Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Updated Country Profile - Romania

Click here to access our updated Reaching the Nations country profile for Romania. I think the Future Prospects section of this entry sums up the current status of the Church, although I want to add that convert retention rates have markedly improved in the 2010s to 50-70% for recent converts one year after baptism:

The outlook for future growth in Romania appears poor within the foreseeable future. The Church currently reports one of the lowest member activity rates in the world in Romania and consistent efforts to strengthen local leadership and expand national outreach have yielded few results. External factors the Church faces that have posed difficulties for growth include strong cultural ties to Orthodox Christianity and societal suspicion of foreign, America-based religious groups. The closure of the Romania Bucharest Mission and the reassignment of Romania to the realigned Hungary/Romania Mission indicates a significant reduction in mission resources allocated to the two nations despite a combined population of more than 31 million. This decision appears rooted in extremely few convert baptisms in Romania since the early 2010s combined with worldwide efforts to redistribute mission resources from less productive areas to more productive ones. Thus, progress with reversing current stagnant growth trends will require greater participation from local members and leaders in proselytism and national outreach expansion combined with effective vision from mission leadership to strengthen remaining branches.

23 comments:

Eduardo Clinch said...

I suppose it's possible that more Romanians have been baptized outside of Romania proper than within. The Iron Curtain appears to still be working against the Restoration in many ways. Too bad for the Romanians.
A large percentage of Romania is Hungarian (Magyar) speaking, and many are Romani, aka Gypsy, that speak a variant of Hindi. Unfortunately many Romani are famously poor and uneducated. I imagine it is extremely difficult to make any outreach with them.

Unknown said...

Can somebody respectfully explain, without harassing, where are all these *millions of converts a year*, or *growth like the Church has ever seen* etc. I remember for the first two years after the age change, people on this site would comment 70s, and Apostles so and so in Stake Conference said this or in some Mission Conference.

I'm not trolling or anything. Just wondering what happened, lol. Because it's been years and the growth isn't anything to brag or be confident about. Some love to point out that other Christian Churchs have been in trouble too, but come on, aren't we the true Church and it's lead by God? I ask this sincerely, and as an active, faithful member.

Any thoughts, Matt?

Alex said...

President Hinckley made the most definitive promise, that baptisms would double. The condition was that when the members took over all of thr finding and fellowship and the full time missionaries just taught all day, then we would get amazing growth. That is Not Even Close to happening, so we aren't getting the promised blessing attached to the commandment.

Eric S. said...

To add on, this is what President Nelson said just recently in the October General Conference:

"My dear brothers and sisters, I promise you that if we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s Church, He whose Church this is will pour down His power and blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen. We will have the knowledge and power of God to help us take the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord."

Matt said...

Unknown-

To briefly answer your question about why the Church is not growing more now than what many people would have thought, I think it comes down to several points.

1. Ineffective growth strategies implemented by mission and area leadership
2. Barriers with Latter-day Saint culture surrounding attitudes about sharing the Gospel with others (e.g. it's the missionary's job, fear of rejection, lack of skills and knowledge about member-missionary work)
3. Reduced natural growth rates (e.g. fewer births, losing youth in late adolescence and early adulthood) affected by secularism and materialism
4. Prophecies versus predictions
5. Misinformation about the current status of the Church and lack of implementation of findings from research (e.g. focus on traditionalism and thinking Latter-day Saints cannot learn anything from other religious groups in regards to effective growth strategies and proselytism approaches)

There have been many predictions made by church leaders about future growth which have not happened yet or may never happen. It can be difficult to tell at times whether someone is giving their opinion or whether they are giving a prophecy or promise about future growth. Frankly, I find these statements rather unhelpful as they can be used to lessen member and leader responsibility to share the Gospel with others if there is the expectation that something will happen because it is the will of the Lord. These statements can also be used to legitimize practices that are frankly ineffective, if not unethical, to reach arbitrary goals such as rushing converts into baptism before they develop habitual church attendance.

Matt said...

However, I would place the main reason why the Church does not grow more (based on metrics like membership growth and congregational growth) is due to a conservative interpretation and implementation of the Centers of Strength policy since approximately 1993. Mission resources have been channeled into locations where most church members live. The years the Church grew most rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s was when the Church aggressively opened additional cities to missionary work and established congregations in places where there were few or no members. The main reason why the Church has opted to follow a conservative approach to centers of strength in most areas has been due to all of the problems there have been with leadership development and member attrition compounding over the past several decades (primarily caused by quick-baptism tactics and minimal post-baptism fellowship or support). However, slowing the pace of the expansion of the Church into unreached areas, or halting it altogether in some areas, has come at a cost of missing opportunities for when populations are most receptive to outreach. Notable examples include Central Asian republics like Kyrgyzstan, Eastern Europe, and many areas of Latin America like Colombia. There have also been problems with using what has historically worked in Utah in locations that share very little, if anything, in common with a predominantly Latter-day Saint culture, like standardized meetinghouse designs in Sub-Saharan Africa that rely on imported materials for construction.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of any missionary program really comes down to member involvement in the finding, teaching, and retention of new converts. However, most members frankly do not have the desire to share the Gospel with those around them due to fear of rejection or discomfort, or they have the desire but they do not know how to do it. It would be very useful if the Church put together a member-missionary resource that helped members with being able to naturally and effectively extend invitations to others to learn more about the Church and following-up on these invitations in a socially appropriate manner that places concern for the individual as the primary objective.

