Tuesday, April 26, 2016

10+ New Stakes to be Created Each Week?

LDS apostle Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was recently quoted in a meeting with young single adults in the Dallas area in regards to unprecedented growth in the number of new stake creations. This meeting occurred last Sunday, April 24th. A video of the conference can be found here. Elder Holland begins to discuss stake growth around 54 minutes into the video. Here are some quotes that I found particularly interesting:
  • "[Growth] is the single greatest problem we have."
  •  "We are reeling under the implications of the growth that we have in this Church."
  •  "A week ago Thursday we created 15 stakes...the week before it was 12." [in reference to temple meetings at Church Headquarters]
  • "We are talking about double-digit stakes every week of our lives."
  • "It is like a bucking bronco."
  • "In the middle of all that occasionally, rarely...we dissolve a stake. That is so unusual..it doesn't happen very often."
When I first watched this video, I first thought that Elder Holland was reporting that 12 new stakes were created on April 10th and 15 new stakes were created on April 17th. However, after reviewing the video it appears that he is referring to meetings to approve new stakes in the coming months. Based upon reports and research I have conducted, most of these new stakes appear most likely to be organized in the United States, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, and Sub-Saharan African. Many of these new stakes appear likely to be districts advancing to stake status, particularly in locations such as the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

I have made previous posts on this blog regarding accelerating stake growth in 2016. So far I have confirmed 27 new stakes that have been created in 2016 with an additional seven stakes that will be created or that may have already been created. To put this into perspective, the Church has reported an average net increase of 47 stakes within the past 10 years. If the Church were to organize at least 10 new stakes every weekend for the rest of 2016 (excluding the weekend of the October 2016 General Conference, the month of July when few, if any, new stakes are organized, and the last two weekends of the year), the Church would organize an additional 280 stakes during 2016 for a grand total of over 300 new stakes for the entire year. If this were to occur, it would be twice the Church's previous record for the most new stakes organized in a single year set back in 1996 when 148 new stakes were organized. I can verify from my own research that the process of discontinuing stakes is unusual for the Church as a whole (aside from the early 2000s when dozens of stakes were discontinued in Latin America). The Church has discontinued an average of 4.5 stakes a year since 2008.

The creation of new wards and branches has slightly accelerated thus far in 2016, with an average of nearly 14 new wards or branches organized a week. However, the rate of wards and branches being discontinued appears to have slightly increased as approximately seven wards or branches have been discontinued a week. New wards and branch creations have occurred all over the world, but mostly in the United States, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Nearly all wards and branches discontinued thus far in 2016 have been in the United States and Latin America.

I am not sure if Elder Holland's comments on "double-digit stakes every week of our lives" means that this will literally happen or be consistent (even though he uses the word "every" in the comment). He acknowledges in the video that the rate of stake creations frequently fluctuates.
Time will tell to determine whether stake growth will continue to accelerate, or whether this acceleration in 2016 is a temporary one. Accelerated congregational growth will be absolutely essential for the Church to accelerate the creation of new stakes in the coming months and years ahead. Stakes generally administer five to 12 congregations.

43 comments:

BYULAW said...

I think the double digit stakes comment needs emphasis on the "talking about" part. Meaning, I think every week they have discussions about creating double digit stakes. I do not think that this means that double digit stakes will be created on a weekly basis, or that we should expect an increase in stake creations. It probably means just as he stated, that they talk about 10+ stake creations a week; but, it is likely that only a handful of those stake creations are actually approved.

Michael Worley said...

Retention rates must be way up, as well as re-activation rates. Whether or not these comments should be taken as broadly as this post suggests, it is clear retention must be through the roof for this level of growth to occur with a lower number of net baptisms.

Ryan Searcy said...
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Ryan Searcy said...

Sad, one of the stakes I served in just lost 3 wards, that makes 4 wards gone since I came home 3 years ago.

Jerimiah Bullfrog said...

Retention is, indeed, through the roof right now. I don't really know what is causing it other than I know that missionary efforts world wide have been more focused on reactivation and retention than on baptisms in recent months/years.

Alex said...

