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 25, 2017 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


People Who Show Up On Sundays are looking for the same thing that has long anchored most church services: preaching centered on the Bible. “Sermons that teach about Scripture” are the #1 reason Americans go to church, according to a new Gallup poll. 82% of Protestants and 76% of all regular worshipers consider sermons’ biblical lessons as a major factor that draws them to services. They’re also looking for application, as 80% of Protestants and 75% of worshipers valued sermons that connect faith to everyday life. Preaching on Scripture and its relevance ranked above factors like kids programs (68%), community outreach (61%), and social activities (49%). People in the pews also care far more about what’s being preached than who’s preaching it. Only half of Protestants (53%) and Americans overall (54%) said they attend because of “dynamic religious leaders who are interesting and inspiring.” (CT Gleanings 4/18/17)


When Do Pastors Plan Sermons? LifeWay Research has found 22% of pastors plan their sermon a week in advance while 13% do so 2-3 weeks before, 17% a month before, 22% 2-5 months before, 9% 6-8 months before, 6% 9-12 months before, 7% more than a year ahead and 5% aren’t sure. (Facts & Trends, Spring 2017)


Millennial Missionaries The LAUNCH Survey, a study of factors missionaries encounter in following a call to missions, found 83% of millennials indicated that a desire for practical service to the underserved positively influenced their journey vs. only 54% of Gen-Xers and 58% of Boomers. 91% of all age participants indicated a desire to share the good news propelled them into long-term service. 75% of Millennials indicated supportive parents were helpful in their journey vs. 64% of Gen-Xers and 54% of Boomers. Mentors were indicated to be helpful for 70% of Millennials, 37% of Gen-Xers, and 50% of Boomers. Millennials were also concerned about raising financial support (Millennials 44%, Gen-Xers 32%, Boomers 34%). They were also more concerned about being far away from family and friends (Millennials 32%, Gen-Xers 17%, Boomers 23%). (The Exchange 3/26/17)


Most People Die with Debt 73% of consumers had outstanding debt when they were reported as dead, finds recent analysis Experian data. Those consumers carried an average total balance of $61,554, including mortgage debt. Without home loans, the average balance was $12,875. 68% had credit card balances, 37% had mortgage debt, 25% auto loans, 12% personal loans and 6% student loans. These were the average unpaid balances: credit cards, $4,531; auto loans, $17,111; personal loans, $14,793; and student loans, $25,391. If someone has enough assets to cover their debts, the creditors get paid, and beneficiaries receive whatever remains. But if there aren’t enough assets to satisfy debts, creditors lose out (they may get some, but not all). Generally, family members do not then become responsible for the debt. (USA Today 3/22/17)


Fresh Thoughts Do you have relationships with people outside the company who can bring in fresh ideas and offer third opinions? Every organization should have someone like this on retainer, someone not bound by company politics or the tyranny of the urgent. I can serve this purpose for your organization. 419-238-4082, or


Age Increases as Bible Engagement Increases The older you get the more likely you are to be engaged with the Bible. The average age among Skeptics is 43, which increases to 45 for Neutral, 47 for Friendly and 53 for Engaged. Millennials drop from 32% among Skeptics to 17% among Engaged. Similarly, Elders grow from only 5% among Skeptics to 12% among Engaged. (Barna Group 4/4/17)


Christians Had the Most Births and Deaths of any religious group in recent years, according to Pew’s global demographic models. Between ‛10 and ‛15, an estimated 223 million babies were born to Christian mothers and roughly 107 million Christians died – a natural increase of 116 million. Over the same period among Muslims, there were 213 million births vs. 61 million deaths, a natural increase of 152 million. (Pew Research 4/5/17)


Are U.S. High Schools Challenging? Foreign exchange students who spent time in U.S. high schools last year found getting an education back home is more challenging, finds a new Brookings Institution study. 90% of foreign students say high school classes are easier in the U.S. than in their native country. 64.5% believed their American counterparts spend less time on schoolwork. Though researchers attribute these findings to several factors, including U.S. schools’ obsession with sports programs, one expert says U.S. students spend the bulk of their time in school, but less is required for them to succeed in the classroom. (USA Today 3/22/17)


Church Organist Shortage A ‛15 survey by the American Guild of Organists confirmed the picture is bleak and getting worse. The study revealed 60% of its 16,000 members were age 58 or older and just 11% were younger than 37. 58% had played at the same religious institution for at least 31 years, while only 14% had done so for less than a decade. Gordon Truitt, senior editor at the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, says “There’s a serious shortage, and it’s growing. For smaller churches in particular, it’s a huge concern.” (Baltimore Sun 4/7/17)


Born Again Christians comprise 30% of the U.S. population and say they believe they will go to Heaven after they die solely because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. (American Culture & Faith Institute 4/4/17)


Are You Listening to every level of your organization? It’s easy to fall into the habit of listening to only those on your level in the organization. We may be headed for trouble when we think we know what “they” want or what “they” think. D.J. Kaufman said, “Wisdom is the reward for a lifetime of listening … when you’d have preferred to talk.”  An operations audit by me can help insure you are listening to all levels in your organization. or or call 419-238-4082. (Mac Lake blog 5/3/10)


