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 10, 2018 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



Age of Accepting Christ The American Culture & Faith Institute discovered Americans are most likely to confess their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior before they finish high school. Overall, 68% who become born again do so before reaching age 18. Another 8% do so during the college years (ages 18 to 21); 8% more do so from age 22 through 29; and another 8% during their 30s. Only 9% of adults accept Christ as their Savior at age 40 or later. The most fertile time for the gospel is when children are in the 10-to-12 age bracket; 20% accepted Christ during that time frame. Overall, 30% of Christians embraced Jesus as their Savior between ages 8-to-12. (American Culture & Faith Institute 11/29/17)


Most Americans believe elements of the biblical Christmas story reflect actual historical events, although the percentage expressing this view has dropped noticeably in recent years. Today 66% say Jesus was born to a virgin vs. 73% in ’14. 75% believe He was laid in a manger (down from 81%). Similarly, the shares who say they believe that wise men, guided by a star, brought Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and that an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus also have declined. Today 57% of U.S. adults believe all four of these things actually happened vs. 65% 3 years ago. Belief in these events has declined not only among people with no religious affiliation, but among Christians as well. Overall, 19% of Americans now say none of these things actually happened. (Pew Research 12/18/17)


Communicate According to a Watson Wyatt Worldwide survey, U.S. worker confidence in senior management declined between ’04 and ’05 from 51% to 49%. Confidence that senior management makes changes to stay competitive dropped from 57% to 53%, and control costs fell from 59% to 55%. Where senior management is “highly engaged” with its workforce, confidence levels actually rose as much as 30 points. I can help you transform your workforce through a cost-effective frequent communication strategy. Reach me at 419-238-4082, or (CFO 3/07)


How Many Americans Really Attend Church? Less than 20% of Americans regularly attend church, half of what the pollsters report. While Gallup polls and other statisticians have turned in the same percentage, about 40% percent of the population, of average weekend church attendees for the past 70 years, a different sort of research paints quite a disparate picture. A longitudinal study that tracked the annual attendance of more than 200,000 individual U.S. Orthodox Christian churches (Catholic, mainline and evangelical) reveal the actual rate of church attendance from head counts is less than half of the 40%. What researchers call “the halo effect”, the difference between what people tell pollsters and what people actually do, accounts for the difference. Although about 40% of Americans are regular church attendees, only about half of those are in church on any given Sunday. Most pastors acknowledge anywhere from 40–60% of their members are inactive. (Church Leaders 12/14/17)


“There’s A Gap between who evangelicals say they are and what they believe,” says LifeWay Research’s Scott McConnell. 24% of Americans consider themselves to be an evangelical Christian. Another 12% aren’t sure. 29% consider themselves to be a born-again Christian. Another 6% aren’t sure. 5% of Americans accept the born-again label but are uncertain about accepting the evangelical label. When properly defined, only 15% of Americans hold evangelical beliefs. Only 10% of millennials have evangelical beliefs vs. just 20% of Boomers. Americans who started college but did not finish it are twice as likely to have evangelical beliefs as Americans with a bachelor’s or a graduate degree. 25% of Americans would consider themselves evangelical if the term had nothing to do with politics. Another 12% aren’t sure. 62% would not consider themselves evangelical even if the term had nothing to do with politics. Only 2% would take on the evangelical label if it was stripped of its political baggage. (Baptist Press 12/6/17)


Americans Are Dying Younger and life expectancy is now down for the 2nd straight year, something not seen in more than half a century. One undeniable culprit is the opioid epidemic, which is cutting down young adults at alarming and increasing rates, the researchers say. The National Center for Health Statistics report a baby born in the U.S. in ’16 could expect to live 78.6 years, a decrease of more than a month from ’15 and more than 2 months from ’14. That’s the first two-year decline since 1962 and 1963 when spikes in flu deaths were to blame. Before ’15, the last 1 year decline was in ’93 and was attributed partly to the AIDS epidemic. At the same time, the rest of the world is seeing large declines in mortality and large improvements in life expectancy. Newborns in 29 countries, including Japan, Australia and Spain, had life expectancies above 80 years in 2015, according to the World Health Organization. The average global life expectancy was 71.4 and rising. (USA Today 12/21/17)


Ethiopia has the largest Orthodox Christian population outside Europe, and by many measures, Orthodox Ethiopians have much higher levels of religious commitment than do Orthodox Christians in the faith’s heartland of Central and Eastern Europe. The country in the Horn of Africa has 36 million Orthodox Christians, the world’s second-largest Orthodox population after Russia. (Pew Fact Tank 11/28/17)


How to Reduce Your Risk of Divorce According to, the following factors will reduce the risk of a marriage ending in divorce: -30% if you earn over $50,000 annually, -25% if you have graduated college, -24% if you have a baby 7 months or more into a marriage, -24% if you marry age 25 or over, -14% if your parents are still married and -14% if you have a religious affiliation. (  12/1/17)


Men Are More Likely to Skip Bible Reading than women. 39% of men say they do not read the Bible on their own, compared to 31% of women. Folks in the Northeast (48%) are more likely to never pick up a Bible than those from other regions. (LifeWay Research 4/25/17)


