The latest round of changes to the magazines are yet further confirmation that the WTS has lost it's way with the preaching work. IMHO this is driven by the incessant prioritisation of fiscal goals but also by the fact the GB don't have a clue what is happening in the world and how it really relates to their traditional eschatology.
What they have turned to is child baptism. I know the WTS says it does not baptise infants but the drive to encourage children to get baptised at earlier and earlier ages knows no bounds. They seem to have accepted that the only way to keep the organisation from imploding is to lock in the kids.
We have seen numerous references in publications to child baptism in a positive light over the past few years. It's mentioned regularly and there plenty of pictures of young people getting dunked. Anyone who has attended CA/RC events over the past few years will testify to fact that most of the people getting baptised are born-ins and it's not uncommon to see pre-teens and early teens lining up to get baptised.
This gives the WTS two problems. Firstly, a bit like the congregation money grab, once a person is baptised that's it. They may inflate the baptism figures for some years but at some point is is highly likely that the rate of youth baptism will decrease simply because the pool of available young ones is filling more slowly than the numbers committing the organisation.
Secondly, just because a child is baptised it does not mean they will stay faithful. It's much harder for young teenager or pre-teen to follow through on their vow than someone older who has made a commitment to the organisation. They are changing and developing as people, subject to intense peer pressure and don't know how they might be affected as they change.
I think it is really telling therefore that the org has published an pair of articles specifically on this.
The first is aimed at parents but is clear that children can be encouraged to get baptised. It discusses what happens when a baptised child then expresses doubts.
The second is aimed at young people but it makes direct reference to pre-teen baptism:
For example, if you were baptized as a preteen, you likely will face new feelings and pressures as you enter and pass through adolescence.
The WTS wants kids to be baptised. It says it wants them to be convinced about their faith but knows that parents have to push that. It knows that there is far more chance of a child having issues through their teen years and so is trying to address it.
It's the a tactic of desperation and cannot work in the long term.
"the GB don't have a clue what is happening in the world "... I have felt this for years, you have it one sir.
As I have said before, they can't care less about children; never have, never will.
JW org trumpets the decision to get baptised as one of the most - if not the most - important decisions the individual will ever make. It then acknowledges that many baptised children have yet to even enter adolescence when they will face unprecedented changes as they develop. And the consequences for these young baptised children will now be enormous and likely devastating (expulsion, shunned by JW peers).
The secular world takes childhood status seriously in that there are many things a child cannot do (make a will, vote,drive a motor vehicle, take out a bank loan, be a power of attorney, get married, etc). Yet in the religious world, including JWs, where indoctrination of children is a major focus, children who are barely above the minimum school-entry age can be baptised.
Steve, you are right,the Biblical ideal of responding to the Kingdom message was to accept it intellectually and get baptized.
However the JW org as it fails to make headway it is heartened by any apparent success it has and the one area which gives them some comfort is the unbiblical practice of infant baptism or at least baptism of those too young to realize the full consequences of what they are doing.
To paraphrase JW spin I read here very recently were the words spoken by a Circuit overseer, "You want to know something wonderful? Our youths are getting baptised". (Big applause)
Scraping the barrel and trying to see the bright side is what is really going on. The fact is one of membership stagnation which will lead to irreversible decline.