The Foster Letter

Religious Market Update

The FOSTER Letter is a bi-weekly e-mail religious market intelligence report targeted to Christian market channel and ministry leaders.  Each issue reports on news, trends, events and research that will directly or indirectly impact your audiences and businesses in a convenient summary format  Better informed leaders make better choices!

Researched, Edited & Published by Gary D. Foster


Excerpts from the

April 10, 2017 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Nominally Christian America Statistically, most people in America are nominal Christians. About half the people in America call themselves Christians, but they don’t have any statistically discernable life change. Actually, only 25% of Americans call themselves Christians and have demonstrable engagement in that commitment. (CT The Exchange 3/14/17)


Missed Values Until recent years, parents did not concern themselves with cultivating their child’s happiness and self-esteem. Harvard’s Richard Weissbourd writes, “It’s important to pause and consider how unique this belief is—that many parents are conveying that happiness or self-esteem leads to morality appears to be unprecedented in American history and may be unprecedented in the history of humankind.” He also points out “many vital moral qualities… do not spring from happiness or self-esteem.” These “missed values” include fairness, justice, and caring for others. Although historically, children’s contributions to the family provided a type of service beyond self, young people today have fewer socially valued ways to contribute to their family’s well-being or to participate in community. (CT Online 3/13/17)


Love Jesus but Not the Church Barna recently studied U.S. adults who self-identify as Christian and who strongly agree their religious faith is very important in their life, but haven’t attended church in the past 6 months or more. 89% have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important to them. This group comprises 10% of the population vs. 7% in ‛04. 61% are women and 80% are between 33 and 70. 36% are Gen-Xers, 44% Boomers, 15% Millennials and 6% Elders. 63% are white and concentrated in the South (33%), Midwest (30%) and West (25%), with 13% in the Northeast. Their beliefs about God are more orthodox than the general population, even rivaling their church-going counterparts. They strongly believe there is only one God (93% vs. 59% of U.S. adults and 90% of practicing Christians), affirm “God is the all-powerful, all- knowing, perfect creator of the universe who rules the world today” (94% vs. 57% of U.S. adults and 85% of practicing Christians), and strongly agree God is everywhere (95% vs. 65% of U.S. adults and 92% of practicing Christians). (Barna Group 3/30/17)


The Most Important Questions in business are often never asked: What is our motive? What is our purpose? Are they worthwhile? Motive and purpose guide behavior, color decisions and add or subtract joy from work. Keep asking these questions and use the answers to measure success. I can help you ask and answer these vital questions in your organization. Contact 419-238-4082, or (Joy At Work, Dennis Bakke, 2005)


Are Kids Worse These Days? American college students in ‛09 were less empathetic than students in the ’80s and ’90s. Students’ scores on “perspective taking” (the ability to imagine others’ points of view) dropped 34% since ‛80 and scores on “empathic concern” (the tendency to feel and respond to others’ emotions) dropped 48%. And college students in ‛09 were far less likely than their earlier counter-parts to agree with statements such as, “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective” and “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.” (CT Online 3/13/17)


Millennials Kids Lack Biblical Worldview A person’s worldview is typically developed between the ages of 18 months and 13 years. George Barna, Exec. Dir. of the American Culture & Faith Institute states, “Parents are one of the most important influences on the worldview of their children, and Millennials are entering their prime child-bearing years. But because 24 of every 25 Millennials lack a biblical worldview today, the probability of them transmitting such to their children is extremely low. You cannot give what you don’t have. In other words, if today’s children are going to eventually embrace a biblical worldview, people with such a perspective must exert substantial influence on the nation’s children to supply what their parents are unable to give them.” (American Culture & Faith Institute 3/15/17)


Women Leaving the Church A ‛15 Barna study found 27% of professional women are leaving the church, and they make up a significant portion of the 38% of adult Christian women who say they haven’t attended church in the past 6 months. A little over a decade ago, 40% of the unchurched in America were women; today, that number has grown to 46%. While just under half of women said attending church was very or somewhat important to them, many of them simply aren’t frequently making it to church. Competing priorities like family commitments, personal time, and work or career keep women from regularly attending church on Sundays.  (Institute for Faith, Work & Economics 3/21/17)


The State of Pastors Report, conducted by Barna in partnership with Pepperdine Univ., finds 24% of all U.S. adults hold a very positive opinion of pastors in general. However, 28% hold a “somewhat” or “very” negative view. 23% have little regard for the pastoral influence in their city or neighborhood, while 19% goes so far as to call pastors very influential. Yet, 66% feel clergy is of at least some benefit to the public, and when asking people about a pastor with whom they have a personal connection, 64% gives a very positive report. (Barna 3/16/17)


Marketing Rules Change The buying mode and mood of the general public has moved from Intuitive and Feeling (NF, right brain/right brain, pattern recognition) to Sensing and Thinking (ST, left brain/left brain, sequential reasoning.) Consumers have begun buying with their heads instead of their hearts. Ads today should be direct, clear, and concise. Clarity is more important than creativity, but it’s also more difficult to achieve. I can help. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or (Monday Morning Wizard of Ads 2/23/09)


Puerto Ricans are overwhelmingly Christian. A majority (56%) of Puerto Ricans living on the island identified as Catholic in a ‛14 Pew Research Center survey of religion in Latin America. And 33% identified as Protestants, among whom roughly half (48%) also identified as born-again Christians. (Pew Fact Tank 3/29/17)


