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, 2018 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Suicide Epidemic In ’15, more than 44,000 Americans died by suicide, 1 death every 12 minutes, as the Department of Health and Human Services put it. The overall suicide rate has grown by nearly 30% over the past 15 years, prompting some to call it a new public health crisis. (CT Direct 11/20/17)

Conservative Protestant Theology, with its more literal view of the Bible, is a significant predictor of church growth while liberal theology leads to decline. A recent Pew Research study found that for all measures, growing church clergy members are the most theologically conservative, while declining church clergy members are the least. 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. Further-more, all growing church clergy members and 90% of their worshipers agreed that “God performs miracles in answer to prayers” vs. 80% of worshipers and a mere 44% of clergy members from declining churches. (Washington Post 1/4/18)

Evangelicals 1 in 4 Americans today consider themselves to be evangelicals, finds LifeWay Research, but less than half actually hold evangelical beliefs. When defined by beliefs and not by identity, evangelicals are less white (58% vs. 70%), more black (23% vs. 14%), and more likely to worship weekly (73% vs. 61%).  (Baptist Press 12/6/17)

Protect Time At The Table 21% of U.S. parents strongly or somewhat agree family conversations are stunted because of time spent on phones, and 42% say devices are a significant disruption to family meals. 19% of families say members always bring their phones or other devices to meals, 27% sometimes, 22% rarely and 32% never or almost never. 12% of parents always take calls or texts during family meals, 33% do so sometimes, 44% rarely and 11% never. 29% of children always take calls or texts during family meals, 18% sometimes, 29% rarely and 44% never. (Barna Update 12/20/17)

Church Attendance in America is declining. Recent surveys claim 38% of Americans are churchgoers but only half that number actually find their way to church on any given Sunday.  When you look at younger Americans in particular, the news is even more depressing.  Sadly, only 28% of younger Americans ages 23 to 37 attend church.

( 12/28/17)

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)

Reasons Americans Don’t Read the Bible According to LifeWay Research, 27% of Americans say they don’t prioritize it, while 15% don’t have time. 13% say they’ve read it enough. Fewer say they don’t read books (9%), don’t see how the Bible relates to them (9%), or don’t have a copy (6%). 10% disagree with what the Bible says. (LifeWay Research 4/25/17)

Americans Are Split over the nature of the Bible as a book. 40% say it’s a book worth reading over and over, while 13% say it’s worth reading once. 22% prefer referencing the Bible on an as-needed basis. 5% say the Bible is a book not worth reading at all, while 19% are not sure. (LifeWay Research 4/25/17)

Companies That Support Charities have happier and more engaged employees, finds a new O. C. Tanner study. This is particularly true if they help their employees get involved in these charitable causes in the workplace. 71% of those who work at companies that organize multiple holiday charitable events throughout the holiday season believe the purpose of their organization motivates them to do their best work. 84% believe their organization has a clear purpose. 57% say these charity events had a strongly positive effect on morale. 37% said these events made them feel more connected to their company’s culture. (Incentive Weekly 12/19/17)

Clergy Ethical Rating Still Declining Gallup has measured Americans’ views on the honesty and ethics of the clergy 33 times since ’77. Although the overall average positive rating is 55%, it has fallen below that level since ’09. This year marks the lowest rating to date, with 42% saying the clergy has “very high” or “high” honesty and ethical standards. The historical high of 67% occurred in ’85. (Gallup 12/26/17)

Bible Reading 87% of U.S. households own a Bible, according to the American Bible Society, and the average household has 3 finds LifeWay Research. 20% of Americans have read through the Bible at least once. That includes 11% who’ve read the entire Bible once and 9% multiple times. Another 12% have read almost the entire Bible, while 15% have read at least half. 53% of Americans have read relatively little of the Bible. That includes 10% who have read none of it, 13% who have read a few sentences and 30% who have read several passages or stories. (LifeWay Research 4/25/17)

Free Insights  Send me a description of your business problem and I’ll send you a FREE response enumerating how we might address it for you. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or

Guns in America 42% of Americans say they live in a gun-owning household, while 30% say they personally own a gun. 11% do not, but live with someone who does. 48% of Americans grew up in a household with guns and 59% say at least some of their friends own guns while 72% have fired a gun. Protection tops the list of reasons for owning a gun. And 74% say the right to own a firearm is essential to their personal sense of freedom. 73% say they can’t see them-selves ever not owning a gun. Gun owners and non-owners have starkly different views on gun violence in America. While 59% of those who do not own guns see gun violence as a major problem in the U.S. today, just 33% of adults who own guns agree. (Pew Fact Tank 12/26/17)

