Current Events

Watchtower’s Annual Meeting Announces More Odd Decreases in Literature and Online Content

During the annual meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses held on October 7, 2017, there were announcements made as to some odd decreases in the literature produced by the religion, and in the content that will be available on their website, JW.org. I discussed the discontinuation of their Yearbook in this column, “Jehovah’s Witnesses To Apparently Cease Publication of Their Annual Yearbook … We All Know Why,” and along with the Yearbook, the public Watchtowers and information directed at children on their site are also taking a hit.

Literature for Preaching

According to a letter sent out about their annual meeting,¹ Jehovah’s Witnesses will reduce the number of issues of the public edition of the Watchtower, and the Awake magazine, to three each per year. It was also stated, “The number of books, brochures, tracts, contact cards, and videos that will be featured in the field ministry is being reduced,” and, “Beginning January 2018, specific monthly literature offers will be discontinued. More emphasis will be placed on starting and continuing conversations.”

This is interesting, as Jehovah’s Witnesses often struggle to start and continue conversations with persons to whom they preach. Apparently the governing body fails to realize how incredibly busy people are, and how they have no time, much less any interest, in having a conversation with a stranger. Leaving someone with printed material they can read at their leisure is always a recommended course of marketing, as opposed to interrupting a person’s day with a sales pitch.

I also don’t know how to break it to the governing body, but most Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t want to engage with the general public. Not only can people be rude and nasty, but Witnesses know that most people are simply not interested in their religion, and that people may ask questions that Witnesses can’t answer; in turn, preaching is often difficult, tedious, unpleasant, and boring. Stories abound among ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses of trying to avoid talking to anyone when in the preaching work, from only pretending to ring doorbells to leaving literature in laundromats rather than with an actual person.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, working hard to start and continue conversations with people.

These may seem like insignificant points, but the governing body is supposedly guided by holy spirit when it comes to their decisions, and I would think this would especially mean decisions about the preaching work, and how to best accomplish it. However, if they’re relying on individual Witnesses to start and continue conversations as a means of sharing their supposed lifesaving, urgent message, they’re going to fail, miserably. It speaks volumes as to how important this message must be, when they rely on untrained, unqualified, lazy, bored, frustrated, individual members to relay it; it’s especially questionable when you consider how many other religions use public radio stations, television time slots, and other means of mass communication to get their message out there. A streaming online TV channel, buried on your own website, just doesn’t cut it when it comes to reaching the general public, and neither do everyday Witnesses who may secretly loathe having to start actual conversations with complete strangers.

Welfare of Child Laborers

The letter also says, “Essential literature items and videos that have proved to be effective in the ministry will remain in our Teaching Toolbox.” From what I understand, this “Teaching Toolbox” is the “Bible Study Tools” section of their website, JW.org. This section has articles, videos, and the like, meant to be shown to people when preaching to them.

This is distressing to me, because this would require the use of a smartphone or tablet when preaching to others. While everyone’s buying choices are their own decision, smartphones require cobalt, which is typically harvested using child labor in places like the Congo. Children as young as four are forced into this backbreaking labor, in all sorts of weather conditions, for a dollar or two a day. (Please see, “Meet Dorsen, 8, who mines cobalt to make your smartphone work.“) A few tech companies are working to eliminate child labor from their supply line, but others frankly don’t care; as long as they can get their materials for cheap, that’s all that matters.

Children mining cobalt.

Not only is the governing body overlooking this horrific practice by encouraging more smartphone use by their members in their preaching work, but consider also the cost of these devices. Even if you buy an older or used model, it can still be well out of the budget of many people, especially those in poorer areas of the world. Yet, the governing body seems to assume that individual congregants can just readily supply themselves with these items, while withdrawing their support for their congregants and this work itself by reducing literature that would make preaching so much easier, and so much more appealing to the general public.

Materials for Children

Another reduction mentioned in the letter: “No new content will be added to the following features on jw.org: “Bible Character Cards,” “Family Worship Projects,” “Illustrated Bible Stories,” “My Bible Lessons,” “Picture Activities,” “Study Activities for Children,” study guides for What Does the Bible Really Teach?, Young People Ask worksheets, and the video series What Your Peers Say. However, the existing content will remain for now on jw.org.”

These materials are obviously meant to reach children and young teens personally. Why would Jehovah’s Witnesses reduce (and potentially even eliminate, as they say the content will remain “for now” on their website) material directed at children?

I admit I have no actual insight as to this decision; however, in the column, “A Lie, a Slap in the Face to a Child Rape Victim, and an Insult to All Children of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” I note a point about a lawsuit filed by a child sex abuse victim, Candace Conti. In appealing the judgment in this case, Watchtower said repeatedly that they had “no special relationship” with Candace, as she was (according to their appeal) just the child of a congregant; they were using this argument as a way to “bow out” of their responsibility for keeping her safe from a known pedophile in her congregation.

