Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Congregational Growth by Country in 2022

Below is a list of the countries where the Church reported a net increase of four or more units for the year 2022. The annual percentage increase for the number of wards and branches for each country is also provided:

  1. Philippines +16 (1.27% increase)
  2. Democratic Republic of the Congo +14 (5.49% increase)
  3. Mexico +14 (0.76% increase)
  4. Ghana +12 (3.52% increase)
  5. Nigeria +11 (1.45% increase)
  6. Tanzania +10 (76.9% increase) 
  7. Liberia +9 (15.5% increase) 
  8. Mozambique +6 (12.0% increase) 
  9. Papua New Guinea +5 (5.75% increase) 
  10. Chile +4 (0.70% increase) 
  11. Republic of the Congo +4 (14.3% increase) 
  12. Sierra Leone +4 (4.65% increase) 
The net increase in the number of wards and branches in these 12 countries totals 124; a larger number than the net increase in the number of wards and branches for the entire Church for 2022 (15). Four countries experienced a net decrease of four or more units during 2022. Altogether, the net decrease in congregations in these four nations totaled 109. 
  1. United States -62 (0.42% decrease)  
  2. Russia -21 (23.3% decrease)  
  3. Japan -20 (7.97% decrease)
  4. Canada -6 (1.20% decrease)
Previous lists for annual congregational growth by country are available for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020-2021.


  1. Hi Matt,

    I've tried looking back at the prior years provided. A couple of questions:

    1. Has there been any year in the past wherein more net stakes were created than wards/branches?
    2. When was the last time (if ever) the U.S. experienced a net decrease in units? If I'm reading the past few years correctly for the US in terms of net units:
    2020-21: +217
    2019: +185
    2018: +49
    2017: +0
    2016: +65
    2015: +142
    2014: +152
    2013: +124

    Can you speak to why the U.S. is experiencing a net decrease? It can't be migration (Californians moving out of country?). It seems two non-mutually-exclusive possibilities exist:
    1. Decline in church activity
    2. Systematic change in approach to the right size for wards and branches - a shift in willingness to make wards larger than previously.

    I know we have evidence of #1, but do we have any evidence for #2?

    1. Would child birth rates be part of it? Reduced children of record. Fewer 8 year olds being baptized.

  2. Also, sorry for the many questions, but can you use the correlation between membership growth and congregational growth rates over, say, three years, as a way to examine what is going on in that area?

    For example:
    Situation 1: High membership growth, low congregational growth: likely means convert retention is bad.
    Situation 2: High membership growth, negative unit growth: especially concerning (see your 2012 post on Mexico and Argentina) because it means existing units are shrinking at a greater rate than converts are replenishing. Bad convert retention and activity rates going down among those previously attending.
    Situation 3: High membership growth, high congregation growth: healthy growth. Healthy retention. Healthy unit creation.
    Situation 4: Low membership growth, high congregation growth: Reactivation and retention good in an area of difficult conversion.
    Situation 5: Low membership growth, low congregation growth: Stagnation
    Situation 6: Low membership growth, negative congregation growth: Decline

    Something like this? I'd be curious if we could put countries or areas into buckets based on these two statistics.

  3. L. Chris Jones: I think reduced child birth rates would not explain unit growth, because most of the time unit creation is based on number of active adults (particularly Melchizedek Priesthood holders), not 8 year olds or babies.

    So if we saw lower membership growth, I think child birth rates would contribute. Or lower unit growth in the long run once those would-be babies aren't there to contribute as adults and replace dying/aging membership.

  4. The growth rate in Tanzania is astounding!

  5. James - Yes, this is the first year when the Church in the USA has experienced a net decline in congregational growth at least since this data was first made available in 1987. However, there was one year (2017) when there was no net change in the number of congregations for the year in the USA. I believe that this net decline in 2022 is the result of slowing membership growth rates during the past decade finally catching up to where various Area Presidencies and stake presidencies have decided to consolidate to strengthen existing units that are primarily affected by active membership moving (often slowly over time) to the point that wards cannot continue to properly function. I would not make too big of a deal of the 2022 numbers for the USA for congregational growth since just even the period between 2020-2021 had a decently high net growth in the number of congregations during that time (despite the COVID-19 pandemic - there was a net increase of 217. The ratio of members to units has remained remarkably consistent in the USA for 35 years, usually about 450-475 members per unit. So unless we see this trend continuing for several consecutive years, I do not think that this marks a major change in historical congregational growth trends.

