decline_hours_oct2023

The Decline of Jehovah’s Witnesses – No More Hours

“One can keep constantly at people to perform certain works and they may do this as a result of pressure.” – Raymond Franz

Beginning November 1, 2023, congregation publishers will no longer be asked to report the amount of time they spend in the ministry.

Written by Lester Somrah - October 8, 2023

2023 Annual General Meeting

At the 2023 Annual General Meeting, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses announced that effective November 1st 2023, publishers would no longer be required to submit field service hours (see FAQ below). Below is the text of the Announcement on their official website.

BREAKING NEWS | Adjustments to Field Service Reporting

On October 7, 2023, at the annual meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, the following exciting announcement was made.

Beginning November 1, 2023, congregation publishers will no longer be asked to report the amount of time they spend in the ministry.

Nor will publishers be asked to report their placements, the videos they show, or return visits. Instead, the field service report will simply have a box that allows each publisher to indicate that he or she shared in any form of the ministry during the month.

There will be one more box where publishers can report the number of different Bible studies they conduct.

Missionaries, circuit overseers and their wives, special pioneers, regular pioneers, and auxiliary pioneers will continue to report the number of hours they spend in the ministry, along with the number of different Bible studies they conduct. Further information about this adjustment will be provided to all congregations in the coming weeks.

A Statistical Review

For the last two (2) service years, I have been publishing on this website, an analysis of the each of the Service Year Reports, published by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Each of those statistical analysis showed that Jehovah’s Witnesses have been on the decline since September 2010, recruiting less and less new persons into their religion.

However, I never paid much attention to the amount of time spent by Jehovah’s Witnesses in the field service/field ministry. The data was there in the Excel spreadsheet, but there was no context in which to place it. That context came at the 2023 Annual General Meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

Below are the graphs for field service hours spent by Jehovah’s Witnesses globally from September 2005 to August 2022, based on the Service Year Reports for the said period (see Frequently Asked Questions below for a defintion of a service year report).

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Key Features of the graphs

  • There was a steady increase in the monthly hours per publisher from September 2004 to August 2017 with two (2) consecutive minor dips that recovered in September 2016.
  • The monthly hours per publisher peaked during the September 2017 to August 2018 Service, 20.68 hours per month per publisher.
  • In the subsequent Service Year starting September 2018 and every Service Year onwards, the monthly hours per publisher decreased drastically and never recovered to 20.68 hours.
  • In the 3-year rolling average graph, an analysis yields results consistent with the above analysis.

Limitations of Analysis

  • The total hours presented in each Service Year Report is a lumpsum figure, combining the hours spent by congregation publishers together with other Jehovah’s Witnesses who have a monthly fixed hours rate for each month, such as missionaries, circuit overseers and their wives, special pioneers, regular pioneers, and auxiliary pioneers. Therefore, the hours per month per publisher are inflated in the above analysis.
  • The Governing Body presents no data in each Service Year Report to separate the field service time spent by the latter group mentioned above.
  • Hence its almost impossible to determine what is happening at the ordinary publisher level. The actual decrease in field service hours is most likely worse than depicted in the graphical presentations above and the decrease could have started much earlier than estimated.

Concluding Comments

What does this new adjustment mean for PIMOs?

PIMOS who previously submitted fake field service hours just to save face, may face increasing scrutiny from their congregation elders, as the new field service report would no longer a space for hours. It would be up to each PIMO to justify the quantity of religious material distributed to non-Witnesses (per their monthly field service report) when in fact they barely participate in any formal field service activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses.   

This unprecedented decision to remove the hour requirement certainly did not happen overnight.  It came after closely observing trends since September 2018 to present. It is clear that Jehovah’s Witnesses are spending less time in, evangelical and proselytizing activities. It is also more evident that the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses publishers are decreasing over time, with less and less people joining the religion. See my previous articles Watchtower on the Decline! and The Decline of Jehovah’s Witnesses – Their Pandemic Continues for further details.

The 2023 Service Year concluded on August 31st, 2023. It goes without saying that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been monitoring the situation since September 2018 or even before. However, the final reports for the 2023 Service Year unveiled a rather uncomfortable, unsettling truth - the field service hours per publisher were not increasing as expected, but were, in fact, embarrassingly decreasing.

In response to this decline, the Governing Body made a pivotal decision: they chose to eliminate the hour reporting requirement for congregation publishers. The precise reasons behind this embarrassing decrease remain a closely guarded secret within the Governing Body and other high-ranking Watchtower officials, leaving active Jehovah's Witnesses in the dark about the true cause.

In my personal opinion, this decision may have been driven by a desire to avoid further embarrassment from former members who might conduct a statistical analysis of the Service Year Reports. This unprecedented move serves as a clear indicator that there have been substantial challenges within the Jehovah's Witnesses community.

Consequently, it seems probable that the 2023 Service Year Report will no longer include the time spent by Jehovah's Witnesses in "preaching God's message of salvation, namely God's heavenly government." If this indeed comes to pass (traditionally, the Service Report is posted on jw.org around January each year), it would set a precedent where any content in future Service Year Reports causing embarrassment to Jehovah's Witnesses might be removed. The possibility even exists that the Service Year Report might no longer be publicly available and instead be classified as an eyes-only report for selected elders, indicating the lengths to which the Governing Body might go to preserve their image.

"The night René [René Vázquez] came by our room, he had been attending a seminar for elders arranged by the Society. We discussed his impressions, which were basically favorable. At one point in the conversation, however, he said, “It seems to me as if we almost worship figures. Sometimes I wish we would do away completely with [field service] reports.”.....

One can keep constantly at people to perform certain works and they may do this as a result of pressure. But where is the evidence that the works are generated by faith and love? And if not so motivated, how pleasing would they be to God anyway?.....

