Tuesday, May 16, 2017

LDS Congregational Growth Significantly Decelerates in the United States

The Church in the United States has experienced significant deceleration in regards to increases in the number of congregations (e.g. ward and branch) thus far in 2017. Currently the Church in the United States reports a net increase of only 11 congregations thus far in 2017. To contrast, the Church in the United States reported an annual net increase of 65 congregations in 2016, 142 congregations in 2015, 152 congregations in 2014, and 124 congregations in 2013. Historically, the Church in the United States has generally reported a net increase 30-50 congregations during the first four months of the year, and a net increase of 100-150 congregations per year.

A decrease in the rate that new congregations have been organized appears primarily responsible for decelerating congregational growth rates in the United States thus far in 2017. Additionally, the rate that congregations have been consolidated or closed has remained consistent, resulting in smaller net increases in the number of congregations. The Church has also emphasized better utilization of church meetinghouses in the United States and other areas of the world. As a result, the Church has encouraged larger numbers of congregations to share the same meetinghouse and for congregations to have larger numbers of active members in order to conserve meetinghouse maintenance and building costs. For example, in some areas the Church is striving for sacrament meeting attendance to comprise at least 75% of seating available in a meetinghouse. Consequently, the Church has combined smaller congregations in order to reduce the number of meetinghouses needed.

The Church in the United States has also appeared to baptize fewer converts and report a lower birth rate as evidenced by slowing annual membership growth rates. The increasing influence of secularism on American society, particularly in the western United States, appears primarily responsible for these trends. LDS membership in the United States increased by a mere 0.93% during 2016 - the lowest in nearly 30 years. Rates for member resignation, excommunication, and deaths have appeared to be constant during the past few years based upon reports I have received from local and regional church leaders in several areas of the United States. Thus, the Church has reported smaller net increases in the number of members on its records for the United States.

For more information on historical LDS statistics for the Church in the United States, click here to access the country statistical profile for the United States on cumorah.com.


Bryan Dorman said...

Sobering statistics for the United States. I understand Western Europe is in a bind as well (given that most of the reports I have seen from Europe is that the vast majority of the baptisms if not a clear majority of them, are immigrants and refugees). Latin America has slowed noticeably too. Albeit, the main issue with Latin America before was rapid baptism techniques, so we would have 200k converts in Mexico alone over a five year period back when I served my mission, and now the number is around 100k per five years. Activity has strengthened modestly though it is still hit-or-miss.

In Mexico, you need to have showed up to Church for a minimum of five times before you can get baptized (when I was in the mission the minimum was once or twice).

Here in Puebla, we see this hit-or-miss rather significantly.

We have stakes like the two Nealticans that have exploded in growth, or even the Mayorazgo stake in SW Puebla City (which is going to eventually split to form Angelopolis Stake--time still unknown but the process has initiated to have that done). We also have stakes like La Paz and Tlaxcala North that have been hemorraging units.

I keep in contact with a few buddies from my mission in Chiapas. They have been hit or miss as well (Comitan--definite hit, Tapachula, definite miss).

The consistency that I see, is the following:

You preach the sound doctrine, you teach the people to repent, and you don't try to nuance yourself around the more "controversial doctrines" of the Family, you are going to see strong growth.

You preach the weak doctrine, for fear of offending the members or the investigators that come to Church, and you will start to see blowback especially in the younger generations that abandon the Church more quickly than you can baptise them back in.

I know the quality of people in Nealtican. A town of no more than 18000 people, with two stakes, with enough units to form a third stake (though they need more priesthood to get there). Or Ometoxtla, whose surrounding population is smaller than Nealtican at roughly 12 thousand people among the FOUR wards that are there. They are as strong as members as you are going to find anywhere. The local members refer to Nealtican as "Little Utah" given that like in Utah, you can find chapels on every other street corner there.

Then I know the wishy washiness of the people in parts of Puebla and Tlaxcala City and they live precisely where the number of units has gone down.

Bryansb1984 said...

End 2016
US membership 6,592,195
World membership 9,290,222
Total 15,882,417
Difference 2,698,027

US 2012 6,321,416
US 2016 6,592,195
270,779 new members in 5 years
I think we might reach 16 million by the beginning of 2018. (Jan - Mar)
The US to 7 million by 2019 (Nov-Dec)
2020 (Jan-Feb)

Bryansb1984 said...