Michael Worley's post actually mimics something I have seen in the area where I served my mission. In the past few years, there has been super obvious growth in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale, FL, metro area, including a temple and a slew of new stakes. This area was stagnant for a long time, and I was there in 2008 when the Miami Stake and Homestead Stake (the latter of which had one ward with even close to 100 members attending every week) were consolidated.

In the Fort Lauderdale Mission, when Preach My Gospel-era missionary lessons and member involvement were first implemented, for reasons I don't fully understand, baptisms actually dropped from about 45 per month to close to 32 per month for quite a while (this was around 2007). However, retention shot from about 5-10% to 71%, the highest in the North America Southeast Area at the time. Definitely not perfect (I saw one ward go from on fire to dead when 8 recent converts went inactive in 6 months, many despite heavy member fellowship), but a significant improvement. Once the missionaries started having some noticeable success and one or two members referred their friends who got baptized, large chunks of the mission, especially in Palm Beach County and the eastern half of Broward County near Ft. Lauderdale, lit up. Baptisms, retention, temple attendance, ward council effectiveness, and family history work (possibly even things like home and visiting teaching and family home evening) all took off at the same time. Around the time I left in 2009, baptisms were at 60 per month, still with that high retention, and they reached 80 baptisms per month by 2010, a direct fulfillment in that area of Pres. Hinckley's promise about doubling baptisms.

The more I've followed this blog, the more I've become cautiously optimistic that what happened/is happening in southeastern Florida is a pattern that is happening across the globe. If retention is up as much as it seems to be in so many locations, then large swaths of at least the US and Latin America are in the early stages of the pattern, where member separation from preaching the gospel and burnout over lots of names that mean nothing on ward lists is being replaced with a desire to bring people back and keep them in, two things that require the members to replace the missionaries in leading an aspect of missionary work (including more and better home/visiting teaching as missionary work to those who are already members). This excites me tremendously for the large increases that are possible in all the key indicators that should go up all at once when the spiritual fallout from the higher retention hits. Members will take their friends to the temple, teach them about family history, and home and visit teach them more effectively as crucial components of increased retention, which will light up all the key indicators in a really spectacular way.

Bryan Dorman said...

I can vouch for that (retention) here in Mexico. The only thing is that it continues to be hit or miss, with the hits happening when the same MEMBERS take control of the reactivation process as soon as the MISSIONARIES report on the less actives to the bishop and auxiliary presidencies.

Where it remains a MISS is when there is ZERO member involvement.

Matt, I can tell you that in Puebla there are certain projections that are going on right now. One of the stakes (Fuertes) appears like it will either be absorbed into neighboring stakes or be downgraded to district status. There will probably be a reorganization of boundaries out west, with perhaps a new stake created out of the La Libertad Stake that would affect the Cholula stake. And the rumor is also that the two southern stakes (Valsequillo and Mayorazgo) could also divide to form a third stake there.

It would be interesting as both Libertad and Mayorazgo have ten wards each. Mayorazgo is the stronger stake of the two though. Valsequillo has seven wards but they all have very high attendance. Fuertes is the exception to the rule; though there are eight "wards", the "wards" have attendance ranging in the 30s to 50s, which is why they are talking either consolidation or downgrading to district status.

In the Amalucan Stake there is a group in Tlachichuca currently administered by the Serdan Ward. There are missionaries there and they have had many baptisms there.

These things are being projected for end of June or perhaps first part of July. I'll give you more information as events warrent.

L. Chris Jones said...

I think many stakes that get dissolved are from changing demographics. Especially in Utah. A Magna stake just got dissolved. But other areas of the Salt Lake Valley are growing fast. This may happen around the world especially with changing local economies as people move to or from and area for work.

L. Chris Jones said...

I think many stakes that get dissolved are from changing demographics. Especially in Utah. A Magna stake just got dissolved. But other areas of the Salt Lake Valley are growing fast. This may happen around the world especially with changing local economies as people move to or from and area for work.

MainTour said...

A changing demographic that will always impact unit memberships is when new members are able to dramatically improve their lives by following basic gospel principles and part of that process results in moving out of blighted urban neighborhoods into nicer suburban areas.