    As for what factors are leading to unit consolidations, I think another one that should also be emphasized is that area presidencies and stake presidencies often have specific targets they are looking for in regard to the optimal number of active members per congregation. One area in the USA sought to have the average be 150-200 active members per unit, and that if this number was maintained, it often correlated with higher member activity rates (which makes sense since the unit is large enough to be fully staffed, but not too large to where people get missed or overlooked). These targets can change over time depending on what the area presidency/stake presidency for an area are wanting to focus on.

    The 2022 membership growth numbers were quite a surprise to me for the USA because the rate of membership growth increased compared to most recent years and that the vast majority of states experienced positive membership growth - some of which was the highest seen in many years. Another big surprise was that Utah and Idaho had such low membership growth rates. The most logical explanation for this is that we are seeing out-migration of Latter-day Saints from these areas to the states that have reported the highest membership growth rates during that period. Much of the Church's "growth" in the United States is really more a game of musical chairs rather than it being true growth across states and cities. However, with historically slowing trends of membership growth rates, it seems like we will see a net zero change in wards/branches and perhaps slight decline that occurs for several consecutive years unless membership growth trends reverse. As for member activity rates, I have not seen much compelling information to indicate any major changes in member activity rates in the USA (historically around 40% with high variability based on region and location such as urban vs. rural). YSA activity rates have been abysmally low for decades outside of Utah and Idaho. Seems like we are having fewer members who are semi-active than we used to, and it is interesting to see how this may affect growth as these members are often good sources for new converts who oftentimes also become semi-active/less-active, but who can boost church attendance to look more impressive in some areas.

  6. I think it's as simple as:

    1) More people are formally removing their names from Church records than ever before.

    2) Fewer people attend church regularly --- including people who used to attend at least sometimes.

    3) A tangible drop in commitment and enthusiasm among those who do attend semi-frequently/frequently.

    4) More marriages happening at much older ages, and a sharp drop in LDS birthrate --- which is only manifesting itself now from over the last 10 years. This will continue to worsen.

    5) Demographic changes to areas, leading to former areas of high growth (e.g., Gilbert, AZ) stagnating and shrinking. Ward and stake consolidation are in high gear in parts of that, as "young family" growth migrates south and east (newer parts of Chandler, Queen Creek, and San Tan Valley).

    All of these factors tend to encourage closing and consolidation of units --- especially when multiples factors are occurring at the same time.

  7. Matt, I don't know when is the next time you schedule to update the ongoing lists of 2023 New and Disorganized Stakes and Districts for the month of May. Just a few quick reminders. We all know that a week ago, Sunday the 14th, the Watford England Stake was merged into several neighboring Stakes, including the St. Albans England Stake. But had not been updated on the Meetinghouse site until this last Sunday the 21st.


    Also, the recent post here yesterday that the Kearns Utah Western Hills Stake was disorganized on around May 7th. And confirmed on the Meetinghouse site.

    And the recent post here that the Riobamba Ecuador District was scheduled to be reorgsnized this last Sunday the 21st as the Riobamba Ecuador Stake. So far not confirmed on the site.

    Also was scheduled or reported here the Fort Lauderdale Stake was to be merged with the Coral Springs Florida and Miami Lakes Florida Stake this last sunday the 21st. Also not confirmed yet.

  8. Thanks, Matt! All of what you said makes sense. You mentioned a lack of data that activity rates have changed recently. What about the shift of Covid? Given the reluctance to shut down units, could it be that 2022 marked a year in which the real effects of Covid are starting to present themselves?

    I realize this is anecdotal, but I found the comments on this thread on the LDS faithful Reddit site really interesting. Lots of people referring to a drop in pre-covid vs. post-covid attendance:


  9. I think we have to keep in mind there are lots of negatives to congregations that are too small, and lots of pluses to a larger congregation.

    My branch used to be multiple branches. The total Church attendance is higher today than it was in all those multiple branches in the past.

