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, 2016 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



What If America Were Just 100 People? As of ’14, there were roughly 245 million adults in the U.S., including 173 million Christians and 56 million people without a religious affiliation. These are big numbers that, but what if the U.S. was a small town, population 100, instead of a continent with hundreds of millions of people? Doing so gives us a fresh perspective. In the small town there would be 25 Evangelical Protestants, 15 Mainline Protestants, 6 Historically Black Protestants, 21 Catholics, 2 Mormons, 2 Other Christians, 2 Jews, 1 Muslim, 1 Hindu, 1 Buddhist, 2 Other faiths and 23 unaffiliated. (Numbers may not add to 100 due to rounding.) Men and women would be about evenly distributed except for the unaffiliated with 13 men and 10 women. Of the Christians, 47 are white Christians, 11 are Black Christians, 13 are Hispanic believers and 4 are Christians of other races. 30 of those live in the South, 13 in the Northeast, 17 in the Midwest and 15 in the West. (Pew Fact Tank 11/14/

Theologically Conservative Pastors An American Culture & Faith Institute survey of theologically conservative pastors provides some insight into the thinking of these pastors, finds 99% are willing to take unpopular stands, as long as those stands coincide with their spiritual beliefs. 97% are politically conservative on social issues. 91% are also conservative on matters of government regulation and 88% on fiscal policies. Only 28% describe themselves as being “spiritual but not religious.” 99% affirm they support traditional moral values. While most of them realize that politics and government have substantial influence on American life, they do not want to allow that arena to undermine the image and the role of Christianity and the local church in the U.S. Only 44% feel excited about the future of the nation, while 57% feel angry about the current state of the country. When asked to choose the two most important critical challenges facing America today, the top choices were abortion (34%), the forthcoming Supreme Court nominations (21%), America’s moral decline (20%), marriage and family (14%), and religious freedom in the U.S. (13%). (American Culture and Faith Institute 11/30/16)


IRS Mileage Rate Reduced The IRS has issued the 2017 optional standard mileage rates have decreased a half cent. Beginning on 1/1/17, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car will be: 53.5¢ per mile for business miles, down from 54¢ for ‛16. 17¢ per mile for medical or moving purposes, down from 19¢ for ‛16.  14¢ per mile in service of charitable organizations, unchanged from ‛16. (ECFA 12/15/16)


No Recovery Conventional wisdom (as reported in many major newspapers and media) tells us the U.S. economy is “recovering.” Well-meaning economists, academics and government officials use the term “recovery” when discussing the economy, implying that growth is getting stronger. A new Gallup study just released finds there is no recovery. Since ’07, U.S. GDP per capita growth has been 1%. The Great Recession may be over, but America is dangerously running on empty. ( 12/7/16)


Say It Straight In ‘04 the Grammy’s scored a respectable 26.3 million viewers. In ‘05 they fell to just 18.8 million, so “06’s 17 million should have come as no surprise. If you need advice about marketing in the new millennium, here’s all you really need to know: Say it straight…say it real! I can help you decide how to do this best. Contact 419-238-4082, or (Monday Morning Memo 2/20/06)


More Nondenominationals Using a baseline average from 1972–1976, over the last 4 decades, there has been more than a 400% growth in Protestants who identify as nondenominational. The Exchange (6/12/15)


The E-word LifeWay Research recently studied pastors and lay leaders regarding the term Evangelical. Though 70 % of church leaders were comfortable or strongly comfortable describing themselves as “evangelical” to other Christians, only 52% felt as comfortable using the term with non-Christians. While 38% of male church leaders feel at ease identifying as evangelical to other Christians, only 26% of female leaders feel the same way. Only 9% of small-church leaders (100 or fewer) feel strongly uncomfortable using the term with non-Christians vs. 22% of large-church leaders (1,000 or more). 28% of small-church leaders feel strongly comfortable using the term outside their Christian communities (only 13% of large-church leaders feel the same). And a higher percentage of large-church leaders report feeling less comfortable with the term since the election (26% to 19%). (CT Pastors 12/6/16)


Bivocational Pastors in ’12, 34% of U.S. senior pastoral leaders were Bivocational according to the National Congregations Study. 57% of bivocational pastors are African-American pastors, 39% are white evangelical pastors and 15% are mainline Protestant pastors. (Facts & Trends, Fall 2016)


Book of the Year Christianity has named The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ by Fleming Rutledge (Eerdmans) as its 2017 Book of the Year. Receiving Award of Merit was You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith (Brazos). (CT Online 12/15/16)


How Important Is Sin? 65% of Americans in a recent LifeWay Research study said most people are good by nature, even though everyone sins a little. 74% of Americans disagreed that the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation and 62% strongly disagreed! While most Americans said sin does not deserve eternal damnation, 57% agreed it would be fair for God to show His wrath against sin. ( 11/18/16)


Physician-Assisted Suicide The American Medical Assoc. has described physician-assisted suicide as a serious risk to society and “fundamentally incompatible with a physician’s role as healer.” Tragically however, 67% of Americans say it is morally acceptable for terminally ill patients to ask their doctors for help in ending their lives, finds a new LifeWay Research study. A similar number says doctors should be able to help terminally ill patients die. Even among Evangelicals, 33% physician-assisted suicide is acceptable while 67% disagree. 6 states allow physician-assisted suicide.  The latest is Colorado, joining Oregon, Washington, California, Vermont, and Montana. Among faith groups, more than half of all Christians (59%), Catholics (70%), Protestants (53%), Nones (84%) and those of other religions (70%) agree. Most of those who attend religious services less than once a month (76 %) also agree. (CT Gleanings 12/6/16)


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Women in All Faith Groups have made bigger gains than men in educational attainment. As a result, educational gender gaps have narrowed somewhat among younger generational groups. Among those in the oldest generation (55 to 74 in ‛10) in all religious groups, men received more years of schooling, on average, than women. But in the youngest generation (25 to 34 in ‛10) of Christian, Buddhist and unaffiliated people, women have achieved parity with their male counterparts in terms of average years of schooling. When it comes to higher education, Christian, Jewish and religiously unaffiliated women in the youngest generation are more likely than their male counterparts to have college degrees. (Pew Fact Tank 12/13/16)


Unemployment And Well-Being The Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index found that among 47 high-income countries (as defined by the World Bank), the physical well-being of unemployed youth 15 to 29 is statistically tied with that of employed adults aged 50 and older; 26% vs. 24% thriving, respectively. In the U.S., unemployed youth have worse physical well-being than do employed older adults -- 23% vs. 31% thriving. (Researchers define “thriving”; physical well-being as consistently having good health and enough energy to get things done each day.) The same phenomenon is not observed in many lower-income to upper-middle-income economies, where unemployed youth, on average, enjoy higher physical well-being compared with employed older adults. This means these findings are unique to unemployed young people in many highly developed economies. Not having a job has a stigma. Unemployed youth with college degrees have the lowest physical well-being (14%), followed by those with secondary education (27%) and primary education (28% thriving). ( 12/7/16)


Are Men And Women Really Different? In Gallup’s Women in America: Work and Life Well-Lived report, individuals who use their strengths every day are 3x more likely to say they have an excellent quality of life. Workers who receive strengths feedback have higher levels of employee engagement and performance, and are less likely than other employees to leave their organizations. Of 34 possible CliftonStrengths themes, women lead with Responsibility, Input, Learner, Relator and Empathy. Generally, women take psychological ownership for what they do and commit to completing projects and tasks (Responsibility). They have a strong desire to expand their knowledge (Learner) and seek out new information (Input). They also enjoy close relationships (Relator) and naturally understand other people’s feelings and perspectives (Empathy). There is little variation in the data between working and nonworking women. Like women, men collectively lead with Learner, Responsibility, Relator and Input. But for women, Empathy rounds out the top 5, and for men it’s Achiever ( a strong drive to accomplish something every day). ( 12/7/16)


The Least Bible-Minded Cities in a ‛16 American Bible Society survey were Albany/Schenectady/Troy with only 10% of residents qualifying as Bible-minded. Boston (11%), moved from third to second place while Providence (12%), the least Bible-minded city in ‛15, dropped 2 spots to third place. The only Midwest city to make the top 5 in ‘least Bible-minded’ list was Cedar Rapids (13%), followed by Buffalo (13%). Other cities in the bottom 10 include Las Vegas (14%), San Francisco (15%), Hartford/New Haven (16%), Phoenix/Prescott (16%), and Salt Lake City (17%).

(The Guardian 12/7/16)


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More Conceal Carry Permits As of the beginning of ‛16, there were over 14.5 million concealed carry permits in the US, a 215% increase since ‛07. Today the total is near 15 million, not including the people who can legally carry in the 12 states not requiring a permit. The number of women with permits has increased twice as quickly as men. More than 6% of U.S. adults have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Yet, contrary to the apprehension and alarm expressed by gun-control groups, this expansion in gun ownership, permit-holders and permitless carry laws doesn’t correlate with an increase in violent crime. Permit holders tend to be substantially more law-abiding than the general population. Overall, gun crime victimization is lower than it was 20 years ago. 58% of Americans believe gun ownership does more to protect people from becoming victims of crime than it puts people’s safety at risk. (NRA 12/10/16)


Modern Woman and Church Because of competing priorities, busyness, changing family structures, and a lack of emotional engagement or support, many women are leaving church. Historically, men have been less likely to regularly attend church than women. Just over a decade ago, the gender gap was 300 men for every 200 women; 60% of unchurched people were men vs. only 52% today. (Barna Trends 12/15/16)


Religious Minorities often have more education, on average, than a country’s majority religious group, particularly when the minority group is largely foreign born and comes from a distant countryFor instance, Hindus have one of the lowest educational attainment levels at the global level, but in the U.S., where they are a religious minority and 87% are foreign born, they have the highest educational attainment of any religious group. U.S. Hindus have 15.7 years of schooling, compared with 12.7 years of schooling, on average, among Christians.  (Pew Fact Tank 12/13/16)


Bearded Men Science says they make better partners. A study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology determined men with beards are more likely to be considered long-term relationship material compared to those without. Apparently, men with beards straddle the line of masculinity and femininity, and the beard essentially alters the face shape of a man. And women apparently think this is more attractive because they don’t like their men too masculine or feminine. Also facial hair indicates testosterone which indicates maturity. Of 8,520 women asked, 100% of them showed a preference for facial hair when asked to rate men. ( 12/12/16)


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