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, 2017 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



What Compels Greater Bible Engagement? A recent American Bible Society study finds 67% of U.S. adults attribute their growing use of the Bible to a realization the Scriptures are an important part of their faith journey. 26% say they’ve been through a difficult experience that prompted them to turn to the Bible, and 20% cite a significant change, such as marriage or the birth of a child. Other key factors include downloading the Bible onto their smartphone or tablet (18%), seeing how the Bible changed someone they know for the better (14%) and going to a church where the Bible became more accessible to them (12%). Less important are having someone they know ask to read the Bible together (10%), and media conversations around religion and spirituality (5%). (Barna 1/18/17)


Family Christian to Close Stores Chuck Bengochea, President/CEO of Family Christian Stores, has announced to their vendors that the stores are closing. “Changing consumer behavior created significant challenges for our brick and mortar stores. Despite all our efforts, our business is not sustainable on our sales.” The 240 store chain just went through a bankruptcy and reorganization in ‛15. (Foster Network 2/23/17)


Active Christians Divorce Less Couples who are active in their faith are much less likely to divorce, claims Bradley Wright in his book Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told. Catholic couples were 31% less likely to divorce; Protestant couples 35% less likely; and Jewish couples 97% less likely. Harvard-trained social researcher, Shaunti Feldhahn, reports in her book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, 53% of Very Happy Couples agree with the statement, “God is at the center of our marriage” while 30 % Struggling Couples disagree.  “Nominal” Christians, those who simply call themselves Christians but do not actively engage with their faith, are 20% more likely than the general population to get divorced.

( 1/20/17)


Coworker Chemistry The workplace is rife with romantic chemistry: 25% all adults believe a coworker or supervisor was attracted to them, and a further 16% actually had that coworker or supervisor tell them they were attracted to them. 18% had a coworker ask them out while 6% had supervisors do so. 44% of employed adults have heard men discussing the physical attractiveness of female coworkers, and 33% heard women discussing the physical attractiveness of men. 13% had unwanted sexual or romantic attention from a coworker, and 4% from a supervisor. Married adults are as likely to have unwanted sexual or romantic attention from a coworker (14% vs. 12% of singles). Yet, the majority of Americans say they have never felt unspoken romantic tension with someone of the opposite sex. (Barna Research 2/9/17)


An Informed Objective Opinion As a professional Christian Market Channel authority, my input in the early development and planning stages of new product or business/ministry strategy can spell the difference between mediocre and out-of-the park success. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or


Boys Reading More Books According to Nielsen Book VP Jo Henry, between ‛10 and ‛16 in the overall children’s book market rose by 22% and there’s an increase in market share among children’s book recipients who are boys 9 to 12. Nielsen sees the guys reading more nonfiction and reference (19% vs. 15% for girls the same age) and less YA fiction (19% as opposed to 26% for girls 9-12). The key categories for boys 9 to 12 are series/chapter books and picture/-activity formats (and more so than for girls) accounting for some 51% of all purchases for the boys. Within the fiction category, boys aged 9 to 12 are reading more action/-adventure/mystery genre books than girls of the same ages, and more fantasy/magic/myth/science-fiction/horror.  (Publishing Perspectives 1/25/16)


Why Expand a Church? Geographical outreach, mission and calling are the 3 primary reasons cited by most churches as motivation to pursue various expansion strategies according to Barna Group and Cornerstone Knowledge Network research. (Barna 2/2/17)


Sleep Last year, the Centers for Disease Control declared sleep deprivation a public health problem, with 30% of U.S. adults getting fewer than 6 hours of sleep a night. The age-old adage of the psalmist is still true: “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” Researchers agree women have worse sleep quality than men.  “Poor sleep certainly had a more profound effect on women than on men,” said Duke Univ. Medical Center researcher Edward Suarez, who found significantly greater increases in stress, anxiety, depression, diabetes, and heart disease among women with poor sleep. As he explained in Shape magazine, men’s testosterone rises after a bad night of sleep, staving off some of the negative effects of sleepless stress. Women’s hormones don’t have the same benefits; in fact, menopause and other hormonal phases actually exacerbate our trouble sleeping. Overall, women are 20% more likely to be insomniacs and suffer worse from it than men. Theologian Charles Spurgeon summed it up, “God gave us sleep to remind us we are not him.”  (Christianity Today Jan/Feb 2017)


The World’s Muslim Population As of ‛10, there were an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims globally, making Islam the world’s second-largest religion after Christianity. Although many people may associate Islam with countries in the Middle East or North Africa, nearly 62% of Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the Pew Research Center. In fact, more Muslims live in India and Pakistan (344 million combined) than in the entire Middle East-North Africa region (317 million). However, the Middle East-North Africa region has the highest concentration of any region of the world: 93% of its nearly 341 million inhabitants are Muslim, vs. 30% in sub-Saharan Africa and 24% in the Asia-Pacific region. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 49 countries. The country with the largest number (209 million) is Indonesia, where 87.2% of the population identifies as Muslim. India has the world’s second-largest Muslim population (176 million), though they make up just 14.4% of India’s total population. Just 0.2% of the world’s Muslims live in North America. (Pew Fact Tank 1/31/17)


