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 25, 2017 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



Single, Childless, Idle 1 in 5 less-educated American young men are not working and not seeking marriage, and they seem happy about it. According to Univ. of Chicago economist Erik Hurst, young men between the ages of 21 and 30 without a college degree worked far fewer hours in ’15 than in ’00, and in ’15, 18% of these men reported not working in the last year (up from 8% in ’00). This is almost one-fifth of the population simply being idle: not in school and not working. 70% of these young men live with their parents (up from 50% in ’00). These young men are not married, not having kids, and not earning an income. They are young, single, childless, and idle. (Sermon Central, Expect More From Young Men by Joe Hamilton 7/31/17)


What We Pray About Among U.S. adults who pray with regularity, 62% do so to offer “gratitude and thanksgiving.” 61% pray for the “needs of their family and community”, followed by “personal guidance in crisis” (49%). 47% most often direct prayers toward their own “health and wellness.” Further down the list is “confession and forgiveness” (43%), followed by “things I suddenly feel compelled or urged to pray about” (43%). Another common prayer is for “safety in daily tasks or travel” (41%). Praying for “a sense of peace” makes up the content of prayers (37%). Praying a “blessing for meals” is equally as common (37%), as well as “requests people have specifically asked me to pray for” (34%). Only 24% most often pray about their concerns for the “nation or government”, 20% most often pray about “global problems and injustices.” ( 8/15/17)


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Millennials Most Non-Religious According to the Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project, 25% of adults under 30 are not affiliated with any religion, making them the most non-religious age cohort. A ’07 Pew Forum survey confirmed the trend, showing only 1/3 of adults under 30 self-reported as church attendees “at least once a week.” The rate for those over 30 was 41%. (Insights into Religion 8/10/17)


Rise in Nondenominational Affiliation The proportion of Protestants in the U.S. States who don’t identify with a specific denomination doubled between ’00 and ’16, claims a new Gallup poll. Now, about 1 in 6 Americans are nondenominational Christians. This shift is the result of 2 trends: the decline in the number of Protestants overall (more Americans self-identify as nones) and shrinking denominations themselves. Not only are the major mainline churches continuing to see their numbers fall, the country’s largest Protestant denomination (Southern Baptist Conven-tion) has lost a million members in the past 15 years. Prior to ’00, half of all Americans belonged to a specific Protestant denomination vs. just 30% today.

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( 7/20/17)


Children & Parents Attending Church Less The average family has gone from attending church 3 times a week to attending 3 to 4 Sundays a month to now attending once every 3 to 4 weeks. Millennials, who are the newest generation of parents, go to church less than any previous generation. While 51% of older generations attend church, only 28% of millennials do. And 33% of millennials now say they are unaffiliated with any faith, up 10% since ’07. Due to this, children’s ministries are struggling to maintain their attendance, much less grow. Children don’t drive themselves to church, and more and more can be found at the ball field, on a weekend road trip, at the store or simply sitting at home on Sunday morning. ( 7/25/17)


Biblically Illiterate Children A recent study found only 45% of people who regularly attend church read their Bible more than once a week. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible. And what we don’t read…we don’t know. And kids do what they see their parents do. In a survey among children: 1 in 3 didn’t choose the Nativity as part of the Bible. 59% didn’t know Jonah and the whale was in the Bible. 27% think Superman is or might be a biblical story. 1 in 3 thinks Harry Potter is or might be a biblical story. 54% think The Hunger Games is or might be a biblical story. This biblical illiteracy often doesn’t show up until kids get into high school and college. ( 7/25/17)


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Invisible Service Many Americans are unaware of various efforts by local Christians or churches to serve their neighbors. LifeWay Research asked Americans if they'd heard of churches or church members being involved 13 in different service programs in the past 6 months. 6 in 10 say they know churches feed the hungry. Half say they know churches give clothing to the poor. Beyond that, acts of service by churches often appear to go unnoticed. Few Americans were aware churches help people prepare their taxes (8%), provide foster care (12%), teach English to immigrants (13%) or teach job skills (13%). A few more know churches tutor kids (16%), provide aid to new moms (19), support local schools (21%), offer after-school programs (24%), visit people in prison (25%), know churches shelter the homeless (33%) or provide disaster relief assistance (39%). 14% of Americans haven’t heard of any of these services by churches. 17% were not sure. (Baptist Press 7/21/17)


Suicide On the Rise According to the World Health Organization, close to 80,000 people die every year from suicide. Those most vulnerable are young people, accounting for the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally. ( 7/21/17)

African Americans Most Bible Engaged The results of the latest State of the Bible survey by American Bible Society showed African-Americans are more engaged with the Bible than any other group, overwhelmingly citing positive beliefs and hope found in the Scriptures. Among African-Americans, 71% are considered Bible engaged or Bible friendly vs. just 58% of all Americans. (American Bible Society 7/11/17)