The more closely men try to supervise the lives and activity of fellow Christians, the more they actually squeeze out the opportunity for faith and love to motivate and control. I acknowledged that it is more difficult and far harder work to build up people’s faith and appreciation through Scripture than simply to give “pep talks” or make people feel guilty, but, from what the apostle wrote, that harder way seemed to me to be the only Scripturally right and wise way." - page 293, Crisis of Conscience, 2004 edition, by Raymond Franz, former member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

For many decades, the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses has steadfastly ignored the counsel of their critics, standing firm on their own rights and freedoms while showing little regard for the rights and freedoms of others.

As we say here in Trinidad – “It blasted good for them!! They had it coming long time!! They look for dat [that]!!!"

"Jehovah's ever moving chariot" is certainly broken and dead!!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are field service hours?

This is the amount of time each Jehovah’s Witness spends every month in field service activity. The time spent in both informal and formal field service activity is counted and submitted by the publisher in their monthly field service report.

According to the Organized to Accomplish Our Ministry [a manual for publishers], 1989 edition:

“......"Hours of Field Service"...is the time you spend in the house-to-house ministry, engaging in street witnessing, making return visits, conducting Bible studies or otherwise witnessing informally or publicly to people who are not dedicated and baptized Witnesses.” -page 104.

What is a field service report?

This is a printed document each approved Jehovah’s Witness publisher submits every month to their congregation elders. Though the format has changed over the years, a field service report is a statistical report that captures the field service activity of each congregation publisher – field service hours, quantity of religious material distributed to non-Witnesses; and number of Bible Studies.

An approved Jehovah’s Witness who does not submit consecutive field service reports is known as an irregular publisher.

An approved Jehovah’s Witness who does not submit field service reports for six (6) consecutive months is known as an inactive publisher.

Further reading:

What is field service activity?

Each individual Jehovah’s Witness must obtain prior approval of their local congregation elders to participate in field service activity. Those who are approved are called “publishers”.

Field service activity refers to any public activity of an individual Jehovah’s Witness to spread their beliefs.

The main field service activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses is their door-to-door activity, knocking on the doors of individuals, also known as “House-to-house preaching”. Other formal activities are writing letters, using the telephone; distributing their religious literature on the streets; recruiting persons (known as “Bible Studies”). These activities are formal as they are arranged by the local elders of each congregation and subject to review by the circuit overseer.

The circuit overseer is congregation’s supervisor who in turn reports to the Branch Committee. The Branch Committee supervises the religious activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses for a group of countries. The Branch Committee reports to the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Each month the Branch Committee submits a report to the Governing Body on the field service activity of their country or countries.

Informal field service activity (popularly referred by Jehovah's Witnesses as "informal witnessing") is activities other than the formal field service activities described above, of an individual Jehovah’s Witness. “Organized to Accomplish Our Ministry” describe informal field service as follows:

“Many of Jehovah's Witnesses have fine opportunities to present the good news to people they meet daily in their secular work, at school or otherwise while going about their normal affairs. At times we have the opportunity to talk with fellow travelers when on a journey. There are many opportunities that present themselves, but individually we must be alert to turn ordinary conversation into a witness and be prepared to speak with others on every appropriate occasion.” – page 94.

What is a Service Year Report?

A Service Year begins on September 1st and end on August 31st of the following year.

A Service Year Report is a feel-good document produced by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, each year that shows global statistics regarding the field service activity for the recently concluded service year. It contains a breakdown, country by country, about the number of active Jehovah’s Witnesses; the quantity of hours spent in field service activity; Memorial Attendance, amongst others.

The Service Year Reports are available on the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, jw.org.

What does PIMO mean?

This term is used to describe publishers who are still officially associated with or physically present within the Jehovah's Witnesses organization but no longer fully believe in or support its teachings, doctrines, or practices. These publishers may continue to attend meetings, engage in ministry work, or maintain their membership for various reasons, such as family ties or social connections, even though they have significant doubts or disagreements with the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses. The "mentally out" part of the term signifies that their true beliefs and convictions have shifted away from the teachings of the organization, while they remain physically connected to it.

In the context of Jehovah's Witnesses, "PIMO" is an acronym that stands for "Physically In, Mentally Out." It refers to publishers who are still formally associated with the Jehovah's Witness organization, attending meetings and maintaining outward appearances of being active members, but internally, they have doubts or disagreements with the teachings, practices, or policies of the group. These individuals may no longer fully believe in or support the faith but remain connected for various reasons, such as family ties or social pressures. Being "PIMO" reflects a state of cognitive dissonance, where a person's beliefs or convictions do not align with their outward actions within the religious community.

In the context of Jehovah's Witnesses, "PIMO" stands for "Physically In, Mentally Out." It refers to a situation where a individual is officially a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization and may attend meetings or engage in its activities but privately holds doubts or dissenting beliefs about the religion. Essentially, someone who is PIMO is still physically connected to the Jehovah's Witnesses community but mentally no longer fully subscribes to its teachings or doctrines. This term is often used within the ex-Jehovah's Witness community to describe their experiences of being in this transitional state.

Whilst the above definitions primarily refer to publishers, it can also include anyone actively associated with the Jehovah's Witnesses community.

If someone were to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses voluntarily, especially a congregation publisher, the group would disassociate him & members would shun him from that point on. His family and close friends who remain as Jehovah’s Witnesses would also shun him and have no further contact with him. This shunning is a major reason many members of Jehovah’s Witnesses are PIMO.

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Lester Somrah

Lester Somrah writes about the beliefs and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses on his social media platforms and was baptized as a member in 1998.

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