Switched after Birth
We're changing more than churches—also denoms and religions.
If it seems most everyone in your church used to be "something else," they did. More than 33 million adults in the United States reported they had changed their religious identification or preference at some point in their lives, according to a study by the City University of New York. That's 16 percent of the total adult population. Demographers call this faith-shifting phenomenon "religious mobility," and it's on the rise.
The U.S. population remains predominantly Christian. In 2001, 77 percent self-identified as Christian, although that number is down from 86 percent in 1990. The number of people identifying with any religion also declined in the same period, from 90 percent to 81 percent.
While mainline Protestant groups are declining, evangelical and charismatic denominations are on the rise. Of those who identify themselves as "evangelical/born-again," 37 percent "switched" to the faith from another religion.
Who's moving: The shift is greatest among mainliners, smaller faiths and sects. Jehovah's Witnesses are most "mobile." Accounting for less than 1 percent of American adults, one-third of their members leave the group, and two-fifths join from another religion.
Implications for church leaders: Religious mobility means we cannot assume that members understand basic faith tenets, denominational distinctives, or heritage. But, that they've switched brands doesn't mean they'll sign up for history lessons. Heritage and distinctives must be communicated along with vision and goals in existing teaching venues and in church communiqués.
Expect practices from other churches to seep into your system as leaders from other backgrounds join the team.
And we must watch out for acronyms. Insider language creates outsiders and makes newcomers feel like strangers. Besides, who recalls what BYPU is anyway?
—data from American Demographics (March 2003)
Copyright © 2003 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.
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Summer 2003, Vol. XXIV, No. 3, Page 7
Faith Shifting/Switching--JWs at the Top
Let's try to do the math
1/3 (5/15) leave
2/5 (6/15) join from other religions
meaning only 1/15 increase from people outside, the rest of the official WTS increase having to be from children of current members. This means a 1/3 exchange of members with shows that there is a revolving door at the KH.
Do I have the math right?
Interesting info, blondie! It's good to have hard numbers on that.
Just one thing that may have to be considered... many of those counted in the 1/3 that left may have been raised as Witnesses. So they shouldn't all be subtracted from the 2/5 that joined.
What you guys never say is that the majority of people who leave are children of JW's in thier late teens and early 20s. It all depends how you say "Shifting/Switching", since the JW membership is count different than other religions (like church attendance and people being baptized and never put a step to a church again.)
No matter how you slice and dice it, these numbers are not the "good news" JWs wish to be known for. The survey confirms what most of us long-time jaydubs already know: a lot of people just disappear.
I heard a talk a while back by an elder who said he had found an old congregation phone list in the back of a bottom desk drawer. It was several years old. In going over it, he was amazed how few of the names were still in attendance. A number had moved. Some had visibly left the truth. Quite a few had just disappeared from view and hadn't been seen or heard from since. The list included family names with the names of the children in parentheses, and he remarked that many of these children were "no longer among us." The talk went on to lament these passings and to warn parents not to take their own or their children's faith for granted, yadda, yadda, but I was struck by the figures he presented. I'm sure you could do this in almost any congo, if you found a 5-10 year old phone list.
Joker, the difference in head-counting, I think, make these statistics more damning for the JW's. To be counted as a member, there is a lengthy membership process. This should indicate a fairly serious commitment and turn-away from former beliefs. Wouldn't the number be even higher if the JW's had an easier membership process?
The high leave count, as we know, is a combination of voluntary fade-aways, disassociations, and disfellowshipments. So leaving also comes at a heavy cost. That so many leave anyways, is damning.
It is tough to get membership, but who wants to keep it once they have it? The priveledges must start looking shabby fairly quickly. Or perhaps the WTS attracts dissatisfied people with their anti-Christendom message. Then repels them with their anti-sheep tactics.