When the Ward Splits

Jeff Spectorchurch, families, LDS, Mormon, mormon, Mormons 23 Comments

Since I have lived in Colorado Springs (almost 6 years), I have witnessed a phenomena at Church I hadn’t experienced before while living in San Jose.  Ward Spchapel-axelits and Stake realignments.

I  lived in San Jose as  member of the Church for 21 years. In that time, we did not experience a Ward split.  Quite the contrary, we witnessed a shrinking Church population in the Santa Clara Valley.  In 1984, We did have the creation of a new San Jose 31st Spanish Branch, but that was really a split off of a dependant Branch attached to our Ward. I even think there was a 32nd unit created as well. But that was the end of it. Since that time, we have seen two stakes dissolved and as well as more than 15 wards and branches. It has been a combination of movement out of the high cost Silicon Valley as well as significant inactivity.

Our current Ward on the other hand, has been split three times since 2003 and we’ve moved from one stake, The Colorado Springs North Stake to the Colorado Springs East Stake. This has occurred for two reasons, Growth in new population and flight from the southern parts of the city to the northern part of the city and county.

Anyway, this past Sunday saw the creation of a new ward out of two existing large wards and the calling of two new Bishops. The best part was that it was a complete surprise to most of us.  In fact, I had no idea that it would happen this past week.

We all knew it was coming.  We just broke ground on a new chapel east of us and with the expected completion around the end of the year, we all expected the split at that point.  So, needless to say, many of us were in shock. One of my Home Teachers was called as the Bishop of the new ward and my team teacher in Gospel Doctrine was called as a counselor in our Ward.

So, how are you supposed to react to this type of thing?  During the meetings, we heard both joy and sadness.   Joy, because of the continued growth in the Church in our area, but sadness because many of our associations will be diminished.  Sure, we can still associate with the members of the new ward, but the fact is, we will see them much less than we did before.  Many of those in leadership positions are not in our Ward anymore and so the new Bishopric must staff up our Ward again. And quickly.

Another interesting aspect is that our Ward is in the forest and the population is pretty sparse.  We still have some growth areas, but they are very few.  The new ward is in an  area that is growing like crazy and so we expect another split in the next 2 to 4 years. We go from being one of the largest wards in the Stake to one of the smallest.

What has been your experience with Ward and Stake Splits? I realize it is more common in Utah, Arizona and Idaho.  But it is pretty new thing for me to have 3 splits in 6 years.

Comments 23

  1. I’ve only lived here for 3 – 3 1/2 years but from what I understand the wards around here (The Woodlands, TX) get split/reorganized every few years.

    The ward I am currently in was just created October of 2007. My Parents, in the six or so years that they lived here, were in two or three different wards. . .while living in the same house.

  2. Ha. I live north of you about a hundred miles. Same house for sixteen years–five ward re-divisions, placing us in four different wards, with 9 different bishops during that time. It works chaos on relationships and fellowshipping. I hate it.

  3. I understand the need to not have mega-wards, so I accept the need for ward and stake splits, but it can be very difficult at first.

    We moved into a ward in the Boston area years ago that had been split recently. It pulled from three existing wards, each with radically different demographics and politics (and I’m talking about some extreme differences in general religious-political ideologies between the poor & blue-collar conservatives and some radically vocal rich liberals & feminists), and there were multiple previous ward leaders who were released from their callings to keep someone else in that same calling from another ward. Some people assumed there were demographic/philosophical reasons for the decisions, and some people had a hard time adjusting to the overall demographic changes in the new ward. It was really tough at first.

    Luckily, the man who was called as Bishop was a gentle, loving, accepting man, and the ward united quite well after a couple of years – despite the continuing differences that existed.

  4. I live in a fast growing area. In the 5 years I’ve lived here, we’ve been involved in 4 splits, and 2 stakes. We currently have 700 members and 500 often attend sac mtg (400 for sure). All of our wards are big, and the last time we split, the SP waited until we had 900. About 40% of our ward is under the age of 12, and that is typical for the wards in our stake.

  5. I think waiting until there are 900 before splitting is a good idea. I lived in a stake in Montana where the SP was of the “divide and grow” philosophy. Dividing small-town wards with only 500 members on the roll (with 40% activity), so that after the split there were 130 people at sacrament meeting on a good week.

  6. Alexander, We had 60 people last week in the foyer because there was no room in the combined chapel and gym. We literally don’t fit in the building–every room is used, and we share the building with 2 other wards. People get parking tickets now for parking on the street. It’s ridiculous.

  7. We’re at 130 on a good week,and it feels way too big for one dear man to manage.I guess it’s what you’re used to,but the split,when it comes,is going to hurt. I’d better invite those old friends with whom i share so much history over soon,before we slip off each other’s radar.I’ve often wondered if there is an optimum size for a ward,in sociological terms? Where it’s large enough to cover the bases,but small enough for people to know each other and not become lost.I guess there are as many variables as there are people and places.OK,over to God.

  8. Wait a minute! The bloggernacle told me that church leadership is lying and the church isn’t actually growing this fast. Now I’m getting first-hand reports of overcrowding. What gives?

  9. Post

    #8, I think it is population shift, mostly. In our area, people are moving up from the south part of town and the southern wards and stakes are shrinking

  10. I’ve had fortune/misfortune (depending on your perspective) of moving in and out of a few different wards that all were right on the cusp of either being split or having boundaries shifted. My student ward was all but officially split into two wards (2 EQs, 2 RSs, 2 nurseries, 4 GD classes, 1 sacrament meeting, 1 bishopric). There was always a considerable amount of frustration for those on either side of the issue, but I’ve realized that whether there is a split or not seems to depend on the leadership first and population/activity second. And the sociological stuff makes it even more complicated, because it probably varies widely around the US, and even more widely around the world.

