Reaching the Nations

Slovenia

By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

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Geography

Area: 20,273 square km.  Situated in Central Europe, Slovenia borders Croatia, Italy, Austria, Hungary, and the Adriatic Sea.  High mountains and valleys in the eastern Alps cover most of the interior with some plains in the northeast and the narrow strip of coast.  Coastal areas experience a Mediterranean climate whereas the interior is subject to a continental climate consisting of cold winters and warm summers.  Flooding and earthquakes are natural hazards.  Environmental issues include water pollution in rivers and the Adriatic Sea, air pollution, and acid raid.  Slovenia is administratively divided into 210 municipalities.

Population: 2,005,692 (July 2009)       

Annual Growth Rate: -0.113% (2009)    

Fertility Rate: 1.28 children born per woman (2009)   

Life Expectancy: 73.25 male, 80.84 female (2009)

Peoples

Slovene: 83.1%

Serb: 2%

Croat: 1.8%

Bosniak: 1.1%

Other/unspecified: 12%

Languages: Slovenian (91.1%), Serbo-Croatian (4.5%), other or unspecified (4.4%).  National or official languages include Slovene, Hungarian, and Italian.  Only Slovene has over one million speakers (1.8 million).   Slovenian is not mutually intelligible with Croatian or Serbian, but many older Slovenes understand Serbo-Croatian.  Most young Slovenes are fluent in English.

Literacy: 99.7%

History

Slavs arrived in the 6th century and formed Caratania which ruled the area for several centuries.  Carantina later joined the Carolingian Empire. Slovene lands subsequently became subject to Austrian rule.  The Protestant Reformation left a strong legacy on Slovenia, including the Slovene script used today.  Protestants were expelled in the early 17th century.[1]  The Austro-Hungarian Empire controlled the area until its dissolution following World War I.  Slovenes, Croats, and Serbians united to form Yugoslavia in 1929.  Slovenia remained a republic of Yugoslavia until an independence movement was initiated in the 1980s,culminating in independence in 1991.  War with Yugoslavia lasted only 10 days.  Slovenia's remote location and low ethnic diversity isolated it from later conflicts in the Balkans.  Rapid modernization, renewed historical ties with Western Europe, and political stability have resulted in strong economic growth over the past two decades.

Culture 

Slovenia exhibits many societal features of former communist nations of Central and Eastern Europe, with a large portion of the population identifying as nonreligious and a revival of traditional religious groups, Catholicism in Slovenia's case.  Slovenia has achieved the greatest economic growth and wealth among former communist nations in Europe, resulting in increased secularism and higher costs of living.  There is a legacy of famous writers, architects, composers, painters, and musicians.  Cuisine consists of a variety of foods native to the country or introduced from elsewhere.  Slovenia has the world's second highest cigarette consumption rate[2] and moderate rates of alcohol consumption. 

Economy

GDP per capita: $27,900 (2009) [60.1% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.929

Corruption Index: 6.6

In 2010, Slovenia had the highest GDP per capita among the former communist nations in Central and Eastern Europe.  Wealth is more equally distributed than most nations and the economy has modernized to Western European levels.  The worldwide financial crisis in the late 2000s resulted in a decline of 7.3% in the GDP and increased the unemployment rates to 9.4%.  Services employ 63% of the labor force and produces 61% of the GDP.  Industry employs 35% of the workforce and produces 37% of the GDP.  Metal and aluminum products, smelting, electronics, truck and car manufacturing are primary industries.  Agricultural products include potatoes, wheat, and sugar beets.  Primary trade partners include Germany, Italy, Austria, and Croatia.  Corruption levels rank among the lowest for former communist nations in Europe. 

Faiths

Christian: 61%

Muslim: 2.1%

Unaffiliated: 3.5%

Other/unspecified: 23%

None: 10.1% 

Christians

Denominations  Members  Congregations

Catholic  1,160,000

Jehovah's Witnesses  1,971  29

Seventh Day Adventists  559  13

Latter-Day Saints  392  4

Religion

58% of Slovenians are Catholic.  Orthodox Christians and Muslims each account for two percent of the population and are primarily Serbs and Bosniaks, respectively.  Non-Catholic and non-Orthodox Christians account for less than one percent of the population.  23% provided no information concerning their religious affiliation and 10% identified as atheists on the 2002 census.[3] 

Religious Freedom

Persecution Index:

The constitution protects religious freedom which is upheld by the government.  Persecution, abuse of religious freedom, and religious discrimination are not tolerated.  Many Christian holidays are national holidays. Religious minorities may also observe their religious holidays under the law.  Registration with the government is not required for religious groups to practice, but is required to obtain legal status.  Some isolated instances of societal infringement of religious freedom have been reported targeting Muslims and Jews.[4] 

Largest Cities

Urban: 48%

Ljubljana, Maribor, Celje, Kranj, Velenje, Koper, Novo Mesto, Ptuj, Trbovlje, Podhom.

