Where we worship
Have you ever been curious about what goes on inside the houses of worship of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Floricelda Reasco of Machala, Ecuador, was so curious that she made a small opening in the bamboo wall of the neighboring Kingdom Hall and watched their services for two months. She saw how the Witnesses greeted one another and how they enjoyed talking to each other before and after their services.
She was so attracted by the friendly environment that she began attending services and eventually became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
You don’t need to make a hole in the wall to find out about our services. All meetings are open to the public, and visitors are welcome.
We meet for religious services at houses of worship called Kingdom Halls. What a Kingdom Hall looks like varies from country to country. In Papua New Guinea, a Kingdom Hall is an open-air structure with a thatched roof. In Kansas, U.S.A., it might be a renovated athletic club. In Kobe, Japan, it might be a newly constructed building.
Usually a Kingdom Hall is a modest structure that has an auditorium with chairs for the audience, a speaker’s platform, a lectern, a library, and an area where members can request or pick up literature for Bible study.
You won't see religious symbols such as crosses or images in a Kingdom Hall. Why not? We follow the Bible’s command: “Guard yourselves from idols.” So we don’t use religious images in our worship—1 John 5:21.
We do not pass collection plates or practice tithing. For any who may wish to contribute, small donation boxes are set up near the rear of the auditorium.—2 Corinthians 9:7.
We are organized into congregations, generally each with fewer than 200 members. Congregation membership is based on geography, and most attend the Kingdom Hall closest to their home. Often, several congregations share a single Kingdom Hall by alternating meeting times.
We often build or renovate our own Kingdom Halls, and we keep them clean and well maintained. In countries where we have experienced rapid growth or where economic conditions don't allow for construction, we may rent buildings for use as Kingdom Halls.
Regardless of the type of building used, one feature of our worship that is quickly noticed by visitors is the warm welcome given to all who attend.
A congregation in the United States received a letter of appreciation from a 70-year-old man, who said about his visit, “It was the first time I had ever entered a Kingdom Hall, and I was really impressed by all the smiling faces and the sincere love I was shown. . . . I appreciated your wonderful hospitality to a total stranger.”
A member of the Church of England who attended a service of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia wrote this to his friends: “The welcome I received from almost the whole congregation was not only most brotherly and sincere but I was full of a warm feeling that, although a complete stranger, I was accepted.”
We usually hold services two times a week, and most of the programs involve audience participation similar to a classroom discussion. Worship starts and ends with prayer, and services normally include singing. All services focus on reading and discussing the Bible and seeing how to apply it in one’s life. Those in attendance—even the very young—are encouraged to read the verses being discussed in their own copy of the Bible.
A visitor in Cameroon, who had attended only one previous service, happened to sit next to a young girl. When the speaker invited the audience to look up a passage in the Bible, the man noticed that the little girl quickly found the verse in her own Bible and attentively followed the reading. He was so impressed that he asked to enroll in the Bible study program of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
We have no clergy-laity division. All baptized members are ordained ministers, and all who attend services, including children, have an opportunity to participate. Most services are led by elders, who are spiritually mature members of the faith, or by qualified assistants, who are known as ministerial servants.
The Public Meeting and Watchtower Study are often held on Sundays. The first is a 30-minute Bible-based lecture that is designed to be of interest both to members of the congregation and to visitors. The second is a one-hour question-and-answer coverage of a recent article on a Bible topic published in our main religious journal, The Watchtower.
The Congregation Bible Study, Theocratic Ministry School and the Service Meeting are usually held on a weekday evening. At the Congregation Bible Study, one of the books or brochures published by Jehovah’s Witnesses is used to direct a 25-minute question-and-answer Bible discussion. Recent study subjects have included the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, a verse-by-verse review of the Bible book of Revelation, and a study of the 12 minor prophets. The 30-minute Theocratic Ministry School is designed to help us improve our public reading and speaking. Students receive assignments on a rotating basis. At each meeting, three students give brief speeches on preselected Bible topics, and an instructor comments on the speech. Witnesses and non-Witnesses of all ages can enroll in this school. The 35-minute Service Meeting focuses on helping us improve our ability to teach the Bible to others. Topics of discussion have included how to show good manners when approaching others with a Bible message and how to discern what Bible topics may be of interest to people in the community.
In addition to these services, we are also encouraged to read the Bible daily and to study the Bible at home with our families.
Three times a year, regional meetings are held. A special assembly day is a one-day meeting of about 20 congregations. Circuit assemblies are similar in size but are held over two days. District conventions are three- or four-day meetings of about 200 congregations. District conventions are usually held in rented stadiums or coliseums and draw visitors from a wide radius.
International conventions are held about once every five years in major cities around the world. These international gatherings have the same program as the district conventions but are attended by delegates from foreign countries as well as local Witnesses. All these conventions include Bible lectures, interviews, skits, prayer, and singing. During lunch breaks and in the evenings, attendees enjoy visiting with one another.
What impression do visitors have of our conventions? “Contrary to other religious events, the convention gives no evidence of fanaticism—no one shouts, the religious hymns are soft, there are no showy cures nor persons with sacks after the money of the faithful,” reported the Brazilian newspaper Jornal da Tarde. “There is, on the other hand, an atmosphere of complete attention.”
A German-speaking man who didn't like Jehovah’s Witnesses attended a convention to get a closer look at them, hoping to find fault. He was surprised by what he found. “The stadium was filled to capacity with thousands of attentive listeners,” he wrote to his friends. “I could feel the peaceful atmosphere. What I heard, saw, and felt during the remainder of the convention left a deep impression on me.”