In March 2020, the some 1.3 million Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States suspended its door-to-door and face-to-face forms of public ministry and moved congregation meetings to video conferencing.
It’s now been more than a year since the church worldwide adjusted its methods due to the pandemic.
For many, the change from ringing doorbells and knocking on doors to making phone calls and writing letters expanded and invigorated the ministry, according to the United States branch of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Public Information Desk.
Pausing door-to-door ministry “has been a very deliberate decision based on two principles: our respect for life and love of neighbor,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “But we are still witnesses and, as such, we must testify about our faith. So it was inevitable that we would find a way to continue our work.”
It was 33 years ago that Trish McCauley of Central Oregon was baptized into the church. She enjoyed spending full days preaching door-to-door and conducting in-home Bible studies. Then a health crisis changed her life dramatically.
“My energy level was so low, it took all I had just to use my walker to get to the door,” McCauley said.
During the pandemic, she has regularly participated in virtual ministry groups, making dozens of phone calls and writing letters.
“By staying in my own home I feel less draw on my energy,” she said. “I truly enjoy talking with others on the phone and receiving encouragement.”
McCauley said after door-to-door ministry resumes, she won’t stop writing letters and calling people.
“I feel this is truly a great way to reach people. It’s helped me think outside the box.”
Robin Kuenzi, also of Central Oregon, began her full-time volunteer work nearly 38 years ago, according to the church. She enjoyed preaching from door-to-door, conducting in-home Bible studies and standing at cart displays in city parks.
During the pandemic she had to learn new ways to reach people.
“At first I was apprehensive. However my experience has been overwhelmingly positive,” she said. “Many express appreciation for the interest shown to them and are clearly relaxed speaking with me on the phone. Some say they prefer it. I feel I have built friendships with several in my community by our phone visits. We talk about the day we can finally meet face-to-face, when it’s safe to do so. I feel like I have learned new skills that I will continue to use even when we are able to resume the public ministry.”
Nearly 51,000 people in the United States last year made a request for a Witness to contact them, either through a local congregation or jw.org, the organization’s official website, according to Hendriks. Since the outbreak, the Witnesses have followed up on these requests via letters and phone calls instead of in-person visits.
“Our love for our neighbors is stronger than ever,” Hendriks said. “In fact, I think we have needed each other more than ever. We are finding that people are perplexed, stressed and feeling isolated. Our work has helped many regain a sense of footing — even normalcy — at a very unsettled time.”
Witnesses also made an effort to check on distant friends and family — sometimes texting links to Bible-based articles on jw.org.