As I bring out in that column, you can’t have it both ways; you can’t produce reams of literature directed at children in particular, hoping to recruit and indoctrinate them, but then claim you have “no special relationship” with them when they are molested and assaulted while under your roof. Considering the many lawsuits Jehovah’s Witnesses are now facing for their failure to protect children, I would wonder if reducing and potentially eliminating information directed at them in particular is an attempt to reduce their liability from such suits in the future.

Recruiting, indoctrinating, and using children, but then claiming “no special relationship” with them. Stay classy, Watchtower.

Again, no one knows for sure why any of these changes are being made, and it’s common knowledge that Watchtower is bleeding money for the lawyers needed to defend themselves against lawsuits, the UK Charity Commission investigation, and the Australian Royal Commission Inquiry. Needing to streamline their materials to cut costs and maintain a healthy profit margin is not an unlikely scenario.

Whatever the reason, however, these reductions do not portray a religion that is experiencing healthy growth, or that will see healthy growth in the future; reducing literature for preaching will simply make the work harder on individuals, who will probably see fewer positive results, and who may even question why they’re being so abandoned to manage this work on their own. While reducing and eliminating material directed to children may potentially reduce some liability on Watchtower’s part when it comes to lawsuits, it can also mean less indoctrination of children as they grow up. Those same children may then be less inclined to stay with the religion; considering that Jehovah’s Witnesses have the lowest retention rate of any religion already (please see “Jehovah’s Witnesses: A Case Study in Viral Marketing”), this also does not bode well for their future.

I would write more, but I’m off to start an office betting pool for how long this religion will remain in business. I’ve got the year 2022, before my 55th birthday. You?

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¹For a PDF copy of the October 7, 2017, letter regarding the annual meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please click: 20171007-E

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7 replies »

  1. Alexandra you are right about the obscene monetary pressures put on parents to buy smartphones,tablets etc just so they can be used in the ministry to show videos & iPads at meetings or watch monthly ramblings of flip flop policies of GB members like Gerrit Losch in November 2016 broadcast say the FAITHFUL SLAVE are NOT INSPIRED & they Err on Doctrine!! & the same words were used in February 2017 Watchtower Study Article! The early Christians preached throughout the whole Roman Empire & beyond with NO Modern Technology at all just using scrolls of the Hebrew Scriptures & The Gospels & Pauls letters which were penned between 50 A.D and 98 A.D .

  2. Great article as usual. Thank you!! Waiting for this cult go down and it’s 7 stooges in Warwick spent rest of their existence behind bars!

  3. What do they call it when they push and push for 8, 10 and 12 year olds to get baptised? I believe my daughter was 8 years old. She was chosen by the school overseer to give a talk on the Theocratic Ministry School during a Circuit Overseer’s visit when she was 10 years old. She, at 41 years old now, is still faithful to the organization, but she has told me that it was very very stressful for her to do that. The organization puts young people under a great deal of pressure. Especially if they show great intelligence and loyalty to the organization. She regular pioneered for a long time and was used for parts on circuit and district assemblies for years. I cannot believe that she still has faith in that cult after some of the things she endured. I remember when there were times she was taken into the back room for counsel without me accompanying her. How could I have been so blinded? The abuse is rampant in those kingdom halls. Because of the encouragement to remain single and her desire to find a ‘perfect’ husband, she is still single and I will never become a grandparent and my legacy will die with my children, as none of them have children of their own and they are all over 40. That is so sad to me.

    • I’m sorry Deb. i was like you are describing your daughter.. although i got myself involved with this cult when i was 15.. wasn’t raised in it. I woke up this year.. 43 years old now.. single, and no children. Sad realization. i hope your daughter will see thru this deception and lies.. after all freedom is worth more than anything. This cult tears families apart.. internally .. even if all members are in the cult. there is no true trust and love.. until you leave.

  4. Other reasons for the cutback in children’s and teenager articles may be due to past history. They’ve put very little effort into providing ‘food’ for them, claiming it was the parents responsibility. So why start doing it now? It may have been very upsetting to some to see a focus in this area whilst the org. is cutting down in so many other areas.

    It also means that they can cut down on the volunteers that prepare/create/design this work. I doubt they would hav used their regular writers.

    The feedback that they have received from providing those items may not have warranted the expense of producing them, especially the ones aimed at the teenagers. Ice cream money doesn’t go very far after all.

    Have you seen the latest Sophia cartoon? It’s really creepy with Sophia giving a card to an older man whilst a couple of girls her own age whisper together about it. Then later, it’s as if she’s bribing them for their friendship by having them at her house and giving them cup cakes.

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