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, 2019 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Lifeway Christian Resources Will Close its 170 brick-and-mortar stores by the end of this year and shift to a digital retail strategy. LifeWay’s acting President and CEO Brad Waggoner said, “The decision to close our local stores is a difficult one.” The timing of store closings will vary depending on local circumstances. With the closure, there are no more Christian retail chains. This leaves so many communities with no local source for a full range of Christian merchandise; therefore effectively forcing shoppers to shop at Amazon and denying them the opportunity to see, touch and feel countless Christian products of which the vast majority would have impulsively purchased so many and would have blessed countless people. For me personally, this is a sad passing of a truly remarkable era. (Baptist Press 3/20/19)


Why Are Most College Students Female? Women account for more than 56% of students on university campuses across the U.S. In the ’70s those numbers were almost exactly the opposite; 58% men to 42% women. For Christian colleges the gap is even wider. When asked why, university admissions officers always mention at least 2 factors: video games and drugs. Economists cite these plus porn and self-esteem. Today’s culture is failing to teach boys how to become men. ( 3/21/19)


Are The Right People Doing The Right Thing? Today’s rapid changes often overwhelm existing management and operations structures. I can perform an on-site audit and give you seasoned, objective and step-by-step direction on how your organization can adapt. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or


Young Adult Church Attendance LifeWay Research’s The Future of the Church asked pastors if their church’s attendance by those 18 to 29 increased, decreased or stayed the same in the past 5 years. 32% say it increased vs. 29% that it decreas-ed and for 39% it stayed the same. Pastors 18-44 (43%) are more likely to say “increased” than those 55-64 (27%) and 65 and older (25%). Baptist (40%) and Holiness (43%) pastors are more likely to say increased than Lutherans (24%), Meth-odists (16%) and Presbyterian/Reformed (28%). Churches of 250 or more are the most likely to have increased (50%) followed by those with an attendance of 100-249 (36%), 50-99 (30%) and 0-49 (20%). (Facts & Trends 2/13/19)


Why Teenagers Stay in Church A new LifeWay Research study finds 34% consistently attended church twice a month or more through age 22. When asked why they stayed in church, 56% say the church was a vital part of their relationship with God and 54% wanted the church to help guide their decisions in everyday life. 43% wanted to follow the example of a parent or other family member. 39% continued because church activities were a big part of their life, 39% felt church was helping them become a better person and 37% were committed to the purpose and work of the church. Among all young adults who attended church regularly at least one year as a teen, 45% currently attend at least twice a month, including 27% who attend once a week or more. Another 8% attend once a month, while 25% do so a few times a year. 22% of those who attended regularly at least one year as a teen now do not currently attend at all. Among those who dropped out for at least a year, 31% are currently attending twice a month or more. ( 2/5/19)


Millennials Aren’t in Church Studies show that church attendance among 22 to 35-year-olds is the lowest in recent history. Look at these sobering stats: Only 2 in 10 people under 30 believe attending a church is important or worthwhile (an all-time low). 59% of Millennials raised in the church have dropped out. 35% of Millennials have an anti-church stance, believing the church does more harm than good. Millennials are the least likely age group of any generational cohort to attend church. ( 6/24/18)


Theological Convictions Christians who grew up in homes where Christianity was incorrectly modeled and those who didn’t have their faith formed by relatives in their home are more likely to have stronger “theological convictions” than Christians who say their faith was “passed down” to them, finds new Barna research. Of the 1,116 practicing Christian adults who responded to that question, 59% said that “someone passed their faith down to me.” 23% said they are a Christian “despite the sort of Christianity I saw in my household growing up,” and 15% said they are Christians as an adult not because of a person in their childhood household. Those who have struggled with their faith actually had a richer orthodoxy while those who had a passed-down faith were more likely to prioritize traditions. Although those with a passed-down faith were less likely to have stronger theological convictions, Barna found that they did have more emotional connections to Christianity and had a warmer emotional climate within their home than other respondents. (Christian Post 3/7/19)


Dormant Christian Households are the group least associated with either fun or faith formation. They are significantly less likely than the other groups to play games (9%), sing (5%), read books (5%) or play sports together (3%). And though 68% say they have close friends in their life who feel like family, they are still the group least likely to maintain this strong sense of community. (Barna Group 4/2/19)


Faucets and Drains Some people, every time they engage with others, are an energy drain. They take persuading, cajoling and enthusiasm to get going and require ever more of it to keep going. And some people are a faucet, an endless pipeline of possibility, potential and forward motion. Let me help you identify who is a drain or faucet in your operation. It’s possible to turn a drain into a faucet. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or (Seth Godin 3/16/19)


