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

January 25, 2015 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



What Influences Us the Most? Among conservative Christians the top 3 personal influences are the Bible (estimated to have “a lot of influence” on their decisions and perspectives by 98%), religious teaching (92%), and the values taught to them by their parents (77%). Other significant influencers are family members (33%); courts and judges (33%); government laws and regulations (30%); books (18%); the policies implemented by businesses (18%); conversations with friends (17%); schools (12%); and the behavior and choices of their friends (10%). Interestingly, 74% claimed the content of entertainment media and 64% believed current music has no influence upon them. (American Culture & Faith Institute 1/4/17)


Why We Don’t Tithe Tithing is a spiritual discipline many Christians practice. In its simplest form, it means giving back to God 10% of what you make. Charles Stone, Sr. Pastor and founder of StoneWell Ministries has seen 10 common reasons church people give for not tithing. They are:  1. “It’s all mine anyway. Why should I give?” 2. “I give elsewhere.” 3. “Tithing is not in the New Testament.” 4. “God will provide through other people.” 5. “My gifts don’t really count.” 6. “I don’t trust preachers.” 7. “I only give to projects I like.” 8. “I have no control over my finances. My husband/wife does.” 9. “I will tithe when I can afford it.” 10. “I’m afraid to.” ( 1/3/17)


As Marriage Declines, So Does Religious Engagement Leading scholars conclude that religious disengagement is associated with the trend to postpone marriage and parenthood. For younger (and older) adults, marital rates and religious involvement tend to go hand-in-hand. Almost all the decline in religious attendance has taken place among younger adults who have not married.  Today’s young adults are divided religiously on lines corresponding closely to their marital status. Young adults who are married go to church and often to theologically conservative churches. Unmarried young adults are less likely to attend religious services. Settling down in family usually means settling down to church. Growing strong marriages and thriving families is an important church growth strategy that cannot be ignored. (Focus on the Family Findings 8/13)


Bible Stories Losing Relevance When Luther Seminary professor David Lose assigned his students to interview two persons from their home congregations and ask them what Bible stories provide them with comfort or courage when they are struggling with a problem, only one in 100 students reported back that an interviewee could readily identify such a story. That dismal rate points to the low level of influence of the biblical narrative in the everyday life of Christians. (Faith in Leadership 1/13/14)


The Ultimate Innovations happen when you step outside your comfort zone, act on the ideas that you think will work, and stop accepting doom and gloom prognostications from your peers. I can help you gain that outside perspective. Call or e-mail me at 419-238-4082, or (Hannah Johnson is the Deputy Publisher of Publishing Perspectives 2/26/10)


Reading Benefits Your Mind According to various scientific studies, reading has measurable health benefits beyond the transient (or infinite) enjoyment you derive from simply reading stories and experiencing characters. In fact, reading benefits your mind and body in so many ways, and the effects are so vast, it might just be the ultimate way to keep your brain and body healthy as you age. Science shows that when we read, our brain’s neural pathways come to life, causing new synapses to be created. This expands the brain’s elasticity, which decreases mental decline by 32% for the elderly and helps people of all ages improve their memory capacity. ( 12/15/16)


Growing vs. Declining Churches According to a long term Wilfrid Laurier Univ. study, 93% of clergy members and 83% of worshipers from growing churches agreed with the statement “Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb.” This compared with 67% of worshipers and 56% of clergy members from declining churches. Furthermore, all growing church clergy members and 90% of their worshipers agreed that “God performs miracles in answer to prayers,” compared with 80% of worshipers and a mere 44% of clergy members from declining churches. (Washington Post 1/4/17)


Who Are the Unchurched? They aren’t antagonistic. They welcome a conversation with believers. They aren’t staying out of church for the reasons you may think. In one of the most comprehensive studies ever done on the unchurched, LifeWay Research, in partnership with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, surveyed 2,000 unchurched Americans. They defined “unchurched” as someone who has not attended a worship service in the last 6 months. A third of respondents were non-white. Genders were almost equally represented (53% male), and almost half have a high school diploma or less. Contrary to many perceptions, 62% went to church regularly as a child. A third have plans to go to church in the future. 47% are very open to a gospel conversation. 31% would listen actively without partici-pating. 80% would welcome a gospel conversation. Another 12% would discuss it with some discomfort, and only 11% would change the subject as soon as possible. 55% would attend church if invited by a family member. And 51% would attend church if invited by a friend or neighbor. The opportunities are incredible. (Sermon Central 12/23/16)


Are Parents Taking Their Kids To Church? According to Pew Research, 65% of parents attend worship service with their children at least a few times a year. 83% of evangelical parents are taking their children to church. 78% of Catholic parents are taking their children to church. 67% of mainline Protestant parents are taking their children to church. 69% of parents, who are nones, say they seldom or never take their children to church.  (Church Leaders 12/23/16)


