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, 2015 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



Changing Timetable for Adulthood Sociologists have traditionally identified the “transition to adulthood” via 5 milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. In 1960, 77% of women and 65% of men had passed all 5 by the time they reached 30, yet in ‛00, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, fewer than half of the women and one-third of the men had done so. As a result, adulthood occurs later than in previous decades. Instead of entering marriage and parenthood in their early 20s, most young people now postpone these transitions until their late 20s or early 30s, and spend their late teens through their late 20s in self-focused exploration, trying out different possibilities for love and work – experimenting with various identities, lifestyles and career paths. The stakes rise as people approach the age when options tend to close and lifelong commitments must be made. Researchers identify 6 key causes for the new stage of “emerging adulthood:” 1.The number of young adults pursuing higher education has grown dramatically. 2. More Americans delay marriage and embrace various alternative living arrangements. 3. The U.S. and global economy undermines stable, lifelong careers and replaces them with lower security careers, more frequent job changes, and an ongoing need for new training and education. 4. Today’s parents’ are more willing to extend financial and other support to their children, into their 20s and even early 30s. 5. Readily available birth-control methods have severed the link between sex and procreation, thus fostering uncommitted sexual relationships. 6. Postmodernism and moral relativism now thoroughly permeates the educational ethos, mass media, and youth and adult culture. (The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life, William Damon, New York: Free Press, 2009)


Reinvent Yourself and Your Business Recognize you’re doing something very new today. As Henry Ford pointed out, he was building a car, not a faster horse. Understand that you’re going to have to develop new products or services; it’s not the same stuff in a different package. I can help you think through this process. Contact 419-238-4082, or (USA Today 2/26/10)


Anxiety Ridden Teens More than 6 million American teens grapple with an anxiety disorder of some kind. Experts believe the rising number of children and adolescents dealing with anxiety are the result of several cultural, biological, and familial factors. Kids today are also coming of age in a time when they’ve never known life apart from smartphones, social media, terrorism, and global conflict. They feel pressure to create and manage a digital identity. And they have endless information at their technological fingertips which has the potential to emotionally overwhelm them. Even young children can experience a prolonged sense of neurological agitation that comes from screen-time associated with activities such as video games. The brain becomes overstimulated and doesn’t have a way to calm itself back down, so kids stay in an anxious frame of mind. ( 1/6/17)


Parenting Crisis 18% of today’s young adults (18-29) say they were raised in a religion but are now unaf­filiated with any particular faith. Nearly all come from homes with lukewarm or nominal faith. Only 11% of U.S. young adults who abandoned their childhood Christian faith said they were taught a very strong faith during childhood. So not surprisingly, homes modeling lukewarm faith do not create enduring faith in children. Homes modeling vibrant faith do. So these young adults are leaving something they never had a good grasp of in the ­first place. This is not a crisis of faith, per se, but of parenting. (Pew Research)


Fewer Places to Sing In ‛98, 54% of U.S. churches had a choir finds the National Congregations Study. By ‛12, just 45% had a choir. The decline is even greater among larger evangelical churches where it fell from 69% to 36%--in part due to finances and the embracing of contemporary styles. (Facts & Trends, Winter ‛17)


Spiritual Friendships Black Christians are more likely than whites to rate their relationships with family members, mentors, church members, Christian communities outside of church and small group members as “valuable” to their spiritual journey. Though both groups equally deem friendships as “valuable to their spiritual journey” (43% of white Christians vs. 41% of black Christians), only 14% of whites thought their friends were “not too valuable” or “not at all valuable,” vs. 26% of blacks. Black Christians are slightly more likely to believe when their friends aren’t as interested in spiritual things; it poses a major obstacle to their spiritual growth (11% vs. 8%). Black church leaders are also more likely to believe “negative peer relationships” pose a major obstacle for people’s growth as disciples (73% vs. 48%).  (Barna Research 1/12/17)


Declining Labor Force Participation From ‛62 to its peak in ‛98, U.S. labor force participation for the working-age population (18 to 64) increased dramatically from 66.3% to 79.0% as social barriers to female labor fell. Over that same period, men gradually started working less, but the gains for women more than offset this. Yet, after ‛98, even the positive trend for women reversed itself, and since then, the share of working-age women who were out of the labor force increased from 28% to 31% along with the share of men, which continued to increase from 14% to 19%. (No Recovery | An Analysis of Long-Term U.S. Productivity Decline, Gallup, 2016)


Shoestring Marketing In this time of tight budgets where both entrepreneurs and customers are increasingly reluctant to part with a penny, it is more important than ever that small-and mid-sized organizations step up marketing. Recessions are times to expand, not contract. Most entrepreneurs instinctively know this, and it is why the trend now is toward increased marketing that costs little but delivers big, such as online video, blogs, coupons, word-of-mouth, direct-mail and customer service. Let me craft a shoestring marketing plan for you. 419-238-4082, or (USA Today 1/5/09)


Religion Is Losing Its Influence in American Society Americans continue to perceive religion is less influential than it used to be, with 72% in‛16 saying religion is losing its influence on American life. In ‛57 and shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a majority of Americans said religion was increasing its influence on American life. During the Reagan administration, those saying religion was increasing in influence and those saying it was decreasing in influence were roughly equal. Before ‛09, there were only 2 times in Gallup's history when more than 7 in 10 Americans thought religion was losing its influence: in ‛69 and ‛70. (Gallup 12/23/16)


