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Church Growth Hits Milestone, Slower in this Century

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Peggy Fletcher-Stack's article on church growth hitting the milestone of 30,000 congregations, but it took us longer to get this last 10k ward/branches

http://www.sltrib.com/home/3320934-155/mormonism-reaches-milestone-30000-congregations

From the article:

"This milestone has taken a significant amount of time to reach due to decelerating congregational growth rates in the 2000s and early 2010s," writes independent LDS demographer Matt Martinich, who noted the achievement on his blog.

"The number of official congregations reached the 10,000 milestone in 1979 and the 20,000 milestone in 1992," he writes. "Congregational growth has slightly accelerated in the mid-2010s, although both numerical increases and percentage growth rates remain significantly less than in the 1980s and 1990s."

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Knowing some of the Bishops from Brazil in the 1980s (one of the fastest growing areas at the time) the church had to retrench a bit on welfare baptisms, and focus on faith baptisms and retention more.  Not all fast growth is healthy growth, and the focus on more prepared missionaries teaching by the spirit, and fewer baseball, Osmond, and welfare program conversions is a good thing.

Also when we went into areas like India we found people were more willing to share buildings, etc.  number of congregations may not be as sure an indicator of growth as others (retention of converts, etc.)

We're also reaching saturation points in many countries where we have been for generations, and while I expect to see growth rates rise and fall it will likely rise slower in areas where we have been a long time.  Especially conversion rates.

Not scientific by any measure but an interesting peek into some of the dynamics.

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18 hours ago, KevinG said:

Knowing some of the Bishops from Brazil in the 1980s (one of the fastest growing areas at the time) the church had to retrench a bit on welfare baptisms, and focus on faith baptisms and retention more.  Not all fast growth is healthy growth, and the focus on more prepared missionaries teaching by the spirit, and fewer baseball, Osmond, and welfare program conversions is a good thing.

Also when we went into areas like India we found people were more willing to share buildings, etc.  number of congregations may not be as sure an indicator of growth as others (retention of converts, etc.)

We're also reaching saturation points in many countries where we have been for generations, and while I expect to see growth rates rise and fall it will likely rise slower in areas where we have been a long time.  Especially conversion rates.

Not scientific by any measure but an interesting peek into some of the dynamics.

Agreed, slower growth can be healthier. It doesn't help anyone to dunk a bunch of people quickly only to have them go inactive after a few months or even a few weeks.

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3 minutes ago, Gray said:

Agreed, slower growth can be healthier. It doesn't help anyone to dunk a bunch of people quickly only to have them go inactive after a few months or even a few weeks.

It helps some who cling to the thread of faith that brought them there and increase their testimony.  However at such a great risk that we cannot be cavalier about the seriousness of the baptismal covenant.  I'm somewhat conservative about this, and am one of those who discourage youth from being baptized without an active parent(s) in the faith.

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I don't like the Church being tiny (approximately .2% of the world in terms of members on record).  We don't really even register we're so small.  Fast growth is going to have to be a necessity if we're going to make an impact on the world.  Think of the impact we could make if we were twice the size--well twice the impact presumably.  I'd say, sure, we can assume our growth through the 70s and 80s and into the 90s though fast, was unhealthy growth, but we dont' know that.  That's a cute guess.  I dont' know that our retention rates have increased significantly, as it doesn't seem our activity rates have changed over those decades until now.  We're getting people in, though at a much slower pace, but we continue to see people head right back out the door. 

The larger problem here, I think is us--the Church.  We're not open enough.  We're not very good and embracing those in the world.  People get interested because of the message and people.  They leave, perhaps, because message and people lose it's/their ability to resonate with others. 

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35 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

I don't like the Church being tiny (approximately .2% of the world in terms of members on record).  We don't really even register we're so small.  Fast growth is going to have to be a necessity if we're going to make an impact on the world.  Think of the impact we could make if we were twice the size--well twice the impact presumably.  I'd say, sure, we can assume our growth through the 70s and 80s and into the 90s though fast, was unhealthy growth, but we dont' know that.  That's a cute guess.  I dont' know that our retention rates have increased significantly, as it doesn't seem our activity rates have changed over those decades until now.  We're getting people in, though at a much slower pace, but we continue to see people head right back out the door. 

The larger problem here, I think is us--the Church.  We're not open enough.  We're not very good and embracing those in the world.  People get interested because of the message and people.  They leave, perhaps, because message and people lose it's/their ability to resonate with others. 

