it, I wouldn't be surprised if people there are less willing to attend church because they have less free time.

Mike Johnson said...

The Bluffdale Utah South Stake was created on 20 April. There are 8 wards in the stake:

Bluffdale 1st Ward
Bluffdale 5th Ward
Bluffdale 8th Ward
Bluffdale 9th Ward
Bluffdale 10th Ward
Bluffdale 13th Ward
Bluffdale 14th Ward
Bluffdale 15th Ward

The Mina and Nabulao branches, Sipalay Philippines District, Philippines Bacolod Mission, were created on 20 April. There are now 6 branches in the district:

Cauayan Branch
Hinoba-an Branch
Inayawan Branch
Mina Branch
Nabulao Branch
Sipalay Branch

The Savannah Ward, Goodyear Arizona Stake, was created on 13 April. There are now 10 wards and 1 branch in the stake:

Canyon Trails Ward
Corte Sierra Ward
Goodyear Ward
La Loma Ward
Litchfield Park Ward
Palm Valley Ward
Sarival Ward
Savannah Ward
Verrado Ward
Waddell Ward
Rio Vista Branch (Spanish)

The Tomball 2nd Ward, Klein Texas Stake, was created on 20 April. There are now 11 wards and 1 branch in the stake:

Champions Ward
Inwood Ward
Klein Ward
Kleinwood Ward
Magnolia 1st Ward
Magnolia 2nd Ward
Memorial Springs Ward
Parkway Ward
Sam Houston YSA 1st Ward
Tomball 2nd Ward
Windrose Ward
Fallbrook Branch (Sign Language)

Note, Tomball 1st Ward is in the Cypress Texas Stake

The Woodbury Ward, Oakdale Minnesota Stake, was created on 20 April. There are now 8 wards and 2 branches in the stake:

Barron Ward
Cottage Grove Ward
Eagan Ward
Eau Claire Ward
Hudson Ward
Oakdale Ward
Red Wing Ward
Woodbury Ward
Chippewa Falls Branch
Menomonie Branch

Mike Johnson said...

In Hong Kong, there is a missionary couple whose assignment is to hold church services and provide other support, 6 days a week--Monday through Saturday, to the domestic workers, many of whom are foreign. Their p-day is Sunday. I have been informed that these congregations are quite large.

Also, to accommodate domestic workers who have their day off on Sunday, the Hong Kong Temple is now open one Sunday a month for two sessions.

Grant Emery said...

The conversation about achieving a higher level of retention/activity has got me thinking. I feel like the missionary process (as currently defined as pre-baptism) has gone through a lot of refining. I think the integration process (defined here as post-baptism, even though it should start earlier) is where the most progress could me made. Yes, I definitely think the missionaries need to understand the bigger picture much better than they currently do. However, I feel the ward councils in which I've participated have consistently dropped the ball with regards to new converts. We do a fair amount of talking, but no concrete, consistent action to keep someone active who isn't self-motivated.

What are the things that we could teach them post-baptism that would help them? I'm thinking doctrine will come with Church attendance and the new member lessons. However, giving them new tasks to learn, with the mentorship of members, could be useful. For example, one month after baptism, all converts give a five-minute talk. A member is assigned to sit down with them and help them prepare to give a talk - teaching them how to do it in the process. You could so something similar with Sunday School or the third hour. Giving those mini-milestones could both provide them with the training that helps them not feel stupid, as well as the motivation to keep participating as they prepare for the temple. So, what tasks do you think most converts could use one-on-one coaching on? Talks, lessons, HT/VT visits come to mind. Any other ideas?

BYULAW said...

Hopefully I don't get struck by lightning for this, but I this last conference I took note that Elder Clayton and Elder Robbins both served in the South America South Area Presidency while I was serving my mission. The latter half of 2006 each of the two missions in Paraguay were baptizing 300 - 400 per month. There was enormous pressure by Elder Clayton and Robbins on the Argentina missions to try to reach those same numbers. Our mission doubled the amount of baptisms to around 150 per month for a little while and I know a lot of missions in the area increased their numbers as well. (however, now looking back those numbers probably didn't result in lasting growth since Paraguay hasn't had much congregational growth since then and neither has Argentina) I'm sure many of you are familiar with the idea that those who baptize the most are often made zone leaders and AP's, I've wondered if that concept carries over for mission presidents and area presidents. I don't mean to discredit revelation or anything, but is it possible that area presidencies and/or mission presidents feel they will be rewarded by having great looking numbers? And is there any actual correlation between baptismal success and church leadership? (i.e. high baptizing mission presidents becoming area 70's etc.) I've often wondered if this has an impact, because it may be hard to change church-wide baptismal procedures when those whose approach to baptizing has been very numbers driven and then they are put in the highest levels of leadership....meaning presidency of the 70.

Mike Johnson said...

It saddens me to hear that in some places there is 25% retention among the youth between 14 and 18.

In the several wards I have been in, I don't think I have ever seen the active number for youth to be below about 60%. We currently have over 85% active and only 1 less active youth is currently in our ward from an active family. There are some that have never been to church during their teenage years.

Some do fall away during their teenage years. I think more fall away after they graduate from high school and go off to college or enter the work force. That, I think, is more of an issue.

That said, I have seen people leave the Church and come back and when they did they were stronger. People do have a lot of demands on their time and the Church places a lot of demand.

If they don't develop a testimony they will find it hard to remain active, but even those with a testimony likely will face a trial of faith of some kind in their life. In my opinion, we are on earth to go through trials. We all have our own set. It is less to test our faithfulness and more because trials are a means of helping us grow.

