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

December 10, 2016 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



Why Some Churches Decline While Others Succeed Since the 1960s, overall membership in mainline Protestant Christian churches has been dropping in both the U.S. and Canada, but some congregations have continued to grow. A team of researchers believes it now knows why. It’s the conservative theological beliefs of their members and clergy, according to Wilfrid Laurier Univ. and Redeemer Univ. College in Ontario researchers. The results of the 5 -year research project will be published in the December issue of the Review of Religious Research. Most clergy and the congregants of the declining churches blamed changes in society for a drop in demand for religion. But, comparing the religious beliefs and practices of the declining and growing churches, more clergy and congregants of growing churches held firmly to “traditional” Christian beliefs and were more diligent in prayer and Bible reading. That includes a more literal interpretation of the Bible and greater openness to the idea that God intervenes in the world. 93% of growing-church pastors agreed with the statement “Jesus rose from the dead with a real, flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb,” vs. 56% of declining-church pastors. 71% of pastors at growing churches read their Bibles daily, vs. 19% of pastors at declining churches. (RNS 11/22/16)


Happiness = Life Without Facebook A new Danish study by Univ. of Copenhagen researcher Morten Tromholt, Quitting Facebook Leads to Higher Levels of Well-Being , involved 1,095 participants split into 2 groups, one who pledged not to use Facebook for a week and a control group that logged on as usual. Only 87% of the group who agreed to live without the social network made it the full week. Of those, 88% felt “happy as opposed to 81% of those that kept using it. The study also found: people on Facebook are 55% more likely to feel stressed, 40% envy the apparent success of others and 39% are more likely to feel less happy than their friends. Conversely, the group living without Facebook reported less difficulty with concentration, felt they had wasted less of their time and were 18% more likely to feel present in the moment. ( 11/23/16)


Hotel Room Bibles Disappearing Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel company, supplies a Bible and the Book of Mormon in the rooms of most of its hotels, but has recently decided no religious materials should be offered at 2 of its newest millennial-oriented hotel brands, Moxy and Edition hotels. “It’s because the religious books don’t fit the personality of the brands,” said a Marriott, explaining the new brands are geared toward fun-loving millennials. Marriott’s decision mirrors others quietly phasing out the long-held tradition of having religious material in rooms. A recent survey by STR, a hospitality analytics company, found the percentage of hotels with religious materials in rooms has dropped significantly over the last decade, from 95% of hotels in ’06 to 48% this year. Among the reasons for the change, according to industry experts, is a need to appeal to younger U.S. travelers who are less devout than their parents or grandparents and to avoid offending international travelers such as Muslims or Buddhists. (L.A. Times 12/4/16)


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U.S. Household Income 35% of U.S. adults have an annual household income of less than $30,000, 20% earn between $30,000 and $49,999, 26% between $50,000 and $99,999 and 19% $100,000 or more. (Pew Fact Tank 10/11/16)


The Ability of Young People to Evaluate Information on social media is poor, according to new Stanford Univ. research. The study of students found 80% were unable to differentiate between an advertisement (labeled as sponsored content) and a news story. Some even noticed it was “sponsored content” yet still believed the content to be a news article. Many assume because young people are tech savvy and fluent in social media they are equally perceptive about what they find there, but this study shows the opposite to be true. In the past people relied on editors, publishers and experts on various matters to vet the information consumed. Today, with so many groups using the Internet to further their own cause, it is imperative that young people today are taught critical thinking skills to enable them to sift through the fake or misleading information that proliferates the online world. (BizReport 11/23/16)


Religious Nones Beget Religious Nones Americans are most likely to identify in adulthood as religiously unaffiliated if they were raised exclusively by a parent or parents who were unaffiliated themselves. Indeed, among adults who say they were raised either by a single parent who had no religion or by 2 people who were both “nones,” 62% identify as “nones” today. (Pew Research Center 10/26/16)


Millennials’ Sense of Purpose is alarmingly low according to a new Gallup report. A sense of purpose fuels employee performance. People thrive when they wake up every morning with something to look forward to doing that day.Only slightly more than a third of millennial workers strongly agree the mission or purpose of their organization makes them feel their job is important. And just 40% feel strongly connected to their company's mission. Most workers with a high sense of their company’s purpose have leaders who motivate them and inspire enthusiasm for the future. With mission-driven workers, companies realize major performance gains, including increased employee loyalty and retention, greater customer engagement, improved strategic alignment and enhanced clarity about work priorities. 67% of millennials are engaged at work when they strongly agree that the mission or purpose of their company makes them feel their job is important. (Gallup Business Journal 11/13/16)


Americans’ Confused Theology According to a new survey from Lifeway Research the majority of Americans believe in heaven, that trusting in Jesus is how you receive the gift of salvation, and that it would be fair for God to show his wrath against sin. LifeWay’s Scott McConnell said, “Basic Christian theology is easy to find on a church’s beliefs webpage, yet most Americans don’t understand how the pieces are related.” 61% agree Jesus is both fully God and fully man, but 52% say He is the first and greatest being created by God. 58% say the Bible was written by God but 51% say it was written for each person to interpret as he or she chooses. 57% say God would be fair to show his wrath against sin, but 74% say even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation. In other words, it’s complicated. If you’re a pastor it’s also more than a bit frustrating, as people in the survey who claimed to be evangelical Christians were often as confused as everyone else.  ( 10/7/16)