James Anderson said...

What I'm seeing with Elder Holland's comments he may not have differentiated between stakes being created and stakes being reorganized.

Often, a stake president will be told he is going to be released at the next stake president and that often some time in advance. Two general authorities are usually then scheduled to attend that stake conference to reorganize the stake, just like for creation of new stakes, to do the interviews, etc., then present the new presidency.

So, we're seeing some of that in the numbers too, often that is much more than new creations, but like Elder Holland said, that also varies. The ratio of new stakes versus reorganization scheduling is going to be different from week to week and month to month as well.

Adam said...

Even with the reorganization theory, if the average stake president serves for say 7 years and 3200 stakes, that means they would have to reorganize around 9 a week. I don't think weeks with double digits would be a big enough deal to bring up unless he just wanted to give off some false impression that everything was fine and dandy. I agree that there doesn't appear to have been congregation growth to back up the claim, so hopefully it is potential district upgrades that are triggering the comments.

TempleRick said...

We have reached 3,200 stakes with the creation of the Mbuji-Mayi Democratic Republic of the Congo Stake. Assuming double-digit stake growth, we should hit 3,300 in the next 2-3 months. ;)

Tom said...

Ryan Searcy: where did you serve your mission?

Ryan Searcy said...

Ventura, California - the stake I am referring to is the Camarillo California Stake. It once had 12 wards - 6 in Camarillo, 6 in Oxnard. Now, there is only 5 in Camarillo and 3 in Oxnard.

Tom said...

That's a steep loss. Was this all at once, or gradually since you finished the mission? Also, Any guesses why there is such decline?

Jerimiah Bullfrog said...

California has basically never come out of the recession.depending on location, there has been mass emigration to other states where the economy is actually growing.

Ryan Searcy said...

I can't speak for Oxnard, though I heard all of those wards were pretty small, which is probably why they discontinued one of the wards there I think in either 2013 or 2014. A companion of mine helped close down a chapel in the area (I think because they built a new one, which is where the mission office is now). I served in the Camarillo 5th Ward, which was by far, the largest ward in the stake. It was large enough to split, but I think the stake was hesitant because of how the other wards were struggling, and seeing it now, rightly so. The other Camarillo wards were also pretty small. Some time in 2012 after I transferred out of Camarillo, the boundaries were altered, and parts of the 5th Ward was taken out to strengthen the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th Wards. I believe the 2nd Ward was very small when I was there, and it covered a small area compared to the other wards. Oxnard has a heavy Spanish population, which surprised me that a Spanish ward was discontinued. Camarillo is a very comfortable city that has easy access to many places in the area. There is a large neighborhood south of the 101 that is all new housing (part of the 5th Ward), which is also where a lot of the newer families came from. Camarillo was also the only area in my mission where people regularly yelled "Hail, Satan" to us. In short, I am uncertain of why there was such a drastic loss. It is possible that it was a combination of high inactivity and members moving away.

Mike Johnson said...

Thank you for sharing this YSA conference with Elder Holland. What a wonderful talk by Elder Holland.

He clearly is talking about stake creations and not about stake reorganizations (which should be averaging about 10 anyway). And it doesn't sound like he is talking about stakes under consideration. Besides most that are rejected are rejected below the level of the 12 (or in the Priesthood and Family Executive Council that Elder Holland chairs).

Just looking at members per stake and wards per stake, many more stakes could be created. Therefore much of the time, the limiting factor is the number of active, full-tithe-paying Melchizedek Priesthood holders. So, yes activations may be part of the creation.

And yes, this includes the number of stakes approved at the Thursday meeting, which may take several weeks or months before they are actually created. It is also possible that not every week in the year is considered, after all July and December/January are the vacations for the senior brethren. The budget meeting the first Thursday in December may preclude the Executive Council meetings.

Eduardo Clinch said...

I know people and stories who have reported that Oxnard has some scary elements of gangs and violence. Not Camden, New Jersey, but not always conducive to gospel living.

Matt said...

