PERHAPS you have passed a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in your community and wondered what takes place inside. Did you know that their weekly meetings are open to the public? Visitors are warmly welcomed.
However, you may have some questions. Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses meet together? What happens at those meetings? And what do visitors who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses say about the meetings?
“Congregate the People”
Since ancient times, people have gathered together to worship and learn about God. Almost 3,500 years ago, the Israelites were told: “Congregate the people, the men and the women and the little ones and your alien resident who is within your gates, in order that they may listen and in order that they may learn, as they must fear Jehovah your God and take care to carry out all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 31:12) Thus, in Israel young and old alike were taught to worship and obey Jehovah God.
Centuries later, when the Christian congregation was formed, meetings continued to be an important feature of true worship. The apostle Paul wrote: “Let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25, Holman Christian Standard Bible) Just as family bonds are strengthened when family members spend time together, so bonds of love between those who want to serve God are strengthened when Christians meet together for worship.
In harmony with these Scriptural precedents, Jehovah’s Witnesses meet together at their Kingdom Halls twice a week. The meetings help attendees to appreciate, understand, and apply Bible principles. Where possible, the program is the same worldwide, and each meeting has its own spiritual objective. Before and after the meetings, those who attend enjoy an “interchange of encouragement” by means of upbuilding conversation. (Romans 1:12) What happens at each of these meetings?
The first meeting most people attend is a Bible discourse designed for the public, which is normally held on the weekend. Jesus Christ often gave public discourses—among them the famous Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:1; 7:28, 29) The apostle Paul spoke to the men of Athens. (Acts 17:22-34) Following that pattern, meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses feature a discourse especially designed for the general public, some of whom may be attending a meeting for the first time.
The meeting begins with a song from the book Sing Praises to Jehovah.a All who wish to stand and join in singing the song are welcome to do so. After a brief prayer, a qualified speaker delivers a 30-minute discourse. (See box “Practical Discourses for the Public.”) His talk is solidly based on the Bible. The speaker frequently invites the audience to look up pertinent scriptures and to follow along as the verses are read. Therefore, you may wish to bring along your own copy of the Bible, or you may ask one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for a copy of the Bible before the meeting.
In most congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the public talk is followed by the Watchtower Study, a one-hour question-and-answer discussion of a Bible subject. This meeting encourages those in attendance to follow the example of the Beroeans in Paul’s day, who “received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures.”—Acts 17:11.
The Watchtower Study begins with a song. The information discussed and the questions posed by the conductor appear in the study edition of this magazine. You may obtain a copy of the study edition from one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Subjects recently considered include: “Parents—Train Your Children With Love,” “Return Evil for Evil to No One,” and “Why All Suffering Is Soon to End.” Although the meeting is conducted in a question-and-answer format, audience participation is voluntary and comments are usually given by those who have read and thought about the article and supporting scriptures beforehand. The meeting concludes with a song and prayer.—Matthew 26:30; Ephesians 5:19.
Congregation Bible Study
One evening each week, Jehovah’s Witnesses meet again at the Kingdom Hall for a three-part program that lasts a total of 1 hour and 45 minutes. The first session is the Congregation Bible Study, which is 25 minutes long. It helps those who attend to become more familiar with their Bible, to adjust their thinking and attitudes, and to improve as disciples of Christ. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) Like the Watchtower Study, this meeting is a question-and-answer discussion of a Bible subject. Those who comment do so voluntarily. The Bible study aid is usually either a book or a brochure published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Why is Bible-based literature used at the meeting? Back in Bible times, simply reading God’s Word was not enough. “It [was] expounded, and there [was] a putting of meaning into it; and they continued giving understanding in the reading.” (Nehemiah 8:8) In recent years, publications discussing the books of Isaiah, Daniel, and Revelation have helped those attending this meeting to understand these portions of the Bible.
Theocratic Ministry School
Following the Congregation Bible Study is the Theocratic Ministry School. This 30-minute meeting is designed to help Christians develop the “art of teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2) For example, has your child or a friend ever asked you a question about God or the Bible and you found it difficult to give a good reply? The Theocratic Ministry School can teach you how to give encouraging, Bible-based answers to difficult questions. Thus we can echo the words of the prophet Isaiah, who declared: “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself has given me the tongue of the taught ones, that I may know how to answer the tired one with a word.”—Isaiah 50:4.
The Theocratic Ministry School begins with a talk based on a portion of the Bible that those in attendance have been encouraged to read during the preceding week. Following the talk, the speaker invites the audience to make brief comments about aspects of the assigned reading that they found beneficial. After this discussion, students who have chosen to enroll in the school deliver their assigned presentations.
Students are assigned to read a portion of the Bible from the platform or to demonstrate how to teach a Scriptural subject to another person. After each talk, an experienced counselor commends the student on what he or she did well, basing his comments on the textbook Benefit From Theocratic Ministry School Education. Later, in private, he may give suggestions on how the student can improve.
This fast-moving part of the program is designed to help not only the student but also all in attendance who wish to improve their reading, speaking, and teaching skills. After the Theocratic Ministry School concludes, a song based on a passage from the Bible introduces the Service Meeting.
The final section of the program is the Service Meeting. By means of talks, demonstrations, interviews, and audience participation, those in attendance learn to teach Bible truth effectively. Before sending his disciples out to preach, Jesus gathered them and gave them detailed instructions. (Luke 10:1-16) Now fully prepared for the evangelizing work, they enjoyed many interesting experiences. Later, Jesus’ followers reported back to him. (Luke 10:17) The disciples often shared experiences with one another.—Acts 4:23; 15:4.
The 35-minute program for the Service Meeting is outlined in a monthly newsletter entitled Our Kingdom Ministry. Topics recently considered include: “Worshipping Jehovah as a Family,” “Why We Go Back Again and Again,” and “Imitate Christ in Your Ministry.” The program concludes with a song, and a congregation member is assigned to offer a final prayer.
What Visitors Have Said
Congregations endeavor to make everyone feel welcome. For example, Andrew had heard many negative stories about Jehovah’s Witnesses. But when he came to his first meeting, he was surprised by the welcome he received. “It was a delightful place to be,” Andrew relates. “I was so surprised by how friendly the people were and how interested they were in me.” Ashel, a teenager in Canada, agrees. “The meeting was very interesting! It was easy to follow along.”
José, who lives in Brazil, had a reputation in his community for aggressive behavior. Even so, he was invited to attend a meeting at his local Kingdom Hall. “Those at the Kingdom Hall welcomed me warmly, even though they knew of my past behavior,” he says. Atsushi, who lives in Japan, recalls: “I must admit that when I attended my first meeting with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I felt a little out of place. Even so, I came to appreciate that these people are normal. They really tried to make me feel comfortable.”
You Are Welcome
As the comments above show, attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall can be a very rewarding experience. You will learn about God, and through the Bible-based instruction you receive there, Jehovah God will teach you how “to benefit yourself.”—Isaiah 48:17.
The meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses are free, and no collections are taken. Would you like to attend a meeting at the Kingdom Hall in your community? You are warmly invited to do so.
a All publications referred to in this article are published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.