Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Joshua Project is a research initiative seeking to highlight the ethnic people groups of the world with the fewest followers of Christ. Accurate, regularly updated ethnic people group information is critical for understanding and completing the Great Commission. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14 "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come." Jesus directly links His return to the fulfillment of the Great Commission. While no one knows the date or time of His return, we do know that this Gospel of the kingdom must be preached to all the nations first. Revelation 5:9 and 7:9-10 show that there will be some from every tribe, tongue, nation and people before the Throne.

Joshua Project seeks to answer the questions that result from the Great Commission's call to make disciples among every nation or people group:

  • Who are the ethnic people groups of the world?
  • Which people groups still need an initial church-planting movement in their midst?
  • What ministry resources are available to help outreach among the least-reached?
Joshua Project gathers, integrates and shares people group information to encourage pioneer church-planting movements among every ethnic group and to facilitate effective coordination of mission agency efforts. Joshua Project compiles the work of numerous missions researchers to develop a list of all ethnic peoples that is as complete as possible. Many errors, duplicates, and overlaps exist and the data is continually being updated. We welcome feedback of all kinds!

From this overall ethnic people group list, a subset of unreached / least-reached peoples has been identified based on the criteria of less than 2% Evangelical and less than 5% Christian Adherent. This subset helps focus attention on the unfinished task of the Great Commission. We desire that this list be used by mission agencies, denominations, churches and missionaries to accelerate the Gospel's advance into each of the least-reached people groups. Joshua Project has also developed a Progress Scale indicating a spectrum of reachedness rather than a simple on / off indicator.
Joshua Project was originally birthed in 1995 within the former AD2000 and Beyond Movement. From 2001 through 2005 Joshua Project was at different times informally connected with Caleb Project, ICTA and World Help. In 2006 Joshua Project officially became a ministry of the U.S. Center for World Mission.

The original Joshua Project list was a cooperative and globally accepted list of the largest unreached ethno-linguistic people groups and related ministry activity data. The Joshua Project list attempted to provide a clear goal of pioneer church-planting among the largest unreached peoples. Joshua Project has since expanded this list to all unreached / least-reached peoples regardless of size and moved from a purely ethno-linguistic to an ethnic people focus.
  • Strategic - We help mission strategists who ask, "Where is the greatest need?" Our desire is to help focus the Church on the most spiritually needy ethnic people groups.
  • Effective - We seek to maximize the effectiveness of Kingdom resources by helping identify and reduce duplication of effort between ministries through data sharing.
  • Comprehensive - Our emphasis is on comprehensiveness, to see that the Church is initially established in all the world's ethnic peoples. Our method has been "when in doubt, include a people group on the list." to insure that no groups are overlooked.
  • Neutral - We are a neutral, low-profile ministry, serving the global missions community.
  • Grassroots - We encourage grass-roots initiatives and seek input from those actually doing onsite work. Priority is given to updates made by local and national researchers.
  • Openhanded - We provide all data and services at no charge, we desire individuals and agencies in all parts of the world have access to unreached peoples data.
We serve missions agencies, denominations, churches, and individuals around the world that have a heart for pioneer church-planting among the world's least-reached people groups. Data is gathered from a worldwide constituency of field workers and their agencies, brought together into a database, and within security guidelines, provided free of charge to the global Church.

Regular users and providers of Joshua Project data include: international researchers and church-planters, local churches and individuals, denominations and mission agencies. Field workers utilize the information for building prayer and vision for their ministries and discovering what ministry tools may be available. Local churches see value for missions mobilization, and for finding agencies with whom they can partner to see pioneer churches established among unreached / least-reached people groups. Mission agencies use the data to strategically determine where to send new church-planting teams and for partnership development to avoid duplication and waste of Kingdom resources.
A list of the world's ethnic people groups with Christian progress status indicators. From this overall list is generated a list of all unreached ethnic people groups with strategic church-planting status indicators and ministry tool availability data. Statistical profiles of all ethnic people groups, many with photos, maps and text. Country specific data related to Christian status, persecution rankings, human development index, economic levels and religious makeup.

User-defined selection of people group data. Data can be selected by population, geographic area, religion, status, ministry resource availablity including Bible translation status, the Jesus Film, and Gospel audio recordings. A daily rotating Unreached People of the Day feed that can be displayed on websites and blogs. The Unreached People of the Day is also available by email. Downloadable data, PowerPoints and other unreached peoples presentation materials in various languages. A user-friendly software program for viewing, querying and reporting of available Joshua Project data.
"For evangelization purposes, a people group is the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance" (Source: 1982 Lausanne Committee Chicago meeting.)

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Some say 27,000. Others say 16,000. Some suggest 13,000. Still others say 10,500. Which numbers are correct? Could they all be correct? The many different answers to this question often cause confusion.

Different sources quote significantly different numbers. If we are commanded to make disciples of all people groups, just how many are there? But before trying to answer that, an example might help illustrate why the confusion exists. Suppose someone innocently asked, "What is the largest country?" What is the answer? It all depends on what is meant by "largest." The answer is Russia if largest refers to geographic land area. The answer is China if largest refers to population. The answer is the United States if largest means financially.

All are different, yet are correct answers to the same simple question. The underlying issue is definitions ... what is meant by "largest?" So the core question is what is meant by the term "people group?"

