One fascinating tidbit that came out of between-sessions chatting at General Conference this weekend is that in Brazil there has been a marked improvement in convert retention since the chapels have added air conditioning and heating.
While feasting upon the word has always had a physical as well as metaphysical component, I can’t help but wonder what other moves might help retention. My vote would be to make the chapels more beautiful: almost no one is so struck by the magnificence of our meetinghouses that they want to learn more; that’s hardly news. But if climate control has a substantive impact, I would bet that a more inspiring physical presence would as well. Definitely worth the marginal extra cost.
Other suggestions for retention?
PS: This same Brazilian-centric source suggested that the repeated references to Pres Benson’s “14 points of following the prophet” was spot-on for the needs of the LDS community there.
16 Replies to “A/C and Retention”
The ward I attend in Upstate New York met in an old convent. It did not have AC. After a series of blow-ups between members, the Stake President moved to get AC put in. Members calmed down and were less on edge. I am not sure of anything these day…but AC is from God.
I seem to recall from somewhere that one of the few positive aspects of the Moyle-inspired “if you build it they will come” era that put the Church into debt was that it sent a message.
Small European branches filled with Mormon converts who had been meeting in homes, rented halls, or worse suddenly had tangible proof of the Church’s intention to stay and be permanent and real in the country. It was a step up in respectability in the community.
provide a round trip subway/metro/bus pass. they’re pretty cheap relative to the creation of a fantastically gorgeous building…but definitely have AC.
If the difference really is A/C, then is it really retention?
If the difference really is A/C then is it really inactivity?
I have a friend who says constantly that church isn’t fun enough. He means that it should be a place tailored to culturally attractive practice. In Japan, for example, he insists that numbers would swell if there were more dancing and drama.
I will also second Nitsav’s thought about these practices being more than frills, but actually constituting presence. A/c is a good start, and I’d like to hear more of Secco’s thoughts on what could be gainfully added.
I used to think that as well, Nitsav. As a child and teenager, I loved the new chapels. But several of the older leaders in Germany disagreed.
They pointed to the fact that the new buildings required the combination of several branches. As a result, the density of parishes declined and it became more difficult for the members to attend church.
Every time, we lost people who were unable to travel.
Also, the old apartments might have been in substandard housing but they were in central locations. Usually, the new chapels were in the suburbs, which made them inaccessible.
If there was public transportation, there was also subsidized housing, which meant that the members would be assaulted (I was booted once and verbally attacked many times by groups of adults when I was just a teenager) and the chapels were frequently broken into.
I loved the new chapels but, in hindsight, I have to admit that they were a mixed blessing. I would like to see the hard data and suspect that, on average, it is conceivable that the new buildings might have damaged retention.
I would like to see the hard data and suspect that, on average, it is conceivable that the new buildings might have damaged retention and activity rates.
A local Evangelical church once hired a consultant to come in and do a complete audit of their church to see how they could get and retain a larger congregation. His final answer was to add a drummer to the band and better parking.
At the time I couldn’t help thinking they totally missed the point.
Now I have to rethink my position
My current building, though only 16 years old, is unique and beautiful inside and out, particularly its chapel. The bishop at the time of its construction told me that the church had decided to build a landmark, and a lot of attention was given to it; he described the approval by Pres. Hinckley of a particular non-standard feature. One of the apostles came out to dedicate it.
I’ve concluded that my ward’s non-superlative normalness since then has doomed the rest of the church to not receive more buildings like it. The surrounding community hasn’t flocked to our beautiful building, though they are glad to have it standing there on a prominent corner looking nice. Those who meet there are the same people they would be with an ordinary boring building.
I think a bad chapel without heating or air conditioning may make it hard for people to want to come or pay attention to the messages. However once the basics are taken care of I have a hard time honestly believing the chapel adds much. Despite all the battles over carpet or wood in the gyms.
I remember an older woman who was baptized on my mission in Japan. She enjoyed attending church, but when summer got hot and they started using the A/C, she stopped coming. She didn’t like how the A/C air felt. In that branch we had an evening service for members who couldn’t come during the day. Maybe we needed a non-air-conditioned service as well 🙂
A/C is a good one. 2 Other fundamental suggestions I’d make from my experience in the Philippines would be hot water and a competent pianist.
Well, the A/C surely drives up the cost of electricity, and it makes it possible for men to wear coats to church in the summer and be comfortable while their wives and daughters, in their short sleeved blouses and dresses, shiver next to them.
A/C is clearly of the devil.
Mark: thin wool. The most comfortable suit I ever had I was wearing on a long drive from Escalante to Provo while everyone else was in shorts and t-shirts. I was far more comfortable than them. But you get a good suit that breathes and summer will be fantastic.
My problem are old people. The get cold too easily. As someone under 40 (who also is very large) these building get stuff fast.