Drug Overdose Driving Premature Deaths The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Univ. of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute’s Key Rankings Report reveals drug overdose deaths are fueling a dramatic increase in premature deaths nationally because of an increase in deaths among 15 to 44-year olds. From ‛14 to ‛15, 85% of the increase in premature deaths can be attributed to a swift increase in deaths among younger populations. While myriad issues contributed to the rise, the drug overdose epidemic is the leading cause of death among those 25 to 44. Drug deaths are also accelerating among 15 to 24-year olds, but nearly 3 times as many people in this age group die by homicide, suicide, or in motor vehicle crashes. (Van Wert Independent 3/30/17)


Missionary Candidate Helps & Hindrances The LAUNCH Survey investigates factors long-term missionaries view helpful or hindering to beginning their journey of fulfilling their Great Commission calling. Of the total 466 responses, 299 were included in the analyses with 53% male, 85% U.S. passport holders, and 77% currently living overseas (with the other 23% being former missionaries). Here are the key findings: Guidance or call from God was the top factor overall, with 98% of participants indicating this was helpful for their journey. A desire to share the good news (91%), supportive friends (80%), and supportive spouses (68%) were also significant. The next most influential factor (surprising to many recruiters); a supportive agency, leader, or team (69%) influenced participants more than many other factors, including short-term mission trips (51%). Personal interaction with long-term workers impacted 64% significantly, with 57% having a personal connection with long-term workers prior to launching. Supportive parents (61%) and mentors (51%) were also significant to their journeys. The biggest obstacle, raising financial support, was selected by only 36% of respondents followed by being far away from family and friends (24%).  (The Exchange 3/26/17)


Millennial Work Ethic 48% of millennials think it’s actually a good thing to be seen as a work martyr meaning they’re less likely to use all their vacation time on purpose than older generations. They more frequently agree with these 4 work martyr-dom statements: “No one else at my company can do the work while I'm away.” “I want to show complete dedication to my company and job.” “I don’t want others to think I’m replaceable.” “I feel guilty for using my paid time off.” (RedEye, Chicago Tribune, 3/21/17.)


Special Markets Are you looking for a new marketing channel for your Christian products? Let me help you put together a workable plan to penetrate non-traditional channels. Contact 419-238-4082, or


Stay-at Home-Dads More working women means couples with children are approaching child-rearing in a variety of ways. This includes the more recent phenomenon of the “stay-at-home dad,” a scenario with which 82% of American adults say they are comfortable. (Barna 3/8/27)


The Size and Scope of America’s criminal justice system has become impossible to ignore. In ‛15, 1.5 million inmates served time in state and federal facilities; add the number of Americans on parole or probation, and that figure more than quadruples to 6.7 million. The federal prison population dropped under President Obama for the first time since President Carter, but remains more than triple what it was in the ‛80s. (CT Gleanings 3/30/17)


Nebulous Views of Religion Barna Groups’ recent study of U.S. adults who say they “Love Jesus but not the church” found 55% disagree (strongly and somewhat) that all religions basically teach the same thing vs. 51% of U.S. adults, 68% of practicing Christians and 86% of evangelicals. Only 26% read scripture vs. 56% of practicing Christians. Just 9% are likely to read a book on spiritual topics vs. 36% practicing Christians. 32% say they find and experience God in nature vs. 24% of practicing Christians, and through practices like meditation (20% vs. 18%), yoga (10% vs. 7%) and silence and solitude (both 15%). (Barna Group 3/30/17)


A Recent Sociological Study Univ. of Virginia‘s sociology professor Bradford Wilcox and his colleagues recently completed a new study, The Cohabitation-Go-Round: Cohabitation and Family Instability Across the Globe. The study, including the U.S. and 16 European countries, looked at the odds that kids who were born to married or cohabitating parents will still be with their parents when they turn 12. In the vast majority of European countries, at all education levels, people who are married when they have kids were markedly more stable than people cohabiting. This marriage premium is relatively stable around the globe but decreases over time and was negligible for countries with more than 20% of their births to cohabiting couples. But overall, for kids, marriage typically provides more stability across Europe and the U.S. The study contradicts 3 myths about cohabitation and family stability. #1 Cohabitation is less stable just because poorer people are more likely to choose it. Fact: cohabitation is less stable than marriage regardless of the mother’s educational background. In the overwhelming majority of countries, the most educated cohabiting parents still have a far higher rate of break-up than the lowest educated. #2 Cohabitation becomes more similar to marriage as it becomes more widespread. Fact: that is not the case for children. #3 Where cohabitation has been a long-standing alternative to marriage, further growth of the institution will not affect children’s lives. Fact: that’s not the case. The study data linked an increase in child mortality of at least 20% for kids in Latin America, Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Kids born and raised by married parents are much more likely to flourish. ( 3/29/17)


World’s Unhappiest Countries According to Gallup’s 2017 World Happiness Report, South Sudan, Haiti and Ukraine lead the world in suffering. 47% of South Sudanese rate their lives poorly enough to be suffering. Poverty, natural disasters prolong pain in Haiti where 43% are suffering and 41% are suffering in Ukraine is highest in Europe. ( 3/23/17)


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