Correction US to 7 million 2026 if the pattern is constant. If growth speeds up it could be earlier.

John Pack Lambert said...

In Ivory Coast a district was just formed by splitting a district that was formed in February 2016.

John Pack Lambert said...

In Ivory Coast a district was just formed by splitting a district that was formed in February 2016.

John said...

In the Dover Delaware Stake, the Cambridge (Maryland) Branch was dissolved. Its members were sent to the Seaford Ward (in Dover stake) and the Kent Island Branch (in the Annapolis Maryland Stake).

Bryansb1984 said...

I think the name for the Greater Manila Temple could also be the Manila Philippines Muntiplupa Temple. Also hopefully the Urdenta Philippines Temple would begin construction soon.

Bryansb1984 said...

Living in Maryland it would be nice to see a stake organized on the Eastern Shore or a mission like the Maryland Ocean City Mission.
My stake, the Baltimore Maryland Stake has two wards that records 300 attendance sacrament. Susquehanna Ward with 300 and Jones Falls Ward with 370. I can see those wards splitting in a couple of years.
If then church grows in western Maryland, then maybe a stake could be organized in Hagerstown
A stake could also be formed in Rockville with the split of the Washington DC Stake
Suitland Maryland Stake, to a stake in Southern Maryland
Lexington Park would be a good place for a stake center.

T. B. said...

In western europe many branches have been closed or will be closed. In my stake alone 3 branches were closed which leaves us with 6 wards and 2 branches.in the other stakes they also close three or four branches per stake. since the church is small here and the wards are far apart, this means several people have a long way to travel, for those who are depending on public transport this can be difficult and costly. We were told this move is made so more people will have the benefits of a larger ward and those formerly in small branches will not have to carry such a heavy load in church responsibilities anymore. But your explanation that it is an operation to save money makes more sense.

Bryansb1984 said...

So far Nigeria has 40 congregations organized this year and it is only.mid may,if rate continues at pace, we could see 600 congregations by the end 2017 at the earliest. Maybe Jan 2017 at the latest.

Bryansb1984 said...

Sorry Jan 2018.

Bryansb1984 said...

I also think that Ghana could hit 300 congregations by the end of year or beforehand.

Tiago said...

Here's an interesting explanation and analysis of the consolidation in the Antwerp stake-- 14 units consolidated to 8.

John Pack Lambert said...

I would trust the statements of the leaders involved in making these decisions much more as an explanation than those that come from demographers at a distance.

I have seen units gain sy b egoistic levels of new strength after being comb I Ned and,I have seen the struggling effects of small units especially how they make personality conflicts harder to over come.

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Ohhappydane33 said...
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John Pack Lambert said...

To me I think the power of larger wards to grow people is very important.

We need people with deep commitments to the Church, and I think this will occur in larger wards.

I also trust and believe the statements of a stake president that they have been guided by the spirit, or by specific revelation to reformat the organization of the Church.

John Pack Lambert said...

The Deseret News ran this article http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865680242/Nigerian-refugee-survives-shooting-attack-rescue-at-sea-and-goes-on-a-Mormon-mission.html about a man who fled Nigeria as a refugee. He went to Italy where he is now serving a mission.

I have to say I wish the article was more clear on some things. I wish we learned more than that he joined the Church in "the Southern part of the country". He then went home to Potiskum, a city of roughly 250,000 people in Yube State, which borders Niger in the far north of Nigeria.

This article makes me wonder how many members there are in Nigeria currently living alone without any church support in places like Potiskum, and also hopefully some other places have seen groups form. The Nigeria Enugu Mission, covering 2/3rds of Nigeria by area, could easily have huge numbers of these scattered members, as well as who knows how many groups. Such factors make tracking the number of members per unit less useful than it might seem.

John Pack Lambert said...

We also from the above article learn that in Palermo, Italy the branch president is a refugee from Nigeria. We also learn many of the Church members there are refugees from Nigeria.

Brett Stirling said...

