In a separate thread on the very latest figures for the current world wide annual report of JWs, discussion turned to how "we'll know decline has really set in."
One of the posters said:
The figure that interests me most is the number of congregations. If that starts to go down we'll know decline has really set in.
My first thought was surely that has already occurred!
I also thought a new thread on the topic addressing the number of new congregations in JW organization was warranted. So here it is in three parts, two based on the actual offical JWnumbers, the third, an exercise in upfront extrapolation.
First, let's compare the total number of congregations reported in JW publications over the decade 1990 to 1999 with those reported over the following decade (2000 to 2009).
- For the decade 1990 to 1999, congregations increased in number from 66,207 to 91,487, a total increase of 25,280.
- For the decade 2000 to 2009, congregations increased from 93,154 to 107,000, a total increase of 13,846.
Comparing those two decades shows a 45% reduction in the total of new congregations in the second decade (2000 to 2009).
Second, let's bring these figures up to date:
The 4-year period, 2010 to 2014, (but yet to include the 2015 report because we do not yet know the number of new congregation for the 2015 service year), yielded a total of 2,297 new congregations. This total indicates the decline continues - but to be fair, we are "only" in year 4 of 10 (2010-2019). Extrapolation anyone? Read on.
Third, if the observed downward current trend continues, the projected growth* in new congregations from 2010 to 2019 will be an approximate total of just 5, 700 - a massive 77% reduction in new congregations compared to the decade of 1990 to 1999. But hold your horses, this thrid part is a projected figure - but it is still informative based on the rpevious 14 years.
Can we conclusively determine that the actual and projected decline in new congregations from 1990 to the present and beyond represents an organization in decline? Almost - but not quite.
A complicating factor is the nonstandard sizes of individual congregations. Note especially that some of the second-language congregations (as in New Zealand but likely also elsewhere) hold relatively small numbers (less than 30 active publishers) - yet they remain viable congregations. At the same time, dominant-language congregations may boast 4 to 5 times that number (up to 120 active publishers).
Even so, for an organization that has loudly trumpeted the massive growth in new congregations, you've really got to wonder are they being incredibly naive or willfully blind to the actual story of a huge drop-off in the number of new JW congregations - a drop-off sustained over a span of not quite 15 years.
I'm happy for others to be the judge on that point!
*For interested readers, here is the extrapolation formula: [multiply 2,297 by 2 = 4594] + [divide 2,297 by 2 = 1148] = 5742.