We had a less active member, who fell away when he was a teenager, but last year he decided to become active again. His wife and oldest son then joined the church and then the second son turned 8 and was baptized--creating a situation where the wife and oldest son were listed as converts and the next son a baptism of a child of record. A great family with a date to go to the temple and be sealed this July.

I had known them before and when he showed up one fast and testimony meeting with his family, I thought great. Then he got up to bear his testimony and I wondered what he was going to say. He started out by talking about how he fell away as a teenager. And then told about the previous week as he went through a number of experiences and told us that he was now going to return to church. He told the youth that he didn't develop a testimony as a youth because he didn't try and admonished them not to make the same mistake he did. The next month his wife bore her testimony--before she was baptized. And so did the oldest son.

Thomas Jay Kemp said...

The key is the Bishop motivating the ward leadership.
It starts there.
Ours was the ward that never baptized. Sac Mtg attendance was low and dropping.
The Bishop made looking after the members and investigators the top priority.
Talking abt the potential new members and key member needs were the first items on every agenda - PEC, Ward Council etc.
HT/VT was encouraged - but he took it a step further. He organized visits every Sunday afternoon - missionaries & members teamed up and visited members for 3 hrs every week. He went every Sunday.
He called every family and visited with them during the week. He spoke with them and got to know each one - adding hundreds to the rolls (children, spouses etc.) and forwarded the records on for those that moved.
This way he knew the situation of each single adult, each youth and each member.
He greeted and spoke with every investigator - every Sunday. Every convert - he called on them at home.
It was a full court press. He knew that being a Bishop would last only so long - and then the opportunity would end.
Did everyone leap into activity - no - but the Sac Mtg % jumped to over 50%. This was the ward that never baptized - and it became the top baptizing ward in the stake & mission year after year.
Delegation is great - but deciding that the Home Teachers will get out a message or cover the ward is only as realistic as that ward's % of HT. If that % is 30% - well 70% is not being contacted. In many ways HT percentages are an indicator of the activity rate of the home teacher. If we want to cover everyone in a ward - then we must use multiple approaches.
He started monthly mailings to every household - not some, not selected - all of them. The idea was simple: To reconnect with the families. Again this is in addition to VT and HT. The Bishop was clear - this might be the only contact a member received - and by sending the letter each month - that contact would be renewed.
Every month the ward got back 20-30 address corrections from the Post Office. Essential to keep up with a transient ward. The ward was huge - it took an hour on the interstate to go from one side of the ward to the other side. So multiple approaches were essential.
The Bishop consolidated all meetings to one night - YM/YW night. That way the building was always bustling with activity. It seemed alive - and added to the come-back spirit. When the ward events were scattered over multiple nights - each one seemed small - with only a few showing up. By consolidating - it seemed that the ward was a beehive of activity.
He started a regular pot-luck dinner so that entire families could attend - and attend they did.
On other weeks – we had “pie day” after church – a mini-social event to get everyone together, talking and visiting – building the fabric of the ward.
A Temple opened in our state and he started a regular Temple trip (it was an hour and a half away) - driving up a van load every month. They would get there in time for one session and always ended with everyone gathering at a local fast food place to eat and talk - on the way home. Memorable.
The missionaries were invited to every PEC and ward council. They were the first agenda item and were a part of the entire meeting.
Can you see that the focus was on loving the converts and members. Everyone was given a 'task' a calling and engaged in the work.
This isn't a question of investigators going through months of training - this was a question of bringing them in ASAP, baptizing them and loving them into full activity (this was long before the new guidelines).
How did we do? We had 100% activity from our converts - year after year. None fell away (and remember we led the stake/mission in baptisms for years).
We became people centered. Led by the Bishop - all meetings were focused on people. The members were terrific - they radiated the Spirit and it was contagious. They were great.
This was the key. Try it - it works.

Matt said...

One of the reasons for losing youth is often the result their parents experiencing a divorce. One or both parents often go inactive during or after a divorce, so the kids follow suit.

Also, there needs to greater emphasis placed on emotional health for youth (not being offended, higher self-confidence, stronger social skills, etc), and understanding how their personal situation (parents divorcing) doesn't mean the Gospel isn't true.

Eduardo said...

I have been reflecting on some of LDS mission policies, efforts, results, personal experiences and successes and failures, and there are many thoughts.
When I arrived to the Chile Concepcion Mission, we had already discussed the crazy (very high) baptismal rates that some of my MTC companions were hearing about in Vina del Mar. In the late 80s and early 90s, the six Chilean missions were baptizing extremely big numbers of people. Was it out of control? I guess, but there was also large unit growth, so it seemed mostly right.
I thought Chile was becoming an LDS people, like Tonga or Shelley, Idaho, or Lethbridge, Alberta. My trainer from Santiago was energetic and zealous, and while he cared about numbers (we read the pamphlets about Wilford Woodruff and Heber C. Kimball baptizing thousands) and we would ask ourselves: why not?

More later...

John Pack Lambert said...

I'm not convinced that the ratio of active members to units means what some here claim it does. From a pure unit count, it looks like there were more active members in Detroit now than in the mid-1990s. However, knowing the siutation on the ground, I have the sense the number of active members in now higher. There are wards and units functioning almsot at ward level where 17 years ago there were extremely understaffed branches.

John Pack Lambert said...

Also, I have to say that the 25% retention rate for youth is totally not based on any fact. It is a misreading of low activity rates of YSA and Single Adults over a certain age, but these are skewed because for a very broad variety of reason, people who get married are more likely to be active and people who are active are more likely to get married. I say both because there is cause and effect on both sides.

Mike Johnson said...

John, I agree. Makes sense.

Also, consider that a lot of active young adults go on missions, reducing the number of active young adults in wards.