A Kingdom Hall is a place of worship used by Jehovah's Witnesses. The term was first suggested in 1935 by Joseph Franklin Rutherford, then president of the Watch Tower Society, for a building in Hawaii. Rutherford's reasoning was that these buildings would be used for preaching the "good news of the Kingdom." Jehovah's Witnesses use Kingdom Halls for the majority of their worship and Bible instruction. Witnesses prefer the term "Kingdom Hall" over "church", noting that the term often translated "church" in the Bible refers to the congregation of people rather than a structure.
Kingdom Halls are typically modest, functional structures with practicality in mind. As Witnesses do not use religious symbols, such are not displayed on or in Kingdom Halls. An annual yeartext, or "theme scripture", which is the same for all congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide, is prominently displayed in each Kingdom Hall. This text can be displayed in several languages if the Hall is used by foreign language congregations. A Kingdom Hall typically has a library, contribution boxes, and a literature counter, where publications are displayed, stored and dispensed.
Some Kingdom Halls have multiple auditoriums to allow more than one congregation to simultaneously conduct meetings. Where there is more than one auditorium, each auditorium or the entire structure may both be referred to as "a Kingdom Hall". Larger Assembly Halls or Convention Centers of Jehovah's Witnesses, or any rented arena or stadium used for larger gatherings of Jehovah's Witnesses are also regarded 'as a large Kingdom Hall'; undignified behavior is considered inappropriate during their religious events, even if the facility is an entertainment venue.
Among its meetings for worship, each congregation conducts a weekly Theocratic Ministry School with a common global curriculum (exceptions are made for the availability of study materials). Kingdom Halls may also be used for any of several occasionally scheduled schools, such as sign- or foreign-language classes. Kingdom Halls may also be used for schools especially developed for particular ranks, such as the Pioneer Service School for full-time preachers, and the Kingdom Ministry School for elders and ministerial servants.
In areas where the literacy rate is low, congregations may also arrange to use Kingdom Halls to conduct literacy or reading classes, which non-Witnesses may also attend.
Kingdom Halls may be used for wedding ceremonies of Witness-baptized couples. A couple sends a request in writing to the congregation's "service committee", which assesses whether the couple is "in good standing, living in harmony with Bible principles and Jehovah’s righteous standards" and that they also approve of the members of the couple's wedding party (that is, groomsmen and bridesmaids).
Jehovah's Witnesses attach no special significance to a Kingdom Hall wedding over a secular service, and Witness couples may choose to be married elsewhere for personal or practical reasons. Kingdom Halls are not used for wedding receptions or other social events.
Funeral services may be held in a Kingdom Hall if the body of elders considers that "the deceased had a clean reputation and was a member of the congregation or the minor child of a member". The family of the deceased may ask any respected male member of the congregation to conduct the service, which involves a simple Bible-based discourse. Depending on family preference and local custom, a Kingdom Hall funeral may or may not have the casketed deceased present.
Disaster relief efforts of Jehovah's Witnesses are typically channeled through permanent local Disaster Relief Committees under the various branch offices, and are staged at Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls as close as practical to the disaster area. Major disaster relief efforts include:
Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, an Assembly Hall and three Kingdom Halls in Haiti were staffed and equipped as temporary clinics and medical centers.
Storm: In the ten months following Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, seven Kingdom Halls were used as relief centers to dispatch volunteer crews and to store tools and materials while they organized 11,700 volunteers to repair or rebuild 723 homes.
For over two years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, Kingdom Halls were used as relief centers, warehouses, and fuel depots. Nearly 17,000 Witness volunteers repaired more than 5,600 homes and 90 Kingdom Halls during their extended relief effort in the United States' Gulf Coast region.
Volcano: On January 18, 2002, the day after the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, six Kingdom Halls in the vicinity received three tons of basic necessities and housed 1800 refugees. One week later, these relief centers were providing daily rations to 5000 people.
The construction crews of Kingdom Halls and larger Assembly Halls consist of volunteering Jehovah's Witnesses, sometimes from other countries, who have been pre-approved for work on construction sites.
In many countries, a number of standard designs of construction are used that can be built in just a few days. The act of constructing a Kingdom Hall in this manner is called a quick-build, although typically the preparation work involving the structural foundation and surrounding surface may take several weeks prior to the scheduled build. For various reasons, not all Kingdom Halls are constructed as quick-builds or using the standard designs. There is however, a noticeably dominant architectural style of the Kingdom Hall which is often used based on standardized design concepts and models, depending on needs.
