Things To Act
Saturday, May 01, 2004
 
Stats Revisited--Unit Growth
On a Nauvoo discussion of stats, someone suggested looking at the relationship between growth in Church membership and growth in Church units to analyze retention rates. While I agree that the two are related, I think enough other intervening variables complicate things as to undermine any conclusions we could try to make (as a bonus, this position means there's no reason for me to go digging into lds.org archives to calculate a bunch more ratios).

In a bit of shameless cross-posting, here's what I replied there:

While the general idea may be on track, I don’t know that we can make too much of it in any given case. Other factors affect the aggregate number of units besides simple straight-line growth. For instance, if two or three small branches are merged into one ward, chances are it would imply good things about the growth of the Church, even though the absolute number of operating units would decrease. Likewise, foreign language units, singles units, etc, can muddy the statistics.

Even more importantly, growth trends for an entire area may influence the numbers. In my mission, my impression was that wards and stakes were divided as quickly as possible, generating units that were far smaller numerically than in America, though they tended to average larger geographically. This made sense to me—while there are costs to having a smallish ward (and there certainly were...), there are also costs to having a geographically large ward (more difficult home teaching, etc). Thus, my impression was that the Church was poised to be able to grow considerably without much change in the number of units—adding another hundred active members per ward would have resulted in the need for very few ward divisions, and probably no stake divisions.

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