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The 10/40 Window is the rectangular area of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia approximately between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north latitude. The 10/40 Window is often called "The Resistant Belt" and includes the majority of the world's Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. The original 10/40 Window included only countries with at least 50% of their land mass within 10 and 40 degrees north latitude. The revised 10/40 Window includes several additional countries, such as Indonesia, that are close to 10 or 40 degrees north latitude and have high concentrations of unreached peoples. See the original and revised country lists to the right. An estimated 4.65 billion individuals residing in approximately 8,750 distinct people groups are in the revised 10/40 Window.

Click to read more.
Joshua Project uses the terms "unreached" and "least-reached" to mean the same thing. The terms are used interchangeably on this website. An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize that people group. The original Joshua Project editorial committee selected the criteria less than 2% Evangelical Christian and less than 5% Christian Adherents. While these percentage figures are somewhat arbitrary, "we should not underestimate the significance of the small group of people who have a vision of a just and gentle world. The quality of a whole culture may be changed when two percent of its people have a new vision." - Robert Bellah, Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, originally quote in Psychology Today in the 1970s, currently quoted in Christianity Today Oct 2011: 42.

Source: 1982 Lausanne Committee Chicago meeting, AD2000 & Beyond Movement and Joshua Project.
Joshua Project staff are not primary researchers. Rather Joshua Project is an effort to compile and integrate ethnic peoples research from various global, regional and national sources into a global whole. We are deeply grateful to the sources who have provided data to Joshua Project. We invite you to submit any information you have related to particular people groups. Please find the appropriate People-by-Country record and then click the submit statistical changes button at the bottom or click here.
The viewable data on the Joshua Project website is updated approximately every two weeks.
How many people groups are there in the world? How many are unreached? Which numbers are correct and which list of people groups is “right”? The varying answers to these questions can cause confusion in the missions community. The Lord has graciously provided the global missions community with several sets of people group information. Each has great value and none is entirely right or entirely wrong. Each list has unique perspective, definitions, criteria and sources which cause variation between the lists. These variations cause a degree of disagreement between the lists which encourages healthy dialog. For more information on some basic definitions, a brief history, and an overview of the comprehensive global people group lists click here.
The Unreached People of the Day is a free, daily rotating unreached people photo and statistics that is available for your website or blog. It is also available by e-mail, RSS feed or widget. Use the Unreached People of the Day as a daily prayer reminder, bulletin insert or calendar. You can also follow unreached peoples on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Start using it now.
Joshua Project depends on input from global and national mission researchers, on-site workers and organizations and national censuses to maintain and upgrade the populations presented here.

Over the last several years, Patrick Johnstone and Joshua Project have spent many hours substantially revising people group population figures. In the original Joshua Project list (prior to 2001) the last firm population for a people or language was given regardless of the date - this sometimes meant using a population figure that was valid 5-40 years ago.

The original Joshua Project list did not include all peoples so discrepancies of population over time had less meaning. With the new Joshua Project list every known people has been listed and the population issue had to be reviewed. The decision was made to move from a firm population figure to percentage of the nation figure from which the population for any given year could be derived. The present version of the Joshua Project list reflects this change. This will be of great value in updating and improving the statistics in the future.

At the mid-point of each calendar year, Joshua Project obtains the latest UN population figures for all countries. The percentage change in country population from the previous year is calculated and then applied to all people groups within the country. Thus people group populations are kept current and sum to the present overall population of the country. This scaling assumes that all people groups within a given country grow at the national rate. This uniform growth rate may or may not always be true, but it is a current best approximation.
These are codes for peoples, geographic places and languages that allow key missions information to flow between various sources. Each kind of information is classified in a "registry" and then there are several hierarchical levels with each registry.

Registry of Peoples (ROP) Click for a interactive Geographic Places tree

  • ROP1 = Affinity Blocs code [Example: A007]
  • ROP2 = People Clusters code [Example: C0216]
  • ROP3 = People Group code [Example: 110033]
Note: In January 2010, Joshua Project began using the following for people coding and web linking:

  • PeopleID1 = Affinity Blocs code [Example: 11]
  • PeopleID2 = People Clusters code [Example: 137]
  • PeopleID3 = People Group code [Example: 10125]
Registry of Geographic Places (ROG) Click for a interactive Geographic Places tree

  • ROG2 = Regions / Continent code [Example: 3]
  • ROG3 = Country code [Example: CH]
  • ROG4 = First Admin / Province code [Ex: CH14]
Registry of Languages (ROL)

  • ROL3 = Language code [Example: rus]
  • ROL4 = Dialect code [Example: cmn07]
Visit the Harvest Information System for standardized versions of certain codes.
Joshua Project does not have printed Bibles available. We suggest contacting:

The Joshua Project team desires to "demonstrate and spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ." (from Bethlehem Baptist Church) To that end, we want to serve the Christian missions community and the least-reached peoples in any way possible.

Please contact us if you have updated people group information or want to register your ministry commitment to a particular people group. We would like to help connect Christians who have a particular least-reached peoples focus with others of like-mind. We long for the King's return and know that "this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations and then the end shall come." (Matt 24:14.) We want to see the Lord's name and fame lifted up among all peoples of the earth for He is worthy of the worship from every tribe, tongue and nation...Soli Deo Gloria.


Copyright © 2014 Joshua Project. A ministry of the U.S. Center for World Mission.