Saturday, May 29, 2010


Over the past decade, the Church has taken several steps to help increase the number of converts retained and to improve the depth of conversion of new members. The Preach My Gospel missionary guide was implemented in 2004 and new emphasis has been placed on training local leadership.

Although some progress has been made improving convert retention, little if any progress has been made in reactivating inactive members and increasing growth rates. Improving convert retention rates should not result in fewer members joining the Church, but many missions who make major adjustments to curb poor convert retention often see a major slow down in growth. We have seen these results recently in Armenia, the Philippines, and the West Indies Mission. Some missions purposefully reduce convert baptisms in an effort to improve convert retention by lessening the demands of local and mission Church leaders on supporting and teaching new converts. Although new converts should receive adequate teaching and fellowshipping from missionaries and members before and after baptism, with proper planning and foresight missionary work does not have to sacrifice greater amounts of time to increase convert retention rates. Holding cottage meetings is typically an effective activity which helps find, teach, fellowship, reactivate, and retain members. Cottage meetings are usually held by missionaries or local Church leaders who teach a small group of individuals (a mix of active, less active, and investigators) a Sunday school lesson or missionary lesson. Many missions report success using this tactic which often greatly assists in expanding national outreach, particularly in Africa.

Below is a list of the countries which likely experience the highest member inactivity. Ascertaining activity rates per country can be difficult as the Church does not publish sacrament meeting attendance or other indicators of Church attendance and activity. However, comparing congregation and membership growth rates provides some insight into activity rates. Countries are provided with the average number of members per congregation for 2009. Typically countries with more nominal members per congregation have lower activity rates as congregations require a certain number of active members to function and divide once active membership grows too large for one congregation to administer.
  1. Chile - 915
  2. China (Hong Kong) - 754
  3. Northern Mariana Islands - 735
  4. Nicaragua - 673
  5. Bolivia - 671
  6. El Salvador - 655
  7. Ecuador - 641
  8. Peru - 628
  9. Colombia - 622
  10. Honduras - 620
  11. Mexico - 597
  12. South Korea - 593
  13. Brazil - 585
  14. Uruguay - 580
  15. The Philippines - 577
  16. Dominican Republic - 573
  17. Kiribati - 567
  18. Portugal - 566
  19. United Kingdom - 554
  20. Venezuela - 538
  21. Paraguay - 532
  22. Guatemala - 531
We have experienced a major increase over the past decade in this statistic. Below is a list of the countries with the most members per congregation in 2000.
  1. Northern Mariana Islands - 856
  2. Chile - 579
  3. El Salvador - 567
  4. China (Hong Kong) - 531
  5. Bolivia - 503
  6. Mexico - 499
  7. Colombia - 465
  8. China (Macau) - 464
  9. Haiti - 463
  10. Honduras - 458
  11. United Kingdom - 458
  12. Samoa - 455
  13. Peru - 454
  14. Ecuador - 453
  15. Puerto Rico - 447
  16. Brazil - 440
  17. Uruguay - 438
  18. Suriname - 438
  19. Venezuela - 438
  20. Dominican Republic - 436
  21. Nicaragua - 430
  22. South Korea - 426
Comparing and contrasting these two lists reveals that over the past decade, most of the nations with the largest Church memberships have seen much lower congregational growth compared to membership growth. Reasons for slow congregational growth include smaller units combining to form larger congregations, new converts in many of these nations not remaining active, problems developing local leadership to lead new congregations, and increased standards by the Church in many areas for groups to become branches and the number of active members required to divide congregations. In Chile for example, many of the congregations which were discontinued in the early 2000s had less than 50 active members and were wards. Today, we see many wards which have between 100 and 200 active members in Chile.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New District Created in Papua New Guinea

A new district was organized earlier this month in Papua New Guinea. The Minj Papua New Guinea District was created from the Goroka Papua New Guinea District and includes five branches. There are now eight districts and one stake in the country.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Church Growth News

City Opens For Missionary Work in Mongolia

Missionaries report that the city of Bulgan just received its first full-time missionaries. Located southwest of Erdenet and 200 miles northwest of Ulaanbaatar, Bulgan has over 17,000 inhabitants and was the fifth largest city without mission outreach. This is a significant development for the Church in Mongolia as there have been no new cities opened for missionary work in Mongolia for nearly a decade. Members and missionaries in Bulgan meet as a group for Sunday meetings under the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission Branch. Bulgan also becomes the smallest city full-time missionaries are assigned to in Mongolia.

