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 25, 2017 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



10,000 More Churches Needed The increase in U.S. churches is only 25% of what’s needed to keep up with population growth. Between ’00 and ’04, the net gain (new churches minus closed churches) in the number of evangelical churches was 5,452, but mainline and Catholic churches closed more than they started for a net loss of 2,200, leaving an overall net gain of 3,252 Orthodox Christian churches. In this decade, approximately 3,000 churches closed every year; while more churches were started, only 3,800 survived. In the 21st century, the net gain in churches is only 800 a year. From ’00 to ’04, a net gain of 13,024 churches was necessary to keep up with the U.S. population growth. So, rather than growing with the population, the church incurred a deficit of almost 10,000 churches. (Church Leaders 12/14/17)


More Missionaries When 1,200 youth gathered for the first Chinese “Urbana-style” missions conference this fall, 300 pledged to become full-time missionaries. “This is one of those historic moments,” said David Ro, director of the Wilson Center for World Missions at Gordon-Conwell Seminary. “There are lots of challenges ahead, on the mission field and in China. And yet God is doing something—while they are being attacked, they are still moving forward.” Held in Thailand, the conference was part of Mission China, a movement of unregistered churches to send out 20,000 missionaries by 2030. ( 11/27/17)


Tough Marketing Problem Count on me for a cost effective solution. Contact 419-238-4082, or or (CFO 3/07)


Europe’s Growing Muslim Population The Muslim population in Europe (the 28 countries presently in the European Union, plus Norway and Switzerland) as of mid-’16, estimated at 25.8 million (4.9% of the overall popula-tion), up from 19.5 million (3.8%) in ’10. Even if all migration into Europe were to immediately and permanently stop (zero migration) the Muslim population of Europe still would be expected to rise from its current 4.9% to 7.4% by 2050. This is because Muslims are younger (by 13 years) and have higher fertility than other Europeans. (Pew Research 11/29/17)


Weight up, Concern Down Americans have become slightly heavier in recent years, but they seem to have grown more comfortable with it. Between ’03-’07 and ’13-’17, Americans’ self-reported weight edged up along with the number of pounds they offer as their “ideal” weight, yet the percentage who consider themselves overweight has declined. Although heavier today, they are less likely to see themselves as overweight vs. ’03-’07, which aligns with the finding they are also less likely to want or try to lose weight. The percentage of Americans saying they are overweight dropped from 41% in ’03-’07 to 38% for ’13-’17. Currently, 35% of men and 40% of women say they are overweight. 59% of men and 53% of women now see their weight as “about right,” while 6% of both sexes think they are underweight. Last month, the CDC reported nearly 40% of U.S. adults are “obese.”(Gallup News 11/28/17)


Overall Well-Being among U.S. adults has declined substantially this year. The Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index score so far in ’17 is 61.5, down 0.6 points from 62.1 in ’16 and on par with the lower level recorded in ’14. This decline is both statistically significant and meaningfully large. The index is calculated on a scale of 0 to 100: 0 is the lowest possible well-being and 100 the highest. It consists of metrics drawn from each of the 5 essential elements of well-being: Purpose: liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals. Social: having supportive relationships and love in your life. Financial: managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security. Community: liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in community. Physical: having good health and enough energy to get things done daily. The overall decline in well-being in ’17 is driven by dips in emotional health, social well-being and purpose well-being. In terms of emotional health, more adults report experiencing significant worry on any given day, as is the number who report having little interest or pleasure in doing things at least some of the time. Social well-being shows similar declines. Fewer people agree their friends and family provide them with positive energy every day and that someone always encourages them to be healthy. Purpose well-being indicators have also receded. Fewer agree there is a leader in their life who makes them enthusiastic about the future and what they do each day. (Gallup News 11/28/17)


Millennials Push Away From Established Churches Not all Millennials are averse to serving in leadership roles in established churches, but many are. And churches are approaching a tipping point where many are unable to attract Millennial members or leaders. Thom Rainer offers these 5 factors that push Millennials away from established churches: 1) Millennials perceive established churches to have values entrenched in non-missional traditions. 2) They perceive much time in established churches is wasted catering to members’ personal preferences. 3) Many established churches are denominationally loyal; but many Millennials see denominations as antiquated organizations. 4) They don’t see established churches as community-centric. 5) Millennials see church planting as a far superior alternative. While Christians comprise only about 15% of this 80 million strong generation, they are still an influential force in our churches and many of their concerns are valid. (Church Leaders 11/28/17)


Savvy Marketers realize that it is because many marketers cut ad spending during a recession, but a recession is the best and least expensive time to gain market share through advertising. Publishers are more open to negotiating deals. Plus, there is less competition as others reduce or eliminate ad budgets. This is the time to brand yourself as the leader in your category. Procter & Gamble, General Motors, Verizon, News Corp, Wal-Mart and PepsiCo have all increased their ad spending. Call on me for “grow in the tough times” strategy plan.  419-238-4082, or (Marketing Daily 8/27/08)


Finding Comfort in Scripture Service men and women who read the Bible infrequently or not at all say they might read the Bible for many reasons, but the most common is for comfort (37%), and understandably so, given the peace or security its pages may bring to those taking great risks for their fellow Americans. It also comes as no surprise that turning to the scriptures during a deployment is next on the list (30%). 17% say they might look to the Bible when separated from family, a reality when deployed. Others mention turning to scripture if they have a problem they need to solve or desire direction (30%) or simply to be closer to God (28%). Few say they would approach scripture out of a sense of obligation (14%).  ( 11/7/17)


