The Baron over at Millennial Star has put together a nice series on the subject of member activity and retention in the Church. This is a lingering response to press that came out several weeks ago claiming that real church growth has been flat for several years. We Mormons have become very proficient at wringing our hands over losing active members to inactivity (or less-activity depending on the situation and the point of view). I have a couple of worries about the current paradigm in the church. One is I’m not sure exactly what active means. The Second is that I worry that we are so focused on getting people “active” that we may not have much of a plan to move from that point to the final end God has in mind for the saints.
What is active?
Is there an official definition of what “active” means in the church? My guess is that at a minimum it means that a person attends a sacrament meeting periodically (depending on who’s measuring I guess). At the maximum it means a person holds a current temple recommend and is actively and heavily engaged in church participation. Full-time missionaries might be the most “active” of all members. But have any of you heard if there is an official definition?
Active to what end?
A major focus of the leadership of most every branch, ward, and stake in the church is to bring inactive members back into activity. The ultimate goal would be for 100% of members on the records in any stake to be active in the church. So my question is: If there was a ward where in fact 100% of the members in the ward were active, what would be next? Perhaps you will say the leadership in that ward would set a goal to help them remain active. Ok, let’s say that 100% of them do remain active – what’s next? In other words, what is the goal of activity? Is being active an end in itself or is it just a means to a larger end? If it is the latter, what exactly is that larger end? Is that larger end measurable? If not, what are we as a church (who worship at the Alter of Measurement) to do?