The Foster Letter ó

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

 December 10, 2017 edition of

The FOSTER LetteróReligious Market Update



Who Most Influences Salvation Decisions? According to a American Culture & Faith Institute study, parents are the most likely dominant influence, named by 29% of every 10 born again Christian polled. Other family members played a significant role for 16%. Another 5% said a friend had the greatest influence on their decision. That means 50% of all decisions were driven by someone with a close personal relationship with the individual. Church events accounted for 20% of the conversions, including 13% in a worship service, and 8% through a Sunday school class or youth group. Clergy were listed by 8% of the born again adults. 9% claimed personal circumstances (often crises) were mostly responsible for their salvation decision. Other non-family or church influences were Christian concerts, evangelistic crusades (4%), personal prayers (3%), and media-driven experiences (1%). (American Culture & Faith Institute 11/29/17)


Military Members Believe scripture could make a big difference. 46% of service men and women who are Bible Friendly or Bible Neutral say the Bible has too little influence in American society today, compared to 22% who say it has too much influence. 33% say the Bible has an appropriate amount of influence in U.S. culture. ( 11/7/17)


Friendsgiving Though neighborly interactions tend to be casual overall, 23% of U.S. adults spend birthdays or holidays with their neighbors. Other celebrations include eating dinner together or gathering for neighborhood events (22%). Millennials are the generation most likely to say some of their neighbors are like family (12% vs. 3% and 5% among Boomers and Elders, respectively). 30% of Millennials include those who live nearby in their holidays or at their dinner tables (30%). (Barna Group 11/22/17)


Attacks on Religious Freedom in the U.S. have more than doubled in the last 6 years, claims a First Liberty Institute report. Last year saw more than 1,400 acts of hostility against religious expression, up from 600 documented in í11. Attacks are occurring in a variety of arenas, chief among them are public places, schools, churches and the military. (UNDENIABLE, The survey of hostility to religion in America, First Liberty Institute 2017)


College Debt Advice Average Class of í16 college graduates have $37,172 in student loans, which is up 6% over í15. Monthly student loan payments average $351 per month. Mark Kantrowitz, a student financial aid expert, recommends a student should not graduate with more debt than the salary they will earn their first year of work. (CTís Christian College Guide, The State of Higher Education, 2017-2018)


Avocado Leadership Avocados are extremely easy to bruise. So, farmers used to try to carefully arrange them in the box after picking. However, they still experienced costly bruising. Over time, they noticed if avocados were simply set in the box, they would settle themselves in just the right formation as the farmer simply left them alone and walked on. Itís the same with leadership. ďThereís a time to plan and to act strategically. Thereís also a time to just let things settle in as we walk on. Sometimes we bruise things in our efforts to fit things in rather than letting them fit.Ē Let me help you discern when to ďwalk onĒ in your organization. E-mail or visit (Church Executive 7/18/13)


Church Attendance Frequency Impacts Generosity The more frequently a household attends worship services, the more likely its members donate to religious institutions and give generously, finds a new Giving USA study. Those attending religious services once a month or more make an average annual religious contribution of $1,848, while those attending religious services less than once a month donate $111. Households that attend religious services every week or more are 28 times more likely to give to religious causes than those that never attend. (RNS 10/26/17)


Americaís Invisible Crises From 1948-2015 the portion of prime-age men in the workforce dropped from 85.8% to 68.2%, a lower rate than in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. Today there are 10 million men ages 25-54 who are either unemployed or have stopped looking for work altogether. (Men Without Work by Nicholas Eberstadt, Templeton Press 2016)


Few Christians Share The Gospel With Non-Believers New research by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) shows surprisingly few adults (including born again Christians) feel a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with non-believers. The survey also revealed that while most of the nationís evangelistic efforts by adults are made toward other adults, most decisions to follow Christ are made by children. (American Culture & Faith Institute 11/29/17)


Technologically Invisible As more churches turn to the internet and smartphone apps to get the word out about church events and programs, many Americans arenít getting the message. Among those with household incomes below $30,000 a year, 33% donít have smartphones. Half donít have a computer or home broadband access. 20% have access to the internet via a smartphone only. By contrast 81% of Americans with household incomes between $30,000 and $99,000 have smartphones, computers (87%), and home broadband (80%). (Facts & Trends Fall í17)


Types of Givers generally fall into 4 categories that differ widely in how they choose to donate. Planned givers (16% of Americans) have a regular, established routine for giving and spend time consciously deciding on their donations, allowing their giving amounts or the targets of their giving to adjust and change. Habitual givers (6%) put some thought into developing their system, and then tend to stick to it (e.g. the religious tithe). Selective givers (17%) make conscious decisions about where and how much to give, but they do so with a spontaneous, non-routine approach. Impulsive givers (40%) have no sustained, regular, or conscious involvement with giving, but respond when presented with an immediate situation. Some 60% of people who live below the poverty line give something vs. 32% of those above that line. (American Generosity: Who Gives and Why by Patricia Snell Herzog and Heather E. Price, Oxford Univ. Press, 2016)


Mumbo vs. Jumbo Jumbo was the famous elephant PT Barnum exhibited. His name came to stand for the big story, for the audacious claim, for making a big noise. You probably need more Jumbo in the story youíre trying to tell.