  10. JPL, totally agree! I would welcome in open arms mass consolidations of wards and branches wherein the members are struggling to keep things running smoothly.

    My ward for years now has been floating around 50-60 active members attending, children included. Neighboring wards that share our building are around 150. Seems that there is an obvious solution here but nobody does anything while many in our ward have moved out or burned out.

  11. It was a great blessing when our ward in San Diego, California was reconfigured. Our stake was dissolved two years ago, Then in February 2022 seven family wards were reconfigured into five, and we are doing much better as a larger ward. Our average attendance is about 220, although on Easter Sunday we hit 299 (the goal was 300). Our auxiliaries are stronger now. But it probably only worked because our bishop handled the transition so well and made sure all the new members were warmly welcomed. Prior to the change many were saying they would not come to church any more if our boundaries were changed. Dissolving a ward can be very traumatic for some members.

  12. Looks like the Miami Florida South Stake has been discontinued for sure. Not sure about Fort Lauderdale.

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  14. The Beira Mozambique Munhava Stake was organized on May 14th. Two new wards and one new branch were created when the new stake was organized.

  15. I have access to the CDOL. The Miami South Stake has been discontinued. It will show up on the Meetinghouse Locator within the next day or so. There is typically a lag.

  16. Making sure people are fully welcomed in a new ward after boundary changes is key. Boundaries can be changed too often as well.

  17. I am in slight disagreement with the paradigm that discontinuing struggling wards is a good thing. Typically, the least common change at the congregational level is from ward to branch. I wish we would do it more often than perhaps a dozen or so times a year on a worldwide scale, rather than discontinuing wards all the time. In the western US, where distances between congregations are negligible, it makes some sense perhaps. But elsewhere, when wards are discontinued without consideration of the downgrade option, nodes of missionary outreach usually die and new congregations most be mended together, sometimes at major social cost.

    In Europe, the Cologne ward in Germany is probably the worst-case example here. There used to be two wards in the city, one on the north side and one on the south side. Sometime in the late 1990s/early 2000s, they were combined for what quite a few members deemed to be inconclusive reasons. Neither ward was massive but neither was struggling to keep the lights on; this discontinuation of the southern Cologne ward drove dozens of members into inactivity, led to countless disputes and power struggles for leadership positions, and really hurt leadership development for the following two decades. Things are slowly looking up as a slow influx of converts has gradually replaced the old leadership. But the damage has been done. There are around 2.5 million people in the Cologne ward boundaries, including over one million directly in the city, making it the largest unit by population served in western and central Europe. The nine largest cities in Germany all have a stake, except Cologne. The six largest cities in Germany all have multiple wards (some have quite a few), except Cologne. There is nothing special about Cologne as a city, and the Church in the surrounding areas has done quite well during the same time period. That one fateful decision to combine wards rather than perhaps doing a branch downgrade is likely solely responsible for stalled and negative growth in that area.

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  19. Saw a statement on another board and figured that I'd ask here it it made sense. "There are more Latter Day Saints in Utah County than in Europe", with the argument that Europe has slightly more units but lower activity rates. Do the numbers look right for this?

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  21. Yes, I would say so. There are 503,692 members in Europe as of 2022, and therefore, only 73.5% of Utah County's last census population would need to be members to outnumber that. This seems plausible, albeit not by much.

    There are some parts of Europe that have very low activity rates, but that's not the case everywhere. Most congregations have probably 30 to 50% active members, which is not that bad compared to e.g. Latin America or even some parts of the US.

  22. Pascal and Randolph, thearda.com website reports Utah County LDS membership in 2020 as 546,424 in 1,336 wards and branches.

  23. Most churches in the USA are losing active members, LDS are one of few the are more stabilized, still its disappointing the about 200 missions in the us can’t grow a single ward in 2022. Europe and Asia are also suffering,sign of times maybe. And or people are just losing interest in religion

  24. To Harvstr: Yes, it's true that most churches in the USA are experiencing large drops in membership totals. It was just reported that the Southern Baptist Convention lost 460,000 members in the last year, and 3,000,000 since 2006. It is the second largest religious body in America after the Catholic Church. The Methodists, the third largest Church, has declined in membership at an even faster rate due to an active schism taking place.