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Realignment of French-speaking Missions in Europe

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 21, 2011

“This consolidation is a positive move …”

Okay.

Effective July 1 of this year, the French-speaking regions of Europe (France, Corsica, Luxembourg, and parts of Switzerland and Belgium) will be reorganized into two missions, with headquarters in Paris and Lyon.  I’ve lost track of the number of missions that have opened, divided, consolidated, dissolved, reconstituted, reorganized, realigned, and otherwise adjusted in every other kind of  administrative move in the generation since I was a French-speaking missionary. Here is the latest development, with map.

Farewell, Chambésy. Hello (again), Lyon.



21 Comments »

  1. They should never get rid of the mission with Geneva in the title.

    Comment by Chris H. — February 21, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

  2. Agreed, Dad.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 21, 2011 @ 3:28 pm

  3. Wow. I was in the Brussels Belgium mission, 96-98, served 90% of my time in N.E.France along the German border, while my sister was simultaneously in the Bordeaux mission. Neither exists anymore.

    I went back to Strasbourg, my first city, that had had 16-20 missionaries as its own zone (+4 in Mulhouse) when I was there. There were then, 5 years after I’d left, no missionaries in Mulhouse, and only 4 in Strasbourg, which has two wards and an actual building. They couldn’t believe how many had been there.

    And now this. France is really struggling, if they’re reducing even further.

    Comment by Ben S — February 21, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

  4. We get the feeling that the whole of Europe is struggling, numbers-wise; all we ever hear of is ‘consolidation’. Not to sound negative, but that’s what we see all the time- wards/branches being closed and consolidated with neighbouring units.

    Do any of you with interests in France know what happened to the temple which was announced years ago for Paris? Must be about 10 years ago now, I was Primary Pres at the time and the father of a then missionary from our ward serving in France came to tell the Primary children all about it. Or did I imagine it?

    Comment by Anne (UK) — February 21, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

  5. Yes, this is very sad news. On the other hand, it may be a reaction to the recent action to ban non-European Union missionaries from proselyting in Switzerland. You can’t very well run a mission home in a country that only allows some of your missionaries (the European ones) to reside or visit.

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home/50871951-76/missionaries-swiss-church-mormon.html.csp

    Comment by Dave — February 21, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

  6. Ben and I served together. A pretty quick downward spiral after we left. Promise it wasn’t our fault.

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 21, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

  7. Anne, here’s a blog entry on the Paris temple which traces the on-again off-again history. It looks like last October was another milestone date, so perhaps we’re due for an update soon.

    Consolidations look from a distance as though units are shrinking or failing or whatever, but that isn’t always the case. My ward was consolidated with parts of another this past week; the stake now has one fewer ward in it overall, but it’s hard to say the stake is really shrinking when there were *300* women at Relief Society yesterday, packed into the center section of the chapel. It felt more like a women’s conference at BYU than a Relief Society — not very inclusive or comfortable, and not suited to my temperament, but hardly evidence of a disappearing stake. That could easily be true of missions, too. I dunno why they consolidate either wards or missions — they don’t ask for my advice before doing it, for some unfathomable reason.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 21, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

  8. I Just returned 4 months ago (oct 2010) from serving a mission in France/Belgium. I was called to the Belgium Brussels Netherlands Mission (which also incorporated northern France). I saw a lot of changes in the mission during those two years, including the amount of missionaries being reduced by 50% and the in the last 7 months of my mission, the French speaking part of the Belgium Brussels mission being put into the Paris Mission (great news for the new all dutch speaking mission).

    Among all these changes…the work continued to progress, baptisms increased (with the #’s missionaries decreasing), retention rates climbed to %80 during 2010! I’m pleased to say that the church is growing in Europe, and that Europe does baptize! It’s not about numbers anyways but I was able to see a lot of baptisms (among many other missionaries), and the members in France are some of the strongest I’ve met. As far a temple in France, they’ve been working on it, last July or August all the members and missionaries in Francophone europe were asked to do a special fast for a temple, the french saints are optimistic and making sacrifices for a temple.