Markets Always Change in response to cultural, economic and political forces. A marketer’s dominance in one period is never assured in the next period, no matter how strong its brand; look at GM and Ford. Yet, it is the nature of dominant competitors to move cautiously to adapt to new market conditions. They do not easily relinquish “proven” formulas that produced so much success. Furthermore, the management, operations and marketing skills that are wed to those formulas run deep within a dominant competitor’s organization, reinforcing internal resistance to change. It’s human nature to become enamored with the trappings of dominance. This opens the door for smaller players who are more in-tune with the changing market and able to respond more nimbly. Often only an outsider can bring enough objectivity to see this subtle “killer arrogance.” I can bring you that objectivity. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or (Internet Retailer 3/07)


An Amazing Ministry During his 40 years of ministry, Billy Graham preached the message of Christ’s redemption to nearly 215 million people in over 185 countries. (CT Exchange 11/30/17)


American Public Sharply Divided 63% of U.S. Christians say whether someone is a man or a woman is determined by their sex at birth. Among religious “nones”, 62% say they think a person’s gender is not necessarily determined by the sex they are assigned at birth. 84% of white evangelical Protestants are likely to say gender is determined by sex at birth. 59% of black Protestants and 55% of white mainline Protestants also feel this way. Catholics are divided on the question, with 51% saying gender is a function of one’s birth sex, while 46% says it is possible for someone to be of a gender different from their sex at birth. 61% of white evangelical Protestants say society has “gone too far” when it comes to accepting people who are transgender vs. 57% of “nones” who say society has “not gone far enough.” Overall, 34% of Christians say they personally know someone who is transgender, ranging from 25% of white evangelicals to 41% of white mainline Protestants and the same share of black Protestants. 43% of “nones” say this. (Pew Fact Tank 11/27/17)


Evangelicals by Race and Ethnicity While white evangelicals get the most attention in US politics, more than 4 in 10 Americans with evangelical beliefs are non-white, and nearly 1 in 4 is African American, says LifeWay Research. Self-identified evangelicals are 70% white and 14% black, while Americans with evangelical beliefs are 58% white and 23% black. ( 12/6/17)


American Church Attendance Steadily Declining In ’90, 20.4% of the population attended an Orthodox Christian church (Catholic, mainline and evangelical) on any given weekend. In ’00, that percentage dropped to 18.7% and to 17.7% by ’04. While church attendance numbers stayed about the same from ’90 to ’04, the U.S. population grew by 18.1%—more than 48 million people. So even though the number of attendees is the same, churches are not keeping up with population growth. According to LifeWay Research only 6% of the churches are growing. ( 12/14/17)


Inheriting A Mess A 10-year longitudinal study on executives found more than 50% of executives who inherit a mess fail within their first 18 months on the job. (Harvard Business Review 8/7/17)


Keeping Customers It is 6 to 7 times more expensive for a business to acquire a new customer than to keep a current one, making customer loyalty and experience a priority. Here are 4 tips to help you: 1. Create a customer “experience” vision. 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. 2. Cultivate knowledgeable staff. On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase, and customers who can rely on employees’ expertise will return. 3. Train staff to advise, not just sell. Customers remember when they receive support and will come back for repeat purchases. 4. Create communities. A business only has a 5-20% chance of selling to a new prospect vs. a 60-70% chance of selling to an existing customer. The more you integrate your business into the community, the more likely the community will turn to you and support your business. A customer experience strategy will help achieve higher customer satisfaction and increase revenue. I can help you do just that. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or

(Incentive 6/9/16)


Mid-Sized Churches Are Shrinking; the smallest and largest churches in the U.S. are growing. While America’s churches as a whole did not keep up with population growth from ’94 to ’04, the country’s smallest (1–49) and largest churches (2,000-plus) exceeded it. During that period, the smallest churches grew 16.4%, the largest grew 21.5%, beating the national population growth of 12.2%. But mid-sized (100–299) churches, the average size of a Protestant church in America is 124, declined 1%. ( 12/14/17)


Faith Based Media Opportunities Today, according to ’17 Pew Research Center statistics, 70.6% of America’s 327.4 million people are Christian by some definition. In other words, there is a cumulative audience for faith-friendly media of at least 231.8 million people, who have a combined, disposable annual income somewhere close to $2.1 trillion. (Washington Times 12/13/17)


Patriotism Self-Assessment 59% of Americans characterize themselves as either “extremely” (23%) or “very” (36%) patriotic, finds new American Culture & Faith Institute research. 28% claim to be “somewhat” patriotic , leaving 13% who were either less patriotic or not sure. Con-servatives are twice as likely to characterize themselves as extremely patriotic as other people. People associated with the Christian faith rated themselves higher in terms of personal patriotism (64% extremely or very patriotic) than did those associated with non-Christian faiths (38%) or with no faith (40%). Protestant Christians rated themselves more highly on the patriotism scale than did Catholics. (American Culture & Faith Institute 12/20/17)


How Americans Read the Bible 22% of Americans read a little bit each day, in a systematic approach. 35% never pick it up at all, while 30% look up things in the Bible when they need to. 19% re-read their favorite parts, while 17% flip open the Bible and read a passage at random. 27% read sections suggested by others, while 16% say they look things up to help others. (LifeWay Research 4/25/17)


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