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

AUGUST 10, 2017 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



Christian Missionaries Changed the World Sociologist Robert Woodberry, in an article in the 5/12 issue of American Political Science Review, demonstrates historically and statistically that conversionary Protestants (CPs) heavily influenced the rise and spread of stable democracy around the world. It argues that CPs were a crucial catalyst initiating the development and spread of religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, and colonial reforms, thereby creating the conditions that made stable democracy more likely. Missionaries also had a positive influence beyond evangelism. Christianity is a religion of the book, therefore Christians tended to teach people to read and write. Not only did they educate people, but missionaries brought in the concept of private property so traders wouldn’t take advantage of them. They taught new skills, like carpentry and advanced agricultural techniques. Missionaries introduced new crops to countries, which gave indigenous people opportunities to engage in trade with products that were desirable in Europe. When people selflessly live out the gospel, both through evangelization and through practical application, it changes cultures for the better. (Institute for Faith, Work & Economics 7/14/17)


Atheists and Agnostics Dislike Prayer 62% of atheists and agnostics feel uncomfortable when someone else asks them to pray, 33% when someone brings up religion, 33% when asked about their religion, 30% when told “I’ll pray for you,” and 27% when someone prays before meals. (Facts & Trends, Summer 2017)


The Cost of Healthcare leads the list of what Americans consider the most important financial problem facing their family. The 17% who name healthcare costs as their family's most pressing financial problem is up seven percentage points since ’13 and is just 2 points shy of the all-time high of 19% recorded in ’07. (Gallup 6/23/17)


Low-Performing And Even Moderate-Performing organizations quickly become enamored with early innovation or clever adaptation. Leaders of these entities fall in love with a model that works, taking their focus away from the continual need to invent and improve. The culture of these organizations becomes almost exclusively inward-focused, causing them to lose touch with evolving trends in their markets and changing needs of the dwindling pool of customers or constituents they should be serving. High-performing organizations do things quite differently. I can help you find effective ways to shift your organizations’ focus. Contact 419-238-4082, or (Leadership Network 7/25/17)


How Millennials Like to Give In a recent ECFA study of 17 of its member ministries, 92% of millennials surveyed gave to their church in the past few years. 35% gave to denominational ministries and 39% to secular charities. When millennials give to a ministry for the first time, they’re more likely than those over 35 to feel hopeful (69% vs. 60%), generous (45% vs. 25%), and spontaneous (18% vs. 11%). Millennials are less likely than older generations to worry about ministries keeping administrative costs low; assuming a one-time gift is a promise of future giving; or contacting a donor for more money. They’re also slightly less concerned about ministries using a gift only for what they say they will; not increasing the frequency of donation requests; avoiding political causes; or saying thank you. ( 6/12/17)


What is Most Important in a Ministry? When ECFA asked about the most important quality of a ministry, more than half of millennials (56%) and nearly half of older givers (48%) named honesty, followed by another form of honesty: using a gift only as specified (21% of millennials vs. 26% of older givers). All givers felt that charities should uphold specific financial standards, but millennials were less likely (85% vs. 93%) to list it as “extremely important.” Younger givers choose Christian organizations because they share Christ and spread the gospel (37% vs. 32% of older givers) and because they serve spiritual and physical needs (21% vs. 13%). Meanwhile, older givers are choosing Christian charities because they believe they have more integrity and accountability than secular organizations (26% vs. 19% of millennials). ( 6/12/17)


Hispanic Christians are more likely to say the nation of Israel has the right to exist than the average American, finds a new LifeWay Research study. They worry about the fate of Christians in the Palestinian territories and sympathize with both Palestinians and Israelis. 50% say the modern state of Israel has the right to exist. Only 15% disagree while 35% aren’t sure. Only 26% of Hispanic Christians in the U.S. have a negative view of Israel. 45% have a positive view and 28% aren’t sure. 34% think the U.S. is doing enough to help Israel while 19% say too much, 18% too little and 29% aren’t sure. 66% sympathize with the hardships faced by both Israelis and Palestinians, 27% sympathize more with Israelis and 7% sympathize more with Palestinians. 72% also worry about the welfare of Christians in parts of the Holy Land. Re-searchers found self-identified Hispanic evangelicals are by far the most ardent supporters of Israel: 59% have a positive view of Israel. 58% say Israel has a right to exist. 83% are concerned about the safety of Christians in areas under control of the Palestinian authority. 35% say the U.S. does not do enough to help Israel. 49% sympathize with the hardships Israelis face. 54% say the Bible shapes their views on Israel. 15% cite the Bible as the main reason they support Israel's statehood. 28% support Israel because of its role in biblical prophecy. (Baptist Press 6/23/17)


New Believers Course Increases Retention Churches that offer new believers a course on the basics of how to live the Christian life saw greater retention of the new believers in their membership. Of the more effective churches studied by LifeWay Research, 78% offer a “New Believers” course, and on average, 57% of new commitments were retained. 68% of churches reported offering a class at least once in 6 months. (Outreach 7/9/17)