Cities listed in bold have no LDS congregation.

Three of the 10 largest cities have congregations.  27% of the national population lives in the 10 largest cities.  

LDS History

The first Slovene members joined the Church in other nations, such as Norway and Austria.  Interest in opening the Slovene-populated region of Yugoslavia to missionary work began as early as 1974 when the president of the Austria Vienna Mission met with government officials in Ljubljana and Maribor.  Kresimir Cosic, a popular Croatian basketball player who joined the Church in the 1970s, helped raise awareness of the Church and its teachings in Yugoslavia.[5]  The Church was first recognized by the Yugoslav government as a legal entity in 1975.[6]  The Austria Vienna East Mission was organized in 1987 and administered Yugoslavia.  The first missionaries arrived in November 1990 and by March 1991, the Church obtained legal recognition.  On the same month, jurisdiction for Slovenia returned to the Austria Vienna Mission and the first convert baptism occurred.[7]  Seven Slovenia members attended the Bern Switzerland Temple rededication in October 1992.[8]  In 1992, the first Slovenian couple was married in the Frankfurt Germany Temple.[9]  The first missionary called from Slovenia began serving in September 1993 from Ljubljana.[10]  The Austria Vienna South Mission was created in 1996 and administered the former Yugoslavia.  Mission headquarters were relocated to Slovenia in 1999, Croatia in 2003, and back to Slovenia shortly thereafter.[11] 

Slovenia became part of the Europe Central Area in 2000, which was consolidated with the Europe West Area to form the Europe Area in the late 2000s.  Many local government officials and members throughout the country attended the groundbreaking of the first chapel in Ljubljana in 2006.[12]  Seminary and institute began in 1997 and 2008, respectively. 

Membership Growth

LDS Membership: 392 (2009)

In the early 1990s, there were 10 LDS members.[13]  Membership growth was strongest in the 1990s, as there were 199 members by year-end 1999.  A year later there were 246 members.  During the 2000s, growth has been slow but consistent, as membership reached 325 in 2003 and 352 in 2007.  Membership declined in 2004, but other years in the past decade have experienced growth rates ranging from 1.5% to 14%.  In 2008, 180 of the 380 members in Slovenia resided in Ljubljana.[14]

Congregational Growth

Branches: 4

The Church organized branches in Ljubljana, Celje, and Maribor as well as the Ljubljana Slovenia District in 1992.  With the exception of 2002, there have been four branches by the end of each year during the 2000s.  Branches remain established in Ljubljana, Celje, and Maribor.  The Slovenia/Croatia Mission Branch is headquartered in Ljubljana for members living in remote locations in the two countries.  A group began meeting in Novo Mesto in the late 2000s and missionaries were assigned to the city, but in November 2009 the city closed to missionary work.  It appears that not a single convert baptism occurred while the city was opened for missionary work.  A branch may have briefly functioned in Kranj in the past and in 2010 missionaries were assigned to the city.  Members in Kranj travel to Ljubljana for church meetings.  Missionaries were assigned to Velenje in the late 1990s and no longer serve in the city. 

Activity and Retention

In 2000, there were approximately 70 active members nationwide.  Celje had approximately 20 active members in 2008.  Conferences in Southeastern Europe and the Balkans have had regular attended from Slovene youth and young adults.  19 youth from Slovenia attended a youth conference held for nations of the former Yugoslavia in 2000.[15]  47 youth from Slovenia and Croatia met for a youth conference in 2003.[16]  A seven-country conference which included Slovenia had 130 in attendance in 2007.[17]  418 attended an open house for the new meetinghouse in Ljubljana, including the mayor and civic leaders.[18]  150 attended a meeting with Elder D. Todd Christofferson in 2009.[19]  17 were enrolled in seminary and institute during the 2007-2008 school year.  Ljubljana and Kranj likely have 80-100 active members.  Active membership is estimated at approximately 130, or 30-35% of total membership.

Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: Slovenian, Croatian, Hungarian, Italian, Serbian

Only the Book of Mormon is available in Slovenian and Serbian.  All LDS scriptures are translated into Croatian, Hungarian, and Italian.  The Church has translated several unit, temple, Priesthood, Relief Society, Sunday School, young women, primary, missionary, Church proclamations, and family history materials into Slovenian, Croatian, and Serbian.  Hungarian and Italian have more Church materials available, including as the Church Handbook of Instructions and many audio/visual materials.  Many CES materials are translated in Croatian.  The Liahona has 12 Italian issues, six Hungarian issues, one Slovenian issue, and one Croatian issue annually. 

Meetinghouses

The Ljubljana Branch meets in a church-built meetinghouse competed in 2008.  Branches in Celje and Maribor meet in rented spaces or renovated buildings. 

Humanitarian and Development Work

There have been no humanitarian or development work conducted in Slovenia due to its economic prosperity and small population.  Service projects are limited to events sponsored by local congregations and full-time missionaries fulfilling weekly service hours.

 

Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects

Religious Freedom

No laws or government interference has limited the Church's missionary program.  Missionaries may openly proselyte. 

Cultural Issues

Despite increasing secularism, the Catholic Church remains a major culture influence.  Although minority religious groups enjoy religious freedom today, negative societal attitudes toward non-Catholics remain and have little been perpetuated since Protestants were expelled from Slovenia centuries before.  High cigarette consumption rates indicate that cigarette addiction is an issue that converts may struggle to completely overcome.

National Outreach

Slovenia's small geographic size reduces the number of needed outreach centers.  However, most Slovenes live in rural locations.  Missionaries are assigned to cities which account for 21% of the national population.  Over the past two decades, the Church has only been successful in establishing congregations in Slovenia's three largest cities and establishing a permanent missionary presence in Kranj.  Missionaries have temporarily been assigned to Novo Mesto and Velenje.  In 2010, missionaries made periodic trips to some cities without congregations, such as Velenje.  A lack of receptive Slovenes and high living costs discourages greater mission outreach with full-time missionaries.  Periodic missionary visits, cottage meetings, distributing church literature, and media exposure may be the most efficient means of improving the Church's proselytism approach.

The Church maintains a website for Slovenia at http://www.cerkev-jezusa-kristusa.si/.  News, meetinghouse locations, and information about Church doctrines and practices are provided in Slovenian.  The Internet site provides mission outreach to unreached areas and a non-confrontational method to reach interested individuals. 

Member Activity and Convert Retention

Both the number of active and nominal members in Slovenia has nearly doubled in the past decade.  Increases in active membership indicate that many new converts have been able to integrate into established congregations, which in some nations can become close-knit and unwelcoming to those who don't fit in.  Member activity remains strongest in Ljubljana, where there are some active full-member families.  In Celje, Church meetings were held for only held for two hours in 2009 due to the small number of active members.

Ethnic Issues and Integration

The lack of ethnic diversity reduces ethnic tensions while creating strong  connections to religious traditions which are difficult for many Slovenes to break.  There does not appear to have been any gospel witness to ethnic minorities in border regions.   

Language Issues

One elder serving in Ljubljana reported in 2010 that many missionaries in recent years have struggled to learn Slovene proficiently.  A lack of adequate command of Slovenian among many missionaries limits outeach.  The Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price have yet to be translated into Slovenian.  Forthcoming translations will depend on the availability of translators and greater demand from Slovenian-speaking members. 

Missionary Service

Slovenia remains entirely dependent on foreign missionaries to supply its full-time missionary force.  In late 2009, 17 missionaries were serving in Slovenia and in early 2010, 10 elders served in Ljubljana.  Very few Slovene members have served full-time missions.  In early 2010, no Slovene members were serving missions although a couple young men had recently returned from their missions and a couple more were preparing to serve in the near future.

Leadership

Slovene leadership has been small, but dedicated.  he branch president of the Ljubljana Branch in the early 1990s had been the first Slovene missionary;[20] he and his wife his wife were the first Slovenian couple to marry in the temple in 1992.[21]   The first native district president of Slovenia began his tenure in 1998.[22]  Native branch presidents lead branches in Ljubljana and Celje. 