In sum, the current approach is not working in regards to the missionary work and has not worked well in most areas for a long time. That being said, there are significant changes coming in the next 1-2 years that will totally redo the missionary program into something hopefully much more effective (this should not be new news - others have commented on my blog in the last few months about this). I cannot say more about this at this time, but from what I heard these changes will revolutionize the missionary program into a focus on genuine care and teaching of individuals rather than high-pressured approaches that objectify prospective converts into a baptismal statistic.

President Nelson has hinted a need for change in our approach to taking the Gospel to all the world during the last General Conference when he spoke about a home-centered Church. I foresee major changes in regards to rethinking centers of strength and using technology to help establish the Church in remote areas or where there is a fledgling Church presence. There is a lot of opportunity for growth if the proper vision and fidelity to Gospel principles is maintained, and I am looking forward to seeing how this is all going to unfold with a Prophet like President Nelson.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Unknown et al:
In one way the prophecies of millions joining is coming true through the covenants and ordinances of the ever growing numbers of temples spreading far and near. Dead though they may be to us, they are our kindred ancestors and count for quite a bit. Millions every year, probably.
I have found church growth that I have been exposed to disappointing over the years, but sometimes elating. All told I have been a mission leader about 6 years in 4 different time zones. The east coast has been the hardest assignment, but we did see some less active members get committed and go through the temple even though convert baptisms were low.
Again, temple growth and progression indicate tremendous growth and fulfilling of prophecy, despite less than robust baptismal numbers. And still, the Church of Jesus Christ continues to grow in live members, too.

The Opinion said...

I believe I mentioned about the prophecies from a few of the apostles I read in 2013 from missionary blogs where the missionary was recording the apostle visits either to the mission or from the mission president visiting with the apostle.

I believe it will still happen and actually a few months ago I was reflecting back on how it has been five years since the declaration was made that the Lord is hastening His work. I think Matt outlined a few of the issues of the slow unfolding of the work. I will add that much of it hasn't happened in my opinion because of us, as members doing our part and also the Apostles not knowing how to best use technology to spread the work. (Pres Oaks highlighted this last year in the mission president seminar) I believe the latter is now fixed and we will begin to see the changes roll forward as Matt mentioned. However what about us, have we changed? Has our desires changed in sharing the gospel? Have our methods changed, have our prayers changed. The Lord is waiting, in my opinion, for us to thrust in the proverbial sickle. 2019 will be different for me. I am going to pray with greater faith to have more experiences weekly.

I believe much of the time this work falters because of us as members. For instance, the 1980s baptisms that created a large less active pool was because of us not being wise and prudent. Even in 1836, the Lord said to come slowly not in haste to Jackson Co. Missouri and they didn't there would be confusion which would bring pestilence. (D&C 63:24) and they didn't and His words were fulfilled. So the Lord has been and continues to be very patient with us and just cleans up the "messes" and "mistakes" of His children in restoring the fulness of His church here upon all parts of the church. Meanwhile He gives His apostles a little more in understanding as we ask for it.

Now how will this prophecy of great growth come to pass? In my opinion, one way is thru the increased severity of natural disasters. We mobilize a service and recovery force like no other religion in America. We finally are being noticed by the outside world, especially in the South. The people in many of these towns are beginning notice who we are and what we offer. As the disasters increase in size, scope, and deadliness the Lord will magnify His church in serving and relieving the people in their suffering. This will build new friendships and relationships in these towns that will lead to people wanting to know more about us and the restored gospel.

This will be just one way but I believe it will prove fruitful, particularly in the South, where I have been following these developments. I have no worries that it will happen, just not instantly like we want or in the manor we are looking for but the Lord will unfold it in a miraculous way.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Increased severity of natural disasters may be happening more because of climate change, but possibly more due to people living more places.
Paradise, CA certainly was a shocker.I thought members of those wards would have easier back up shelter in Chico or elsewhere because of membership connections.
The recent hurricane in North Carolina afforded opportunities to serve and connect; I wonder how much members have made inroads there in the weeks and months since. Church members from as far as Texas went to help...
Disasters are one way to impact the community, but not the only way. I am not sure what is the most effective.
Temple open houses have their effects...
It will be interesting to see what happens around DC in 2020 or so.
Socially and organizationally, the Church of Jesus Christ has its power to grow as it does. The power of the Book of Mormon to convert is a part of it...
In many ways it seems miraculous that people join and commit in the first place. But maybe that is where my head is right now.
Membership has a lot to offer that people miss out on. Temptations of worldly and secular living are always great.