Sex & Religion Among Americans, when sexual freedom and religious freedom conflict, 48% feel religious freedom is more important, 24% opt for sexual freedom while 28% are not sure. Americans with evangelical beliefs are more likely to say religious freedom always matters most (74%). So are those who attend religious services at least once a month (56%). Nones (22%) are more likely to say sexual freedom always matters most. So are those who attend services less than once a month (13%) and those from non-Christian faiths (15%). (LifeWay Research 7/25/17)


Spiritual Doubt Most Christians have at some point experienced a time of spiritual doubt. 65% of U.S. adults who self-identify as Christian (or have in the past) have questioned what they believe about religion or God. 26% say they still experience spiritual doubt, 40% say they have experienced it in the past but have worked through it. Only 35% claim to have never experienced it at all. Even 19% of practicing Christians still experience doubt, though perhaps because they are the most active in their faith practice and enjoy the support systems and resources of a church community, they are also one of the most likely groups to have worked through their doubt (42%). (Barna Research 7/25/17)


The Response to Spiritual Doubt Among U.S. adults who either currently or previously experienced spiritual doubt, 45% left their church or worship gatherings (36% among practicing Christians and 33% among regular churchgoers). 29% stopped reading the Bible, 29% stopped praying while 25% quit talking with friends or family about spirituality, God or religion. Only 18% of spiritual doubters turned to their pastor or spiritual leader for answers. 53% of those who spent time asking honest questions about what they believe about their religion or God made their faith stronger (95% among evangelicals). (Barna Research 7/25/17)


Customer Loyalty Customer acquisition is an investment, but profitability is built on customer retention. And with the economy in its current state, it’s more important than ever to keep the customers you have. So how do you retain your customers and earn their loyalty? Like any successful relationship, if you want customers to be loyal to you, you must be loyal to them. Let me evaluate your customer retention effectiveness and craft a cost-effective plan to improve it. or, 419-238-4082 (Performance Insider 6/12/09)


Sin and Salvation A ’16 LifeWay study about theology found many Americans think sin is commonplace. 65% agreed everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature. 57% said it would be fair for God to show His wrath against sin. However, few seemed to think most sins put them in spiritual danger. 74% disagreed with the idea that even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation. That includes 62% who strongly disagreed. Researchers said, “To some Americans, saying you’re a sinner is a way of admitting you are not perfect. To those folks, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re evil or should be punished for your sin.” (BP News 8/15/17)


Morally Wrong 48% of Americans see abortion as morally wrong, with only 20% saying it should be totally illegal. That means almost 30% have the combination of attitudes; viewing abortion as morally wrong but still believing it should remain legal (at least in some circumstances). (Gallup News 7/25/17)


What Christians Worry About Most Among self-identified white evangelicals, 75% worry about a personal health crisis, while only 66% worry about being the victim of a terrorist attack and only 38% worry about being the victim of a mass shooting. Compared with others, white evangelicals aren’t as worried about a health crisis as other major religious groups, including Catholics (90%), black Protestants (88%), white mainline Protestants (86%), and the religiously unaffiliated or “nones” (84%). White evangelicals are almost as worried about having their home broken into (72%). 67% of white evangelicals worry about being able to pay their bills and 66% about being the victim of a terrorist attack.  ( 7/25/17)


Traditional Family Dethroned According to recent Statistics Canada data, the traditional family in Canada has reached an all-time low. The most common type of household is now composed of a single person living alone. The average Canadian family household in 1871 was 5.6 people vs. 2.4 today. But one-person households accounted for 28.2% of all households in ’16, the highest share since 1867. Single-person households were also the most common type in Canada in ’16. This is the lowest level of households with children on record. Single-person households have dethroned the standard Dad, Mom, and children family as the most common Canadian household. Households composed of couples (including same-sex households) with children fell from 31.5% of all households in ’01 to 26.5% in ’16. The number of couples living without children rose faster (+7.2%) couples with children (+2.3%) from ’01 to ’16. As a result, the percentage of couples living with at least one child fell from 56.7% to 51.1% during the same period. (LifeSite News 8/2/17)


Significant Shift During the last century there has been a significant shift in where the majority of Christians are located, and in how those Christians live and worship. In 1900, 80% of the world’s Christians were in Northern Europe and North America. Now, 60% of Christians live in Africa, Asia and Latin America. (Insights into Religion 7/27/17)


The U.S. Birth Rate Fell Again in ’16, marking a new all-time low, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. The good news is that the decline is largely attributable to a continued drop in teen births, which also hit a historic low. The bad news, the U.S. could someday fall below the population replacement rate, leading to a contracting workforce and a stalled economy. The ’16 fertility rate was 62 births for every 1,000 U.S. women of reproductive age, a 1% drop from the previous year. There are still more babies arriving than people dying, and the birth rate among women in the 35-to 44-year-old age group is rising fast. In fact, for the first time ever, women in their 30s are having more kids than women in their 20s. The average age of first birth was 21 in 1970; it’s now 26.3. (Slate 6/30/17)


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