  11. The worst one I went through was when I was growing up in PA. We had to drive 26 miles to church (snow, country roads), and we tried for years to get property for our little branch to meet closer to the members, but there was a lot of anti-Mormon sentiment, and no one would sell us land. Finally, we got the Oddfellows to agree to let us meet in their Hall (looked kind of like a courtroom – it was sort of cool). Our branch was thriving, drive to church didn’t exceed 15 miles for anyone, but then the ward that we had split from didn’t have enough strong leadership left (or they just said that to sweeten the pot), and we got sucked back in. I can tell you there was quite a bit of resentment over that. They still meet in that ward building, and it’s been made a ward and split again over the last 25 years.

    In UT, we underwent many splits and realignments of boundaries, experiencing 9 bishops in 10 years at one point. Now I feel you just get used to it. We made many friends from the changes, so I felt it was pretty positive if temporarily disruptive. Change is good for people, if only in shaking things up a bit and creating self-reliance.

  12. Here in England they are so excited when a ward gets to 200 they quickly split it. Our stake with 5 wards averages under 450 a week.

  13. I recently analyzed Church membership data from all 50 states, particularly examining membership and population growth. The Church is growing quite well in the United States, with 162 more congregations at the end of 2008 than at the beginning of the year (which was actually a low year compared to the past several). The Church has created congregations in the United States at the same rate as membership has increased, which is around 1.7%. This may not sound very impressive, especially considering growth rates for membership in the U.S. were quite higher 15-25 years ago, but keep in mind that the U.S. is becoming much less religious and more secular. The states with the most rapid membership growth since 2000 are Tennessee (36.5%), West Virginia (35.1%), Kentucky (31.4%), and Iowa (30.7%). Every state is seeing the percentage of those who are LDS increase with the exception of Utah, Idaho, Nevada, California, Arizona, and Oregon (which are seeing slight declines which are mainly due to many moving to this area of the country. Activity in these states is some of the highest). Every state had more members in 2008 than in 2000, with California having the smallest percentage increase of a little below 1%.

    As for congregation sizes and how big they get before they are divided, it depends in many factors (revelation being the main one). Other factors include member activity (both for those who go to Church weekly and those who do not), anticipated growth from convert baptisms or move-ins, and the temporal and spiritual needs of the members. In some places in the U.S. chapel sizes and the geographic distribution of membership are also factors which can contribute to new congregations being created. The most rapid growth in the U.S. is most often attributed to membership moving into an area while the most rapid decline in membership (like areas of California) are attributed to membership moving out of an area. Areas where inactivity is the biggest problem tend to be stagnant, with few congregations created or dissolved. One place in the U.S. where membership is increasing quickly not just from new move-ins but also from many convert baptisms in Southern Texas and Tennessee.

  14. Either Calvin Grondahl or Pat Bagley did an LDS cartoon about a ward split. It shows the stake president up at the pulpit, raising his hands like Moses at the Red Sea. A jagged chasm is opening up right down the middle of the pews, with members on either side. The wife in one married couple is desperately reaching over the chasm to the wife in another married couple on the other side, saying, “But the Johnsons are our friends!”

    I’ve never been through a ward split, though I have been through a ward boundary realignment. When I was in the Penasquitos 3rd Ward (San Diego) and serving as ward clerk, we had only 11 active Melchizedek Priesthood holders in the ward. (That’s not a cause-and-effect statement, by the way.) The stake, with Church permission, realigned the ward boundaries and gave us a chunk of one of the other PQ wards.

    After that realignment, our bishop wanted to call someone from the new chunk as ward clerk (he likewise replaced one of his counselors and several other major ward callings) and asked me if there was a particular calling I’d like instead. Ever gotten to pick your own calling? I was Gospel Doctrine teacher, teaching Book of Mormon, until we moved from San Diego to DC several months later. ..bruce..

  15. One of your Home Teachers was called as Bishop? What is it like to have a Home Teacher? I’ve been told that since my family is active, we don’t need a Home Teacher.

  16. I just got the word today that our ward and one other ward will be having a combined Sacrament meeting next week. Looks like some boundary changes are on the agenda.

  17. It was always hard when realignments involved merging of portions of two wards into one. Now that I live in an area where there is little likelihood of any ward in the stake reaching a size to be divided in the near future, I kind of miss that symbol of growth that you become accustomed to in other areas.

  18. “They” split my ward. All my friends are gone. I have only been converted for four years and am considering going inactive since the “new” ward seems ambivalent toward me.

  19. Krustyart:

    I have been in several wards, all over, visiting and assigned, not in an official capacity and have allways sensed “two or three, that gather in My Name, I will be there”.
    Its not allways the same people, but its allways, at least, two or three. And that’s all you need to again feel more confortable.

  20. our ward was realigned yesterday and I was looking for the cartoon Pat Bagley did with the stake pres parting the ward from the pulpit.  can you help me get a copy?

  21. I am moving to Colorado Springs this summer, and would like to get a map of the boundaries, so that I will know where to attend meetings.  But the lds.org only lets you see your current ward boundaries. 
    Do you know where to get a current map?

  22. I went through the splitting of the old San Jose Stake into the San Jose East Stake (which I cannot find a trace of anywhere now!) and also the old San Jose South Stake into it, plus the Morgan Hill Stake. Then in Morgan Hill, we went from one Ward, into 2. (The 1st and 2nd Wards). So I’ve seen my share of splits. I have yet to experience a dissolution of either. I am curious to know if there is a record anywhere of these “comings and goings” of new, and now dissolved Stakes and even Wards, somewhere? If so, please notify me. -Thanks!

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