Reaching the Nations

Barbados

By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

Return to Table of Contents

Geography

Area: 430 square km.  The easternmost island in the Caribbean, Barbados is a small island  east of Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the North Atlantic Ocean.  Flat terrain occupies most the island, with some central highland areas.  Warm tropical weather occurs year round, marked by a rainy season from June to October.  Hurricanes and landslides are natural hazards.  Environmental issues include ocean pollution, soil erosion, and improper disposal of waste.  Barbados is administratively divided into eleven parishes and one city. 

Population: 285,653 (July 2010)       

Annual Growth Rate: 0.374% (2010)    

Fertility Rate: 1.68 children born per woman (2010)   

Life Expectancy: 71.88 male, 76.42 female (2010)

Peoples

black: 93%

white: 3.2%

mixed: 2.6%

East Indian: 1%

other: 0.2%

Blacks are the descendants of African slaves who arrived before the 1830s.  East Indians came afterwards to work on the plantations.  Most Europeans are British.

Languages: Barbadian Creole English [Bajan] (95%), standard English (5%).  English is the official language.  

Literacy: 99.7% (2002)

History

The British arrived in the early seventeenth century to find Barbados uninhabited as Amerindian groups had likely abandoned the island.  British settlers colonized the island and in 1639 established the House of Assembly, the third-oldest legislative bodies in the Western Hemisphere.  Barbados was subject to continuous British rule until independence in 1966 and experienced a high level of autonomy during its colonial period.  The sugar industry drove economic growth with plantations staffed by African slaves.  Slavery was abolished in 1834 but white British landowners and merchants continued to control local government and political affairs.  East Indians arrived to work on the plantations in the nineteenth century.  In the 1930s, the black population began to demand greater democratic freedoms, which came to fruition in the 1950s and 1960s.  Universal adult suffrage was granted in 1951 and by 1961, Barbados gained self-governing autonomy.  Barbados was included in the failed West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962, which included nine other British islands in the Caribbean.  Following independence in 1966, Barbados has achieved steady economic growth and development, and today has one of the highest GDPs per capita in the Western Hemisphere.[1]

Culture 

British colonial rule and influence on local culture is among the most apparent in the Caribbean on Barbados, due largely to four centuries of uninterrupted British rule.  Cricket is the most popular sport and Anglicans are the largest Christian group.  Alcohol consumption rates are high.  Barbados has one of the largest percentages of nonreligious individuals in the Caribbean. 

Economy

GDP per capita: $21,600 (2009) [46.6% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.788

Corruption Index: 7.8 (2010)

One of the wealthiest Caribbean nations, Barbados historically relied on the sugar industry for economic growth.  In recent years, the economy has diversified to include tourism, finance, and light manufacturing.  Small petroleum and natural gas reserves and fish are natural resources.  Services account for three-quarters of the labor force and generate 78% of the GDP whereas industry employs 15% of the labor force and generates 16% of the GDP.  Primary industries include tourism, sugar, light manufacturing, and component assembly.  10% of the workforce and six percent of the GDP is attributed to agricultural activity, which consists of sugarcane, vegetable, and cotton cultivation.  Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and Jamaica are the primary trade partners. 

Transparency International ranks Barbados as the second least corrupt country in the Western Hemisphere after Canada.  Barbados is a transshipment point for illicit drugs. 

Faiths

Christian: 74.6%

other: 4.8%

non/unspecified: 20.6%

Christians

Denominations  Members  Congregations

Anglican  80,840

Pentecostal  53,417

Seventh Day Adventists  16,600  50 

Methodist  14,568

Catholic   11,997

Jehovah's Witnesses   2,499  30

Latter-day Saints  677  4

Religion

Christians account for 75% of the population and are overwhelmingly Protestant.  The largest denominations include Anglicans, Pentecostals, Seventh Day Adventists, and Methodists.  Catholics constitute four percent of the population.  Muslims number 4,000 (1.5%) and consist primary of East Indians from the Indian state of Gujarat.  One-fifth of the Barbadian population is unaffiliated with a religious group.[2]  

Religious Freedom

Persecution Index:

The constitution protects religious freedom which is upheld by the government.  Many major Christian holidays are recognized by the government.  Religious groups must register with the government to obtain tax benefits.  Public education includes religious curriculum which focuses on Christianity but also studies other religious traditions.  Rastafarians claim some discrimination and restrictions on religious freedom. There have been no recent reports of societal abuse of religious freedom.[3]  

Largest Towns

Urban: 40%

Bridgetown, Speightstown, Oistins, Bathsheba, Holetown.