Decline in Morals and Values When asked to comment on 8 different indicators of America’s morals and values, a majority of U.S. adults expressed disappointment in relation to those conditions. People were most pleased with the operating practices of small business of which 65% were satis fied. 50% feel satisfied with the fairness of police efforts vs. 46% dissatisfied, and 4% not sure. Just 24% are satisfied with the moral condition of the nation. (Among adults with a biblical worldview it was a mere 7%.) 34% are satisfied with the values and moral views taught in the public schools; 34% with the honesty and integrity of the mainstream media; 38% with the degree of compassion Americans have for one another; 40% with the values embraced by most adults and 44% with the fairness experienced from the court system. There were surprisingly few differences between born again Christians and non-Christians on matters surveyed. (American Culture & Faith Institute 4/12/17)


Millennials Investigate Before Giving 90% of all donors surveyed by the Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability reported researching an organization on its website before giving. Millennials are not only more likely to do this than previous generations, but they are also significantly more likely to conduct additional research by asking other people for information about an organization (87%) or by checking a third-party website (73%) before deciding to give. (ECFA The Generosity Project 4/13/17)


Bible Engagement Is Stabilizing Levels of Bible engagement appear to be stabilizing after the brief dip in the Engaged segment since ‛13 and the steady increase in Skeptics in recent years. Neutral segment levels have remained relatively steady since ‛11 hovering around the low- to mid-20s. After a drop from ‛11 to ‛12, the Friendly segment has also remained steady in the high 30s, and still represents the largest segment of the American population. (Barna Group 4/4/17)


Most Households Own a Bible 87% of U.S. households own at least one Bible, a proportion that has stayed relatively consistent since 2011. Even 67% of Hostile and Skeptic households own a Bible. (Barna Group 4/4/17)


Women More Bible Friendly In general, women are more actively engaged with the Bible than men. They are more likely to be Friendly (60% vs. 40%) and Engaged (53% vs. 47%) relative to men. The opposite is true for Neutrals (48% vs. 52%) and Skeptics (41% vs. 59%), which are both dominated by men. (Barna Group 4/4/17)


Fewer Americans on the Move According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11.2% of Americans moved last year, down from 13.7% in ‛06 and 21.1% in ‛56. Fewer moves may mean fewer visitors showing at churches. (Facts & Trends, Spring 2017)


Print Bibles Preferred Though 91% of Bible users still prefer to use a print version when engaging with scripture, 92% also report using a non-print Bible format in the past year. 55% of users now search for Bible content on the internet, 53% smart phone and 43% a Bible app on their phones. (Barna Group 4/4/17)


The Last 10% of achieving quality or excellence is always the most demanding. If all you’re doing is the standard amount, all you’re going to get is the standard result. The hard part is the last 10% because everyone is busy doing the easy part already. The secret is to invest the extra that other’s believe isn’t worth the effort. I can help. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or (Seth Godin’s Blog 5/19/10)


Faith Saves Tax Dollars According to a new study from Baylor Univ., faith-based organizations (FBOs) provide 58% of emergency shelter beds for the homeless in 11 cities across the nation. The study estimates FBOs create $9.42 in taxpayer savings for every dollar spent by the government. It also shows the 11 cities in the study achieved around $119 million in tax savings during the first 3 years after the faith-based Residential Recovery and Job Readiness programs were implemented. (LifeSite News 4/6/17)


The Religiously Unaffiliated Population is projected to shrink as a percentage of the global population, even though it will increase modestly in absolute number. Pew Research reports in ‛15, there were slightly fewer than 1.2 billion atheists, agnostics and people who did not identify with any particular religion around the world. By 2060, the unaffiliated population is expected to reach 1.2 billion. But as a share of all people in the world, religious “nones” are projected to decline from 16% of the total population in ‛15 to 13% in 2060. While the unaffiliated are expected to continue to increase as a share of the population in much of Europe and North America, people with no religion will decline as a share of the population in Asia, where 75% of the world’s religious “nones” live. (Pew Research 4/5/17)


More International Students More than a million students from overseas studies in the U.S. in the ‛15-‛16 academic year, up from 565,000 in ‛04-‛05. Almost a third of international students come from China (328,457), followed by India (165,918), Saudi Arabia (61,287), South Korea (61,007), and Canada (26,973). (BP and


Skeptics Hostile Toward the Bible The Skeptic segment accounts for 19% of U.S. adults. They do not hold a very high view of scripture, believing it to be just another book of teachings written by men that contain stories and advice. 78% of Skeptics are hostile toward the Bible and believe it “was written to control or manipulate other people.” (Barna Group 4/4/17)


Redefining “God” According to a recent Barna study, U.S. adults who say they are “spiritual but not religious” hold unorthodox or divergent views about God. They are as likely to believe God represents a state of higher consciousness a person may reach as an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect creator of the universe who rules the world today. For context, only 12% all U.S. adults believe the former, and 57% the latter. They are also just as likely to be polytheistic (51%) as monotheistic (48%), and significantly fewer agree God is everywhere (42%) compared to either practicing Christians (92%) or evangelicals (98%).  (Barna Group 4/6/17)



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