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, 2019 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Teen Suicide Rates are at their highest level since 2000. A 6-year study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found teens who spend too much time on social media or watching TV become notably more depressed. An increase of as little as one hour of social media interaction from normal levels results in a measurable increase in depression. Heavier users of social media with depression appear to be more negatively affected by their time spent on social media. (Fortune 7/15/19)


Intentional Sacrifices LifeWay Research’s 2019 Discipleship Pathway Assessment study found only 15% of Protestant churchgoers strongly agree they intentionally give up certain purchases so they can use that money for others, 26% somewhat agree. Those who attend church services more frequently are more likely to say they serve others in this way, with 26% of those who attend at least weekly strongly agreeing vs. 21% of those who attend less than 4 times a month. (Outreach 7/16/19)


China Counting and Monitoring Christians The Communist Party of China has been cracking down on religion in recent months and has intensified its measures by ordering local governments to closely supervise and monitor its residents who believe in God. Officials are expected to report to the government on a regular basis. The consequences are severe if the numbers appear to have been doctored. Local officials are expected to report back to local government twice a day. A local official said: “It’s like our lives are being threatened. After reporting someone, we have to restrict their movements and report their situation every day.” ( 7/26/19)


Think Like A Customer! Most companies want to make life easier for themselves rather than for their customers. I can uncover these “invisible barriers” to customer service excellence and increased profits. My audit and summary of findings will give you a roadmap to rooting out and resolving these unnecessary anchors on your business or ministry. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or


Young Adults were more likely than any other age group to die from drugs, alcohol and suicide over the past decade. Drug-related deaths among people 18 to 34 soared 108% between ’07 and ’17, while alcohol deaths were up 69% and suicides rose 35%, according to federal data. The analysis of CDC data found the increases for these 3 ‘deaths of despair’ combined were higher than for Baby Boomers and senior citizens. (USA Today 6/13/19)


Non-retired Americans’ Expectations that they will live comfortably in retirement are more positive than they have been since ’04, suggesting that the public’s recent upbeat view of the nation’s economy and their personal finances is coloring their retirement outlook. Yet, while overall retirement expectations may be rosier, only 25% of Americans who are employed or have an employed spouse say they are currently saving enough for retirement. 57% of non-retirees anticipate comfortable retirement, a 15-year high. 57% of retirees rely on Social Security as major source of income. 33% of non-retirees expect to rely on Social Security as a major source. (Gallup 6/18/19)


Americans Today are living longer, working later in life and are less likely to receive a pension from their employer. (Gallup 6/18/19)


Rising Media Influence MOVIEGUIDE®’s research shows that today “by the time a child is 17; he or she will have spent up to 66,504 hours using various media.” That’s 6 times longer than they’re in school, 33 times longer than they’ll be at home with their parents and 83 times longer than they’ll be at church. The high numbers of media views should also encourage people to increase time spent having face-to-face interaction with family and friends. (Movieguide 6/18/19)


Will, Skill & Till Contrary to conventional wisdom—and in many cases, to instinct—a recession might be just the time to increase marketing spending, thereby taking advantage of listing competitors and capturing the attention of cash-strapped consumers. Many companies will tend to conserve during difficult times, but a number will increase spending for strategic reasons. Not every company can or should expand during a downturn. Those who do need to have the will, the skill and the till. The will—a culture to resist the instinct to pull back in tough times. The skill—a competent and creative marketing team. The till—resources ample enough to weather the tough times plus increase marketing spend. During a recession, you’re unlikely to see returns immediately, so you’ve got to have sufficient resources. I can help you make these strategic choices. Contact 419-238-4082, or

(Deliver Magazine 11/08)


Giving to Churches, denominational bodies and religious TV and radio declined in ’18 after years of growth as individual Americans donated about $3 billion less than they did in ’17 under a new federal tax code, according to a new Giving USA Foundation study. It finds that total overall charitable giving in the U.S. rose 0.7% to an even higher record level of nearly $428 billion actual dollars in ’18. But when inflation is accounted for, total giving in ’18 declined by 1.7% from a record level in ’17. Although corporate giving increased by 5.4% in ’18, individual giving declined by 1.1% in the first year of the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of ’17. The study finds a 3.4% decline in individual giving in ’18 when inflation is accounted for. This represented the greatest decline in individual giving since the recession of ’08 and ’09. (Christian Post 6/24/19)


Birth Gender Should Determine Bathroom Use According to a recent Gallup survey, 51% of U.S. adults believe governing policies should require transgender individuals to “use the restroom that corresponds with their birth gender,” 44% think policies should allow transgender individuals to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity and 5% have no opinion. (Christian Post 6/26/19)


Older People Reading Less The share of seniors reading for pleasure on any given day has dropped dramatically, from 53% in ’03 to 37% in ’18. Pew Research Center found that much of the time seniors now spend watching TV used to be dedicated to reading and socializing with others. One driving factor in the shift is technology: From ’00 to ’18, the share of adults older than 65 who use the Internet climbed from 14% to 73%.  These figures also include using the computer for entertainment, such as watching YouTube videos. (BoSacks Media Intelligence 6/26/19)


