Investigator's Guide to
Measuring Church Growth
Rolling Unto the Ends of the Earth
The keys of the
kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall
the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is
cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has
filled the whole earth.
This is just laying the foundation; it is a little
nucleus, and a few thousands are gathering to it year after year; but the
work that is now commenced will increase, and continue to increase, like
the stone that was hewn out of the mountain.
In 1984 Sociologist Rodney Stark predicted that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would grow at a rate of 30-50% per decade for the next several decades, reaching from 70 million to possibly as high as 280 million members by the year 2080 (Stark, Rodney. 1984. "The Rise of a New World Faith." Review of Religious Research 26:18-27). From 1984 to 2000, the church actually grew at an average rate of 52% per decade, outpacing the upper bound on Stark’s prediction. This has led some people to think that the upper bound of Stark’s 2080 forecast is conservative.
This paper will discuss the nature of exponential growth and the prerequisites that the church must meet to sustain it. It will examine the evidence available for how well the church is meeting those prerequisites and will take a closer look at the church’s growth pattern over the last 25 years. It will argue that the growth rate of the church is decreasing and will probably continue to decrease in the future, with the total membership of the church never coming close to 280 million.
(Note: The following discussion can be viewed as web pages or as a single *.pdf document using Acrobat Reader. Click here to see the *.pdf document and here to see the tables and graphs, or simply follow the links below for the web page version.)
(Click on the formulas and graphs in the following
sections to magnify)
The Nature of
Exponential Growth: Stark's prediction is based on the assumption that
the church will continue to grow exponentially. This section looks
at the general characteristics necessary for
continued exponential growth.
The Homogeneity of Mormons: Are the new members of the church just as capable of generating more new members as their predecessors?
Competition: Does the church have an advantage over other growing religions?
Deterministic Model: The mathematics of growth.
Stochastic Model: A statistical test of the hypothesis that the church grew exponentially from 1984 to 2000.
Forecast: The growth of the church that I predict.
Conclusion: The summary of the above analysis.
If you have a question or would like to discuss these topics, I suggest that you go to a Mormon-related bulletin board. If you'd like to <i>contact me</i> with comments or feedback, you may send an email to email@example.com.CompanyEmail
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