I was preparing some research for an article (probably one of the ones on exegesis vs eisegesis) when I stumbled across an article on “how to get rid of Jehovah’s Witnesses?” (It was either that or “How to get them to leave me alone?” I can’t remember the title because I dismissed the link.) Some recommendations included lying and becoming confrontational. I was surprised that just being kindly truthful was not in the list. One of the thinly masked insults was to ask us why we have such a problem with retention. I burst out laughing when I read that one because in more than 40 plus years I’ve seen nothing but growth.
Sure, I have seen some, less than 10, leave our ranks. And that is from having been associated with at least 6 congregations throughout the East Bay and Central Valley areas of California. Just as the general populous is mobile, so are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Most move to California from other states to find work (or are being promoted and their employer moved their post to California). As I speak to these (from Ohio, Texas, New York, and many other states), I ask about the health of the congregations they came from. They all mentioned the congregations were thriving.
I thought in this article I’d combine two subjects:
- Membership in churches in general, and
- Objections I’ve heard
So I did find a couple references on the web that claim Jehovah’s Witnesses have the highest churn rate. But in reading the articles, it was very evident they were more than just slightly biased against us in that they made claims that were complete lies about our beliefs. So then I performed a search on the net for “decline in church membership.” In contrast to the claims of the articles saying we have the worst, were three articles (in the following paragraphs) that openly admit churches of the denominations that are opposed to us are experiencing an ever increasing empty pew syndrome.
For example, this article lists nine reasons why church membership is probably declining. Second on the list was that church simply was no longer “the best show in town.” In other words, in this self-gratifying world of “me first,” church is no longer seen as engaging and stimulating. They have better things to do. In contrast, because Jehovah’s Witnesses meetings are designed to mentally stimulate their thinking ability and to engage in willing participation, we love being at our meetings.
Then there is this article that has some shocking details, including “Every year more than 4000 churches close their doors compared to just over 1000 new church starts!” So while it is easy for opposers to throw stones at Jehovah’s Witnesses and make unsubstantiated claim, perhaps the reason for this is because they are so embarrassed by their own failure to hold their adherents. Finally, there is this link which states that “Less than 20 percent of Americans regularly attend church—half of what the pollsters report.” In further elaboration, the article states: “In another study surveying the growth of U.S. Protestants, Marler and Hadaway discovered that while the majority of people they interviewed don’t belong to a local church, they still identify with their church roots. ‘Never mind the fact that they attend church less than 12 times a year,’ Marler observes. ‘We estimate that 78 million Protestants are in that place. Ask most pastors what percentage of inactive members they have—they’ll say anything from 40–60 percent.’”
Objections I’ve Heard And How I Personally Handle Them
“I have my own religion:” Now, I’ve always been a person that truly enjoys talking with others, so I usually meet this objection with: “Where do you go to church at?” After they answer, I ask what appeals to them about the services. Depending on whether or not the person is relaxing their guard (body language and tone of voice), I may even ask them if they have a favorite scripture. Then I ask if I can share with them one of my favorites. Rarely, I’ll mention that “It has always been my belief that if a person truly believes in their faith, they ought to be excited and enjoy sharing it,” and see how they react to it. In short, claiming to have your own religion (at least for me) is a wonderful segue into a healthy conversation.
“I’m very busy right now:” To that I respond: “I can appreciate that. I know I came uninvited. May I come back later?” Usually the response is “no” but surprisingly sometimes the answer is “yes.” (When the answer is “no,” I surmise that they are just trying to get rid of me.
“I don’t believe in (the Bible, or God):” With so much hypocrisy and seemingly unfair situations in the world (death of a child or other intensely cruel situations) it is not uncommon for people to blame God or at feel that he does not care. Some blame the conduct of religious leaders for their disillusionment with God and the Bible. In this case, my sincere interest is to help restore their faith in God. So I do try to get them to open up, but that typically has not worked out for me personally.
The rarest of objections I get is being told the truth. Something to the effect, “I really don’t want to talk to you people.” In that case, and it is my personal preference, I usually thank them for their honesty and leave. Some others might try to get the person to open up about why. For me, in this case, I’ve learned the kindest thing is just to honor their honesty and leave.
So “getting rid” of us doesn’t have to be a confrontational situation or one where you feel the need to lie. Merely being kindly truthful is best. If you are Christian, being truthful is the right choice. As for membership retention, we’re doing very well. It seems to be all the other religions that are suffering.