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, 2019 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update

Declining, Plateaued Or Growing? A recent LifeWay Research study found 28% of U.S. Protestant pastors say their church has seen worship attendance shrink by 6% or more compared to 3 years ago. Another 33% say their church has remained within 5%, while 39% say their congregation has grown by at least 6% since ’16. 55% of 18- 44 year old pastors say their church is growing vs. 33% of pastors 45 and older. Evangelical churches are more likely to be growing (42%) than their mainline counterparts (34%). 23% of churches with an average worship attendance of fewer than 50 say they are growing, while most with 250 or more in attendance (59%) are growing. (Baptist Press 3/6/19)


Among Non-Christians and Lapsed Christians, 30% say they prefer a “casual, one-on-one conversation” when it pertains to spiritual matters. But the percentage is higher among those for whom spirituality is significant (40%) than among those for whom it is not (27%). Similarly, non-Christians and lapsed Christians who agree strongly that they have unanswered spiritual questions are more likely to say they prefer one-on-one conversation (45%) than those who don’t have such questions (20%). Only 52% of non-Christians and lapsed Christians say they have had at least one conversation with a Christian about faith or their beliefs during the past year, but the vast majority has had at least one at some point in the past. ( 3/26/19)


Trend Watching is about observing and understanding what’s already happening, the major and the minor, the mainstream and the fringe—in our case, in the consumer and Christian ministry/business arena. While spotting and tracking trends, not everything applies to everyone and virtually every trend has its anti-trend. Furthermore, the new doesn’t always kill the old. I can help you identify current trends and how likely they are to impact your organization. Contact 419-238-4082, or (Trendwatchers 9/5/07)


The Average Senior Pastor Tenure per church is 8 years, a number that has inched upward over the years. (Grey Matter Research & Consulting)

American Suicides have ended more lives in the past 5 years than the wars fought in Korean, Vietnam, Iraqi and Afghanistan combined. 60% of suicide victims were depressed at the time of their death and over 90% of these suffered, along with their depression, another mental or mood disorder, which includes substance abuse. 1 out of 6 American’s will suffer depression this year; most will not realize their illness is treatable or that they are a high risk candidate for suicide or at least an attempt. According to U.S. Suicide Statistics, suicide was the 7th leading cause of death for males and the 15th for females in ’16. Males were about 4 times more likely to commit suicide than females that year. Over an 18 year period (1999-2017) the total suicide rate increased 38% from 10.5 to 14.5 per 100,000. While almost half of these deaths were related to mental illness, the CDC reports that 54% of people were never known or acknowledged to have any mental health condition. (The Foster Network 3/27/19)


Church Conversions 54% of U.S. pastors say fewer than 10 people indicated a new commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior in ’18, including 8% who had none. (Baptist Press 3/6/19)

UK Christians Not Sure Jesus Arose A new BBC poll found only 46% of those in the UK that consider themselves Christians believe a “key tenant of the Christian faith,” which is that Jesus physically died and physically rose again as the Bible describes it. To give some perspective, only 26% of the general population of the UK believes Jesus actually died and rose again from the dead. However, the poll also found the majority of those who attend church at least once a month do believe in the physical resurrection (82%). ( 4/16/19)


American Farms in Crisis In the past 5 years, farm incomes in the U.S. have fallen by half. Last year the number of farms filing for bankruptcy spiked by 19%. Most farms are losing money; median U.S. farm income was negative $1,325. ( 3/22/19)


When They Drop Out The church dropout rate for young adults accelerates with age, finds a recent LifeWay Research study. While 69% say they were attending church at age 17, it fell to 58% at age 18 and 40% at age 19. Once they reach their 20s, only 33% say they were attending church regularly. ( 2/5/19)


Students Aspire to Enjoy Work-Help Others According to recent Pew Research Center data, 95% of U.S. teens (97% of girls and 93% of boys) say having a job or career they enjoy would be very important to them, personally, as an adult. Likewise, 81% (84% of girls and 78% of boys) say helping other people in need would be very important to them as an adult. These 2 goals ranked significantly below other common goals of teens, including having a lot of money (51%), getting married (47%), having children (39%) or becoming famous (11%). (Facts & Trends 4/22/19)


College Campuses Aren’t a Safe Space for Republican students, according to a new OneClass survey of more than 1,500 students from 207 schools. Of those asked, 38% of Republican students said they sometimes feel unsafe on campus because of their political views, while less than half said they feel welcome at their school. Republicans are 3 times more likely than Democrats to feel unsafe on campus for holding their political views. 55% of Republican respondents said they were not open with their political beliefs vs. just 16% of Democratic students. (Fox News Network 3/12/19)