Generosity Starts At Home 67% of Christians who consider generosity to be extremely important say they talked with their spouse or children (64%) about generosity within the past week vs. fewer than half of all others in a recent Barna study. It appears that generosity is developed at home—good news for churches structured to support families. (Barna Group 8/1/17)


Christian Market Counsel With over 30 years of first-hand involvement, I am one of the foremost authorities on this unique market channel. Contact 419-238-4082, or


Intentionally Evangelistic Pastors are more likely to see an increase in the numbers of attendees in worship services, and new commitments to Christ than others, finds a recent LifeWay Research study. When asked to estimate the percentage of new church attendees who did not previously attend church, intentionally evangelistic pastors reported a higher percentage (more than 50%) compared to less evangelistic churches, which reported fewer than 20%. Small churches reported an average of 12 new commitments per year, but 60% of the responding churches had between zero and 9 new commitments. Intentionally evangelistic pastors reported their churches averaged between 10 and 19 new commitments per year. (Outreach 7/9/17)


Marital Infidelity Among Seniors Over the last 30 years, the number of Americans who believe adultery is wrong has remained stable, 3 out of 4 adults. The number who report being unfaithful to their spouse has remained largely the same over the last 3 decades as well: 16%. However, there are changes in who’s cheating. According to the General Social Survey, since 1990, infidelity is increasing steadily among those 55 and older and decreasing among those 18-55. Much of this is done by adulterers while in their late 50s and 60s, declining in one’s 70s and beyond. Sociologists propose it’s the result of 2 things: Midlife crisis and the marital issues that go along with it, plus the coming of age of these couples in the midst of the sexual revolution. What’s more, couples 30 and under are less likely to divorce in the face of infidelity. They desire to avoid divorce at all costs because they saw how harmful it was to their parents’ lives, as well as to their own lives as children. (Pulse Check 7/10/17)


Drifter, Surfer, Drowner or Navigator On the ocean of life Drifters define themselves by their circumstances, pushed here and there by the winds and waves of chance. Surfers define themselves by their activities, riding the swells this way and that dreaming of the perfect wave. Drowners define themselves by their limiting factors, sad and mournful, they are professional victims. Navigators define themselves by their commitments. They know exactly what they’re trying to make happen and they’re willing to pay the price. Do you know what you’re trying to make happen? Are you willing to pay the price? Maybe I can help. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or

(Roy Williams, Monday Morning Memo 8/16/10)


The Shrinking Church In ’14, the Pew Research Center found 1.7 people converted away from mainline Protestant groups for every 1 convert in, while evangelical Protestants had 1.2 people convert in for every leaver. (Vox 7/14/17)


The 80% Myth Busted Have you ever heard, “80% of churches are either plateaued or declining”? LifeWay Research’s analysis of extensive data says this is wrong. They found 56% of churches are declining, 9% are plateaued and 35% are growing. So the new and correct statement of reality: 65 percent of churches are declining or plateaued. There is a huge statistical difference between 80%, the myth, and 65%, the reality.  (Thomas S Rainer, Growing Healthy Churches Together 6/28/17)


Forgiveness is Good for Your Health Studies have now found a striking array of benefits around forgiveness. Compared to less-forgiving peers, forgiving people have lower blood pressure; lower bad cholesterol and resting heart rates; improved sleep and immune systems; less depression, anxiety, and anger; enhanced relationships; more optimism; and a greater sense of overall well-being. One recent study shows people can even jump a little higher after forgiving another person. Similarly, grateful people view their lives more favorably than others, have increased energy and self-confidence, and demonstrate better coping. They are more generous and optimistic, have a greater sense of purpose, have fewer medical problems, exercise more, and sleep better than their peers. ( 7/21/17)


Similarity and Satisfaction Couples tend to match each other on many characteristics, including education, income, physical attractiveness, religious views, interests, and attitudes. Those couples who do not match on one or more important trait may be more vulnerable to infidelity, perhaps because they experience higher levels of marital dissatisfaction. For example, couples with the same religion and educational level are less likely to experience infidelity, and couples in which both partners have a college degree enjoy especially low rates of infidelity. (Brooks and Monaco, 2013)


African-Americans are More Engaged with the Bible than any other group, according to an American Bible Society survey. 71% of African-Americans are considered to be biblically engaged or “Bible friendly.” They cited positive beliefs and hope found in the Scriptures for their commitment, compared to just 58% of all Americans. Just 6% of African-Americans identified with having hostile feelings toward the Bible, 4% are skeptical and 19% are neutral. When reading the Bible, 29% of African-Americans read it for an hour or more. 51% cited feeling encouraged and 53% hopeful due to reading the Bible while 77% agreed it contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life. While 81% of all Americans believe morality is on the decline, 35% of African-Americans blame the decline on lack of Bible reading. (Ebony 7/14/17)


The Divorce Rate Among Christians is significantly lower than the general population. The factor making the most difference is religious commitment and practice. Couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes – attend church nearly every week, read their Bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously, living not as perfect disciples, but serious disciples – enjoy significantly lower divorce rates than mere church members, the general public and unbelievers. 60% of people who identify as Christians but rarely attend church have been divorced vs. 38% of those who attend church regularly. (Focus on the Family 7/31/17)


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