Current JW growth in the United States in historical perspective and in comparison with other groups

by slimboyfat 28 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • slimboyfat

    Current JW growth is slower than during most of their history. The only probable exceptions are following 1975 when there was a brief worldwide decrease, the late 1920s when around half of the members left the movement, perhaps around the 1917 schism, and various schisms during Russell’s time. There were also periods of sluggish growth during the 1950/60s and around 2000.

    Nevertheless the current period of poor growth does seem to be more serious because of its persistence (arguably continuous downturn since around the time of the 1995 generation change) and simultaneous financial, ideological, prophectic, legal, and leadership problems, to name a few.

    At the same time, I think it is only fair to note that western societies have undergone a massive transformation in religious landscape during the past few decades and it only stands to reason that JWs should be affected to some extent by the secularising trends of society as a whole.

    The United States arrived late to the secularisation party, but in the past couple of decades they seem to have made up for lost time and religion as a whole is in steep decline. Some of the declines are so steep it’s almost difficult to believe. It’s almost as if the US is belatedly trying to catch up with European secularity.

    So allowing for the fact that current JW growth is pretty poor by their own historical standards, including in the United States itself, I think it’s worth asking how JWs have been doing in comparison with other groups. I made a comparison of JWs with other groups in Scotland between 1960 and 2020 in another thread. Here I present a comparison of JW growth with some of major groups in the United States between 2000 and 2016.

    United Methodist Church 8,340,954 in 2000 down to 6,951,278 in 2016 –17%

    American Baptist Churches 1,436,909 in 2000 down to 1,159,492 in 2016 –19%

    Episcopal Church 2,333,327 in 2000 down to 1,745,156 in 2016 –25%

    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 5,125,919 in 2000 down to 3,563,842 in 2016 –30%

    United Church of Christ 1,377,320 in 2000 down to 880,383 in 2016 –36%

    Presbyterian Church USA 2,525,330 in 2000 down to 1,482,767 in 2016 –41%

    Disciples of Christ 820,286 in 2000 down to 411,140 in 2016 –50%

    Southern BaptistConvention 15,900,000 in 2000 down to 15,216,978 in 2016 –4%

    Presbyterian Church in America 306,156 in 2000 up to 374,161 in 2016 +22%

    Assemblies of God USA 1,637,665 in 2000 up to 2,004,897 in 2016 +22%

    Evangelical Free Church of America 300,00 in 2000 up to 371,191 in 2016 +23%

    Jehovah’s Witnesses 945,000 in 2000 up to 1,198,026 in 2016 +27%

    I got these figures from this YouTube video. I trust they are accurate.

    They show dramatic declines, and are consistent with other reports about the decline of churches in the United States. The figures only go to 2016 and in all likelihood declines have got worse since then across the board.
  • careful

    What about the Mormons and Catholics?

  • slimboyfat

    Well good question. I only included examples from the video, which is a mixture of liberal and conservative Trinitarian churches, enlisted to make the point that conservative churches are doing better at staving off decline.

    Frankly I don’t believe Mormon numbers because they add every baptism to their total and don’t remove inactive members. It’s as if JWs were to count every person who was ever baptised as if they are still members regardless of whether they are publishers or haven’t been in a KH in 30 years. Mormon figures aren’t just slightly unreliable, they are a completely false representation of their current membership. So I imagine official Mormon membership is still increasing, but their official numbers are totally bogus.

    The Catholic numbers should be easier to obtain, and presumably more reliable. I’ll have a look.

    Seventh-day Adventists would make a good comparison too. They are probably doing better than JWs, and their numbers seem reliable.

    To give an example of what I mean, SDAs claim around 1000 members in Scotland, and they have around 1000 people attend their church on a Saturday across the country.

    Mormons on the other hand claim 24,000 members in Scotland, but my best estimate is that they have (at the very most) an average of 40 people attend their 39 churches in Scotland—so a total of less than 1600. The claimed 24,000 figure is presumably the total number of Scottish people ever baptised into the Mormon church. It bears no relation to their current size.