The Bible as the Moral Fabric of Our Country When asked to choose between whether the Bible or the U.S. Constitution is more important to the moral fabric of America; adults view the Constitution as slightly more important than the Bible (53% and 47%, respectively). The Bible is more commonly deemed more important by women, African Americans, married adults, parents of young children, residents of the South and practicing Protestants. The perceived importance of the Bible over the Constitution also increases by age. (State of the Bible 2019, American Bible Society)


Will Young Evangelicals Come Back to Church? Many of our millennials have not come back to church at the age of 30. A ’17 LifeWay study found 66% of Protestants 23 to 30 said they stopped attending church regularly between ages 18 and 22. However, some of them do eventually return. People who stop attending after high school are most likely to return as married parents, childless couples or single parents. However, today young adults get married at an average age of 29.5 for men and 27 for women, which partly accounts for the delay in coming back to church. (Religion & Politics 6/25/19)


Conservative Protestant Men Still Resisting Porn Sociological data suggests churchgoing men engage pornography at a vastly lower rate than others. Across all U.S. religious people who attend religious services more frequently are far less likely to view porn. Nominally Protest-ant men are nearly 5 times more likely to do so as men who attend religious services more than weekly. And across all levels of religious attendance, Protestant men are about 5 to 10 percentage points less likely to have viewed porn in the last year. These are meaningful differences. They suggest that religiously observant Protestants are experiencing a vastly lower rate of pornography use. (Christianity Today Online 6/26/19)


Beliefs about the Bible 63% of U.S. adults agree the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life, while 38% strongly believe this. This compares with 42% who strongly agreed last year and 53% in ’11. Millennials are less likely than older generations to believe that the Bible can help them live a meaningful life (28%). Strong belief is more commonly found among older generations (43% among non-Millennials), African Americans, married adults, parents with children at home, residents of the South and practicing Protestants. 58% of Americans accept the idea that the Bible, Koran and the book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths. Just 27% strongly reject this idea. (State of the Bible 2019, American Bible Society)


More Than a Storefront America’s biggest consumer advertisers are learning that just having a website isn’t enough to establish and cultivate an ongoing customer relationship. Many have launched free e-magazines filled with relevant content, offering entertainment and practical advice along with soft-sell product promotion where appropriate. “It’s a major trend, and it’s a moving trend,” claims Gary Stibel, New England Consulting Group. It’s not really new, but marketers are historically far too blatantly commercial. I can help you craft an effective e-marketing strategy that can help you build brand loyalty and ultimately sales. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or (AP 1/3/06)


Pervasive Faith Recent LifeWay Research studies find most U.S. Protestant churchgoers believe God is relevant to every part of their life and identity. 66% disagree with the statement, “Many aspects of who I am have nothing to do with God,” with 44% strongly disagreeing and 18% aren’t sure. 51% of women strongly disagree that many aspects of who they are have nothing to do with God vs. 35% of men. Younger churchgoers (18–34) are the least likely to strongly disagree (34%). ( 7/25/19)


Birth Dearth According to the CDC, the U.S. fertility rate hit an historic low in ’18. For women 15-44 it dropped by 2% between ’17 and ’18. This represented a drop from 60.3 births per 1,000 for women 15-44 to 59.1. In addition, the percentage of preterm and early-term births increased: For babies delivered at less than 39 weeks, the percentage increased from 9.93% in ’17 to 10.02% in ’18. Full, late, and post-term deliveries declined. Fertility rates declined 2% for non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black women and 3% for Hispanic women. 3.8 million children were born in the U.S. in ’18. Despite a peak year in ’07, birth rates have fallen in all but one of the last 11 years. The average age of first-time mothers has risen by more than 5 years: in 1968 it was 21.4 vs. 26.8 today. (LifeSite News 7/26/19)


Questions Every Church Visitor Wants Answered Many pastors and church leaders have forgotten what it was like to visit a church for the first time and have no idea what to expect. But for a guest, it can be intimidating and confusing. They want to know about your church but they don’t always know where to start. Make it easy for them by clearly answering these 5 questions. 1. What do you believe? 2. Where is the bathroom? 3. How do I get connected? 4. What is expected of me? 5. Will my family and I be safe? Guests who come to your church never come alone. They always bring questions with them. Encourage them to return by answering those questions before they even ask them or at least have answers ready for those who do ask. Give visitors all the information they need to make the right decision about becoming a part of your church body. (Facts & Trends 6/27/19)


Evangelicals Viewed Coolly Americans with a high level of religious knowledge have a warmer view of Jews, Catholics, mainline Protestants and Buddhists than evangelical Christians and are least warm to Muslims and atheists, according to a new Pew Research Center study. When asked to rate a variety of groups on a ‘feeling thermometer’ ranging from 0 (coldest and most negative) to 100 (warmest and most positive), Americans give Jews an average rating of 63 degrees and 40% rate Jews in the warmest portion of the scale (67 degrees or higher). Catholics and mainline Protestants each receive an average rating of 60 degrees, followed by Buddhists (57 degrees) and evangelical Christians (56 degrees), as well as Hindus (55 degrees). (Christian Post 7/25/19)


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