I got this email a day or two ago:

"The Camarillo, CA stake had a meeting last night in which two wards were eliminated. The primary reason was due to lack of new membership moving in, slow-ish missionary work, and many, many move-outs. Camarillo is a very expensive area, and lacks many young couples. Additionally, about 20 years ago, Camarillo enacted incredibly strict zoning laws. This virtually eliminated the prospects of new housing tracts typical of the SoCal growth pattern. These zoning laws were enacted just after the expansion of the stake."

Ryan Searcy said...

Really? When I served in the Camarillo 5th Ward, there were tons of young families. I guess a lot must have changed in the almost 4 years.

Ryan Searcy said...

Another area I am worried about is the Carpinteria Ward in the Santa Barbara Stake. When I was there, it was smaller than my old home ward before it got discontinued.

Christopher Nicholson said...

So according to ldschurchtemples.com the Commencement Bay Ward in one of the Tacoma stakes was reinstated yesterday and discontinued again today... a fluke?

TempleRick said...

Yes, I'm sure it was CDOL operator error.

Scott said...

I wish social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) could be researched in order to determine its impact on convert retention and reactivation. I had two children come home last year from their missions in Indiana and Australia. Unlike when I served in Japan, because of social media they have kept in contact with many converts they got to know and those they helped to reactivate. I think this is true for a lot of recently returned missionaries in staying in contact with those they served after their missions. Other than the occasional letter, visit or telephone call, I do not know a lot about those I met for the time I served. But, my kids have remained a part of the lives of those they served. This may be helping in retention a lot. Again, it would be hard to research this, but I suspect it is helping a lot more than we realize.

Bryan Dorman said...

I came back from my mission right as Facebook was starting to become popular in the United States. It is a blessing, a huge blessing, to be able to keep in touch with your converts over time.

Even in home teaching, when I cannot make an appointment for a long time due to busy things either in my schedule, my HT comp's schedule, or the family schedules, it is always refreshing to have a chat via FB and talk about the message that way. I call it "Social Teaching or "Facebook teaching."

James Anderson said...

They have found that missionaries have been able to do a lot of teaching on FB, sometimes up to as many as 80 lessons a week compared to 20 in-person lessons. Eventually each one that progresses far enough is handed off to whatever set of missionaries is available in the contact's local area.

Twitter can be used as outreach too, since everyone can see everything, best for sharing conference talks, podcasts, videos, etc., and if you use hashtags and as many as you can fit, you can reach even more than just those who might be following you.

And on both don't just use the normal 'lds' hashtags either, use any that can be found that reaches other faiths.

Bryce .Gillespie said...
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Bryce .Gillespie said...
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Bryce .Gillespie said...

Facebook was a great tool in my mission used with the iPads we could do trice as much then we could do with out them with one eather Facebook tracking\fiending and the other was sending a message or video to some one we was teaching or what ever it maybe we was able to reach alot of people butter then we could of with out eather one, the last ward I served in had a town that was a Polygamist colony and the only way to fiend people was eather them coming to chouch o a member siting it up for us but with Facebook we could track in to them by sending a friend request and if they accpted then we could start talking and move into a gospel related topic. I rember when my mission got iPads that the number of lesson and people we was teaching went up, as will the records was kept nicer and butter then they have ever been. I thank with these tools it was easier to fiend people mere so with lies actives a lot of missianrys would add ever one on the ward records as friends on Facebook when they got transferred in to the word.

John Pack Lambert said...

The actual goal the Church aims for is to have stake presidents serve about 9 years.

John Pack Lambert said...

My impresion is that over the last year the Church has lost at least active members in California as a whole. Since about 1992 the Church has had various periods of net loss of members, and I am not sure if the active member numbers are what they were in 1992. Over the last few years there has been a significant net migration of people out of California to the rest of the US. I don't think California is yet loosing people due to net natural population growth and net immigration from abroad. However some studies claim the net movement between the US and Mexico is currently more moving from the US to Mexico than the other way around. California has seen many stakes discontinued since 1992. I am not sure any have been discontinued since 2008, and some areas have seen growth, but overall the Church has struggled.

