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JLHPROF

Is "slowing growth" really a concern, as opposed to membership loss?

133 posts in this topic

This article (http://ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com/2017/05/lds-congregational-growth-significantly.html) says that the creation of new congregations (wards etc) is down.
I'm going to assume that this is accurate.  My question is, does this really have any significance or mean anything important?

Is growth and creation of more wards actually necessary to the continuation of the Church?  If membership held steady with new births/converts matching deaths/apostasies does the lack of growth actually make any difference to the Church?
What say you?

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10 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I think it probably signifies that organized religion is losing popularity in general.  

I would agree with that.
But does it present a problem for the Church?  I really don't see one.

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I don't think it presents a problem for the church really.  It could eventually be a problem for the missionary program i suppose.

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I'm surprised that congregation formation has slowed. We were told a year ago that the ideal unit size was 300-350 members, and ideal stake size was 3000 (North America). This would enable our stake to divide and most wards to divide. The idea is to force inactive members to step up because they are truly needed. There were lofty projections for the Southwest Area and other regions. 

I'm skeptical that the inactives will step up in big enough numbers. My ward of 500 has sacrament meeting attendance of about 200-220. If we took half of them and added 150 inactives and the other half and added the other 150 inactives --- I don't see enough of the people who would have to step up stepping up. But, it is a bold strategy that requires faith and generates true need, as opposed to just saying they are needed. I like that.

My experience is that this rapid splitting of units is not happening, though. 

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39 minutes ago, JLHPROF said:

......................................... does this really have any significance or mean anything important?

Is growth and creation of more wards actually necessary to the continuation of the Church?  If membership held steady with new births/converts matching deaths/apostasies does the lack of growth actually make any difference to the Church?
...........................

The short term view is certainly not important, even if the LDS Church continues to grow more slowly.  Growth will continue to be strong in some areas of the world, and stagnant in others.  The real question is, How will the Brethren respond to the inevitable challenges which come their way?  Will they be resourceful and resilient, inventive and inspired?  Or will the LDS faith merely become a fossil over the long-term?

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1 hour ago, Robert F. Smith said:

 Or will the LDS faith merely become a fossil over the long-term?

Well, if we truly believe these are the last days, the final dispensation, etc, it "long term" really a concern?
I mean, we aren't supposed to be talking additional centuries here.

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1 hour ago, JLHPROF said:

This article (http://ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com/2017/05/lds-congregational-growth-significantly.html) says that the creation of new congregations (wards etc) is down.
I'm going to assume that this is accurate.  My question is, does this really have any significance or mean anything important?

Is growth and creation of more wards actually necessary to the continuation of the Church?  If membership held steady with new births/converts matching deaths/apostasies does the lack of growth actually make any difference to the Church?
What say you?

I think it represents a shift of the narrative that has been dominant in my lifetime.  Often I've heard people use the growth of the church as evidence of the truth of this work.  

I wonder what will happen when those growth numbers are clearly leveling off.  Will members start to look at this as a sign that the second coming is even closer?  That could be a scary turn for the worse.  

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1 hour ago, rongo said:

I'm surprised that congregation formation has slowed. We were told a year ago that the ideal unit size was 300-350 members, and ideal stake size was 3000 (North America). This would enable our stake to divide and most wards to divide. The idea is to force inactive members to step up because they are truly needed. There were lofty projections for the Southwest Area and other regions. 

I'm skeptical that the inactives will step up in big enough numbers. My ward of 500 has sacrament meeting attendance of about 200-220. If we took half of them and added 150 inactives and the other half and added the other 150 inactives --- I don't see enough of the people who would have to step up stepping up. But, it is a bold strategy that requires faith and generates true need, as opposed to just saying they are needed. I like that.

My experience is that this rapid splitting of units is not happening, though. 

Just curious, but what efforts were being made to get inactives back to church?  I haven't seen any meaningful discussion or outreach to those struggling in either conference addresses or any initiatives talked about locally.  I've had multiple discussions where I'm offering to help my ward and stake to fellowship with people that are going through faith crisis nobody in leadership seems to be interested (I live in the Salt Lake valley).   If church leaders really want to get inactives back to church, I sure haven't seen any evidence of it.  

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, rongo said:

I'm surprised that congregation formation has slowed. We were told a year ago that the ideal unit size was 300-350 members, and ideal stake size was 3000 (North America). This would enable our stake to divide and most wards to divide. The idea is to force inactive members to step up because they are truly needed. There were lofty projections for the Southwest Area and other regions. 

I'm skeptical that the inactives will step up in big enough numbers.

 

It's an interesting idea.  I've noticed in my current ward where there were some people who were teachers or youth leaders and came every week, but once they got released they rarely come anymore.  Apparently there are people who only make the effort to come when they have something to do, and there may be more of these people than I assumed.

Edited by cinepro
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4 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

Just curious, but what efforts were being made to get inactives back to church?  I haven't seen any meaningful discussion or outreach to those struggling in either conference addresses or any initiatives talked about locally.  I've had multiple discussions where I'm offering to help my ward and stake to fellowship with people that are going through faith crisis nobody in leadership seems to be interested (I live in the Salt Lake valley).   If church leaders really want to get inactives back to church, I sure haven't seen any evidence of it.  

We very much do, and try hard to get people to come back. Most of them don't want to; some do. Most who don't want to come back don't want the commitment; a smaller group have gripes against the Church or have had feelings hurt or been offended. 

What gets me is how Salt Lake tries desperately to clear its Address Unknown file. It frequently sends people they haven't been able to find back to the most recent known ward. My ward is very aggressive at having accurate records, and so the ward council and missionaries work together and verify addresses and we send them to the Address Unknown file when we confirm that they are not here and cannot be found by us. When we get these same names at the same addresses months later, we send them back. It used to be that you could include comments and could tell them to stop sending them back; they are not here, but there is no field for comments any more. So, we play hot potato.

As far as help for people with faith crises, leaders are understandably very cautious and wary about those who want to help. They want to make sure they do good and no harm, and often those wanting to help are not ideal (think NOM or Bill Reel types). 

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3 minutes ago, cinepro said:

It's an interesting idea.  I've noticed in my current ward where there were some people who were teachers or youth leaders and came every week, but once they got released they rarely come anymore.  Apparently there are people who only make the effort to come when they have something to do, and there may be more of these people than I assumed.

There are certainly some of these. I have people who are active because of their calling, and sometimes auxiliary presidents will ask for a change because "so and so is burned out and wants to be released." When the bishopric feels them out, they are happy and more than fine in the calling; it is simply that the presidency wants to deal themselves a different hand. Some of these people in particular will stop coming when they don't have that calling.

We used to have a sister who would come after the opening hymn and leave at the closing hymn specifically to avoid having to talk to anyone. She would teach RS when asked to substitute by the RS president, but threw a fit when it was extended as a calling (the RS president saw no reason why she wouldn't accept a calling to teach 1-2 times per month). There are all types of people in our wards, and managing and juggling people and ideosyncracies is a challenge. 

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26 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

I think it represents a shift of the narrative that has been dominant in my lifetime.  Often I've heard people use the growth of the church as evidence of the truth of this work.  

I wonder what will happen when those growth numbers are clearly leveling off.  Will members start to look at this as a sign that the second coming is even closer?  That could be a scary turn for the worse.  

I think the narrative cleverly accounts for growth being a positive and also a decline being a positive. If there is growth then clearly the church is true and no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing. On the other hand, declines in membership would simply be the fulfillment of prophesy and the realization of the 10 virgins parable.

But to the OP- I don't think slow creation of units means much. It only seems like a problem because the creation of units has been touted as evidence of strength and vigor in the past so it will require a minor shift of narrative. Congregation growth is an inconsistent measure that is affected by policy, not real growth. I'd be much more interested to see breakdowns of activity rates and tithing donations during these same periods.

The article is interesting because it shows that in the US there has been growth of @ 270,000 members in the past 5 years. That's not really a lot. On the other hand, international growth during the same time has been close to 3 million. I imagine it is both exciting for leaders to see international growth but also concerning because of the growing financial needs of building and maintaining a larger presence internationally when tithing dollars from those areas may not keep up with expenses (total speculation).

 

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26 minutes ago, rongo said:

As far as help for people with faith crises, leaders are understandably very cautious and wary about those who want to help. They want to make sure they do good and no harm, and often those wanting to help are not ideal (think NOM or Bill Reel types). 

That probably explains it, the church doesn't know how to deal with people having faith crisis, these people are toxic and there are few resources to help them.  Leaders are fearful.  I think I could get many of them to come back to church if they had a forum to be heard, and a forum for discussing the difficult challenges that made them go inactive in the first place.  

Unfortunately most church leaders local or at HQ don't know how to effectively administer to people who are going through this, because they themselves have never experienced it, don't know what things to say or how to help someone who's going through this questioning faze of human development (this is a very normal thing BTW).  

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15 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

I think the narrative cleverly accounts for growth being a positive and also a decline being a positive. If there is growth then clearly the church is true and no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing. On the other hand, declines in membership would simply be the fulfillment of prophesy and the realization of the 10 virgins parable.

But to the OP- I don't think slow creation of units means much. It only seems like a problem because the creation of units has been touted as evidence of strength and vigor in the past so it will require a minor shift of narrative. Congregation growth is an inconsistent measure that is affected by policy, not real growth. I'd be much more interested to see breakdowns of activity rates and tithing donations during these same periods.

The article is interesting because it shows that in the US there has been growth of @ 270,000 members in the past 5 years. That's not really a lot. On the other hand, international growth during the same time has been close to 3 million. I imagine it is both exciting for leaders to see international growth but also concerning because of the growing financial needs of building and maintaining a larger presence internationally when tithing dollars from those areas may not keep up with expenses (total speculation).

 

I agree that we need to see the full picture.  I'm suspicious that not only has growth slowed, but that activity in the US has actually started to decline, and potentially tithing revenue as well.  Transparency on these stats would be amazing to see.  I believe over 90% of the tithing revenue comes from the US.  I wonder what foreign countries are financially self sustaining?  I wouldn't be surprised if there are very few countries outside the US that could run a sustainable model independently.  

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16 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

 don't think slow creation of units means much. It only seems like a problem because the creation of units has been touted as evidence of strength and vigor in the past so it will require a minor shift of narrative.

This.  I think slowing growth is pretty meaningless to the Church's ability to continue.
 

Quote

exciting for leaders to see international growth but also concerning because of the growing financial needs of building and maintaining a larger presence internationally when tithing dollars from those areas may not keep up with expenses (total speculation).

My speculation is that the Church has invested enough money that tithing really isn't the big income source for them that it used to be.  They probably own all kinds of stocks, bonds, real estate, etc that provides more than enough dividends to make tithing a mere drop in the income bucket.

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36 minutes ago, JLHPROF said:

This.  I think slowing growth is pretty meaningless to the Church's ability to continue.
 

My speculation is that the Church has invested enough money that tithing really isn't the big income source for them that it used to be.  They probably own all kinds of stocks, bonds, real estate, etc that provides more than enough dividends to make tithing a mere drop in the income bucket.

If the reports I've heard about the church investing all funds into an endowment and then only using the investment income for expenses is correct, then I would largely agree. But we don't really know. However, $6-7 billion dollars in annual revenue via donations is more than just a drop.

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2 hours ago, JLHPROF said:

Well, if we truly believe these are the last days, the final dispensation, etc, it "long term" really a concern?
I mean, we aren't supposed to be talking additional centuries here.

I wasn't thinking of centuries, but perhaps decades.

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4 hours ago, JLHPROF said:

I would agree with that.
But does it present a problem for the Church?  I really don't see one.

In my long years as a member, and the many leadership roles I have been in, it is always a concern. A large number in my experience, are members who struggle with changing social issues, who find it difficult to face the scorn of others. In fact Lehi's vision of the tree of life, points out how many cannot endure the scorn and become ashamed. I have been in a lot of "Church courts" in Bishopric and High Counsel meetings where people would cite this as "at least" the original issue that started them down their leaving, and then other activities. Of course, this was probably just the excuse they used to justify marital sins. Once, a Ward clerk took it upon himself to try to recoup the money he paid in tithing over many years, but he was really using it for other reasons. But it does concern the Church, and every effort is to reconcile with any who wish to leave. No one takes any pleasure in taking action against anyone. 

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22 minutes ago, Bill "Papa" Lee said:

In my long years as a member, and the many leadership roles I have been in, it is always a concern. A large number in my experience, are members who struggle with changing social issues, who find it difficult to face the scorn of others. In fact Lehi's vision of the tree of life, points out how many cannot endure the scorn and become ashamed. I have been in a lot of "Church courts" in Bishopric and High Counsel meetings where people would cite this as "at least" the original issue that started them down their leaving, and then other activities. Of course, this was probably just the excuse they used to justify marital sins. Once, a Ward clerk took it upon himself to try to recoup the money he paid in tithing over many years, but he was really using it for other reasons. But it does concern the Church, and every effort is to reconcile with any who wish to leave. No one takes any pleasure in taking action against anyone. 