Temple

Slovenia pertains to the Frankfurt Germany Temple district.  Temple trips occur and members typically travel by bus.  Prospects for a closer temple appear unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Comparative Growth

Slovenia is the nation with the smallest Church membership with a full-time mission, although this mission services all nations of the former Yugoslavia.  The Ljubljana Branch is the largest LDS congregation in  the former Yugoslavia.  The percentage of Church members in Slovenia is less than half the percentage in most Western or Central European nations.  In the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia has the second largest Church membership and the highest ratio of members to the population at one member per 5,120 people.  Membership growth rates rank average for the Balkans and lower than most former communist nations in Central and Eastern Europe.  Slovenia also has the highest percentage of active members in the former Yugoslavia.  Slovenia is one of the few nations in Central and Eastern Europe which have seen increases in active membership over 50% in the past decade.  

Christian groups have experienced little growth in Slovenia.  Jehovah's Witnesses are the largest proselytism-oriented denomination as Witnesses have a strong presence in Central Europe and rely on local members to perpetuate growth.  Over the past decade, Seventh Day Adventists increased by less than 100 members and added no new congregations.

Future Prospects

Slow but steady growth is anticipated for the LDS Church in Slovenia.  Future growth in national outreach appears unlikely in the medium term, as past efforts to expand national outreach in smaller towns have been unsuccessful.  Active membership growth appear most likely in Ljubljana.  Breakthroughs in gaining multiple converts in unreached cities and towns will be required for mission outreach to exceed 50% of the population.  The small number of members, limited local leadership, and low rates of native missionary service have limited growth.,.  Secularism, superficial religious belief and atheism following decades of communism,  and the adherence of most the religiously active to Catholicism create significant obstacles toward greater church growth.  Greater vision, training, and desire among the Slovene LDS faithful will be necessary if church growth rates are to be improved.


[1]  "Slovenia," Wikipedia.org, retrieved 21 May 2010.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slovenia

[2]  "List of countries  by cigarette consumption per capita," Wikipedia.org, retrieved 21 May 2010.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_cigarette_consumption_per_capita

[3]  "Slovenia," International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127337.htm

[4]  "Slovenia," International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127337.htm

[5]  Cimerman, Dora Glassford.  "First for LDS in Slovenia," LDS Church News, 28 October 2006.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/49676/First-for-LDS-in-Slovenia.html

[6]  "Croatia," Country Profiles, retrieved 22 May 2010.  http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/contact-us/croatia

[7]  "Slovenia," Desert News 2010 Church Almanac, p. 574

[8]  Avant, Gerry.  "Thousands gather and savor experience of temple dedication," LDS Church News, 31 October 1992.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/21988/Thousands-gather-and-savor-experience-of-temple-dedication.html

[9]  "Cinderella story: a dress for bride-to-be," LDS Church News, 6 February 1993.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/23044/Cinderella-story-a-dress-for-bride-to-be.html

[10]  "From the world," LDS Church News, 22 January 1994.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/24203/From-the-world.html

[11]  "Slovenia," Desert News 2010 Church Almanac, p. 574

[12]  Cimerman, Dora Glassford.  "First for LDS in Slovenia," LDS Church News, 28 October 2006.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/49676/First-for-LDS-in-Slovenia.html

[13]  "Season of interest," LDS Church News, 1 November 2008.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/55659/Season-of-interest.html

[14]  "Season of interest," LDS Church News, 1 November 2008.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/55659/Season-of-interest.html

[15]  "Gathering units Balkan youth," LDS Church News, 9 September 2000.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/38434/Gathering-unites-Balkan-youth.html

[16]  Maxfield, Ani Clipper.  "Youth meet in Slovenia conference," LDS Church News, 13 September 2003.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/44305/Youth-meet-in-Slovenia-conference.html

[17]  "Seven-country conference," LDS Church News, 11 August 2007.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/50936/Seven-country-conference.html

[18]  "Season of interest," LDS Church News, 1 November 2008.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/55659/Season-of-interest.html

[19]  "First meetinghouse dedicated in Croatia," LDS Church News, 20 June 2009.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/57494/First-meetinghouse-dedicated-in-Croatia.html

[20]  "From the world," LDS Church News, 22 January 1994.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/24203/From-the-world.html

[21]  "Cinderella story: a dress for bride-to-be," LDS Church News, 6 February 1993.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/23044/Cinderella-story-a-dress-for-bride-to-be.html

[22]  Gardner, Marvin K.  "Albin Lotric: Pioneer in Slovenia," Ensign, Feb 2002, 39.