Towns listed in bold have no LDS congregations.

Two of five most populous urban areas have an LDS congregation.  38% of the national population resides in the five largest towns. 

LDS History

International LDS leaders visited Barbados as early as the 1950s, but the first convert baptism did not occur until 1978 which came as a result of an LDS convert from Scotland sharing his faith with friends.  The Puerto Rico San Juan Mission opened Barbados to missionary work in September 1979.  The following month, the first LDS congregation was organized in Christ Church.  Created in 1983, the West Indies Mission was originally headquartered in Barbados until 1994 when the mission relocated to Trinidad and Tobago.[4]  Seminary and institute were both operating by 1983.  Elder Marvin J. Ashton dedicated the islands of the West Indies for missionary work in 1988.[5]  In 2007, the Puerto Rico San Juan East Mission was organized and administered Barbados[6] until the mission was discontinued in 2010.  At present, the West Indies Mission administers Barbados. 

Membership Growth

LDS Membership: 677 (2009)

LDS membership stood at 400 in the early 1990s.  There were 557 members in 2000.   Membership grew slowly in the 2000s, reaching 601 in 2003, 663 in 2006, and 696 in 2008.  Membership decline occurred for two years in the 2000s in 2005 and 2009.  Annual membership growth rates generally range from one to four percent.  In 2009, one in 422 was LDS. 

Congregational Growth

Wards: 0 Branches: 4

The first LDS congregation was the Christ Church Branch (1979).  A second congregation was organized in Black Rock (1983) and a third in Oistins (1985).[7]  By the early 1990s, there were four branches.  One of the branches was consolidated in the late 1990s.  The three Barbadian branches were organized into a district in 2002.  A fourth branch was recreated in 2006.  In late 2010, branches functioned in Christ Church, Black Rock, Oistins, and Six Cross Roads.  

Activity and Retention

Full-time missionaries in 2010 reported that most active members joined the church in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Six were enrolled in seminary or institute during the 2008-2009 school year.  In late 2010, there were 22 enrolled in institute.  Most branches appear to have around 50 active members.  Nationwide active membership is estimated at 200, or 30%.

Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: English

All LDS scriptures and materials are available in English.

Meetinghouses

In late 2010, each of the four branches had its own LDS meetinghouses, which consisted of Church-built chapels and renovated buildings or rented spaces. 

Humanitarian and Development Work

Since 1985, the LDS Church performed one humanitarian project which involved donating wheelchairs to the disabled.[8]

 

Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects

Religious Freedom

Latter-day Saints face no government or societal restrictions regarding proselytism, assembly, worship, or obtaining visas for foreign full-time missionaries. 

Cultural Issues

Barbados exhibits one of the most secular societies in the Caribbean, attributed to consistent cultural influence from the United Kingdom and economic prosperity.  Full-time missionaries report challenges addressing widespread alcohol use and proselytizing the nonreligious population.  Church-going Barbadians are difficult for Latter-day Saints to reach due to their strong social connections with their respective churches. 

National Outreach

LDS mission outreach potentially reaches the majority of the Barbadian population as 63% of the national population resides in the three administrative parishes with branches (Christ Church, St. Michael, and St. Philip).  Full-time missionaries may occasionally work in other nearby parishes, but not on a systematic basis.  Of the eight parishes that have no mission outreach centers, two (St. Andrew and St. James) have populations greater than St. Philip Parish, which is the perish with the smallest population with an LDS mission outreach center.  The remaining six parishes have small populations with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants each and are unlikely to have individual LDS mission outreach centers established due to low receptivity, close proximity to parishes with a Church presence, and limited missionary resources.  St. Andrew appears to be the most favorable location for the establishment of an additional LDS congregation due to the large population (21% of the national population) and its location on the other side of the island from other branches.

The Church performs no Internet outreach tailored to Barbados, but has an ample supply of English-language materials and scriptures online.  Internet outreach addressing specific local cultural and religious conditions may improve church growth prospects over time.

Member Activity and Convert Retention

Latter-day Saints achieved the greatest progress on convert retention in the 1980s and early 1990s as full-time missionaries report many currently active members joined the Church at that time.  Increase in active membership likely influenced the administrative decision to create a fourth branch in 2006, but convert retention rates appeared to decline in the 1990s and 2000s.  Issues which may have created greater challenges to retain new converts compared to the 1980s and early 1990s include integrating new converts into socially tight-knit congregations of older Latter-day Saints, increasing secularism in society, and no noticeable progress in expanding national outreach. 