New Branches in Papua New Guinea

Three new branches have been created in the Eastern Highlands and Western Highlands Provinces. The Bilu, Mount Hagen, and Nomba Branches were organized under the Goroka Papua New Guinea District and bring the total number of branches in the district to nine. Mount Hagen was formerly the second largest city without a congregation in the country. The Bilu and Nomba Branches are located in small villages. Until the creation of the new branches, there had been no increase in the number of congregations in the country since 2003. In 2002, the number of congregations in the country nearly doubled in one year.

Congregational Growth in the United States

By my count, there have been nearly 60 new congregations created so far in 2010 in the United States. If congregational growth rates continue at the same rate for the rest of the year, wards and branches will increase by approximately 150 in the United States. Growth rates are higher than last year, but remain lower than most years in the 2000s. We should expect to see an increase in congregational growth this year or next as only half as many congregations were created in 2009 compared to most years. No greater increase in congregation growth may indicate lower retention for convert baptisms and lower activity rates or a Church administrative decision to allow congregations to grow larger in membership before creating new units. Considering the economic challenges and uncertainties over the past two years, the latter case appears the primary contributor to the reduction in new congregations organized.

Opportunities for Growth

Although there has been a greater effort by the Church to expand its outreach in Africa over the past couple years, most of the inhabitants in African countries with a Church presence are unreached by mission outreach. I've been following the development of the Church in the city of Kanye, Botswana and six months after the first missionaries were assigned in late 2009, sacrament meeting attendance has just reached 100. Similar stories from Botswana, the DR Congo, Kenya, Madagascar, Brazil, and other nations illustrate that greater growth may be achieved with proper vision and with surprisingly few resources. Mission resources in many nations are stretched and unable to meet current needs due to an inadequate number of missionaries and local members sometimes relying on full-time missionaries for church leadership. There remains a greater need for member involvement in this process as seldom do new cities open to missionary work without local Church members coordinating between interested individuals and mission or regional Church leadership. Pray for greater interest among members of the Church in their role preaching the Gospel and for mission leaders to have the foresight and vision required to increase the scope and reach of LDS mission efforts.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Administrative Branches Created in the Balkans

Under the supervision of the Europe Area, the Church has created four branches in nations without an official Church presence in the Balkan nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Each nation has its own administrative branch. There is no official missionary work conducted in these nations and the small numbers of members meet privately. The decision to create these administrative branches - the first of their kind in the Church - may indicate an increased effort to establish the Church in these nations or better coordinate church administration where there are few LDS members. Similar efforts were conducted by the Church in the 1980s in Eastern Europe prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union with small districts of members in Poland and Czechoslovakia.

The Church appears to have increased the flexibility of congregations over the past few years. Typically groups of members in remote locations belong to mission branches. However last year, the Church created nearly two dozen "district branches" in Africa, South America, Europe, and Asia for members meeting in groups within the boundaries of a member district. These locations tend to have many members spread over a large geographic area which are not concentrated in large enough numbers to justify the creation of additional independent branches. Many of these district branches have high potential for growth as groups of members within the district branch increase in numbers and self-sufficiency to merit additional independent congregations.

These four newly created administrative branches in the Balkans appear a stepping stone toward a greater Church presence in the region and an exciting development in the growth of the Church.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Church Growth News

First Stake in Sicily

Missionaries report that the first stake in Sicily will be organized on June 26th. Two districts functioned on the island until they were consolidated into one in 2009 in preparation for a stake. Once organized, Italy will have seven stakes and five districts. The Italy Catania Mission will be discontinued this July, which has served Sicily and southern Italy.

First Branch in Djibouti Organized

The first independent congregation of the Church in Djibouti was recently organized. The new branch is primarily for US military based on the country although there are a few native members according to member reports. It does not appear that the Uganda Kampala Mission has ambitions on missionary work in Djibouti in the near future, but may be a possibility in the coming years.

New Version of LDS Maps

In the past couple weeks, the Church launched a new meetinghouse locator site. The new version of LDS Maps retains the functions of the previous meetinghouse locator site, but also allows users to search congregations worldwide by name. The new site also allows users to obtain information on what stake, district, or mission congregations belong to. Check it out at

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

New Stakes in Utah and Venezuela

Two new stakes were created in the past two weeks in Utah and Venezuela. The Lehi Utah Cedar Hollow Stake was created from the Lehi Utah North Stake has likely includes the seven wards in Cedar Hollow. There are now 10 stakes in Lehi, six of which have been organized since 2000.

In Venezuela, the San Felix Venezuela Stake was created from the Guayana Venezuela Stake. The new stake likely has five or six wards. There are now 28 stakes and 8 districts in Venezuela