Christopher Nicholson said...

I agree that it's a major cop-out to excuse poor performance or problems in our church by appealing to the other churches that we otherwise claim to be superior to. My biggest church growth disappointment was seeing all the premature hype about missionaries on Facebook quietly die out with no noticeable results. I didn't understand the hype anyway since I had a missionary friend on Facebook three or four years earlier, but I thought something was going to happen. I have a personal website and blog where I'm very open about my membership in the Church and testimony of the gospel, and I share LDS content on my Facebook profile. But I have hundreds of LDS friends and hundreds of non-LDS friends, and it's very difficult to write content that's understandable and engaging for one group without insulting the intelligence of the other. Most of the people I grew up with are also super liberal, have no use for organized religion and no patience for socially conservative stances on sex or gender. The attitude of my high school friends toward the Church could basically be summed up by the Book of Mormon Broadway musical. I have discussed the gospel with a couple friends who are open to discussing it and that's been ongoing for years, almost a decade in one case, with no real progress. I'm sure in the latter case it's partially my fault for trying to tell her everything I knew about church history whenever she asked a question, instead of testifying of simple truths. But even though I know they shouldn't, the simple truths frankly bore me and I don't particularly enjoy talking about them. It's hard to find a balance.

Worst case scenario, at some point the growth rate in parts of Africa will become significant enough to determine the Church's overall growth rate instead of the United States. If growth in these parts continues to be exponential for long enough, there certainly will be millions of converts. There's also supposed to be a "second harvest" in Europe that's clearly meant as a prophecy from multiple leaders, but no telling when. And the Church will undoubtedly do better at retaining young people in the future now that it's being a lot more transparent about its history and including controversial topics in required seminary and institute courses so they don't have to learn about them from anti-Mormon websites. I wish that had started decades ago, but nobody asked me.

Chris said...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/List_of_stakes_of_The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints

...was deleted this morning.

Ray said...

Chris, did you save that information regarding stakes? I looked at it the other day and made a mental note to print it off before it was deleted, but I didn't follow through with it. If you could post it to this site it would be very helpful. Thank you very much.

Chris said...

Ray, I´m sorry. I didn't download the file before deletion. My Primary Source for all stakes created between 1830 to October 2012 is the "2013 Church Almanac" that can be purchased thru Amazon :

https://www.amazon.com/Church-Almanac-2013/dp/1609074203/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1546041792&sr=8-1&keywords=2013+church+almanac

And for all Stakes created from October 2013 to December 2018 are both listed here on Matt´s Blog an on Rick's churchofjesuschristtemples.org website, and / or the Deseret News Church News weekly notice of New Stake Presidencies (archived) under Callings.

Sorry, we have to start the List again. But we have Matt and Rick's websites for now. Until Wikiprojects accepts church materials.

MainTour said...

I have start the List of Stakes on MormonWikia - Here we can build the list without any intereference from unsympathetic wikipedia editors. I've got several lists started but could really use some help in building it up. Lds Church List of Stakes

MainTour said...

How do you link to a map for any particular LDS Stake?

Michael Worley said...

Use this:

https://web.archive.org/web/20181226110531/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_stakes_of_The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints

MainTour said...

Archive.org is incomplete -I don't see any map links there.

Chris said...

Main Tour, You will need to go back to the 11/19/2018 Archived copy for the complete list including the Classic LDS Maps links I have provided these last 2 years.

https://web.archive.org/web/20181119144627/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_stakes_of_The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints

Also, you will need to add any changes since that date, to your saved copy.

MainTour said...

Thank you - that works better. I needed help to find LDS Classic Maps.


Africa List of LDS Stakes - is about 75% done.

Matt said...

I have a database of all stakes in the Church, including discontinued ones. It has been 2-3 years since I updated it last, but if someone wants to email me I would be happy to share it.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Yes, Christopher, I feel you. Simple truthes are harder to abide by when discussing the Gospel... Keep going to the temple, best of luck.

John Pack Lambert said...

To me the biggest failure in Church growth I have seen in my branch is a failure to have an assigned minister brothers and or sisters to a person at the time of baptism. Basically some of the leadership waits to see if someone stays active before assigning them ministering brothers or sisters, instead of assigning at baptism to ensure the people stay active.

James Anderson said...

The ministering program is new enough it has not in many areas seen its potential yet, we are still learning how to do it and that will take time but we have some ideas early on. While there are assignments, there is some that will be left up to us to do and discover how to do it. And with seemingly monthly changes everywhere it is tough just to keep up.