    The church and missionary work in Europe is directed by lord though revelation. With this knowledge we have no need to be pessimistic about the church in any place in the world. We cannot know or understand all the reasons about revelation but we must trust in the lord. But in my opinion for such changes are a result of 2 main reasons.

    1. Member to missionary ratio- how often do we hear it preached, members find and missionaries teach! This is the pattern that has been revealed and proven the most effective. Putting more missionaries in a ward or branch doesn’t always mean more production. Working by the spirit and through members produces higher fruits. Too much of missionaries time is wasted trying to find and not teaching. There are a lot of barriers to overcome from “cold finding” which are broken through member finding efforts.

    2. Church expansion in other parts of the world- as previously discussed member to missionary ratio is important. I’m from Portland Oregon and the missionaries in my ward cover 2 very large wards (in population, not geographically) in Utah, missionaries can cover stakes. Balancing member/missionary ratio world wide means altogether higher world wide productivity. Also the church is expanding in new areas of the world that have been previously closed or the church not being very big. We do need more missionaries, but more important than quantity is quality…thats another possible reason for such changes…the bar has been raised and continues to be raised.

    Vivre la france!

    Comment by Austin Dungan — February 21, 2011 @ 5:43 pm

  9. Oh…I just read the letter, they pretty much gave the same two reasons for the change in the second paragraph, stating as a positive change as the church expands throughout the world and as members take a more active role in missionary work.

    I do believe this to be a positive change as I do believe our general authorities don’t lie to us.

    “It is a significant step forward that will bless the future of the church and all it’s members” Revelation/prophecy stated!

    Comment by Austin Dungan — February 21, 2011 @ 5:51 pm

  10. I tend to think there are two issues at play here:

    1. Baptismal rates (measured on a convert per full-time missionary per year level) are, anecdotally at least, lower in Europe than in several other parts of the world. (I know that comparing my experience in a German-speaking mission with friends in, say, South America or the Philippines or even the USA backs this up.)

    2. The number of full-time missionaries is not completely elastic.

    We often forget the crucial importance of (2) in these sorts of discussions. Even if the church is growing in Europe, if it’s growing slower there than elsewhere, the (relative) inelasticity in the supply of full-time missionaries will likely lead to consolidations in slower-growing areas like Europe.

    Comment by David B — February 21, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

  11. The missionary drawdown was communicated to bishops and wards orally months before it happened, so the announcement was not surprising, coming one year after the drawdown. My feeling is that people here have stopped caring about administrative details. Reorganization happens and it is essentially impersonal.

    Comment by Paul 2 — February 21, 2011 @ 9:43 pm

  12. This is sad to see, as one of the original missionaries called to the now defunct Marseille mission. I think a driver that hasn’t been mentioned is the cost of supporting missionaries in Europe generally and in particular mission homes and the administrative costs that go with them.

    One thing I suspect we will see is more delegation to members of the mission presidency. That is just too much ground for the president to cover, I suspect that experienced senior missionaries will take responsibility for geographic areas under the supervision of the president. I’ve seen that done in Africa and it seems to work.

    Comment by warno — February 22, 2011 @ 4:22 am

  13. I think it has to do with the recent wikileaks statement that French is really not an actual language, just gibberish:

    Sarkozy Admits French Language a Hoax!

    I thought Sarkozy was a bad person, but at least he was honest about this. C’mon Ardis, admit it. They really didn’t teach you French, just a bunch of noises!

    Comment by Rameumptom — February 22, 2011 @ 7:21 am

  14. You are speaking disrespectfully of the language of the celestial kingdom, Rameumptom. Repent, and learn the French vowels before it is everlastingly too late and you are thrust down to an Adamic-speaking kingdom.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 22, 2011 @ 7:43 am

  15. I’m sorry, Ardis. Did you write that in English? And is Paris representative of the celestial kingdom? If so, I’ve set my sights too high….

