How big is the Watchtower Society?

How fast does it grow?

The Watchtower's membership is often distorted in the press, either to ridiculously small numbers, or threateningly large ones. To set the matter straight, the following figures come from the WTS and cover 232 countries:




Peak Publishers



Average Publishers



Average Publishers (prev yr)









Average Pioneers






Total Preaching Hours(+)



Total Bible Studies(*)



Memorial Attendance



(*) These figures include children of JWs; the father of the family will "count" 1 bible study and 1 hour per week. Children also make up a sizable number of the baptized figure.

(+) If you spoke to a JW in 1994, whether at the door, telephone, office or in a UseNet newsgroup, then likely one of these hours is "yours."

[A summary of JW statistics is also available on-line, which covers a period from 1879 to the present day.]

Some of the more interesting parts of these statistics require a calculator. For example: How much preaching does it take for one convert?

Total number of hours (1,096,065,354)

divided by total number baptized (314,818)

equals 3,481 hours per convert.

Total number of hours (1,096,065,354)

divided by average publishers (4,695,111)

equals 233 hours per publisher per year.

Hours per baptism (3,481)

divided by hours per publisher per year (233)

equals 15 years per publisher per new convert!

At first glance, therefore, it would seem that it takes 15 years for the average publisher to make one convert. Statistics are not available for how many books, magazines and resulting contributions the average publisher handles in that 15 years.

A second glance will turn up a few factors which affect the figures. These hours are for 1994, and many of the baptisms are from preaching in previous years. Therefore there would be a minor lag between the conversion and preaching figures; this factor is decreasing to statistical insignificance by the trend for 6-month conversions.

Publishers come in two flavors: pioneers who work between 720 and 1440 hours a year (average 1000 hours) and the ordinary publishers, who typically average around 100 hours per year.

1994 total hours 1,096,065,354

less (pioneer hours) 636,202,000 (636,202 * 1000 )

equals 1994 est. publishers' hours 459,863,354

Thus, we find 40% of the total hours are reported by publishers, and 60% by pioneers. Only 14% of Witnesses are pioneers, and the rest (86%) are publishers. What that means is that 14% of the membership is doing 60% of the preaching, which further upsets the balance as follows:

publishers years per conversion - 35 years

pioneer years per conversion - 31/2 years

An added factor, further upsetting this balance against the publisher, is the more organized and effective ministry of the pioneers.

A substantial number of bible studies and baptisms are those of JW children. Numbers are not available for this, but a rough estimate of 10-20% would knock the average publisher to over 40 years per convert.

The growth figures vary greatly across countries. Whereas most of Western Europe is almost stagnant, it is compensated by high baptism figures in developing countries. There are also large parts of the earth such as India, China and the Islamic nations which account for half the world's population and which have virtually no JWs.

How many members are lost each year?

No direct figures are available for this. However, calculate the increase between 1992 and 1994 and compare to the number baptized.

1994 Average Publishers (4,695,111) less

1993 Average Publishers (4,483,900) equals

211,211. Yet 314,818 were baptized, a loss of 101,841.

Or, compare:

1993 Average Publishers (4,483,900) with 1992 Average Publishers (4,289,737) equals

194,163. Yet 296,004 were baptized, a loss of 103,607.

Compared to the baptism figures, there are missing numbers of 101,841 and 103,607, respectively. This figure encompasses the deceased, the inactive, disfellowshipped, and disassociated. (A 1% mortality rate may be expected, but a JW who has investigated this has suggested that 0.5% is more likely given the demographic profile of membership.) It is also inflated by those who were baptized in 1994 but were already active preachers in 1993, but this is more than compensated by the larger number who are preachers in 1994 but not yet baptized, i.e. still students (usually so for a few months) or unbaptized children (perhaps for 10 years or more). As with all these figures, the picture varies greatly across the world.

One JW has calculated, based on statistics for expulsions in the WT, figures of 1.3% (1979), 1.14% (1988) and 1.15%(1989), where the figures are based on the peak publisher counts. These figures were given in the context of expulsion for sexual practices; as is explained below, most of those who are disciplined for "sinning," say sorry and are retained as members; the only unforgivable, and hence the most common reason for expulsion, is disagreement with WTS doctrine and authority.


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