Online Church New research of online church from Vanderbloemen, Pushpay and Jay Kranda finds that online ministries of churches are becoming a strategic part of the overall church ministry. They are not viewed today as much as a separate congregation than as an entry point for people ultimately to connect to the physically-gathered church. Only 16% of the churches surveyed had a full-time online ministry leader, while 35% have a volunteer in that role. Another 35% give the leadership to a full-time staff person who has other responsibilities. 90% of congregations with online ministries broadcast through live streaming, over half also have the full service on demand. 40% of those attending online are people within a reasonable driving distance of the church. 72% report online attendance but keep it separate from in-person attendance. Some of the church leaders see the online church as part of a process that may progress from social media to online church to community groups to in-person worship services. Churches over 50 years old accounted for nearly 30% of the total, while churches under five years old accounted for less than 15% of the total. Ministries most often offered online are: prayer (81%); giving opportunities (72%); pastoral care (58%); serving opportunities (54%) and online groups (52%). (Thom Rainer 3/11/19)


Millennials Know More Non-Christians Millennials report an average of 4 close friends or family members who practice a faith other than Christianity; most of their Boomer parents and grandparents, by comparison, have just 1. (Barna Group 2/5/19)


Millennials Buried In Debt Millennial consumers are missing out on the American Dream as student loan and credit card debt crushes their ability to buy cars or homes. They carry about $1.46 trillion in student loan debt alone. Unlike previous generations, consumers younger than 35 aren’t very optimistic about making big purchases. In addition to college debt, many young consumers are holding back spending because they're frequently worried about taking on new debt. Those 18 to 29 have the most college debt, more than $1 trillion. On average, Americans owe $6,354 on bank-issued credit cards. In ’15-’16, 10.5% of bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with $50,000 or more in college debt. About 0.5% graduated with $100,000 or more in student loans. Baby boomers are far less likely than millennials to have ever faced such levels of student debt, in part because college costs were much lower for those who are now ages 55 to 73. Even those baby boomers who had college debt expressed much more optimism about taking on additional debt to finance homes, cars and other goods. (USA Today 3/14/19)


Spiritually Vibrant Households A recent Lutheran Hour Ministries study by Barna sought to learn from households that appear to be exceptionally engaged in communal and consistent faith expression in the home measuring these key behaviors: Spiritual practices—defined here as praying every day or two and reading the Bible weekly all together, Spiritual conversations—talking about God and faith at least weekly all together and Hospitality—welcoming non-family guests regularly or at least several times a month. 25% of households studied participate in all of these activities at this frequency and are labeled spiritually Vibrant. Every day or so they come together for games (32%). They share meals (63% eat breakfast together and 75% eat dinner together) as well as their feelings (59%) on almost a daily basis. Vibrancy also correlates with group discipline, like working on the house or yard together (34% every day or two) or hosting household or family meetings (68%). Friendships play a great role in Vibrant households, with close friends (56%), as well as neighbors (28%) coming over several times a month. They lead the way in claiming friends who are so close as to feel like family (91%), with whom they might share deep conversations (55%) or prayer (58%). They are also more likely to depend on others (especially moms or grandmothers) for help with finances, childcare or other household needs. Also spiritual coaches are remarkably consistent in Vibrant homes. Among this group’s distinguishing traits is the presence of someone who shares about God’s forgiveness (76%), the Bible (73%) or traditions (69%). 73% have a household member who sets a spiritual example and 71% have someone who encourages church attendance. (Barna 3/5/19)


Planned Parenthood aborted 332,757 babies in 2018 and received $563.8 million from taxpayers. (LifeSite News 1/21/19)


You Market When you hire and when you fire. You market when you call tech support and you market every time you send a memo. Information spreads like wildfire. Your words and actions, even those intended to be private, can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion. Call me, and I can help you more intentionally market whenever you communicate and carefully craft what you say and do. E-mail or visit

(Seth Godin'’ Marketing Maxims, visit his website)


Religion & Alcohol 51% of U.S. adults who say they attend religious services at least once a month report drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. That compares with 62% among people who attend worship services less often or not at all. Similarly, only 13% of monthly attenders engaged in recent binge drinking (4 or more drinks on a single occasion for women and 5 or more for men) compared with 21% of less frequent attenders. Catholics are more likely than Protestants to say they’ve consumed alcohol in the past 30 days (60% vs. 51%). Adults who don’t belong to any religion are more likely (24%) than both Catholics (17%) and Protestants (15%) to have engaged in binge drinking in the past month. (Pew Fact Tank 3/6/19)


The State Of U.S. Protestant Churches Today most have fewer than 100 people attending services each Sunday (57%), including 21% who average fewer than 50. Around 1 in 10 churches (11%) average 250 or more for their worship services. (Fact s & Trends 3/6/19)


Schools are Negative Influence on Faith Formation Clergy view parents (98% Protestant, 96% Catholic), churches (99% Protestant, 100% Catholic) and Christian communities (93% Protestant, 92% Catholic) as positive influences on a child’s spiritual formation and development. However, children are spending most of their daytime weekday hours at school, which is perceived by many church leaders as a negative influence on a child’s spiritual formation (65% Protestant, 50% Catholic). In fact, schools are ranked alongside a child’s friends and peers as primarily negative influences, a view held by 61% of Protestant leaders and 65% of Catholic leaders. (Barna Research 3/20/19)

People Born In 1990 have twice the risk of colon cancer and 4 times the risk of rectal cancer vs. someone born around 1950, finds a ’17 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. (MSN Lifestyle 3/18/19)


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