What is the overall health of our church?

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SilentDawning
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What is the overall health of our church?

Post by SilentDawning » 25 Jun 2018, 20:45

If you were to make an assessment of our church, would you say it is healthy?

I assume we would look at:

1. Membership growth numbers.
2. Retention numbers.
3. Youth and Adult conversion rates (meaning, whether young people are making it to active, independent adulthood).
4. Financial stability and performance (good luck finding out that one).
5. Overall satisfaction of the active membership.

Would you suggest any other metrics? What does anyone know of stats on any of these possible health indicators?
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dande48
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Re: What is the overall health of our church?

Post by dande48 » 25 Jun 2018, 22:01

The only "metric" I'd use is "human flourishing". Maybe that ties in with #5, but I'd ask the membership how satisfied they are with life. "Do you feel at peace?" vs income/heath/circumstance. If the Church can build happiness in the membership, irrespective of circumstance, I'd say it's healthy.

For the rest, if you replace "health of the Church" with "health of a company":
1. Growth does not often reflect happiness of the "employees".
2. Low turnover is sometimes a good indication, but it can also be caused by lack of ability to "go anywhere else" (whether through contract, manipulation, etc)
3. Fresh college grad recruitment/retention often reflects company investment in those areas, rather than having their best interests at heart.
4. When a company is rich enough, it becomes "too big to fail". Meaning it can make all sorts of terrible mistakes, unethical decisions, break some pretty strict laws, and still turn out a sizable profit. It is very difficult for such a company to go under, even when facing "boycotts".
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SamBee
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Re: What is the overall health of our church?

Post by SamBee » 26 Jun 2018, 03:57

very hard to say. I think our ward is highly atypical.

In the neighboring wards, I do notice some tendencies towards an older demographic, but we do hang on to youngsters better than some churches IMHO.

1. Membership growth numbers.

Meaningless, as they include the dead, and those who were only briefly active.

2. Retention numbers.

More important. I think very low.

3. Youth and Adult conversion rates (meaning, whether young people are making it to active, independent adulthood).

This is really hard to say. Round here we have plenty of students, but many move back home after their studies.

4. Financial stability and performance (good luck finding out that one).

Not bad, I'd reckon. I think that city mall was a bad idea, but I don't get the impression that the church is in horrific financial shape, mainly due to the fact it relies on so many volunteers.

5. Overall satisfaction of the active membership.

I think this is subjective, and no matter what researchers say, not that easy or even possible to quantify.
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LookingHard
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Re: What is the overall health of our church?

Post by LookingHard » 26 Jun 2018, 06:28

1. Membership growth numbers.
More about missionary efforts and appeal of the message. The church is still pumping out missionaries, but to a much less accepting audience. And like was said before, this includes children of record and unknown address members until they are 100 years old.

2. Retention numbers.
3. Youth and Adult conversion rates (meaning, whether young people are making it to active, independent adulthood).
Retention/converson has always been a problem, but I can tell you from my calling that there seems to be some real worries about the falling rates of youth. Which will have an impact in the coming decades. I wouldn't doubt if we are at the point where we lose 1/2 the members as they move into adulthood. Combine that with less kids per family and we might see

4. Financial stability and performance (good luck finding out that one).
From the bit of info, I think the church is doing just fine. It is the "what about a century from now" that isn't so sure. I will die before the church runs out of money. I think it may not be too many more decades before the possibility of tax exempt for churches is done away with along with charitable contributions to church is on the chopping block. That could have dramatic impact.

5. Overall satisfaction of the active membership.
I have come to really agree with the statement that, "when Mormonism works for you, it works really good and feels great. When it doesn't quite work then it can be really hard." I think there is a sizable portion that 110% buy into the church and feel glad to sacrifice for it. I don't know what that % is though. It is clear that there are many more that are willing to speak out that things are not OK and that is shifting things a bit.

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Heber13
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Re: What is the overall health of our church?

Post by Heber13 » 26 Jun 2018, 11:14

I don't like the statistics of activity rates, since there are so many personal circumstances...things like attendance or baptism numbers don't properly reflect how people in their hearts identify with the church. People can be baptized, but not really converted...so growth on baptism is a metric, but not the best. Butts in seats on sunday can measure regular commitment, but not for people who work during scheduled times...still not the best measure.

Health would align to internal things. Things like:
1. Do you identify as a mormon? (# of people who say yes...that's good enough for me).
2. Rate how happy you are with the LDS church in your life (0-10 rating scale).
3. How important is religion in your daily life?

At first pass...those are the 3 that seem to matter. Regardless of whether the person is paying tithing or attending meetings or retention by some measure of frequency of participation...I think the church would be a healthy organization if people identify with it, are happy with it, and find it important in their lives...in a myriad of ways in how they practice that.