A Kingdom Hall or Assembly Hall may be created by renovating an existing structure, such as a theater or non-Witness house of worship. In areas of repeated or reputed vandalism, particularly in cities, some Kingdom Hall are built without windows to reduce the risk of property damage.
In 2015, it was announced to elders in the United States that new Kingdom Halls worldwide would all be based on one of three similar design plans, depending on the required size.
Regional Building Committee
Jehovah's Witnesses' branch offices appoint local Regional Building Committees (RBC) to oversee the construction and maintenance of their places of worship. The objective of such committees, which usually consist of five to seven persons, often with experience in the construction trades, is to coordinate the efforts of those involved so as to provide attractive and functional facilities that are financially viable.
RBCs cooperate with local congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses seeking to build or renovate a place of worship, under the direction of the local branch office. Committees help in assessing the suitability of a possible construction site, purchasing the land and materials and coordinating the efforts of volunteers from the wider area. Members of a Regional Building Committee work voluntarily and receive no remuneration for their work.
On Saturday, January 31, 2015, in a special meeting with all elders in the United States via live video feed, it was announced that Regional Building Committees will be replaced by Local Design Construction groups, an arrangement similar to the Regional Building Committee, but with a more defined organizational structure.
In 1983, an arrangement was instituted whereby Kingdom Halls were financed by loans from the Watch Tower Society. In addition to contribution boxes for local congregation expenses and "the worldwide work", each congregation had a contribution box specifically for voluntary donations toward Kingdom Hall construction. These donations were pooled by the Watch Tower Society into the Society Kingdom Hall Fund, which was used for financing the construction of Kingdom Halls worldwide, particularly in developing nations. When a congregation received local approval to build a new Kingdom Hall, the congregation could apply for a loan from the Society Kingdom Hall Fund. The congregation repaid the loan to the Watch Tower Society, in addition to its continued contributions to the Kingdom Hall Fund. Interest was charged on the loans until September 2008.
The way Kingdom Halls are funded was significantly modified in 2014. The provision of Kingdom Hall loans from the Society was ceased, as was the separate Society Kingdom Hall Fund. Instead, all congregations contribute an ongoing pre-determined amount to the branch office each month, in addition to donations for other purposes, into a single World Wide Work fund, and new Kingdom Halls are financed by the branch office. The stated purpose was so that areas without the resources for a new hall may be supplemented by funding from more affluent areas.
Routine maintenance of Kingdom Halls is performed by the members of the congregations that use them, typically according to a scheduled checklist. The "Kingdom Hall operating committee" oversees maintenance of the building; at least one elder or ministerial servant from each congregation is selected to be part of the operating committee. Kingdom Hall maintenance costs are covered by donations to a local fund.
Kingdom Halls at various locations
Napier, New Zealand
West Sussex, United Kingdom
Omagh, United Kingdom
^Jehovah's Witnesses – Proclaimers of God's Kingdom chap. 20 p. 319, 721
^Jehovah's Witnesses – Proclaimers of God's Kingdom chap. 20 p. 319 Building Together on a Global Scale
^"Should We Go to Christian Meetings?", Awake!, March 8, 2001, page 12
^Organized to Do Jehovah's Will p.120-123 (Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 2005)
^Texas Monthly magazine, July 1980, page 136,138, As Retrieved 2009-08-18, "A Witness house of worship is called a Kingdom Hall. ...Appropriate to the movement's rejection of pomp and display, the [particular Hall visited by the writer], shared with two other congregations, resembled the meeting room of a budget motel, complete with rows of stackable chairs. The lone feature that marked it as a room devoted to religion was a sign, affixed to a plain wooden canopy over the speaker's stand, that bore the entreaty, "And now, Jehovah . . . grant your slaves to keep speaking your word with all boldness." The congregation of approximately 75 included admirably equal portions of blacks, whites, and Mexican Americans, a not uncommon manifestation of ethnic ecumenicity in Witness circles."
^"Question Box", Our Kingdom Ministry, December 1976, page 4, "It is recommended that the yeartext be displayed in the Kingdom Hall in countries where this can be done without difficulties resulting. ...Often it is best to display the yeartext at the front or side of the hall so it can be seen easily."
^“To the House of Jehovah Let Us Go”, Our Kingdom Ministry, April 1993, page 4
^"Bible-based Society of Kingdom Witnesses", The Watchtower, October 15, 1962, page 631
^"Maintain Fine Conduct That Glorifies God", Our Kingdom Ministry, May 2000, page 6