Western Society and Christianity has seen a downward turn in organised religion consistently for sometime. Given Christianity has been the favoured dominant religion of the West it is not surprise that it's been hit hardest. New Zealand has seen the non religiously affiliated category take a whopping 41.92% at the last census in 2013, rising from the 34.65% in 2006. In New Zealand, a large portion of growth is because of higher birth rates and shifting populations from neighbouring Pacific Island Nations, with many moving onto Australia, therefore it's shifting/cannibalising an existing regional Church Membership.

It's no surprise that growth is hitting highs in Africa where personal priorities and values align with the conservative values of the Church. Unless the Church adapts and modernises practise, not necessarily doctrine but practise and branding of the Church, it will continue to struggle in Western Countries.

Bryansb1984 said...

I think in about 5 years, give or take, there'll be around 10 million LDS outside the United States.

Eduardo said...

I understand decelerated growth in Western and modern economies, but at the same time the temple growth is robust in the US and Europe and wealthy East Asia, so I am thinking growth is still chugging along in the secular world. So despite some losses which are not desired by the Church, I still think the Good Ship Zion is on course.

John Pack Lambert said...

I think think things are much more complex than some people imply. The mission I live in has seen significant improvement in baptisMS year to date. The missionaries in my ward have expressed the view we should have more referals. And that would very nice. The ward where my records are has seen success with referals.

However I think at times we focustomers too much on the finding end. On my mission I saw cases where peoplever found by member referral went inactive.

What Southfield Ward has is a high priest group leader who has a vision of every new convert in the tem Pl let doing baptisms for family members within a few months of baptism. He implements this vision by meeting with new converts to show them how to learn about and imput to bew family search tgeir family history. The ward also formed a priesthood preparation class to give perspective elders more focused preparation. It noticeably reduced our elders quorum attendance last Sunday.

I also have c seen participation in the BYU PATHWAY Program really bring people to a fuller gospel understanding and more commitment.

Christopher said...

Interesting discussion regarding the consolidations in Europe. http://www.timesandseasons.org/index.php/2017/05/consolidation-of-church-units-some-reflections/

Brett Stirling said...

The International growth needs to be put into context in regards to activity and whether new converts still actively define themselves as LDS within 5-10 years. The national census is a excellent snapshot of activity rates vs claimed membership numbers that the Church reports.

Unknown said...

The emphasis on moving towards larger wards and stakes is a good thing. People are having smaller families so, for the youth, it means larger young men and young women's programs despite decreasing birth rates. As the article suggests, it also saves resources in a time when the Church is growing exponentially in poorer communities of the world.

Theo said...

To Brian, I served my mission in VA, and was one of the few missionaries that got to serve in the Eastern Shore branch. There's no way it gets it's own stake. The branch is 70 miles long and hardly sustains itself, splitting into half English/half Spanish for second hour. It doesn't even have its own set of missionaries either- we'd come up from the Va Beach stake once or twice a month. It needs to be at least 10 times as large to get a stake and by all accounts it was shrinking. The entire Eastern Shore up to Falls Church met in a converted fruit stand I was told by members there.

I'm not active anymore, so you can dismiss my report as dishonest if you like. I dont think consolidation of active members (so sacrament attendance is growing higher than ever) is correct either. I think there's a real growth problem that should not be excused or painted in a positive light- it needs to be addressed and you can fix problems you're in denial of.

James said...

Theo, as a life-long Church member who has had his fair share of health challenges that have at times limited his ability to function fully, I am sick at heart about the fact that there are so many Church members who, knowingly or unknowingly, have been driven out of the Church primarily because of thoughtless words or judgments made by the members or leaders of local units. I think that is largely part of the reason that so many General Conference talks of late have focused on the need for kindness, charity, love, and leadership as demonstrated by the Savior, the one perfect man to walk the earth.

Some leaders of late, because of their imperfections and mishandling of situations, have been the means of driving wedges between themselves and the members they are assigned to lead. My wife and I have had some health issues of late that have kept us from regular Church attendance. Recently, on Easter Sunday, we were hauled in for a meeting with my EQ President and one of our home teachers. Their intentions may have been good, but the implication was that they did not understand nor sympathize with our situation, and that they believed we had gone inactive of our own free will and choice.

