By: Scott Armstrong
A few months ago, General Secretary Gary Hartke and Nazarene Research Services released the annual Church of the Nazarene statistical reports for 2021. Soon thereafter, I wrote an article with 13 observations on those global trends and numbers, and we also recorded an episode of The Worthless Servants podcast to share what jumped out at us. There is much to be thankful for!
Now I would like to dive into the area my family lives and ministers in. The Mesoamerica Region is one of six global regions in the denomination and includes Mexico, Central America, and almost all the Caribbean nations. As we seemingly come out of a global pandemic, what can we glean from the stats regarding these 32 countries specifically?
- With nearly 450,000 members, the Mesoamerica Region is the third biggest (after Africa and the USA/Canada) in the denomination. 16.5% of Nazarenes around the world are from our region.
- A total of 15,052 new Nazarenes were received this past year in Mesoamerica! Some of those were transfers from other denominations, but the majority are a result of new believers being discipled and becoming members. All five fields can and should celebrate accordingly: Caribbean Field reported 584; Haiti 1,639; Mexico 2,708; Central 3,705; and North Central 6,416 new Nazarenes.
- That said, the region did see a slight overall decrease in membership this past year: -0.80%. While the Central (0.90% increase) and North Central (2.53% increase) Fields experienced moderate growth, the pandemic seems to have taken its toll on the rest of the region. The other three fields reported decreases: -0.90% in Haiti, 5.00% in Mexico, and 7.00 percent in the Caribbean.
- With almost 85,000 Nazarene Youth International members, Mesoamerica follows Africa with the second-most youth of any region. 20.5% of NYI members in the denomination are from our 32 nations.
- During a global pandemic that affected most of our churches adversely, Nazarene congregations in this region still gave nearly 1 million dollars to missions. That includes $670,000 to World Evangelism Fund (WEF) alone. We praise God for his faithfulness and for the generosity of thousands of Nazarenes in the midst of hardship and loss.
- Participation in WEF is increasing, but we still have a lot of room for growth. Last year as a region we gave 3.32% of our overall income to the World Evangelism Fund, which is higher than in many previous years. Yet, the goal remains 5.5%. Ana María Crocker, Regional Nazarene Missions International (NMI) Coordinator, recently shared that our objective is to meet that 5.5% threshold and be raising 1.5 million dollars yearly by 2030. This is feasible, but it will require the commitment of every pastor and layperson.
- Membership in the three primary ministries took a hit. NMI (Nazarene Missions International) is down -3.48% and NYI (Nazarene Youth International) a whopping -15.65%. Youth membership in the Central Field alone plunged almost 50%! Even the discipleship responsibility numbers of NDI (Nazarene Discipleship International) are down -5.39%. I believe these numbers show that, although many people in the pandemic were able to adjust to online services, creating community and organizing ministries virtually have been a lot more complicated.
*One extra that I can’t include in the regular list: Special credit needs to be given to the following districts which paid above and beyond their allotted WEF portion: Panama Central (5.99%), Panama West (6.94%), Guyana Berbice (7.11%), Haiti South Central of Jacmel (10.12%), Mexico Northeast (10.84%), Mexico La Huasteca (29.96%), Mexico Oaxaca Northwest (47.74%), Haiti Upper Artibonite (54.15%), Mexico South Sierra (85.64%), and Mexico Northwest (355.28%). Now you see why I can’t include this one in the regular list. How is it possible to give almost all, or – in the case of Mexico Northwest – three and a half times your income to missions? Serious questions are raised by these numbers, but the fact remains that these districts gave in astounding measure during the previous year.
I would love to hear from our readers. What encourages you or alarms you after seeing my observations? What can some of the increases or decreases be attributed to? Did you notice anything else after looking at the stats?