The Watchtower Society refers collectively to the corporations used by the religious group known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. These corporations carry out the group’s publishing needs, as well as administrative and other purposes. Before 2001, the term “Watchtower Society” was often used to refer to Jehovah’s Witnesses as a whole, including by them in their own written works. Since that time, the church has made an effort to distinguish between their religion and the Watchtower Society.
The corporations known as the Watchtower Society are owned by the governing body of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Outside of these, three other corporations exist, which were all incorporated in 2000. Their purposes include furthering the operation and interests of the Jehovah’s Witnesses outside of the United States, as well as construction of the church’s houses of worship, known as Kingdom Halls.
Millions of copies of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ literature, including bible tracts, are distributed every month. The Watchtower and Awake! receive particularly high circulation, which is increasing on a worldwide level, and they are both translated into dozens of languages. These tracts were sold to the public at cost until the early 1990s, and since then have been distributed free of charge. Donations may be given by those who are so inclined.
The employees of the corporations that make up the Watchtower Society are volunteers who live and work at the company headquarters in New York as well as at over 100 different branch offices with worldwide locations. A small portion of member donations go to pay the living expenses of these volunteers.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses trace their origins back to the 1870s and were called Bible Students until the adoption of their current name in 1931. The name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” comes from a verse of scripture in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. The church uses the version of the Bible known as the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. The congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses usually meet three times a week in simple houses of worship that do not display crucifixes or images as many Catholic and Protestant churches do. Each congregation is led by elders who oversee the teaching of the congregation and offer advice and guidance as needed to those they teach.
Members of the religion also meet in larger yearly assemblies where many congregations join together for Bible instruction. During these yearly meetings, those who have recently converted to the faith are baptized. Altogether, the church has millions of members worldwide.