I can understand why that happened. When a smaller ward such as ours is missing two members from normally good attendance numbers, the natural assumption is that the inactivity is voluntary. But the way they went about it, it seemed like they were downplaying our situation and exhorting us to meet the level of activity that they felt was reasonable.

James said...

If my wife and I had truly gone inactive voluntarily, that visit would have given anyone else sufficient grounds to rationalize never darkening the door of another chapel or temple again. But because we are trying the best we can to be as faithful as we can in spite of our situation, we are determined to not allow this negative experience to impact our determination to get back to full activity as soon as our health will allow that.

I don't know what led to your own inactivity, but I gather it was likely because of something thoughtless a member or leader did in your neck of the woods. I am sorry about that. It has well been said that the Church as an organization is perfect, even if the people in it aren't always so. It is, as has been termed, truly a hospital for sinners rather than a sanctuary for Saints.

I have been told that it is my life's mission to lift and encourage people wherever the opportunity arises, and to bear my testimony to others when I have that chance. Lately I have done that more frequently by blogging about important Church-related developments. I also keep files about various Church-related developments, which I update regularly.

I am always sick at heart to think that anything I do, or the way I portray myself and the experiences that I have had, has potentially been the means of driving away anyone from the Church. And so, as one who, more and more lately, has realized how weak, imperfect, and human he, and by extension, anyone else in the Church really is, I say to you, please, come back! Whatever drove you away, it is not worth your spiritual welfare. The Church needs your talents and abilities, and, whether you realize it or not, you need the Church. But that has to be your own choice. Again, I don't know what it is that led to your current distance from the Church, but it is not worth your spiritual and temporal well-being to be separated from the faith you once embraced.

The one comfort to me in my current situation has been to continually come back to Elder Holland's wonderful talk from last General Conference. Jesus, listening, can truly hear the songs you and I cannot, at the moment, sing. Whatever led to your inactivity, the Church needs you, and you need your fellowship with the Church, even if some members and leaders thereof have, because of their imperfections, said and done thoughtless or offensive things that have led to your disaffection.

I include a link to that talk from Elder Holland and commend it to you with all the energy of my soul. Come back, brother! We need your strength. Here is that talk. And, if it would help you, I include a link to my blog, which, in spite of my current ill health, I still try to update regularly with news about my faith. Enjoy!


Theo said...

Thank you for your kind reply. It's not that unfortunately. I really would give anything/everything for the church to actually be true. Unfortunately I have no control over that.

Appreciate the warm well wishes- all the same.

James said...

I am glad to hear your appreciation for what I said. If there is some doctrinal aspect of the Church that has led to your inactivity, I'm sure there are many here on this blog who would welcome the chance to talk to you about what it is you find so troublesome. If you would rather not, it is your choice. But I have found that it sometimes helps to explain things that trouble me to someone who would not be driven by personal motivation to impose their own opinion on me. There are so many wonderful people who comment here that have had a wide variety of experiences. If you were of a mind to open up and discuss whatever you perceive as an issue, I am sure all of us would try to help you the best way we are able to without downplaying your feelings or judging you. If you want to talk about it, we are here for you. Thanks.

Eduardo said...

Theo, I don't know all the things that you can or cannot control, but here might be a few.
You can control how much you pray to God. If you submit to Him everyday, things will be better for you and people around you. Either by thanking Him or asking for things that you need. Need wisdom? (I think we all do). You got it.
Church attendance and growth are debatable based on facts that we share. However, temple growth and attendance are hard to argue. It's happening. I know that our kindred dead need us and we need them. We save ourselves.
Thanks for serving in Virginia; I love the members here. More all the time. 3 new stakes last year.
My ward has had a rash of baptisms. Northern VA.
Interesting to learn about where you served.

Joseph Hansen said...

Odd that it's mentioned the church emphasis is larger wards and stakes. In AZ this past year or so they have done just the opposite as they have reduced the size of the stakes and wards as they want to give people the opportunity to grow as they are needed more. Maybe there is a happy medium but everything here has been pointing to stakes with 6-7 wards and attendance at about 150 or so at sacrament meeting.