Mormon Membership and Congregation Growth Rates 2015-2017

Mormon congregations are run by volunteers, and the Church aims to provide a suitable volunteer job – a “calling” – to every member. There is a more or less fixed number of such callings per congregation. By the time people get assigned to ring the proverbial Sunday school bell, it’s time to create a new congregation with new leadership opportunities and teaching positions.

This implies that as Church membership grows, so will the number of congregations. However, as can be seen on the chart below, that is currently not the case.

A few noteworthy observations about this chart:
  • Membership growth rates are falling year-over-year, with the exception of Oceania, where they are stable around 2%;
  • Congregation growth rates are lagging membership growth rates around the world, except in Africa. More converts apparently does not necessarily lead to more bums in pews;
  • Growth rates in Africa are roughly five times higher then in the rest of the world, although they have been falling in the last three years as well (from 8.46 to 8.13 to 7.19%);
  • In 2017, there was no congregation growth in the Mormon Church’s core market, the United States (41% of the membership). Membership growth rates have been declining as well, from 1.01% in 2015 to 0.75% in 2017;
  • Growth rates in the Church’s second largest market, South America (25% of the membership) are declining, though not as strongly as in North America. 2016 seems to have been a particularly bad year for this region, with a .4% decline in congregations.
  • Africa is now the Church’s strongest growing region. However, its membership is still almost seven times smaller than the number two region (South America) and more than 11 times smaller than the USA.
If the Mormon Church is to transcend its American roots in the 21st century and become a truly international Church, it will need to find a way to fix its primary markets. If the current trends persist, African growth alone will not be enough to offset the decline in other regions any time soon.