I know in the wake of the passing of Proposition 8 a few members lost their jobs due to having supported it. However I do not have much evidence of people leaving the Church over that or it having a negative impact on Church growth. It may make some people less willing to listen to the missionaries at all, but there is no evidence that such people would have been likely to have joined the Church anyway.

On the other hand, Southern California got 3 new missions in 2013 and Modesto got its own mission in 2015. San Francisco and Oakland used to have seperate missions, but were consolidated in 2008 or so.

John Pack Lambert said...

Our most recent report on USA/Canada unit creations has 6 wards discontinued in California (1 in Garden Grove stake, 1 in Inglewood stake, 2 in Jurupa Stake I think, 1 in Monterey Stake and 1 in Napa Stake) plus a Tongan Branch discontinued. Elsewhere a Tongan unit was created and a Single Adult branch and the Spanish branch in the Ventura Stake were both upgraded to wards.

HopiBon! said...

According to reports at General Conference, here are the last 7 years of growth for the church.

2008 to 2009: 2.34% (13,508,509 to 13,824,854)
2009 to 2010: 2.22% (13,824,854 to 14,131,467)
2010 to 2011: 2.19% (14,131,467 to 14,441,346)
2011 to 2012: 2.36% (14,441,346 to 14,782,473)
2012 to 2013: 2.03% (14,782,473 to 15,082,028)
2013 to 2014: 1.92% (15,082,028 to 15,372,337)
2014 to 2015: 1.70% (15,372,337 to 15,634,199)

Ryan Searcy said...

Texas and the Mesa/Gilbert/Queen Creek areas have had a good year so far!

Ryan Searcy said...

California is also a very expensive place to live. Basically, unless you are used to paying a lot to live there you might stay longer. My Elders Quorum president arrived in San Francisco for his mission in October of 2008. There was very severe backlash about Prop 8 there. I do not think I encountered any non member or less active who had problems with it.

L. Chris Jones said...

What is the impact of Southern Virginia University on its local community? How do they veiw it? What about both social and economic implications?

Kevin Cottrell said...

Southern Virginia University is a tiny school of barely 800 students in a rural town of 6,600. I'm not sure how the locals view the school, but I've heard it second hand before that some members of the community don't even know the school is there. It is a very small, rural mountain town.

Ohhappydane33 said...

Agree Kevin...It is definitely not Provo, Virginia. BTW, the Moscow University stake was discontinued.

Joseph said...

I wonder if Elder Holland meant Units because the average Gross Unit creation is 12.24 Wards and Branches/week, 14 with Stakes and Districts.
Net is 8.9/week 7.5 just W&B

Start Year % start end Abs Y-to-Y % Y-to-Y
2008 2009 2.34% 13,508,509 13,824,854 316,345
2009 2010 2.22% 13,824,854 14,131,467 306,613 -9,732 -3%
2010 2011 2.19% 14,131,467 14,441,346 309,879 3,266 1%
2011 2012 2.36% 14,441,346 14,782,473 341,127 31,248 10%
2012 2013 2.03% 14,782,473 15,082,028 299,555 -41,572 -12%
2013 2014 1.92% 15,082,028 15,372,337 290,309 -9,246 -3%
2014 2015 1.70% 15,372,337 15,634,199 261,862 -28,447 -10%

Matt said...

I think it is pretty clear from Elder's Holland's comments that he is referring to the creation of new stakes and not stake reorganizations or the organization of new wards/branches. Otherwise, why would he so energetically discuss this growth as being unprecedented? The Church has regularly created 10-15 new wards and branches a week for many years. During some periods of Church history, there have been as many as 30 new wards and branches created a week on average (such as in 1979). The Church has organized over 100 stakes in a single year on seven occasions (1978-1981 and 1995-1997). Furthermore, he also talks about the rarity of stakes being discontinued in his talk as additional evidence for recent rapid growth. Lastly, I also just received word from a senior missionary couple that there will be 16 new stakes organized in West Africa alone during 2016. Currently only two stakes have been created in West Africa thus far in 2016.

John Pack Lambert said...

In the Ann Arbor 1st ward the Church has began a Chinese language Sunday School. They have a missionary from Taiwan and one from China in that ward and another missionary from Taiwan in an adjacent ward.