    Comment by Rameumptom — February 22, 2011 @ 8:31 am

  16. So, the Church is sending missionaries to those regions of the world where they will find the most success (as mentioned in #10) and is spending money on areas that will get the greatest return (#12). That does sound like a positive step.

    But by decreasing the number of missionaries in France, is the baptisms per missionary ratio going to increase?

    The new mission boundaries don’t seem any larger than the missions in Mexico where I served (in the mid 1990′s) but then again, I only saw the mission president every quarter.

    Comment by Clark — February 22, 2011 @ 9:56 am

  17. As I type, my brother is on a plane from the MTC to the Porto, Portugal mission. His email yesterday said that this summer it was being dissolved into the Lisbon mission this summer. Seems like a trend.

    Comment by Ben Park — February 22, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

  18. I remember that, as a youth, the main characters in the animated film “Gay Purr-ee” spoke purrr-fect English. I should have figured it out then.

    Comment by Mark N. — February 22, 2011 @ 4:52 pm

  19. This does indeed continue the trend of consolidation in Europe beginning a couple of years ago with the merging of the two European areas. Last year the Zürich, Munich and Vienna missions were consolidated into the “Alpine German-speaking” mission (where do they come up with these names?).

    There are some other trends related to this. While the overall Church membership is steadily rising, the number of full-time missionaries has remained fairly constant for a number of years. The increase in the number of units and the steady number of missionaries means that there are fewer missionaries available per unit.

    I also think there is a “bang for the buck” issue as some have mentioned above. Missionaries are being moved from less-productive areas to more productive areas.

    This trend isn’t unique to Europe, however. It is also going on in the United States. I live in a small unit in the South. About 2 1/2 years ago our missionaries were pulled and we were told we’d have to shoulder the missionary work ourselves. On the one hand, this has focused our attention to missionary work. On the other hand, however, it makes us feel abandoned.

    On the subject of consolidation I have two thoughts. It can be a positive. For example, if there are two struggling units in close proximity, a consolidation of the units into a larger unit can be a good thing if the new unit can provide the resources the smaller units could not. On the flip side of it, the consolidation of units, stakes, missions, etc. can indicate a backslide of Church growth–something none of us wants to see.

    Comment by Steve C. — February 22, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

  20. Do you think it might also have to do with differing management theories, for lack of an ecclesiastical equivalent term?

    I mean, it seems like some of the units I’ve lived in have been divided, with the presiding authority explaining that even though the new units are relatively small, the increased opportunities for service will quickly cause the units to grow (the “we multiply by dividing” theory).

    Then a few years later under different leadership, units are consolidated, not because former units are too small to be functioning well, but in order to relieve service burdens and increase the opportunities for, say, youth activities, which will attract new growth (the “critical mass” theory).

    Both are probably valid theories. It can be a little hard on local members when successive stake presidents or area authorities have different management philosophies and repeatedly divide and consolidate, divide and consolidate, but as long as growth continues I suppose the church benefits overall.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 22, 2011 @ 8:44 pm

  21. Actually, i like the “Alpine German-Speaking Mission” (i was in one of its antecedent missions) name—it hearkens back to when mission (and stake) names were descriptive of something rather than being purely geographical. (There’s one other mission like that, but its name escapes my mind at the moment. Temple naming, of course, has been making moves in that direction since the Mt. Timpanogos Temple opened.)

    Anyway: consolidation. On my mission, i served in an area where there had been lots of small (very small) but healthy branches some years before, but they’d been consolidated into what rapidly became a small and somewhat healthy branch. (Travel time and convenience was a big part of it, i was told.) On the other hand, i’ve lived in areas where combining units together has resulted in something much better than could have happened otherwise.

    My point? Maybe it’s simply that change happens, and that’s just part of life—and whether that change is good or bad, well, who’ll be able to tell for at least a decade? Not me.

    Comment by David B — February 22, 2011 @ 9:41 pm

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