JW Decline: additional data from Aust 2016 census

by shepherdless 27 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • steve2

    Thanks sherherdless - you are an inspiration in terms of collating data and I like how receptive you are to feedback from SBF. More power to you!

    My reflections on the trends are as follows:

    As with any religious movement, JW organization has a "lifespan" in which it enjoys a heyday (i.e., period of growth that turns out to be its biggest period of growth which in the organization's case in the West is probably the 1950s through 1980s)) then a more plateaued period of growth (i.e., some growth still evident but much reduced compared to the heyday) and then a period of stagnation and decline.

    Apart from the Mormons and SDAs, the other nearest example to JW organization I can think of is the millennialist religious movement, The Christadelphians, who are now well into a period of stagnation and decline after enjoying a heyday around the turn of the 20th Century in the West..

    This kind of movement lifespan suggests that there is never a "collapse" of membership but a slow trickling downwards. Put bluntly, as a religious movement ages, it loses touch with what made it succeed decades earlier and it gets caught up in preserving itself and combating member apathy - a real problem in an end-times religion that is forever declaring the end is near.

    We are already observing that the main source of "new" growth in JW organization are born-ins whereas during the 1950s through 1980s (making allowances for the dip after 1975) most of the growth came from non-born-in converts (e.g., those first contacted through the door-to-door activity).

  • shepherdless

    Thanks steve, that is a reasonable assessment.

    I will throw in my own 2c worth, which is fairly similar.

    It seems to me that the baby boomers were really drawn into this religion in large numbers, and that may be a reflection of the times when they were growing up; wanting to be spiritual, but rejecting mainstream religion. Generation X then followed them in, but not in the same numbers. The majority of Gen X are probably born ins.

    Below Gen X, the numbers have been hit hard. Other people have mentioned (and it is highlighted at jwfacts.com) that baptisms exceed growth in publishers, even taking into account a death rate of 1%. What that simple analysis doesn't take into account is that the ones that were leaving were not evenly distributed by age or sex.

    The internet (or whatever other factor has been involved) has caused a hollowing out at the base of the population tree. In the past, a number of teenagers and young adults left, but a lot of them returned once they started to kids, and the cycle resumed. In more recent times, more teenagers and young adults have left and not returned, and it has been going on for long enough that the number of babies born into the Borg has decreased. The cycle has been broken, for a number of them.

    It will be very interesting to see in 5 years time whether this trend has continued, or even accelerated. I hope the 5 to 9 and 10 to 14 cohorts drop down like they have in the last 5 years. If that happens, well if you think your congregation looks old now, it will look geriatric by then. And then decline will start to take off.

    In the meantime, I think the most effective activism is to alert the twenty something POMIs to TTATT (not to discount other forms of activism). They are probably more open to it, and their role in continuing the cycle is probably underestimated by some.

  • slimboyfat

    The vast majority of JWs I know share two features:

    1. They or their parents (or other relative) joined JWs in the period 1950 to 1980.

    2. They joined shortly after moving home to a new location.

    I think the postwar period provided a concatenation of circumstances that fostered JW growth, but the chief factors were disruptive migrations prompted by the labour market, combined with secularisation which weakened ties with the traditional churches.

    The typical JW convert was a newly married housewife who had recently moved to a new location in the postwar years. They were not religious enough to instantly join a new church in their new home, but they were sufficiently religiously inclined to be receptive to JWs who called at the door. She often brought in her husband, children and other family, whose children, grandchildren, and extended families form the core of most congregations today.

  • Ruby456

    Well I'm finally on board that the organisation is declining here in London too. i think the demands for money from people who simply cannot afford to contribute more is probably the nail in the coffin as well as the publicity around abuse issues.

  • galaxie

    @sbf..your comment is indeed a description of my families involvement with the jws.

  • Vidiot

    re. steve2's post...

    I don't think the Org is declining, per se (not yet, anyway)...

    ...Plateauing, though?

    Jeezus, how could it not be?

  • steve2

    I don't think the Org is declining, per se (not yet, anyway)...

    I pointed out that the decline is most evident in Western countries. Notice that for the first time in decades, JW organization has not released numbers for the average numbers of publishers last year. I wonder why? Instead it highlighted the "overly-inflated" peak numbers. In my home country, New Zealand there were more peak publishers five years ago in 2011 than in 2017. You would have to work this out yourself from the limited stats they now provide on the organization.

  • Vidiot

    @ steve2...

    Okay, fair enough.

    Fewer average publishers...

    Fewer peak publishers...

    Fewer Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls...

    Fewer branch offices...

    Less income...

    Hard to argue with.

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