It makes sense that the Watchtower would keep track of which homes have been visited in the door-to-door witnessing efforts, what the responses were, and the like.
But it also keeps detailed records on the number of hours individual Witnesses put in each month in the field service. They are expected to hand in written monthly reports.
Why? It’s a control mechanism.
Interestingly, even though James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…,” the Watchtower neither requires nor keeps track of such activities. However, the door-to-door witnessing is a different story.
The Watchtower says that field service is a salvation issue that must be monitored by the elders:
Salvation cannot be earned by attendance at meetings or in any other way. It is free, a gift from God. Yet, Jehovah God does require efforts on our part if we are to receive his gift of everlasting life. (Romans 6:23) What are they? For one, vigorous exertion in his service!
Individuals locked out from entering into everlasting life could even include those who have slacked off in their sacred service to Jehovah and now have a take-it-easy approach to true worship. Their zeal for Kingdom interests has become lukewarm. (Revelation 3:15, 16) True, they may still ‘have a form of godly devotion’—token field service and meeting attendance—but lack evidence of the kind of faith that is the real driving force behind pure worship. (Compare 2 Timothy 3:5.) They fail to realize that just seeking to get through ‘the narrow door’ is not enough. One must struggle to get through.
Are you doing all you can?
So do Witnesses go door-to-door out of love for their neighbors or out of fear of not proving worthy of salvation? The Watchtower believes it can be both at the same time: “…the work of preaching and disciple making is an obligation, a requirement, on which our very lives depend… However, our motive for preaching is love, not mere duty.”
Rather than allowing Witnesses to be accountable directly to God for the amount of time they put in, a legalistic system such as the Watchtower has rules for monitoring, counting, and reporting time.
For example, Witnesses report their time in terms of hours. However, “those who are very limited because of advanced age or because of being shut-ins and those who are temporarily limited because of serious illness or injury are aware of the provision that allows them to report field service time in 15-minute increments if they are not able to report a complete hour during one month. (The Congregation Service Committee determines who qualifies for this provision.)”
Travel time to and from one’s assigned territory is not to be counted as witnessing time. However, ex-Witnesses have revealed that Witnesses often have a way of getting around that regulation. Some phone ahead to a person with whom they are having a regular book study. Others go to a nearby fast food restaurant or laundromat and leave a tract. That starts the clock ticking so that travel time can be counted. They follow a similar procedure on the way home.
Suppose a Witness who hasn’t been active in the field service for some time decides to start up again. Can they just start? No, that has to be monitored and regulated by the elders: “Before… inviting a brother who has been inactive a long time to accompany us in the ministry, we should seek direction from the elders. If we come across an inactive publisher in the territory, we should inform the elders so that they can render needed assistance. As the Bible clearly shows, only those who run the course to the finish will receive salvation.”
What about Witness parents who are teaching their children Watchtower doctrine and practice at home? There are rules and restrictions regarding counting that time, too:
In the past, only the parent conducting a family study with unbaptized children would report the time, even when both parents were involved in the discussion. However, this is being adjusted. If during the family study both parents share together in teaching the children, then both may count a maximum of one hour a week as field service. Of course, parents generally spend much more than one hour a week teaching their children. Training children involves constant effort on the part of both parents. (Deut. 6:6-9) However, the monthly field service report should reflect primarily what is being accomplished in the field. Therefore, no more than one hour a week is to be counted, even if the study lasts longer than an hour, is conducted more than once a week, or separate studies are conducted with the children. Only one parent would report the family Bible study and up to one return visit each week that the study was conducted.
What about people who want to become baptized Jehovah’s Witnesses? Can they just express their intentions and get baptized? No, first he has to demonstrate to congregation elders “that he is steadfastly determined to have a regular and zealous share in the ministry month after month… However, it need not be very long from the time that he starts publishing until he qualifies for baptism, perhaps just a few months. How much field service time should he be reporting? There are no hard-and-fast rules. The elders should consider each publisher’s unique circumstances and be reasonable and balanced.”
At what age does the pressure to go door-to-door begin with Witnesses? As young as possible. The Watchtower has cited with approval this comment by a Witness mother: “I have been taking her along with me in the ministry since she was only one month old. Although she could not understand what was going on, I believe that this early exposure had a beneficial effect on her. By the time she was two years old, she was confidently offering tracts to those we met in the field service.”
How should all of this affect our treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to our door? Don’t question their motivation. Only God knows their hearts. Instead, recognize the legalistic environment that is their religion and have compassion on them.
You don’t have to agree with their theology in order to let them in and treat them with respect and kindness.
Share the real gospel with them. Both this blog and my book, Getting Through to Jehovah’s Witnesses: Approaching Bible Discussions in Unexpected Ways, are dedicated to helping you do so effectively.