Earlier this week a new post on this forum announced that the 2017 Worldwide annual Service Report was available on JW.org. Wow - that's earlier than the statistics for the 2016 Service Year which appeared in the 2017 Yearbook last January! Good effort, JW organization! We now have available the very latest statistics on this organization.
Well we do and we don't. Let me explain:
The statistics are set out in the new downloadable e-publication 2017 Service Year which dazzles the reader with selected "fast facts"; "fast facts" is JW organization's words, "selected" is mine.
For starters, you get a lovely one page summary with collective worldwide statistics covering the usual categories (e.g., peak and average publishers, number baptized, number of regular pioneers, Bible studies, Memorial attendance and yes even Memorial Partakers).
With one exception - average publishers - none of the statistics is placed in context. So, if you did not have the 2016 Service Report on hand, you would not know that Bible Studies are down about 43,000 or that Partakers continue to climb - there were 500 more partakers counted in 2017 which brings the Memorial Sippers and Nibblers to well over 18,500.
If you can find yourself around this oddly set out e-publication, you'll find a very limited set of "fast facts" on each country where JWs legally operate: Ratio of JWs to population, peak publishers and number of congregations - and that's it. (The link is entitled Jehovah's Witnesses Around the World).
However, although the overall report is entitled 2017 Service Year, the statistics for the individual countries are confusingly from the 2016 Service Year and on another link in the section on Who Are Jehovah's Witnesses? all statistics are from the 2016 Service Year (they don't tell you this).
For example, click on New Zealand, my homeland, and you'll see that JW "ministers" number 14,242 (translation: Peak publishers) and congregations 186. You will not realize when you look at these selected "fast facts" that five years earlier - in 2011 - peak publishers in New Zealand numbered 265 more: 14,507 - that's about 3 congregations. Oh, and congregation numbers have increased by 2 since 2011 - which is strange because I know of at least 3 regional kingdom halls that have been sold off and congregations merged: Shannon, Taihape and Ohakune.
One main conclusion I draw from this new format for the JW organization service year report is the organization can "disappear" evidence of decline for individual countries (are you listening New Zealand - you're a theocratic embarrassment - despite lots of immigrants arriving on our shores?).
You won't find each country's numbers on average publishers, baptisms, pioneers, Bible Studies or memorial attendances.
Keep watching the JW organization space on its Service Year reports.
Most informative will be, not what you see presented, but what you don't see - an organization caught in the bind between needing to crow loudly about its selected "fast facts" and needing to protect from view the more sensitive indicators of stagnation and/or decline.