How Is Discipleship Pursued? Although both black and white Christian leaders define the primary goals of discipleship, black Christian leaders are more likely to say “deepening one’s faith through education and fellowship” is a goal of discipleship (85% vs. 71% of white leaders). Black leaders are more likely to currently be mentored and discipled by another Christian (38% vs. 19%) and to be discipling others themselves (28% vs. 17%). White Christians are more likely than black Christians to prefer being discipled on their own (39% vs. 31%), whereas black Christians show a greater preference for group-based discipleship (32% vs. 22%). Black Christians are also more likely to list large group study or discussion groups (18% vs. 4%) and family members (71% vs. 61%) as “very important” in aiding spiritual development. White Christians are more likely to view their spiritual life as “entirely private” (42% vs. 32%). Black Christians, on the other hand, are much more likely to believe their personal spiritual life has an impact on others. Half of black Christians (50% vs. 34%) believe it is their responsibility to tell others about their religious beliefs. (Barna Research 1/12/17)


An Informed Objective Opinion As a professional Christian Market Channel authority, my input in the early development and planning stages of new product or business/ministry strategy can spell the difference between mediocre and out-of-the park success. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or


Dating and Cohabiting When it comes to living together, 65% of U.S. adults either strongly or somewhat agree it’s a good idea to live with one’s significant other before marriage vs. 35% who either strongly or somewhat disagree. 84% see cohabiting as a test of compatibility in the path toward marriage. Among all U.S. adults, 57% either currently live with their boyfriend / girlfriend or have previously done so. Younger, less religious and more liberal Americans are more likely to have lived with a significant other before marriage. (Barna Research 2/9/17)


The Struggle to Find the Next Generation Despite how many millennials express a desire to choose a job that is meaningful and makes an impact, fewer look to ministry as career, making it a struggle for church leaders to appoint and equip younger successors. 69% of today’s pastors say it has become harder to identify suitable pastor candidates among millennials. Yet, 90% of all pastors say they would recommend the career to younger Christians interested in going into ministry. More than half of pastors sense their calling as young adults, between ages 14 and 21, 85% attended church as a kid and 80% participated in youth ministry. (CT Gleanings 1/26/17)


 ‘Thin Ideal’ Models Not Realistic Research by Sylvie Borau, professor of marketing and researcher at Toulouse Business School, and Marchelo Vinhal Nepomuceno at HEC Montreal, has revealed that, despite the presence of disclaimers on ads featuring airbrushed models, many women continue to process the images as realistic. The study confirmed the 3 core emotions experienced by women when exposed to the airbrushed thin ideal: pleasure, displeasure, and aversion. It also categorized women into 4 types based on their level of detection of airbrushing: ‘resistants’, who adopt a defensive attitude, ‘indifferents’, who are detached, ‘hedonists’, who appear to be naïve, and ‘victims’ who are prone to self-deception.  (The BizReport 2/2/17)


Opportunity in Crisis Did you know the Chinese character for ‘crisis’ is the same one as for ‘opportunity’? It raises the question: How can we find the opportunity in crisis or chaos? Although chaos and chaotic systems appear to be random and out of control, patterns emerge and suggest or actually reveal an inherent order at the heart of seeming chaos. Understanding this is the first step toward finding the pattern of order that waits beneath the facade of a chaotic situation. However, often it takes fresh eyes—objective eyes—to find it. Let me help you find opportunity in your crisis! Contact 419-238-4082, or visit (Ivy SeaZine 2/10/09)


Evangelicals Reject Evolution Evangelical protestants are the most likely of all the major U.S. religious groups to reject evolution. Pew’s Religious Landscape Study found 57% of evangelicals say humans and other living things have always existed in their present form. (About half of Mormons and roughly three-quarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses agree.) Majorities of those who affiliate with the Southern Baptist Convention (58%) and the Seventh-day Adventist church (67%) reject the idea that human beings evolved over time. By contrast, much smaller minorities of mainline Protestants (30%), Catholics (29%), Jews (16%) and the religiously unaffiliated (15%) share this view. (Pew Fact Tank 2/10/17)


Massive Shift Toward Singleness The segment of U.S. adults who are currently married, remains steady at 52% of all adults in both ‛00 and ‛16. Those who are currently divorced also held steady (11% in ‛16 and 10% in ‛00). Due to re-marriage, the currently divorced rate does not take into account past divorces, which, when accounted for, brings the proportion of American adults who have ever been divorced to 25% vs. 24% in ‛00. However, the percentage of singles (never married) has increased from 27% in ‛00 to 30% in ‛16. Between ‛00 and ‛16, the relational makeup of those 25-39 shifted dramatically. Over that period the amount of singles 25-29 rose from 50% to 59%, and among those 30-39, it rose from 24% to 34%. These are massive shifts toward a broader move to delay marriage among younger Americans. The average age of first marriage in the U.S. is 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 23 for women and 26 for men in ‛90 and 20 and 22 in ‛60. In ‛60, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married vs. just 52% today. (Barna Research 2/9/17)


Believers More Likely to be Married Practicing Christians and evangelicals are much more likely to be married than the average American. 59% practicing Christians are married (unchanged since ‛00) vs. 52% of the general population. Among evangelicals, 67% are married, 15% higher than the general population, but 25% of both groups have been divorced. (Barna Research 2/9/17)


More Men Killing Themselves According to the most recent large-scale study by the Center for Disease Control, 78% of Americans who kill themselves are male. Suicide is also the second leading cause of death among Millennials. ( 1/30/17)


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