God does not seem to be as concerned with numbers - Israel was an extremely small number of humans and yet were the covenant people.  Israel was hardly ever "open enough" and I don't see why God would know think that we need to lose all continuity and standards for the sole purpose of gaining members.  There is still that stickler and ever-present invitation to all - repent, come unto Christ, and be baptized.  If they don't like that message God seems pretty content to continue to let them choose to follow after Mammon or any other God they may choose. 

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6 minutes ago, Storm Rider said:

God does not seem to be as concerned with numbers - Israel was an extremely small number of humans and yet were the covenant people.  Israel was hardly ever "open enough" and I don't see why God would know think that we need to lose all continuity and standards for the sole purpose of gaining members.  There is still that stickler and ever-present invitation to all - repent, come unto Christ, and be baptized.  If they don't like that message God seems pretty content to continue to let them choose to follow after Mammon or any other God they may choose. 

I think any disagreement we may have on this is to what extent God is involved.  While you say God doesn't seem concerned with, I say He might be concerned but we aren't responding well.  Or something of that nature.  I'd think if God's Church is important and blesses people, He'd want more involved, no matter their weakness. 

 

I get where you're coming from, I think, I simply don't view it the same. 

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7 hours ago, Storm Rider said:

God does not seem to be as concerned with numbers - Israel was an extremely small number of humans and yet were the covenant people.  Israel was hardly ever "open enough" and I don't see why God would know think that we need to lose all continuity and standards for the sole purpose of gaining members.  There is still that stickler and ever-present invitation to all - repent, come unto Christ, and be baptized.  If they don't like that message God seems pretty content to continue to let them choose to follow after Mammon or any other God they may choose. 

This is an interesting turnabout from what the Church was saying back in the 1970's when we heard over and over about the rock cut out of the mountain without hands that would roll forth until it filled the whole earth.

Guess there's a reason we don't hear that much anymore . . .

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1 hour ago, consiglieri said:

This is an interesting turnabout from what the Church was saying back in the 1970's when we heard over and over about the rock cut out of the mountain without hands that would roll forth until it filled the whole earth.

Guess there's a reason we don't hear that much anymore . . .

Naw, not so much.  I don't think it is one way or another or that there is some conscious choice or decision to not talk about church growth.  I think the objective has always been that it was prophesied in the NT that every nation would hear about the gospel and that every knee would bow to the Savior.  Even though the Church is quite very small, minuscule even, we still send a relatively large group of missionaries into the world to do the work of spreading the gospel.  

I am am also more inclusive when I think of the Body of Christ - it does not consist of just LDS, but includes all churches that teach Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected.  Even in this much larger group it is still a relatively small 2.2 billion Christians in the world as compared to the total population of 7.3 billion.  

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3 hours ago, consiglieri said:

This is an interesting turnabout from what the Church was saying back in the 1970's when we heard over and over about the rock cut out of the mountain without hands that would roll forth until it filled the whole earth.

Guess there's a reason we don't hear that much anymore . . .

Yes, a slowing in the increase of Church membership for a decade or so is definitely proof that the prophecy failed. I mean the prophecy is about the Millenium and clearly these figures show the Millenium is just not going to come.

Just like how the Nephites rejected the prophecies of the utter extinction of their faith in the Americas proved how false it was when, in the time of Alma the Younger, the church experienced unprecedented growth.

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So we can't celebrate any miles milestone without finding something to complain about?

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On 12/17/2015 at 1:27 PM, KevinG said:

Knowing some of the Bishops from Brazil in the 1980s (one of the fastest growing areas at the time) the church had to retrench a bit on welfare baptisms, and focus on faith baptisms and retention more.  Not all fast growth is healthy growth, and the focus on more prepared missionaries teaching by the spirit, and fewer baseball, Osmond, and welfare program conversions is a good thing.

Also when we went into areas like India we found people were more willing to share buildings, etc.  number of congregations may not be as sure an indicator of growth as others (retention of converts, etc.)

We're also reaching saturation points in many countries where we have been for generations, and while I expect to see growth rates rise and fall it will likely rise slower in areas where we have been a long time.  Especially conversion rates.

Not scientific by any measure but an interesting peek into some of the dynamics.

In the book written by the first mission president to go to Nigeria after the 1978 declaration, they had a heck of a hard time because there were so many people and congregations that wanted to be baptized that they couldn't address them all properly.  They ended up telling the leaders of some of the faux-LDS congregations that they were just going to have to wait.  They couldn't properly support and teach all the new congregation leaders they already had, let alone add more right away.

Well, compared to my mission in Germany in the mid-70's, that was a heckuva problem to have.

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On 12/19/2015 at 11:40 PM, Avatar4321 said:

So we can't celebrate any miles milestone without finding something to complain about?