Mumbo, on the other hand, is deliberately complicating the facts. Itís manipulation, the creation of placebos that donít scale or the extension of power without the facts to back you up. I can help you remove the mumbo from your message. or visit (Seth Godin, Sethís Blog 8/3/13)


Fewer Christians For the 15 year period from í91 through í05, an average of 40% of the U.S. adult population qualified as born again. That average rose slightly, to 44%, during the 5 years from í06 to í10. Since that time, however, the mean has plummeted to just 36%, with í17 producing the lowest proportion of born again adults since Barna began the tracking process in í91. The í17 average indicates that just 31% of adults are born again. Americaís 2 older generations are more likely to be born again than are younger ones: 33% of those 65 or older and 37% of people 50 to 64 are born again. In comparison, 31% of those in their 30s and 40s are born again while only 23% of adults under 30 fit the criteria. (American Culture & Faith Institute 11/29/17)


What Counts As Sexual Harassment? While there is a legal definition for the workplace, a recent national Barna survey of U.S. adults asked them to identify specific acts they consider to be harassment. The answer differs based on gender, but most often about being touched or groped (women: 96%, men: 86%) or being forced to do something sexual (women: 91%, men: 83%). However, responses included someone touching themselves intentionally or masturbating (women: 89%, men: 76%), making sexual comments about someoneís looks or body (women: 86%, men: 70%) and sharing intimate photos or videos of someone without their permission (women: 85%, men: 71%). Sadly, 29% of American adults report they have been sexually harassed. Women in this group report experiencing it more than men (42% vs 16%). Younger generations report it at a higher rate: Millennials (31%), Gen X (35%), Bookers (26%) and Elders (16%). A further 15% say they have witnessed it, and 23% say someone they know well was sexually harassed. Yet, 52% say they have not encountered it in any of these ways. 5% preferred not to answer. (Barna Group 11/28/17)


Wide Opinion Gap While 54% of all Americans say gender is determined by the sex assigned at birth, 80% of Republicans agree vs. just 34% of Democrats, finds Pew Research. 37% of Americans report they know someone who is transgender, including 13% who have a close friend or relative who identifies as such. (Baptist Press 11/9/17)


Comfort is Not the Goal One of the reasons ministries get stuck is being unwilling to change. They donít want to rock the boat. Leaders are afraid. People may leave. Donors may stop giving. Over time the status quo becomes the driving value. When any organization stops changing, people get comfortable. Itís impossible to get comfortable and be sold out to Jesus at the same time. Comfort is not the goal. To be a ministry that embraces change, you have to begin to make some changes. It begins with establishing a clear vision, values and strategy. I can help you through this vital process. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or ( 8/3/13)


Younger Evangelicals Care Less About Israel than older ones, finds to a new LifeWay Research survey. 77% of evangelicals 65 and older say they support the existence, security and prosperity of Israel vs. just 58% of evangelicals (18-34). 41% of younger evangelicals have no strong views about Israel while 58% have an overall positive perception of Israel as do 76% of older evangelicals. 67% of U.S. evangelicals overall have a positive view of that nation, 9% a negative view with 24% not sure. 24% support the existence, security and prosperity of Israel, no matter what it does. 42% support Israel, but not everything it does. 1% doesnít support Israel. 62% have no strong views about Israel. 14% agree Israelís 1948 rebirth was an injustice to Arabs in the Middle East, 50% disagree and 36% arenít sure. 22% say modern Israel has been unfair to Palestinians, 40% disagree and 37% arenít sure. 19% of younger evangelicals are more likely to see the rebirth of Israel as an injustice, 34% disagree and 47% arenít sure. Among older evangelicals, 9 percent see the rebirth of Israel as an injustice, while 62% disagree while 28% arenít certain. Older evangelicals (49%) are more likely to disagree that Israel has been unfair to Palestinians vs. 32% of young ones. ( 12/4/17)


Orthodoxy or Eastern Christianity is the 3rd largest branch of Christianity, after Catholicism and Protestantism. There are approximately 260 million Orthodox Christians in the world today, according to a new Pew Research Center report. (Pew Fact Tank 11/8/17)


Where Born Agains Live The U.S. regions where people are most likely to be born again remain the South (37%) and Midwest (33%). Born again adults are much less common in the West (24%) and Northeast (23%). (American Culture & Faith Institute 11/29/17)


Are Social Media & Suicide Linked? A growing body of evidence suggests a link between teen suicide and social media use. From í07 to í15, suicide rates doubled among teen girls, reaching a 40-year high. Among teen boys they rose by more than 30%, finds a CDC analysis. At the same time social media usage has spiked. The Pew Research Center found 90% of people 18 to 29 use social media vs. 12% just 10 years earlier.  If placed on a graph, the line identifying teen suicide and one representing social media use would be side-by-side and rising. According to a study published in the 11/17 issue of Clinical Psychological Science, teens spending 5 hours a day on social media were 70% more likely to have suicidal thoughts or actions than those who reported 1 hour of daily use. As a result, more and more youth workers are encouraging digital fasting. These sobering statistics might reveal such fasting could save lives. ( 11/17/17)


Music And Your Brain A í08 study by Bostonís Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found children with 3 or more years of musical instrument training performed better than those who didnít learn in auditory discrimination and fine motor skills. They also tested better on vocabulary and  non-verbal reasoning, which involves understanding visual information. (Facts & Trends, Fall 2017)


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