This religion has a chance of survival
The JWs could survive as an organization due to one vital human need: recognition. For decades this religion glorified the older ones and really didn't do much for the younger folks, hence the younger people left in droves. If you're middle-aged or older, what was the average age of the elders in your congregation or your circuit overseer, as you were growing up? Probably 60-80, right?
Things have changed a lot in the past two years. This became evident beginning in 2014. At least in my part of the world, Bethel speakers at the regional convention that year looked to aveage about 16 years old. That year and since then, the WTS sent letters to the elders and published Watchtower articles regarding the obligation to bring young brothers along and give them responsibility in the congregation sooner--as in NOW. They were told to throw out the notion that a brother has to be 30 years old to quality to be an elder. Early 20's is okay if he is spiritually mature. We have since had circuit overseers in their late 20's/early 30's in our area. These guys and their young wives are visiting the congregations and spending time with...who? The old farts? No way! They spend time with the young ones and it is paying off for them. In my congregation, most of the regular pioneers are under 30. We have new, young elders who have been appointed recently. Have you met anyone who works for the LDC (successor to the RBC)? I have yet to meet anyone over 35 in that group.
So here's why I think this is possible salvation for the JW juggernaut. People thrive on recognition and empowerment. Studies have shown that if an employee is presented with the choice of a new, important-sounding title vs. a raise, astoundingly more people will chose the title. And so in the JW organization, if young people are recognized and put in charge, they will become and remain engaged in this organization. And they will stay engaged long as they continue to be recognized and empowered. The GB may have solved a dilemma that has dogged them for decades--how to keep the young ones from straying or fading. They may very well have stuck their finger into the dike.
Good observation Socrateswannabe. That takes care of males who seek positions of power.
But what about the huge pool of JW women? In most congregations, they comprise more than half of all active JWs and, in some places (such as Japan), they make up around 70% or more. Women's invisibility rules in your analysis.
You are of course right about the organization having staying power - but whether it ever re-captures its heyday of huge growth in the West is doubtful.
There are other factors that keep people coming back to their religious upbringing. These include
- Lacking a sense of self and efficacy to make it in the secular world due to being conditioned within an authoritarian organization
- Needing certainty in a world where there is little
- Inability to regulate difficult emotions such as Fear, Obligation and Guilt (religious baggage that can keep haunting the individual who leaves)
- Existential crises. Religious groups are perfect for people having emotional breakdowns and feeling aggrieved about life. Promises, promises.....
- And so on.
No one here has ever said that JW organization is facing extinction. What has been well argued is that there will always be a hard core of followers in the organization. Yes, they are likely to include those who seek or possess positions of power with local congregations but they will also include needy, existentially vulnerable individuals who need to be shepherded and told what to do.
I like what you say, except that wt has hobbled the young ones, I mean males mental development, by only assigning them bible readings with no comments for decades, in congregations with power blinded BoEs anyway.
...if young people are recognized and put in charge, they will become and remain engaged in this organization. And they will stay engaged long as they continue to be recognized and empowered. The GB may have solved a dilemma that has dogged them for decades--how to keep the young ones from straying or fading. They may very well have stuck their finger into the dike.
That's making the assumption that young people want/need the attention given by the JWs. Also, that's based on the premise that children, the younger, younger ones, are properly treated. The root of how rotten that organization is lies in the way they mistreat CHILDREN, not how they entice teenagers or young adults. Children mean nothing to that organization.
It's a nice comment Socrateswannabe, I had though about making a similar one myself because in Australia there has been a clear push by the organization to replace the older Elders with others 20-25 years younger which is particularly noticeable with conventions speakers and the Bethel representatives sent over. Gone are the ones who had real Bible knowledge and experience on their side. I think thought, its got to do more with the new hipster image of JW.(you know what) than anything else. But I believe that the main reason why things are going south for the society is the very real decline of the western fertility rate. Of course the other issues like the child abuse scandals, fail prophesies, higher education and just plain bat shi* boring meetings haven't helped either. And due to the internet, very few witness kids are ignorant of what's going on, unlike the zombie generations of before.
The orgs push for younger, and younger ones moving up in the org, in POSITIONS OF POWER, will absolutely backfire on them.
First off, any older ones, who have spent years in the "truth", feel they have paid their dues. They will feel resentful of younger ones judging, counseling, and essentially "running" the show.
The lack of experience, and all around pitfalls that come with youth, will make these men barely qualified. It will contribute to the collapse of the org. It will force the existing elders to JUST appoint anybody, because they are younger, and attending the meetings.
The "essential" qualities that men in a position should have, will be completely overlooked, because the Borg is now DESPERATE to put ANYBODY into a position. These men will have no life experience. They will, most likely, NOT have families of their own, and hence be in a weak position to council others about children, and families.
They will NOT be looked at, by even younger ones, as "examples", because these men will most likely be odd in behavior, and "characters" in real life. The org will further be undermined, as even younger ones will NOT see older, wise men, to exemplify, but, instead, young fools as examples.
The Org, from the outside, and the inside looking in, will look like a crap show. With idiots, and unqualified, "children", both mentally and physically, running the show. The WTBS will continue to be a watered down, poor version, of what it used to be. This is another act of DESPERATION. From desperation comes mistakes, hasty decisions, and poor outcomes.
What is going to happen when the money starts running out though.If they have more money going out then coming in (stephen letts jw broadcasting) Once they have used the money from the family silver,bethels at new york and london then i think money will be in very short supply.Also if you have kngdom halls with lots of old people whats going to happen when they die off and again even if they leave money in wills once that money has gone its gone.Even single page tracts cost money to print.And even if they only have a few 100 people getting their board and lodging at the new bethels they will still have bills to pay.
I agree with Dunedain.
If the Bible counts for anything in these decisions then they are not heeding its counsel. Wisdom and experience are more likely to have been developed in the older men - the elderly.
The pressure on the younger ones may be too much for them to deal with. If they are married, they will have their own relationships put under extreme pressure, this is a time for couples to learn about each other and grow. It will be even more difficult if these younger ones are starting a family. As wonderful as it is to have children, this is probably the most demanding time on individuals. The wife needs the full support of her husband in a multitude of areas, including time and emotional support and both are only beginning to learn of their new responsibilities.
This change is not surprising, they are desperate. It's no wonder that they keep repeating in recent magazines that obedience is essential, murmuring is wrong and to accept whatever Elders do, without complaint.
Interesting and insightful responses. My OP was speculation, of course, and all of you make good points. Maybe the title of my post should have been "Major Padadigm Shift in JW Organization--Toward Youth". That would have been more accurate.
Again,any shift in those who hold power involves men - no change though in their more passive roles for women who comprise well over half of the rank and file. I doubt there is any congregations anywhere in which males outnumber females (with obvious exception of Bethels).