The church is healthy when people are loyal to the cause.

And vice versa...the church is not healthy if people are not finding it important, regardless of whether they have TR or good attendance or other superficial statistics.

Missionaries may be given quotas or goals.
Bishops may be told to increase butts in the seats.
A temple is promised if attendance meets a statistical goal.

All those types of incentives are short-term and are like a weight loss program that delivers immediate results, but does not truly reflect "health."
When you rely on incentives, you undermine virtues. Then when you discover that you actually need people who want to do the right thing, those people don't exist because you've crushed anyone's desire to do the right thing with all these incentives. -Barry Schwartz
These are my worries in our priesthood monthly council meetings where we have the goal to increase attendance in sacrament meeting. I give my quorum members some credit that they know they need to get to know people, and love them...but it is loving them with the end goal of getting their butt in the pew...which will ultimately fail and cannot be sustained.
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Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Re: What is the overall health of our church?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 26 Jun 2018, 15:12

Based on an ideal? Not all is well in Zion, and there are serious issues I think we need to address and fix.

Based on a comparison to other Christian denominations? Quite well in pretty much every measurement. I have studied conversion, retention, and activity rates among quite a few other denominations, and we are doing well in comparison. FInancially, we are solid by every measure I have seen, even with our maintenance costs for properties. Satisfaction? Again, based on what I have studies, we are doing as well as almost every other denomination and better than most - in some cases, significantly better.

Which of the above do I want to use? The idealist in me wants to use the ideal - the Zion I would love to see established. I try to move myself and my own sphere of influence in that direction every day in some way. The realist in me knows that is fanciful and potentially damaging if not balanced, since it is impossible, so I also want the practical measures to be relatively good.

As with most things, my heart and mind are a bit at odds - but I have learned to accept that and view it as healthy for me. It might not work for some people, but it works for me.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

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nibbler
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Re: What is the overall health of our church?

Post by nibbler » 26 Jun 2018, 15:16

What is the overall health of our church?

Hard to say, currently we've got Harold Bornstein giving all the physicals. :angel: :angel: :angel:
Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.
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DevilsAdvocate
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Re: What is the overall health of our church?

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 27 Jun 2018, 14:14

Personally I think the Church's overall "health" peaked around 1997-1998 and it has mostly decreased and stayed down since then as reflected in the following unit growth statistics:

Year units growth
1993 21002 4.6%
1994 21774 3.7%
1995 22697 4.2%
1996 23528 3.7%
1997 24670 4.9%
1998 25551 3.6%
1999 25793 0.9%
2000 25915 0.5%
2001 26084 0.7%
2002 26143 0.2%
2003 26237 0.4%
2004 26670 1.7%
2005 27087 1.6%
2006 27475 1.4%
2007 27827 1.3%
2008 28109 1.0%
2009 28424 1.1%
2010 28660 0.8%
2011 28784 0.4%
"Truth is what works." - William James

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DevilsAdvocate
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Re: What is the overall health of our church?

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 27 Jun 2018, 14:20

SilentDawning wrote:
25 Jun 2018, 20:45
If you were to make an assessment of our church, would you say it is healthy?

Would you suggest any other metrics?
One metric I would add to your list (not that there is any good way to know the exact numbers) is how many "worthy" tithe-paying adult priesthood holders (A.K.A. men) are there that are actually willing to accept callings like Bishop, Elders Quorum President, etc. and how does this compare to past years and decades? That is one of the main determining factors as far as being able to keep wards and branches operating or having to combine them and often make members travel farther to the nearest one.

To me it looks like the internet has already been a major game-changer in more ways than one. It isn't simply the ability to quickly find many reasons to doubt the Church's claims but also the impact of seeing that many other people already don't believe the Church anymore (social proof) that makes many members feel more confident to know that they aren't the only one. I think that even the impact of easy access to porn/nudity on the internet should not be overlooked either because the Church is telling many men/young men they are "unworthy" repeatedly over this. Even if they can survive this long enough to serve full-time missions and get married in the temple and remain active in the Church it can still be very demotivating and/or eventually make them tired of listening to the Church anymore.

And now for whatever combination of reasons 60% of the active members were reportedly female by 2008 compared to only 52% female in 1990. I don't think this discrepancy is a very good sign for the Church's overall health especially when they put so much importance on temple marriage and depend so much on children raised in the Church to maintain their support base. Personally I think if nothing major changes to reverse some of these trends then I expect the Church to gradually decline and struggle to maintain the existing wards and branches much less add many new ones as more and more baby boomers die off and more and more long-time active members leave or refuse to accept callings without having nearly enough younger members and new converts to replace them.
"Truth is what works." - William James

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