It has to be a real test with real consequences.  People must make choices.  Too many people just sort of bumble safely along without ever making any real decisions.  They need to come to a fork in the road and decide which way to go.  That is the beginning of adulthood, of taking responsibility.  That's what life is all about.  We mustn't shield anyone from that.

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29 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

It has to be a real test with real consequences.  People must make choices.  Too many people just sort of bumble safely along without ever making any real decisions.  They need to come to a fork in the road and decide which way to go.  That is the beginning of adulthood, of taking responsibility.  That's what life is all about.  We mustn't shield anyone from that.

It is hard to take the "road less traveled, that makes all the difference". Here in the Sunny South, many face hard times where the Church is in no way the majority. There is pressure from parents, extended family and friends, I faced it for quite a while, but they all came around. 

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Posted (edited)

Slower growth is expected if only because of decreasing birth rates. While I personally think we could do much better with out missionary work we're not doing badly. I'm not sure I'd read too much into ward sizes just yet as it seems like they've been experimenting with changes to church service a bit. I've noticed many ward, including our own, getting much larger than in the past. I fully expected them to split our ward by now but they haven't.

Edited by clarkgoble
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17 hours ago, JLHPROF said:

This article (http://ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com/2017/05/lds-congregational-growth-significantly.html) says that the creation of new congregations (wards etc) is down.
I'm going to assume that this is accurate.  My question is, does this really have any significance or mean anything important?

Is growth and creation of more wards actually necessary to the continuation of the Church?  If membership held steady with new births/converts matching deaths/apostasies does the lack of growth actually make any difference to the Church?
What say you?

Based upon the following solemn prophetic declaration made in the October 1988 General Conference by President Ezra Taft Benson, I expect to see virtually all other mainstream Christian religions -- with the notable exception of the Latter-Day Saints -- wholly go over to the side of progressive secular humanism and the abandonment of traditional Judaeo-Christian values. When the good and honorable people of the world observe that the Latter-Day Saints are the only religion of worldwide significance that is still holding firm on upholding traditional Biblical values, there will be massive (relatively speaking) conversions of those who will reject allegiance to the kingdom of the devil. A new day of dynamic growth in LDS Church membership will yet dawn upon the world, for as the Doctrine and Covenants warns (paraphrasing) 'the day is coming when all who will not take up arms to fight against their neighbors must needs flee to Zion.'

" testify that as the forces of evil increase under Lucifer’s leadership and as the forces of good increase under the leadership of Jesus Christ, there will be growing battles between the two until the final confrontation. As the issues become clearer and more obvious, all mankind will eventually be required to align themselves either for the kingdom of God or for the kingdom of the devil." (President Ezra Taft Benson)

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2 hours ago, Bobbieaware said:

Based upon the following solemn prophetic declaration made in the October 1988 General Conference by President Ezra Taft Benson, I expect to see virtually all other mainstream Christian religions -- with the notable exception of the Latter-Day Saints -- wholly go over to the side of progressive secular humanism and the abandonment of traditional Judaeo-Christian values. When the good and honorable people of the world observe that the Latter-Day Saints are the only religion of worldwide significance that is still holding firm on upholding traditional Biblical values, there will be massive (relatively speaking) conversions of those who will reject allegiance to the kingdom of the devil. A new day of dynamic growth in LDS Church membership will yet dawn upon the world, for as the Doctrine and Covenants warns (paraphrasing) 'the day is coming when all who will not take up arms to fight against their neighbors must needs flee to Zion.'

" testify that as the forces of evil increase under Lucifer’s leadership and as the forces of good increase under the leadership of Jesus Christ, there will be growing battles between the two until the final confrontation. As the issues become clearer and more obvious, all mankind will eventually be required to align themselves either for the kingdom of God or for the kingdom of the devil." (President Ezra Taft Benson)

Somehow I can't see the evangelical fundamentalist churches mutating into progressive humanist organizations. But if I had to guess which side Satan might back, I'd have to guess it was the fundies, not the secular humanists. 

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