Women Who Don’t Go To College have a greater risk of some sort of forced sex than those who went to college for 4 or more years, finds a new Univ. of Michigan study. The study also found 1 in 4 women have had some sort of forced intercourse by the time they are 44. Women with little or no college are at about 2.5 times greater risk for experiencing forced sex. The increased risk also holds for men, although the rate is lower. The study found 8% of men report forced sex, and men with less than 4 years of college have 4 times higher odds of experiencing it. (USA Today 11/22/17)


Chick-fil-A Favored Christians have the most positive view of the Chick-fil-A brand, according to Morning Consult’s 2017 Community Impact Ratings. 62% of evangelicals considered Chick-fil-A to have a positive impact on their community vs. 48% of all Americans. The Christian-owned company outperformed fellow fast food restaurants in the poll, particularly in the South and among millennials. More than half of adults 18–34 and 35–44 rated it as having a positive impact. Those polled believe the chain has higher-quality food, better customer service and happier employees than similar fast-food restaurants. The chain takes in more revenue per restaurant (an average of $4.4 million a year in ’16) than any other fast-food restaurant in the US, according to industry reports. ( 11/22/17)


Evangelical Marriages Safer Men and women who attend church together are almost 10 percentage points more likely to report that they are “happy” or “very happy” in their relationships, compared to their peers who attend separately or simply don’t attend religious services at all. On average, U.S. evangelicals who attend church regularly enjoy higher quality marriages compared to their less religious or secular peers. Compared with a woman who never attends religious services, a woman who shares similar demographic characteristics but attends several times a week is roughly 40% less likely to be a victim of domestic violence. Also, “men who attend religious services several times a week are 72% less likely to abuse their female partners than men from comparable backgrounds who do not attend services.” (Religion, Sex, Love and Marriage among African Americans and Latinos, W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas H. Wolfinger, Oxford Univ. Press, 2016)


How To Grow little companies and ministries into big ones. 1. Focus What are we trying to make happen? How will we measure success? See it clearly. Say it plainly. 2. Evaluate What is the competitive environment? Do we understand the felt needs of our prospective customer? What is holding us back? Name the limiting factors. 3. Prioritize When two of our goals come into conflict, which one bows the knee? Prioritize our objectives. 4. Strategize What would be the shortest route to our primary goal? What levers might we use to dislodge impediments? How might we nullify other limiting factors? Are we willing to modify the business model? This is the moment when the future is won or lost. 5. Implement Are we willing to pull the trigger? Quit talking and DO something. Nothing changes until action is taken. For more, contact me at 419-238-4082, or (Monday Morning Memo 9/3/07)


The Bible Plays A Big Role 76% of U.S. evangelicals LifeWay Research polled say Christians should support the right of the Jewish people to live in the sovereign State of Israel, 5% disagree and 20% aren’t sure. 69% say the Jewish people have a historic right to the land of Israel, 6% disagree and 25% aren’t sure. Only 19% say Palestinians have a historic right to Israel, 46% disagree and 34% aren’t sure. 41% say Jewish people have a “biblical right” to Israel but have to share it, 28% disagree and 31% aren’t sure.

African-Americans with evangelical beliefs are least likely (54%) to say Jewish people have a “biblical right” to the land of Israel or have a positive view of Israel (50%). 45% of evangelicals overall say the Bible has had the biggest influence on their views of Israel. 63% say they support Israel primarily because “God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people.” 22% aren’t sure if biblical promises about the land of Israel are still in force. 80% say God promised the land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants for all time. 80% say the rebirth of Israel in 1948 was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. ( 12/4/17)


British Christians New YouGov research reveals only 6 of the original 10 Commandments are still seen by most British people as important principles to live by. Unsurprisingly the Commandment most Brits think is still important to live by is thou shalt not kill, at 93%, along with thou shalt not steal. Both are also seen as still important by 94% of Christians and 93% of those with no religion. Not bearing false witness about others is 3rd with 87% of all Brits, 90% of Christians, and 86% of those with no religion saying it is still important. To 73% of all Brits not committing adultery is still a top life principle, including 69% of non-religious Brits and 76% of Christians. Honoring thy father and thy mother is still an important rule to follow for 69% of all Brits, including 78% of Christians and 60% of the non-religious. 61% of Brits say Thou shall not covet is still a good rule to live by, including 72% of Christians and 52% of those with no religion. Just 31% of Brits say people should not worship idols vs. 43% of Christians and 20% of non-religious Brits. Only 23% overall say it’s wrong to take the Lord’s name in vain including 38% of Christians and 7% of the non-religious. A mere 20% of Brits still believe 1st commandment, I am the Lord thy God, You shall have no other God before me, is still relevant including 36% of Christians and 5% of the non-religious. Keeping the Sabbath Day holy is seen as the least relevant with 19% of Brits saying it is still important, including 31% of Christians (31%) and 7% of the non-religious. ( 10/25/17)


Givers Learn As Kids Most people who participate in giving as kids, especially as volunteers, continue that habit as adults. It becomes part of their mental makeup in a powerful way. And while moms tend to lead the way with giving for their families, it’s even more effective when both parents give, or when kids see other mentor figures giving. One of the few relatively trustworthy predictors of not giving is not seeing it happen in one’s family when young. ( 11/30/17)


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