I live in relatively small seaside community (regional population around 45,000). In my ten years here, I've had witnesses call on me perhaps twice (not special visits but during door-to-door). Whereas they once canvassed door-to-door much more frequently - and in larger size service groups - there is quite a decline in their door-knocking - at least in this region.
With the advent of the "trolley" work, their visibility has increased - but I'd estimate only marginally. I certainly have noticed the occasional Witnesses, in twos, standing alone at their trolley and literature stands at marketplaces and outside the local shopping mall. Passersby don't stop or even look. I notice them becsuse I was raised in the religion.
Last weekend I saw 2 males standing outside one of the (closed) banks and it was only as I passed them, I saw the trolley stand they were flanking. They avoided all eye contact with passersby and were chatting to each other. Passersby would not even have noticed the trolley stand or realized what the "arrangement" was for.
I wad in two minds about turning back and actually approaching them. Eventually, within 30 minutes of completing my errands, I decided that if they were still outside the shopping mall, I'd catch their eye and approach them.
They were still there, and continued their private conversation. I virtually had to walk right up to them and say, "Hi" before they registered that a member of the public had initiated contact with them. One of them appeared almost startledv that someone had approached them.
Anyway, because I've been out a number of years and my home congregation is from another region several hundred miles away, they were unknown to me and their eveutual willingness to talk to me indicated they did not know me.
After brief niceties, I asked what they were doing. One of them handed me a tract and invited me to look up JW.org on the internet to find out more. At this stage, they had not even identified themselves as Jehovah's Witnesses, so I asked, "Who are you representing?" Still no answer, except one of them said the website would answer my questions. I then said, looking more closely at the tract they handed me, "So you're Jehovah's Witnesses?" To which they both chimed, "Yes".
The older one simply added, "People are very busy these days so we're inviting people to find out more about us on the internet." He then added something about people can find a wealth of information on JW.org at their own pace when they feel like it.
I avknowledged the referral to their website but asked, "Isn't it a bit strange that I aproach you willing to talk and you immediately refer me to your website to find out about why you're standing here today in front of me whrn you could simply tell me directly". The older Witness laughed and said, "You've got a good point there" and explained that most folks are not of the frame of mind to talk when they're out shopping. Talk about doing himself out of his job!
To cut this story shory, we had a friendly but very superficial chat. I presented myself as knowing nothing about them - so when they realized I knew nothing, I got the very simple-minded spiel which indicated they knew absolutely nothing about the inner workings of their organisation and were as blind as bats. They were very nice to me though.
Is this what witnessing has now come to? If you, as a member of the public, need to approach them first, they won't see you or bother to approach you? And when you do approach them, they will automatically - and unthinkingly - refer you to their website to find out more that they once would have simply told you themselves.
I cannot see an organization that focuses on passive trolley work thriving or helping improve their dismal growth rates in this part of the world - but it can still astonish me how limp-minded the JW ministry has become.