No, of course not!  Didn't you get the memo/

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On 12/18/2015 at 10:43 AM, Storm Rider said:

God does not seem to be as concerned with numbers - Israel was an extremely small number of humans and yet were the covenant people.  Israel was hardly ever "open enough" and I don't see why God would know think that we need to lose all continuity and standards for the sole purpose of gaining members.  There is still that stickler and ever-present invitation to all - repent, come unto Christ, and be baptized.  If they don't like that message God seems pretty content to continue to let them choose to follow after Mammon or any other God they may choose. 

I wish that was all there was.  The repent, come unto Christ, and be baptized.  The church requires much more and has stipulations on who can do that. 

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4 hours ago, Tacenda said:

I wish that was all there was.  The repent, come unto Christ, and be baptized.  The church requires much more and has stipulations on who can do that. 

What stipulations are you talking about?  

As far as the rest, Faith without Works is dead.  There are all kinds of ways to express works.  The Church offers multiple opportunities to develop and express faith through works; however, people still look for other ways to serve.  Are you thinking of something else, like the temple ordinances for example?

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5 hours ago, Tacenda said:

I wish that was all there was.  The repent, come unto Christ, and be baptized.  The church requires much more and has stipulations on who can do that. 

That's because it's not just about following Christ. It's also about becoming Christ-like, and that takes a lot of guidance and a lot of practice. 

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On 12/19/2015 at 1:40 AM, Avatar4321 said:

So we can't celebrate any miles milestone without finding something to complain about?

Every milestone since the beginning of the church has been heralded by our enemies as our impending doom. Gotta feel bad for the poor idiots having their hopes and dreams repeatedly crushed.

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53 minutes ago, The Nehor said:

Every milestone since the beginning of the church has been heralded by our enemies as our impending doom. Gotta feel bad for the poor idiots having their hopes and dreams repeatedly crushed.

In 1982 that guy in the stupid God Makers film predicted between 70 and 100 million members within the next 50 years

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Maybe we're just running out of righteous people to convert, and only the wicked of the world are left out there?

Seriously though, I don't recall any prophecy that the majority of people would join the gospel and reject the world before Christ returned.  Quite the opposite in fact.

If we ever reach the point where the gospel has spread far enough around the world that everyone has access to it, whether they choose to or or not, it may be "time's up".

Edited by JLHPROF

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On 12/22/2015 at 11:03 PM, JLHPROF said:

Maybe we're just running out of righteous people to convert, and only the wicked of the world are left out there?

Seriously though, I don't recall any prophecy that the majority of people would join the gospel and reject the world before Christ returned.  Quite the opposite in fact.

If we ever reach the point where the gospel has spread far enough around the world that everyone has access to it, whether they choose to or or not, it may be "time's up".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLBXf82qoMw

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On 12/20/2015 at 11:17 AM, Storm Rider said:

What stipulations are you talking about?  

As far as the rest, Faith without Works is dead.  There are all kinds of ways to express works.  The Church offers multiple opportunities to develop and express faith through works; however, people still look for other ways to serve.  Are you thinking of something else, like the temple ordinances for example?

Yes, the temple ordinances is one example.  I'm also thinking of the barring of homosexuals from baptism if they are married to the same sex, and of their children being told no to baptism. 

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1 hour ago, Tacenda said:

Yes, the temple ordinances is one example.  I'm also thinking of the barring of homosexuals from baptism if they are married to the same sex, and of their children being told no to baptism. 

Any homosexual that is willing to repent is welcome and encouraged to be baptized, which is the same process for every other sinner.  That was Jesus' plan he taught while on earth - repent and be baptized.  Doesn't make much sense to just repent and go about one's life exactly as it was before.  

I think you have a point with the children of active homosexuals IF they existed.  I still think that this is an entirely unrealistic proposition - a gay couple has children that attend actively and those children want to be baptized with a full understanding of the nature of the sin of their parents and the parents are fully supportive of their baptism - IF this truly unique situation were to ever exist it will be interesting to see what the First Presidency's response would be to a bishop's request for their baptism.  Given that I don't think these children exist, I am not convinced there is a problem.  

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20 hours ago, Tacenda said:

Yes, the temple ordinances is one example.  I'm also thinking of the barring of homosexuals from baptism if they are married to the same sex, and of their children being told no to baptism. 

As for the first point, that's not a "stipulation" about who can repent and be baptised. It's merely the case that they are breaking a commandment that others are not breaking. Therefore, part of the repentance process for them includes getting out of what is in effect a contract to collaborate in sin.

The second point merely allows that the Church won't baptise a minor child who lives with a parent who is acting in direct opposition to the Church's moral teaching; and whose home would therefore be disrupted by that teaching.

 

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