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 25, 2018 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



American Christians 79% of African Americans self-identify as Christian, as do 70% of whites and 77% of Latinos, according to Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study. Most black Christians and about half of all African Americans (53%) are associated with historically black Protestant churches. Smaller shares of African Americans identify with evangelical Protestantism (14%), Catholicism (5%), mainline Protestantism (4%) and Islam (2%). (Pew Fact Tank 2/7/18)


Is moral truth absolute or relative? According to a recent Barna study, 35% of U.S. adults believe truth is absolute and 44% say it is relative, while 215 have never thought about it. (Barna Group 1/9/18)


The Average American Teenager who uses a smartphone receives her first one at age 10 and spends over 4.5 hours a day on it “excluding texting and talking.” Also, 78% of teens with phones check them “at least hourly,” and 50% feel “addicted” to their phones. (LifeSite News 1/10/18)


Time for Courage When times are good and money is abundant, it’s easy to coast on yesterday’s reputation. You’ve seen it happen. But when there’s not enough business to go around, the rules revert to “survival of the fittest.” This is when courageous little companies leapfrog their traditional masters and leave them behind on the trail. I can help make sure you are a thriving survivor. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or

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Colleges Get an F on Developing Students According to the book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, there is little evidence to support the assertion that higher education has made a profound impact on making students better critical thinkers. Gallup surveys of college grads found only 22% strongly agree they had a mentor who encouraged their goals and dreams and only 27% strongly agree they had a professor who cared about them personally during college. Higher education is an industry that has largely ignored measures of outcomes for students and alumni as well as staff and faculty. In every other industry consumer-based ratings from customers, employees and patients are major components of how performance is evaluated and services are ultimately improved. By placing more value and emphasis on their learning and growth, higher education will make rapid improvements in the learning and growth of its students, the communities that colleges serve and our nation as a whole. (Gallup News 1/9/18)


Half of Americans 18 and older were married in ’16, a share that has remained relatively stable in recent years but is down 9% points over the past 25 years. One factor driving this is men staying single longer. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in ’17 the median age at first marriage had reached its highest point on record: 29.5 years for men and 27.4 for women. The biggest decline is among those with a high school or less education. In ’90, 63% of this group was married vs. just 50% by ’15.. In contrast, 65% of those 25 and older with at least a 4-year college degree were married in ’15. As the U.S. marriage rate has declined, divorce rates have risen among older Americans. In ’15, for every 1,000 married adults 50 and older, 10 had divorced vs. 5 in ’90. For those 65 and older, the divorce rate has roughly tripled since ’90. (Pew Research Center 2/14/18)


Right to Carry Saves Lives Between ’07 and ’15, the number of concealed-carry permits issued in the U.S. surged 215%. During the same time period, the murder rate dropped by 14%. Two-thirds of published, peer reviewed studies have found Right to Carry laws reduces U.S. violent crime rates. 90% of rank-and-file police officers consistently support Right to Carry. (American Rifleman 1/18)


Caring for Orphans 25% of U.S. Protestant churchgoers say their congregation has been involved with adoption or foster care in the past year, finds a recent LifeWay Research study. 17% say someone from their church has adopted a child from the U.S. in the past year. 15% say someone from their church has adopted a child from another country. Those at larger churches (250 or more) are most likely to know someone in their church who has provided foster care (37%). Those who attend smaller churches (fewer than 250) are less likely (20%). Those who attend nondenominational churches (39%) are the most likely to know someone who has fostered children. Churchgoers from nondenominational churches are also the most likely to know someone at church who had adopted a child from the U.S. (25%). Baptists (15%), Lutherans (12%) and Pentecostals (10%) are less likely. Churchgoers from larger congregations are more likely to know someone who had adopted from abroad (30%) than those from smaller churches (7%). (Baptist Press 1/24/18)


Moviegoers Prefer Principles Movieguide’s Dr. Ted Baehr reports, a study of major movies released last year in the U.S. shows moviegoers prefer movies with very strong Christian, redemptive, moral content and values reflecting biblical principles or Judeo-Christian ethics. American moviegoers preferred movies with such content by nearly a 6-to-1 margin, generating $61.29 million to $10.49 million at the box office on average per movie. (Christian Market 2/1/18)


Retirement Reality Baby Boomers are currently heading into retirement at an unprecedented rate of 10,000 per day. Recent research suggests the average Boomer will live at least until age 84. However, many find the reality of retirement isn’t as satisfying or fulfilling as they had anticipated. Forbes magazine reported more than 40% of retirees suffer from clinical depression, while 60% report a decline in health. The modern American emphasis on extended retirement devoid from meaningful work leads many to feel restless, empty and unfulfilled. Many have the ability to leverage themselves for the sake of good. There are opportunities globally that allow them to continue to engage in meaningful work long after their “career” is complete. In some cases, it may be the work done after retirement is more fruitful and lasting than the work done prior to retirement during the so-called “prime” years of their career. (Baptist Press 1/23/18)