The Most Significant Trend in Americans’ religiosity in recent decades has been the growing shift away from formal or official religion. 21% of U.S. adults don’t have a formal religious identity. This represents a major change from the late 40s and 50s when only 2% to 3% of Americans did not report a formal religious identity, according to Gallup. The increase in those claiming no religious identity began in the 70s, with the percentage crossing the 10% threshold in ‛90 and climbing into the teens in the 00s. Americans are also significantly less likely now than they were in the past to claim membership in a church, synagogue or mosque. In 1937, when Gallup first asked about church membership, 73% said they were a member of a church. This dropped into the upper 60% range in the 80s and continued to decrease from that point on. It fell to its lowest point of 54% in ‛15 but increased slightly to 56% this year. Self-reported church attendance is also lower. Gallup’s longest-running religious service attendance question asks, “Did you, yourself, happen to attend church, synagogue or mosque in the last seven days, or not?” In 1939 41% said “yes.” That dropped to 37% in 1940 and rose to 39% in 1950. It continued to climb, reaching as high as 49% in the 50s. Attendance then settled down to around 40% for decades, before dropping to 36% for the past 3 years. (Gallup 12/23/16)


Are Single Parents Passing On Their Faith? Whether one was raised by 2 people who shared the same faith or by a single parent seems to have little effect on whether that person carries the religion of his or her parent or parents into adulthood. Among adults who were raised by 2 Catholic parents, 62% describe themselves as Catholics today, as do 58% of those raised by a single parent who was Catholic. (Pew Research, Church Leaders 12/23/16)


What NOT To Do With Social Networking When building a social network for your customers, donors or prospects don’t:  1) Misunderstand your target audience. The demographics of users on MySpace differ greatly from those on Facebook, Friendster and other social networks. When creating any site, be very specific about whom you want to reach. 2) Be impatient. Like any marketing strategy, building a social network takes time. With the potential of exponential growth (members reach out to each other and tell others), the time it takes to build a membership base is worth the benefits of having a captive audience ready to experience the brand and hear the message. 3) Assume people will discover it on their own. Success requires outside promotion either online, offline or both. Some advertise their sites in various media or on the product donor communication itself. Word of mouth is a powerful tool, but there has to be someone there first to spread the word. I can coach you and your team through this strategic marketing effort. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or (1to1 5-6/07)


Are Millennials Really That Different? The answer is yes, profoundly so, according to Gallup. Millennials will change the world decisively more than any other generation. They will continue to disrupt how the world communicates; how we read and write and relate. Millennials are disrupting retail, hospitality, real estate and housing, transportation, entertain-ment and travel, and they will soon radically change higher education. They are altering the very social fabric of America and the world. They’re waiting longer to get married and have children, and they’re less likely than other generations to identify with specific religions or political parties. They are changing the very will of the world. Gallup has identified these 6 functional changes: 1. Millennials don't just work for a paycheck—they want a purpose. 2. They are not pursuing job satisfaction—they are pursuing development. 3. They don’t want bosses—they want coaches. 4. They don’t want annual reviews—they want ongoing conversations. 5. They don’t want to fix their weaknesses—they want to develop their strengths. 6. It’s not just my job—it’s my life. (Gallup 5/11/16)


Does Your Brand Stick? Don’t rely on a slick logo, and flashy website to be your brand. The biggest part of branding is what you promise to give your customers. Make it achievable. Don’t promise service with a smile if you’re perpetually grumpy, or fast delivery if you move at the speed of a tortoise. Maintain your business’ identity from campaign to campaign - consistency creates brands that stick. Ask me to objectively assess your brand’s integrity today. 419-238-4082, or (Manta tip of the Day 2/20/14)


Top 10 Characteristics Unchurched Families 1. They are a blended home. 2. They are spiritually mismatched. 3. They are financially strapped. 4. They are over-calendared. 5. They are biblically illiterate. 6. They are ethnically diverse. 7. They have a special needs child. 8. 1 in 5 have experienced some form of trauma in the home. 9. They want to be successful. 10. They are spiritually hungry. May churches remove every unnecessary encumbrance and unbiblical distraction and be the place of grace that reaches the ones Christ gave his very life for! ( 12/5/16)


How Millennial Parents Were Raised The biggest influence in a child’s life is his or her parents. And this includes spiritual influence as well. Whether positive or negative, parents, by their words and actions, heavily weigh in on the trajectory of their child’s spiritual life. A recent Pew Research report states 27% of Millennial parents were raised with a mixed religious household. 24% of parents were raised by at least one parent who was a religious none. 15% were raised by at least one parent who was religious and one who was a none. 6% of were raised by households where both parents were nones. 3% were raised by a single parent who was a none. Only 24% were raised by 2 Protestant parents, 48% of previous generations. (Church Leaders 12/23/16)


Most Missionaries are Women Among evangelical faith missions between 80–85% of all single missionaries are women. It is a rare thing, like 2 out of every 10, for a single man to make missions his life’s vocation, which results in the overall statistics being that one-third of those in evangelical world missions are married men, one-third are married women, and 80% of the last third are single women. Which means that something just less than two-thirds of the total missionary force are women. ( 12/10/17)


Christian Persecution Continues to Increase For the third year in a row, the modern persecution of Christians worldwide has hit another record high. But the primary cause, Islamic extremism, now has a rival: ethnic nationalism. Thus, Asia increasingly merits concern alongside the Middle East, according to the 2017 World Watch List) by Open Doors. The total number of persecution incidents in the top 50 most dangerous countries increased, revealing the persecution of Christians worldwide as a rising trend. The top 10 nations where it is most dangerous and difficult to practice the Christian faith are: North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and

Eritrea. Yemen was the only new country in the top 10, replacing Libya. (CT Gleanings 1/11/17)

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