    Mormon figures aren’t just a bit unreliable, they are totally bogus.

  • Finkelstein

    "The Truth" about this corrupt religious publishing house is getting widely spread about by the inter-net and the age of information.

    Higher level of education and knowledge is taking a bite of the JWs growth as well just like every other religious organization in most modernized countries.

  • careful

    Do the LDS publish the number of congregations? As you have long preached, SBF, those numbers tell the real story.

  • slimboyfat

    I worked out the number of Mormon congregations in Scotland from their “find a church” page, and other sources. At their peak I think they had 43 congregations in Scotland, down to 39 the last time I checked. And some of these congregations are tiny. (Called branches rather than wards, or is it the other way around?) Also bear in mind there are around 80 missionaries in the country at any given time, and some congregations have attracted some Chinese students for some reason. Actual Scottish Mormons are very thin on the ground.

  • WTWizard

    I think most of the jokehovian numbers are also bogus. Unlike the mor[m]ons, they do not have systemic doctoring of the numbers. They do it at the local levels. People turning in fake or pressured time slips. Hounders making fake slips in behalf of those who otherwise turn in nothing. Add this to the fact that many actually do time, but don't believe half of what they are told or do things against their own religion and are not accounted for, and you have inflated numbers. Not to mention those who turn in token service plus maybe one or two boasting session attendances per month.

    I would like to see the numbers if they define "membership" my way. Only those who, according to their own theology, would definitely be saved if Armageddon would happen right now, count. Using this number, I would suspect well under a million--probably only 500,000 to 800,000 in this category. This leaves the majority being active but not sincere. Maybe doing token service, maybe practicing sin in secret, maybe wishing they were not in the religion in the first place. But, according to their own theology, such would be destroyed because joke-hova "sees hearts".

  • Half banana
    Half banana

    SBF, thanks for the stats! I wonder if the Mormon figures are not just based on attendance but on those who remain paying tithes to the church to reap the social benefits?

    As for JWs, they may remain the most conservative or reactionary group who will stubbornly support their spiritual leaders well past the tipping point at which common sense would dictate they should leave. There is a reason: the average JW is so emotionally committed to the cult that their very notion of self and their indoctrinated us-and-them world view is more valuable to their sense of well being than it would be if they were to relinquish it.

    JWs have all become Watchtower groupies and cannot function without GB direction. In most cases a JW would rather feel the glow of united defiance against the world than start questioning the logic of their actions. The constant programming commands from HQ demands that the sheep to obey the GB. This in contrast with other church membership where they would more easily reason that they could serve and please God without their meeting places or hearing their minister's preaching.

    So as most other religions decline in number (in USA) and atheism becomes preponderant as in Europe, JWs might be expected to lag behind this trend.

    Next years USA figures will be most interesting -- only 3k baptised in 2019 in the dominant one seventh part of the whole membership.

  • slimboyfat

    That’s exactly right, JWs are the most conservative on lots of measures according to PEW (on biblical literalism, against gay rights, attendance, prayer) and their insularity protects them from societal trends to some extent, but they are not totally immune. As you say, JW decline will probably lag behind, and follow a similar long term trajectory to other churches. Time will tell.

    Mormons count every baptised person as a member regardless of attendance or tithes.

    Mormons have 30,500 congregations worldwide compared with 120,000 JW congregations, which is probably an accurate indication of their relative size. You could argue that Mormon congregations are larger, and that may be true in the heartlands of the US. Mormon congregations in Scotland are very small. Sunday attendances are maybe around 30 to 40 on average, including the missionaries.

  • Earnest

    slimboyfat : Mormons count every baptised person as a member regardless of attendance or tithes.

    However, it does matter whether they are alive or dead.

    On their website the Mormons specify that when they perform baptisms for the dead, the names of deceased persons are not added to the membership records.

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