Work Is a God-Given Assignment and not a cursed condition. It is God-given, meaningful, and provides humanity with purpose. American Enterprise Institute’s Arthur Brooks argues there are 4 key drivers of our “happiness portfolio,” none of which are tied to material prosperity: •Faith: Do you have a framework to make sense of death and suffering? •Family: Do you have a home life with mutual affection, where the good of others is as important to you as your own happiness? •Community: Do you have at least 2 real friends who feel pain when you suffer and share joy when you thrive? •Work: Perhaps most fundamentally, when you leave home on Monday morning, do you believe there are other people who genuinely benefit from the work you do? Is your calling meaningful? Not, “Is it fun or well-compensated?” but rather, “Does it matter?”

These 4 are all vital to happiness and fulfillment in life, but meaningful work is a critical factor related to personal satisfaction.  (Baptist Press 1/23/18)


Changing Faces of Immigrants The number of first-generation immigrants to America changed dramatically over the past 150 years. In the 1890s, close to 15% of U.S. residents were foreign-born. It dropped to 5% in the 60s before rebounding to more than 13% by ’15. In ’60, 84% of the foreign-born population came from Europe or Canada vs. just 14% by ’15. Today most foreign-born residents were born in Mexico (27%), the rest of Latin America (24%) or South/East Asia (27%). (Facts & Trends, Winter 2018)


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Gen Zs One of the main findings from a recent Barna study is that the problem of evil is a major barrier to faith for 29% of non-Christian teens. Other reasons nonbelievers provide as common barriers to faith include “Christians are hypo-crites” (23%), “I believe science refutes too much of the Bible” (20%), “I don’t believe in fairy tales” (19%), “there are too many injustices in the history of Christianity” (15%), “I used to go to church but it’s just not important to me anymore” (12%) “I had a bad experience at church with a Christian” (6%). Also, 37% of engaged Christian teens and 53% of churchgoing teens say the church seems to reject much of what science tells us about the world. Among teens who say attending church is not important to them, 61% of Christian teens say “I find God elsewhere”, while 64% of non-Christians say “church is not relevant to me personally.” ( 2/6/18)


Islam Holding Its Own Like Americans in many other religious groups, a substantial share of adults who were raised Muslim no longer identify as members of the faith. But unlike some other faiths, Islam gains about as many converts as it loses: 23% of U.S. adults who were raised Muslim no longer identify as Muslims, similar to the share of Muslim adults who converted to Islam (23%). By comparison, while 22% of U.S. adults who were raised Christian no longer identify with Christianity, just 6% of Christian adults are converts. (Pew Research 1/31/18)


More Than A Storefront America’s biggest consumer advertisers are learning that just having a website isn’t enough to establish and cultivate an ongoing customer relationship. Many have launched free e-magazines filled with relevant content, offering entertainment and practical advice along with soft-sell product promotion where appropriate. “It’s a major trend, and it’s a moving trend,” claims Gary Stibel, New England Consulting Group. It’s not really new, but marketers are historically far too blatantly commercial. I can help you craft an effective e-marketing strategy that can help you build brand loyalty and ultimately sales. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or (AP 1/3/06)


Church Collection Plates were a little bit fuller last fall, according to a new LifeWay Research study. 40% of Protestant pastors say their churches received more offerings in ’17 than in ’16. 75% say their church met or exceeded budget and 35% say the economy gave their church trouble vs. 80% at the height of the Great Recession in ’10. 48% of pastors say they are meeting their budget, 23% say offerings are higher than budgeted and 26% say offerings are lower overall. 78% of pastors say offerings held steady from the previous year, 40% say offerings went up, 18% say they went down and 38% say offerings stayed the same. (Baptist Press 2/8/18)


Life Expectancy in the U.S. has fallen for the 2nd year in a row, thanks to a combination of drug and alcohol use and suicides, reports the British Medical Journal. It affirms recent CDC findings. “We are seeing an alarming increase in deaths from substance abuse and despair,” said Steven Woolf at Virginia Commonwealth Univ., co-author of the report. The idea of the “American Dream” is increasingly out of reach as social mobility declines and fewer children face a better future than their parents. In ’16, U.S. life expectancy was 78.6 years, down 0.1 years from ’15. This may not sound like much, but the alarming story is not the amount of the decrease but that the increase has ended. U.S. life expectancy is now 1.5 years lower than a group of 35 nations known as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Develop-ment, which includes Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom among others. Although Americans have poorer health than other nations in many areas, including birth outcomes, injuries, homicides, adolescent pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, obesity, diabetes and heart disease, the study cites that opioid as a main cause. By far, the report found it’s a rural issue more than an urban one. The problem is concentrated in rural, largely white counties that have often struggled for many years with stagnant wages, unemploy-ment, poverty and the loss of major industries that fueled local economies. (USA Today 2/7/18)


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