Ethnic Issues and Integration

The relatively homogenous black population experiences few ethnic integration challenges.  No ethnic integration issues have been reported at church for Latter-day Saints in Barbados. 

Language Issues

No proselytism materials are translated into English-based Creoles spoken in the Caribbean.  Standard English is widely used, reducing the need for LDS materials in Barbadian Creole English, which is spoken by fewer than 300,000, but is nonetheless the primary language of Barbados.

Missionary Service

North American full-time missionaries appear to constitute the bulk of the full-time missionary force on Barbados.  Local member activity rates rank among the lowest in the Caribbean as indicated by poor seminary and institute attendance and few members serving full-time missions.  Greater emphasis on seminary and institute, youth-oriented outreach initiatives, and local member involvement in teaching and reactivating Latter-day Saint youth will be required to achieve greater self-sufficiency in the Barbadian full-time missionary force.  Increase in institute enrollment in 2010 may indicate improving prospects toward full-time missionary service.

Leadership

Barbados has self-sustaining local church leadership capable of staffing district and branch callings despite having fewer than 1,000 total Latter-day Saints.  Each of the island's four branches appear to have local branch presidents.  Missionaries in the past have reported some challenges for branch presidents to unite members. Branch presidencies at times may and may lack sufficient training and mentoring from mission leaders due to distance from mission headquarters in Trinidad and Tobago.  The creation of a district in 2002 and a fourth branch in 2006 demonstrate some progress increasing the number and self-reliance of local priesthood holders in recent years, but the dissolution of a branch in the late 1990s illustrates challenges maintaining sustainability.

Temple

Barbados pertains to the Orlando Florida Temple district.  Temple trips likely occur infrequently on a district basis due to distance to the temple, travel expenses, few active members, and challenges obtaining needed travel documentation and visas.  Prospects for a future temple closer to Barbados appear unlikely in the medium term due to the small number of members in the region. 

Comparative Growth

Membership growth in Barbados ranked slower than most Caribbean nations in the 2000s, but Barbados remains one of the few small island Caribbean nations with a functioning LDS district. Several Caribbean nations with fewer than 1,000 members had their districts discontinued in the late 2000s and in 2010, including St. Kitts and Nevis, Aruba, and the Bahamas.  The percentage of Latter-day Saints in the general population is comparable to the regional average and is similar to Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica.  Barbados has one of the lowest percentages of members enrolled in seminary or institute worldwide.  Member activity and congregational growth rates compare to most Caribbean nations.

Missionary-minded Christian denominations have more members than the LDS Church and generally have achieved stronger and more consistent church growth.  Many of these groups have operated on Barbados for decades longer than Latter-day Saints and take a church-planting and member-missionary approach to proselytism.  Seventh Day Adventists have functioned since the 1920s and today number among the largest denominations with over 16,000 members and 50 churches.  Jehovah's Witnesses have experienced greater success in Barbados than many other Caribbean nations and in 2009 had 2,500 active members meeting in 30 congregations.

Future Prospects

The experience of the LDS Church in Barbados demonstrates that contrary to some expectations, developed local church leadership, political stability, and a traditionally Christian population do not guarantee favorable church growth conditions.  The majority of active Barbadian members have become entrenched in the LDS Church, resulting in poor member-missionary participation and slow church growth.  Increasing in the number of retained new converts will be necessary to reverse stagnant church growth trends over the past two decades.  The creation of a district and a fourth branch in the 2000s point toward greater development of local priesthood leadership, but many of these church leaders likely joined the Church many years ago. 


[1]  "Background Note: Barbados," Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, 14 July 2010.  http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/26507.htm

[2]  "Barbados," International Religious Freedom Report 2010, 17 November 2010.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148734.htm

[3]  "Barbados," International Religious Freedom Report 2010, 17 November 2010.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148734.htm

[4]  "Barbados," Country Profile, retrieved 8 December 2010.  http://beta-newsroom.lds.org/country/barbados

[5]  "Barbados", Deseret News 2010 Church News Almanac, p. 429

[6]  "New missions bring total to 347 New Missions," LDS Church News, 10 February 2007.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/50112/New-missions-bring-total-to-347-New-missions.html

[7]  "Barbados", Deseret News 2010 Church News Almanac, p. 429

[8]  "Projects - Barbados," Humanitarian Activities Worldwide, retrieved 8 December 2010.  http://www.providentliving.org/project/0,13501,4607-1-2008-103,00.htm