U.S. Added to Persecution List Every year, the watchdog group International Christian Concern (ICC) assembles a “Hall of Shame” report to give updates on the state of persecuted Christians around the world. The ‛16 report lists the United States as a “new and noteworthy” country where conditions “indicate declining religious freedom and are cause for alarm.” The report states “Christians in the U.S. are facing constant attacks in the media, where they are portrayed as bigoted, racist, sexist and closeminded.” (Church Leaders 1/10/17)


Strengths-Based Cultures Attract Top Talent Most organizations spend years (and millions of dollars) trying to build brands that win customers and deepen brand loyalty. But few fully capture the power of a sterling employment brand, one that attracts the best employees. An employment brand that conveys an organization’s strengths-based culture draws job seekers who are motivated to use and develop their innate abilities; people dedicated to performance and thrive in a highly driven work environment. According to Gallup, 90% of the groups studied had performance increases at or above the following ranges: 10% to 19% increase in sales, 14% to 29% increase in profit. 3% to 7% higher customer engagement, 6% to 16% lower turnover (in low-turnover organizations), 26% to 72% lower turnover (in high-turnover organizations), 9% to 15% increase in engaged employees and 22% to 59% fewer safety incidents. (Gallup Business Journal 1/3/17)


Millennials are the only generation among whom evangelism is significantly on the rise. Their faith-sharing practices have escalated from 56% in ‛10 to 65% in ‛13. Also, born again Millennials share their faith more than any other generation today. 65% have presented the Gospel to another within the past year, in contrast to the national average of 52% of born again Christians. (CT The Exchange 1/24/17)


Who Wants to Read the Bible? According to recent Barna research, 57% of U.S. adults read the Bible because it draws them closer to God. 61% express a desire to read the Bible more than they currently do, while 36% don’t. The groups who desire more frequent Bible reading than their counter-parts are females (68% vs. 54% of males), Boomers (68% vs. 55% of Millennials), non-white Americans (67% vs.58% of white American) and those with no more than a high-school education (67% vs. 56% of college grads). 70% of southerners want to read the Bible more, compared with 55% each of western and northeasterners neighbors. Also 85% of born-again people and 85% of practicing Christians desire more Bible-reading in their day-to-day lives. (Barna 1/18/17)


Assaults 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime. 44% were under 18 when it occurred. Two-thirds were perpetrated by a family member or close friend. On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U. S. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million people. 1 in 15 children are exposed to domestic violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence. ( 12/5/16)


Families with Special Needs Children are on the rise. 2% of children are diagnosed with autism and 7% with ADHD. 8% have a learning disability and 14% a developmental disability. 17% of Americans experience a communications disorder while 19% are classified as a person with a disability. 2% of 13-18-year-olds are identified with an anxiety disorder and 12% of the children in K-6 in our public schools are identified with a disability. ( 12/5/16)


Where Do You Want to Be Tomorrow? You can’t navigate a ship by studying the wind and waves. Fix your gaze on your goal—a non-negotiable, fixed position that can never change. Let that be your lighthouse, your reference point, your North Star. Now point to your North Star so that I can see it, and I can help you chart the course. Contact 419-238-4082, or  (Monday Morning Memo 3/1/10)


American Pastors are Aging and aren’t as young as they used to be. As clergy live longer and stay in ministry longer, the average age of U.S. Protestant senior pastors has risen to 54 vs. 44 only 25 years ago. Now, just 1 in 7 pastors leading congregations is under 40, according to Barna Group’s 2017 State of Pastors project. In the ’60s, a majority were under 45 vs. over 60 today. The age shift stems from evolving career expectations and difficulty passing leadership on to millennial-aged pastors, reports Barna. Back in ‛92, the average church tenure was 4 years vs. more than 10 in ‛17. The percentage of pastors with kids under 18 has dropped by almost half in 25 years, down to 35%. (CT Gleanings 1/26/17)


Generation Z, born after 2000, currently constitutes more than 2 billion people on earth. According to Kantar Millward Brown’s new report, AdReaction: Engaging Gen X, Y and Z, advertising that attracts Gen Z must be short (10 seconds), as they are more likely to avoid online advertising and are less tolerant to it than previous generations. Gen Zs skip ads 3 seconds earlier than Gen Xs (35-50 year olds) and 69% of Gen Z respondents claim they like ads they can skip, compared to 56% Gen Xs. (BizReport 1/12/17)


Skipping Worship Might Kill You finds Harvard Univ.’s recent Nurses’ Health Study. The long-term study of 75,000 women found those who attended religious services more than once a week cut their risk of dying by a third. Going twice a week reduced their risk of dying by 26% and once a week by 13%. (Facts & Trends, Winter ‛17)


What’s Most Important when choosing a new house of worship? According to Pew Research, 83% of U.S. adults say it’s the quality of sermons, for 79% it’s feeling welcomed by leaders, 74% style of services, 70% location, 56% education for kids, 48% friends/family in the congregation, 42% volunteering opportunities and 29% claim other factors. (Facts & Trends, Winter ‛17)


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