Jehovah’s Witnesses experience growth in 2021 despite pandemic limitations

Andrea Jacobs was not one to write a letter or call people she didn’t know. “It just wasn’t my thing,” she said. But she loved to visit neighbors door-to-door with an encouraging thought. That abruptly changed in the spring of 2020 when Jehovah’s Witnesses suspended their in-person public ministry, meetings and conventions.

Two years later, the Toledo resident regularly contacts people by phone and letter. “If this is the only way to reach people, it’s what we have to do,” she explained. In addition to fulfilling a mission to share comfort with others, she found a source of joy during the pandemic. “When people want to discuss or study the Bible, it’s the highlight of our day!”

With this historic change, the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses grew 3% in the United States in 2021 alone, matching the most significant increase for the organization over the past decade and the second-largest percentage increase since 1990.

Staying active, remaining safe

“Staying active in our ministry while remaining safe has had a powerful preserving effect on our congregants and communities,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “The wise decision not to prematurely resume in-person activities has united us and protected lives while comforting many people in great need. The results speak for themselves.”

For congregants like Jacobs, the virtual ministry helps her keep grounded and focused. She regularly shares scriptures with the local community and conducts free Bible courses over the phone or on Zoom. She describes her ministry as one of the “big rocks” in her jar of life priorities. “The ministry, prayer, Bible reading — all of those are like rocks. They are most important and take up the largest space. Other things like entertainment are like pebbles that can fit around but not displace the most important things.”

Last year, the international organization reported all-time peaks in the number of people participating in their volunteer preaching work, increased attendance in Zoom meetings and more than 171,000 new believers baptized. In the past two years, more than 400,000 have been baptized worldwide.

‘Re-energized’ by convenience of virtual meetings

Some whose ministry or attendance at religious services had slowed because of age and poor health said they feel re-energized with the convenience of virtual meetings and a home-based ministry.

Despite dealing with memory loss and diminished energy, Joseph Fuoco, 81, and his wife Sarah, 88, are now nicknamed “the dynamic duo.”

The Fuocos use Zoom to worship twice a week with their Hollis, New Hampshire, congregation and regularly join online ministry groups to comfort neighbors and family through phone calls, letters, texts and email.

“What could have been quite a disadvantage, we’ve made into an advantage,” Joseph Fuoco said. “The fact that we can work right from home is a great advantage. I’m happy with it.”

By sharing the Bible’s hope remotely, the fewer than 3,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Alaska can rapidly preach across the 586,000 square miles of their sparsely populated state. “We’re talking to more people in a day than we did in a month,” said Marlene Sadowski of Ketchikan.

Website translated into 1,000 languages

The official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, translated into more than 1,000 languages, has also leveraged the organization’s outreach.

After starting a free self-paced Bible course on in December 2019, Lisa Owen requested a free, interactive Bible study over Zoom. She was one of nearly 20,000 baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses last year in the United States in private settings, including backyard swimming pools, tubs and even rivers. gave me somewhere to learn, somewhere to land, and to start living the way God wants me to. It taught me so much,” said Owen of Moriarty, New Mexico.

To start an online Bible study course, receive a visit or attend a virtual meeting locally, visit

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