What Do Those Numbers Really Mean? Marketing numbers can be looked two ways: quantitatively and qualitatively. Quantitative numbers tell a story based on volume, while qualitative numbers tell one based on impact and effect (beyond sheer volume). These two vantage points together tell the whole story and can influence what steps you take in marketing. I can help you objectively understand and evaluate your numbers. Contact, or 419-238-4082. (Online Spin 2/10/10)


Women Bring Distinctive Viewpoints, ideas and insights to the workplace, and diverse perspectives lead to superior performance at the business-unit level, according to recent Gallup research. Women bring another valuable advantage to their employers; higher levels of employee engagement. Engaged employees are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work. They contribute positively to their organization. Gallup has found concrete links between employee engagement and crucial performance measures, including absenteeism, turnover rates, productivity and profit. In the U.S.: 32% of all employees are engaged, 35% of female employees are engaged, 29% of male employees are engaged, 41% of female managers are engaged, and 35% of male managers are engaged. While female employees have higher levels of engagement than males, the large majority of all workers are not engaged at work. (Gallup 11/16/16)


Print On Demand Bibles Print On Demand (POD) is keeping Bible translation “off the radar” in high-risk areas. “It reduces hurdles to getting Scripture into a community at a low cost and in a short period of time,” explains Wycliffe Associates’, Bruce Smith. In spite of the danger, translators are asking for multiple POD units so they can print and distribute both small and massive quantities of Bibles immediately. POD is a publishing method that allows written material, such as books, to be printed as needed. Traditional publishing techniques are far more expensive; and, while they produce larger quantities, it takes a lot longer. Some minority language groups are so small that printing Bibles on a regular printing press would be exorbitantly expensive. (Mission Network News 11/23/16)


Does God Accept Worship of All Religions? 64% of Americans said God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam, according to a recent LifeWay Research survey. Even 48% of evangelicals agreed God accepts all kinds of worship. ( 11/18/16)


Sin and Extramarital Sex 49% of Americans agree sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin, while 44% say it isn’t, finds a new LifeWay Research study. Women (53%) are more likely than men (45%) to call extramarital sex sinful, while people with bachelor’s degrees (44%) and graduate degrees (40%) were less likely than those with high school diplomas or less (56%) to do so. 91% of evangelicals agreed that sex outside of marriage is a sin, compared to only 40% of non-evangelicals. ( 11/18/16)


There Are a Lot of Us Of the approximately two billion people who attend churches, half of them attend churches of 250 or fewer. Yes, one billion believers voluntarily attend small churches! (Sermon Central, Karl Vaters 11/13/16)


Internet Addiction The handbook of “Internet Addiction” by Dr. Kimberly Young states 18% of college-age internet users in the US suffer from tech addiction. (New York Post 8/27/16)


Large Churches & Large Donors Leadership Network’s recent study of U.S. churches with worship attendance of 2,000 or more finds 99% of the church’s general fund comes from giving units who give $200 or more year to year to the general fund. 6% of the church’s giving units give $10,000 or more to the general fund. 41% of general fund giving comes from giving units who give $10,000 or more annually to the general fund. Among those who give $10,000 or more annually to the general fund, the average annual amount given per household is $18,842. (Leadership Network 11/17/16)


Leverage Your Current Assets Transformation is different than starting anew, so use your assets, such as current products, services, customer relationships, and a terrific team. You can start ahead of the competition. I’m here to help. Contact 419-238-4082, or (USA Today 2/26/10)


Drowsy Driving Dangerous as Drunk Driving Drivers who skimp on just a couple of hours of sleep nearly double the risk of a crash, making drowsy driving about as dangerous as drunk driving, according to daily, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. A review of thousands of crashes resulting in injuries found drivers were 1.3 times more likely to be involved in accidents if they missed 1 hour of sleep and 1.9 times more likely if they missed 2 of the 7 hours recommended. A third of U.S. drivers get less than 7 hours of sleep each night. Symptoms of drowsy driving include motorists having trouble keeping their eyes open, drifting across lanes of traffic or forgetting recent miles driven. (USA Today 12/6/16)


Christian Ministry Giving Annual cash contributions to Christian ministries increased 2.2% last year. The 7th annual State of Giving Report by ECFA represents data from 1,816 accredited members. Total giving was $12.5 billion last year, up from $12.2 billion in ’14. Non-cash giving was up 7.5% to $3.5 billion. The overall 2.2% increase from ’14 to ’15 corresponds with the 2.7% rise earlier reported by Giving USA. ECFA also reported giving to members that offer donor-advised funds increased by 25%. The largest increases were among: Short-term missions, 25.2% vs. 2.3% in ’14; Camps & conferences, 21.2% vs. a 7% drop; Drug and alcohol, 13.1% vs. 5.4%; Orphan care, 12.4% vs. 1.8%; Community development, 11.7% vs. 9.3%; and Prison, 11.7% vs. a 4.4%. By comparison, the largest increases in ’14 were 14% by K-12 education; 13.6%, medical; 12.5%, leadership training; 11.2%, adoption;  and  9.3%, community development. In a reversal from ’14, smaller ministries reported higher growth in giving than larger ones. Those ranging from $1 million to $5 million reported 6.5% growth vs. just 0.7% for those of more than $50 million. Ministries of $25 million to $50 million saw 4.6% growth; $10 million to $25 million, 4.1%, and $5 million to $10 million, 3.5%. (NonProfit Times 12/5/16)

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