Two years ago, we were told our ward was the top baptizing ward in the top baptizing stake in Texas. “Good Job!” we were told. “It’s because you are such a loving and welcoming ward.” We were told. We had 20+ baptisms. We retained 1 person.
As a very dedicated convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of my main concerns is seeing those who come into the church, like I did, not make it. We have lived in the ward we are in currently for 6 years, and have seen 60+ baptisms in that time, but only 4 (1 family, 1 lone man) that I know of are still regularly active. My wife and I sometimes refer to this situation as the “catch and release” program of the church.
Now there are, upon reflection, many different reasons for this abysmal statistic, but none of this is because of baseball baptisms or faking records. In other words, missionaries are not breaking the rules.
In order to capture some of the issues I’ve seen, I’m going to break our wards missionary work out into the 4 typical areas of missionary work. All these issues are anecdotal, but that is all that’s available to me at the time.
1. Finding- A lot of the people who are found by the missionaries in our area are either transient people or disabled. A large percent of them don’t have cars. These people are typically not member referrals.
2. Teaching- Many people who are taught do not completely understand the expectations the church has for its members (callings, service, visiting other members, etc.) Few members are available to take time off to meet investigators.
3. Baptizing- In conjunction with #2, Many people who are baptized, have had trouble fulfilling their commitments prior to baptism, especially the commitment to attend church regularly.
4. Retaining- People have complained about not feeling welcome at our church. Converts typically do not last long enough that being endowed ever becomes a concern. Most new members are brought in solely on the missionaries’ efforts, not through member referral. Home Teaching is poor.
Above, I have tried to assemble a quick sketch of the symptoms of the problem we are having.
And so I ask you, are you having the same problems in your area? And if so, what do you think is the root cause? Ie- What are we doing wrong and how do we repent of it?
In part two, I will talk about ways I think missionary/retention efforts are being done in other churches, and ask if we should borrow any of their ideas. First I just wanted to see how typical my anecdotal concerns are.