Churches Foster Intergenerational Relationships A new study from Barna found Christians are more likely to have intergenerational friendships than non-Christians and churchgoers are more likely than non-churchgoers. 68% of Americans say they have a close friend who is either 15 years older or younger, 27% say they have close friends who are both older and younger. 39% of millennials are the most likely to say they have an older friend, vs. 26% for Gen X and 13% for Boomers. But millennials are also the most likely to say they don’t have any close friends outside of their age group (38% vs. 29% of Gen X and 32% of Boomers). Americans are most often meeting their intergenerational friends at work (37% of those who have older friends and 37% of those who have younger friends). 26% of those who have an older friend and 18% who have a younger friend say they met them at church. Among Christians, 26% say they lack a friendship outside their age group vs. 41% of non-Christians. For those who go to church at least monthly, 25% say they don’t have an intergenerational friendship vs. 38% among the unchurched. (Fact & Trends 3/21/19)


The Post-Truth World of Gen Z no longer shares the same moral principles or societal values, leading to a more relativistic worldview among teens and a growing religious apathy finds new Barna Gen Z research. Christianity today has less influence on Gen Z than on any previous generation. Engaged Christian parents are eager for their children to develop a lasting faith, yet many lack clarity on how to disciple their children well in a decidedly post-Christian context. (Barna Research 3/20/19)


Leading Indicators Every business and ministry must identify their “Top 10 Leading Indicators”—those critical activities and results that must be ruthlessly measured.  The Top 10 List requires board, CEO and senior team buy-in. Columns on the one-page report will show the weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual goals—with actual results and variances against the goal for those reporting periods. I can help you identify yours. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or (John Pearson’s Your Weekly Staff Meeting 9/18/07)


Moms Are Biggest Faith Influencer Christians are far more likely to say their mothers had a bigger influence on their faith than did their fathers, finds a new Barna study. 68% of U.S. Christians who grew up with someone who influenced their faith say their mother’s faith impacted them, followed by a father (46%) and a grandparent (37%). Also, Christian teens are more likely to say their mother: “encourages me to go to church,” “talks with me about God’s forgiveness” and “teaches me about the Bible.” Fathers only led in 3 categories: when teens need money, when they need logistical help and when they want a parent to play sports. ( 3/22/19)


African-American Young Adults are more likely than their white counterparts to drop out of Protestant churches during their early adult years, finds a new LifeWay Research analysis. Nearly 75% of black young adults said they stopped attending church regularly for at least a year between ages 18 and 22 vs. 65% of white young adults. But 44% of white and black young adults who attended church regularly for more than a year in high school said they currently attended church at least twice a month. 25% of white young adults said they did not currently attend church, compared to 19% of African-American young adults. (Facts & Trends 3/20/19)


Outside Point-of-View Does it seem like something is wrong, but you’re not quite sure what? Let me help you pinpoint problems and needed changes through a custom-tailored management or operations audit. Contact 419-238-4082, or


Bible Engaged Give More 70% of Americans report giving to a non-profit organization of some type in the previous year. The typical amount given is $100. However, according to new American Bible Society research, Bible users are more likely to donate than are non-Bible users. The typical non-Bible user donated $10 vs. $500 for Bible users. Similarly, scripture engagement also corresponds with higher levels of giving. For example, Bible Centered adults gave an average of $1,000 in ’18 vs. $20 among Disengaged and $5 among Skeptics. (Barna Group 4/18/19)


Children & Teen ER Visits is Up The number of children and teens in the U.S. who visited emergency rooms for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts doubled between ’07 and ’15, according to a new analysis. Researchers used publicly available data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, administered by the CDC every year. Diagnoses of either condition increased from 580,000 in ’07 to 1.12 million in ’15. The average age of a child at the time of evaluation was 13 and 43% of the visits were in children between 5 and 11. Suicidal behavior among the pediatric population was just 2% of all visits in ’07 vs. 3.5% in ’15. Kids are feeling more pressure to achieve, more pressure in school and are more worried about making a living than in previous years. Another reason may be the rise of social media and increasing rates of cyberbullying that have come with it. (Cable News Network 4/8/19)


Modern Dads are forming a new identity for themselves by rejecting traditional parenting roles, finds new Viacom research. 80% of dads want to be better fathers for their kids. They want to be supportive and emotionally involved figures and are communicating and engaging head on about sensitive topics. Compared to single men without kids, today’s modern dads are 42% more likely to have regular check-ups, 18% more likely to take supplements and 9% more likely to eat healthy. 44% of modern fathers believe that being a good father is the single most important thing in their life. 45% feel frustrated about not being able to spend more time with their kids, but do spend an average of 3 more hours a day with their kids on weekdays and 2 hours more on the weekends than fathers did 10 years ago. (Church Leaders 3/25/19)


Church and Youth Group Participation has a “protective” effect on adolescence, according to an 8-year longitudinal study of 5,000 adolescents, Harvard epidemiol-ogy professors conclude that “for adolescents who already hold religious beliefs, encouraging worship service atten-dance and private religious practices may be meaningful avenues of development and support, possibly leading to better health and well-being.” Participating in faith commu-nities also has “protective factors,” decreasing adolescents’ likelihood of depression by 12% and their use of illicit drugs by 33%. Religious upbringing also is associated with “higher levels of happiness, of a sense of purpose, of volunteering and of forgiveness of others.” ( 3/25/19)


        For information on how to become a subscriber to the entire 3-4 page Foster Letter---Religious Market Update, E-mail us at: