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

 February 10, 2018 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



Post Truth America Just 36% of Americans strongly believe churches “have their best interest at heart,” and 25% do not put stock in pastors’ insights on the issues of the day. Meanwhile, truth is increasingly regarded as something felt, or relative (44%), rather than something known or absolute (35%). For example, 56% of Americans and 64% of Millennials don’t feel any one religious text has a monopoly on truth, but that they are all different expressions of the same spiritual message. Other outside-the-church spiritual initiatives include reflecting in nature (25%), reading books about spiritual topics (21%) or meditating (19%). In general, Millennials are drawn to a variety of soul-searching activities, from agnostic ones like journaling (28%) to liturgical ones like daily centering prayer (21%). (Barna Trends 2018)


Gone Are the Days when church attendance was a societal norm. For most of our American history, cultural and technological change was gradual, sufficiently paced for churches to lag only five to 10 years. Now churches are lagging 20 and 30 years as the speed of change increases dramatically. To many people, the church seems irrelevant. As a result, LifeWay’s Thom Rainer estimates 6,000 to 10,000 churches in the U.S. are dying each year. That means around 100-200 churches will close this week. The pace will accelerate unless our congregations make some dramatic changes. Revitalization is needed in nearly two-thirds of American churches. So, what can churches do to bring about much-needed revitalization? 1) We must remember our purpose by restoring the biblical understanding of what it means to be part of the body of Christ. God placed us in churches to pray for and love one another, to proclaim and teach God’s Word, and to take the gospel to our neighbors and the nations. 2) We must once again become houses of prayer. 3) We must cease seeing the church as a place of comfort and stability in the midst of rapid change. We must learn to be uncomfortable in the world if we are to make a difference. 4) We must emphasize evangelism and discipleship. 5) We must focus externally rather than internally. Thriving churches are focused on providing ministry to those outside the church and creating bridges for sharing the gospel. When a church moves from poor health to good health, it changes the community. It changes lives. It changes the world. (Facts & Trends, Winter 2018)


Text Neck Spine surgeons are noticing an increase in patients with neck and upper back pain, likely related to poor posture during prolonged smartphone use, claims a recent report published in The Spine Journal. Some patients, particularly young patients who shouldn’t yet have back and neck issues, are reporting disk hernias and alignment problems. Dr. Jason Cuellar, an orthopedic spine surgeon at Cedars-Sinai, notes people often look down when using their smartphones, particularly when texting as compared to browsing online or watching videos. The impact on the spine increases at higher flexed postures. While in a neutral position looking forward, the head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds. At a 15-degree flex, it feels like 27 pounds and at 60 degrees, its 60 pounds. Spinal surgeons recommend frequent rest breaks or some physical exercise that can strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles. (Reuters Health 4/14/17)


Americans and Tattoos A new Rasmussen Reports national survey finds 25% of American adults have at least one tattoo, a number that’s been on the rise since ’13.  8% of those have 3 or more, including 2% who have more than 10. 20% of those with tattoos would like to get them removed. 74% of adults say they have no tattoos. (Rasmussen Reports 1/17/18)


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Pastoral Trust Eroding Less than half of U.S. adults, just 2 out of every 5, believe clergy are honest and have high ethical standards, finds a recent Gallup poll. That level of trust has dropped steadily since ’09, down from a high of 67% in ’85. Pastors are now seen as less trustworthy than judges (43%), day care providers (46%), police officers (56%), pharmacists (62%), medical doctors (65%), grade school teachers (66%), military officers (71%), and nurses (82%). While nearly half of Christians said pastors had high ethical standards, only a quarter of non-Christians agreed. (Church Tax & Law 1/10/18)


Women Persecuted Most Every day 6 women are raped, sexually harassed or forced into marriage to a Muslim under threat of death due to their Christian faith reports Open Doors. This only represents cases where the women were brave enough to report the incident. The actual numbers are likely much higher. Increasing numbers of women face a double blow today; violent attacks against them because of their Christian faith, and because they are women. We see this heartbreaking issue in the Central African Republic, Nigeria and Iraq, the rejection of women from their communities and their husbands extends the pain and suffering for women. ( 1/13/18)


Making a Difference Nearly 20% of post-abortive women who sought help from a crisis pregnancy center say their experience led them to a “deepened spiritual life,” with 7.5% saying abortion drove them to faith in Christ, according to a Bowling Green Univ. study published by the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. The second most common positive experience was a “deepened spiritual life” (17.5%). Among other positives cited: Commitment to crisis pregnancy center work (13.3%); Sharing of the abortion experience in writing or orally (8.9%); Commitment to helping other post-abortive women by sharing God's forgiveness and love (8.2%); and Conversion to Christianity (7.5%).(Baptist Press 1/17/18)


Spiritual Health Predictors The #1 spiritual health predictor among young U.S. adults is if they regularly read the Bible while growing up. #2 if they spent time in prayer while growing up. #3 if they regularly served in church. #4 listened primarily to Christian music and #5 participated in church mission trips/projects. (Facts & Trends, Winter 2018)


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A Tragic Irony According to Gallup surveys, college and university employees rank right around the bottom-quartile on “learn and grow” measures compared with other employees in the U.S. This is a tragic irony for the very workplaces whose primary mission is learning and development. Only 4 out of 10 higher education staff and faculty strongly agree that in the past year they’ve had opportunities at work to learn and grow. And even fewer strongly agree someone at work has discussed their progress in the last 6 months or that someone at work encourages their development. Comparatively, there are many organizations outside the field of higher education where 7 in 10 employees strongly agree that they have opportunities to learn and grow at work and that they have someone who encourages their development and progress. (Gallup News 1/9/18)


Do You Have a Best Friend at Work? Gallup research has repeatedly shown a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees expend in their job. For example, women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged (63%) compared with the women who say other-wise (29%). However, Gallup’s employee engagement data-base shows a mere 2 out of 10 U.S. employees strongly agree they have a best friend at work. Here are 3 recommendations for fostering and supporting friendships within your organi-zation: 1. Promote open communication and collaboration. 2. Encourage people to get to know one another. 3. Promote and participate in social activities. (Gallup News 1/15/18)


Adolescence Now lasts from the ages of 10 to 24 vs. 14 to 19 in the past. It due to young people continuing their education for longer, as well as delayed marriage and parenthood has pushed back popular perceptions of when adulthood begins. Dr. Jan Macvarish, a parenting sociologist at the Univ. of Kent, warns there is a danger in extending our concept of adolescence. “Older children and young people are shaped far more significantly by society’s expectations of them than by their intrinsic biological growth,” she said. “There is nothing inevitably infantilizing about spending your early 20s in higher education or experimenting in the world of work.” (BBC News 1/19/18)


Marriage & Family Delayed Young people are getting married and having children later. According to the UK Office of National Statistics, the average age for a man to enter their first marriage in ’13 was 32.5 and 30.6 years for women across England and Wales. This is an increase of almost 8 years since ’73. (BBC News 1/19/18)


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Pastor’s Spouses experienced mixed blessings according to a recent LifeWay Research study. 90% think ministry has had a positive effect on their family. 85% say, “The church we serve takes good care of us.” 72% say their spouse has experienced resistance in the church. 69% say they have few people they can confide in. 68% worry about having enough money for retirement. 59% say church commitments limit family time. 49% feel like they live in a fishbowl. (Facts & Trends, Winter 2018)


Overdosing On Drugs, especially opioids and including heroin, is now the most common cause of death for Americans under 50. In ’15, opioid overdoses stole the lives of over 33,000 Americans. That’s more deaths than those from car crashes and guns in the U.S. The White House Council of Economic Advisers believes opioid-related fatalities have been underreported by 24%, raising the death toll to more than 41,000 in ’15. The U.S. Surgeon calls it an epidemic and it’s not just in the cities. Reports show from ’99 to ’15, opioid-related deaths in rural areas have quadrupled among those 18-25 years old. It is estimated 2.5 million Americans are currently addicted to opioids or related drugs. (The Exchange 1/18/18)


Generation Z, the 70 million kids born between 1999 and 2015, are at least twice as likely as American adults to identify as LGBT or as atheist, says the Barna Group. Gallup reports only 4.1% of Americans and 7.3% of Gen Z identify as LGBT while Barna found 12% described their sexual orientation as something other than heterosexual, with 7% identifying as bisexual. 37% of Gen Z teens say their gender and sexuality is “very important” to their sense of self vs. 28% of their Gen X parents. 69% say it’s acceptable to be born one gender and to feel like another. “It is a new challenge for student ministry leaders because there is more discussion in the public square regarding LGBT issues,” says LifeWay Christian Resources’ Ben Trueblood. Among Gen Z members 13 to 18, 13% consider themselves atheists vs. 6% of adults. Meanwhile, 59% of Gen Z identifies as Christian vs. 68% of adults. Only 1 in 11 teens is considered by Barna to be an “engaged Christian.” Fortunately, 79% of U.S. teens feel comfortable sharing “honest questions, struggles, and doubts” with their parents. 20% imagine Christianity as negative and judgmental. Some of the biggest barriers to belief are the problem of evil (29%), perceived hypocrisy among Christians (23%), and the conflict between science and Scripture (20%). (The Galli Report 1/23/18)


Going Backwards 34% of all working U.S. adults have gone backward in their overall income compared with 5 years ago; that is, they report making the same or less total income than they did 5 years ago. (Gallup News 1/310/18)


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