Americans See Fundamental Differences between men and women, but men and women have different views on the cause of these differences. Majorities of women who see gender differences in the way people express their feelings, excel at work and approach parenting say differences between men and women are mostly based on societal expectations. Men who see differences in these areas tend to believe biology is the root.  (Pew Fact Tank 12/26/17)

Christianity Has Been Growing at an Exponential Rate in the last couple of decades in Iran, causing the Islamic government a great deal of concern. There are now 3 million Iranian Christians due to massive conversion increases from Islam. Fox News reported in ’16, “The number of Muslim converts who are risking prison or death by secretly worshipping as Christians in Iran’s house church movement has grown to as many as 1 million people, according to watchdog groups.” Something powerful is happening in Iran, despite the intense persecution Christians are facing. (LifeSite News 1/4/18)

Disturbing Views Increasing Only about half of the world’s young people (ages 18-21) support free speech, but nearly two-thirds support same-sex “marriage,” according to a Varkey Foundation study highlighted by The Economist. The study also found 74% of young people worldwide support the same rights for transgender-identifying individuals as for others. 66% of young people worldwide think “safe abortion” should be legal. 44% of U.S. millennials would prefer to live under socialism than capitalism. 42% prefer a capitalistic society. (LifeSite News 1/3/18)

Unpartnered In the past 10 years, the share of U.S. adults living without a spouse or partner has increased. This rise in “unpartnered” Americans, from 39% in ’07 to 42% today, has been most pronounced among young adults: Roughly 6 in 10 adults under 35 are now living without a spouse or partner. It has also risen more sharply among those who are not employed. (Pew Fact Tank 12/26/17)

China Is On Course to become ‘world’s most Christian nation’ within 15 years. The number of Christians in Communist China is growing so steadily that 2030 it could have more churchgoers than America. (UK Telegraph 4/14/14, LifeSite News 1/4/18)

Do the Right Thing While CVS general merchandise sales fell 5% in ‛15, thanks to the pharmacy chain’s decision to ban nicotine products; the positive attention generated helped push pharmacy services revenues up 13.5%. What kind of ‘doing the right thing’ change should you make in your business or ministry?  Perhaps I can help. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or ( 7/6/16)

People Are Most Receptive to the Gospel during times of significant life change. Here are a few of those times from Church Growth Network’s Gary McIntosh: * Following the birth of a child. * Following a move. * Following a divorce. * During a crisis event, e.g. death, injury, a job layoff, etc. * During a time of hurt. * During a period of physical renewal. * During the transition to single parenting. * During the child-care years. Churches that recognize and address these opportunities see more fruitful evangelism efforts as God gives the increase. (CT Pastors 1/17/18)

Urban Church Conundrum U.S. Communities that are arguably in most need of the social supports churches provide are the communities where churches seem to be vanishing, and where new, upstart church activity is not happening. In ’16, a Barna Group study of 769 church start-ups found half were in wealthier locations. Barna’s Brooke Hempell noted church work in economically disadvantaged or economically mixed areas presents a higher degree of difficulty. Urban area churches tend to be extremely financially strapped. Not only is it more expensive for them to operate, they also serve more needy populations. Churches, especially new ones with young leadership and young congregants, seem to be a feature of stable and upwardly mobile communities. The disadvantaged communities most in need of the services churches exist in part to provide, cannot afford to start and sustain those churches and thus they are not getting them. (The Atlantic 1/7/18)

Social Isolation A recent study found that among users 19 to 32, those who spend more than 2 hours a day on social media have twice the risk of feeling socially isolated against people who spend less than 30 minutes a day on the same platforms (American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 7/17).

Christianity in America has declined nearly 8%, with 71% of U.S. adults identifying as Christians today vs. 78% in ’07. Nones increased 6 percentage points over this same time, from 16% to 23%. Non-Christian Faiths grew very slightly, 1% from very low numbers of 5% in ’07. The greatest increases were found among Muslims and Hindus, both of which generally doubled. But, when you break down the various Christian traditions and identities, it is clear mainline protestant churches have collectively lost 5 million members since ’07 for a total of 36 million adults today vs. 62 million American evangelical adults, up by 5 million over the same period. These are the churches that seek to be faithful to the teachings of historic, biblical Christianity. (Focus on the Family 1/8/18)

2018 World Watch List For decades, North Korea has clearly been the world’s worst persecutor of Christians, but now another nation nearly matches it. But rivaling it this year, according to Open Door’s 2018 World Watch List, is Afghanistan, which ranked No. 2 by less than a point. North Korea’s total score was 94 (on a 100-point scale), pushed above Afghanistan’s 93 by a 0.6 difference in their violence rating. In the other five categories measured—private life, family life, community life, national life, and church life—both countries received the worst scores possible. ( 1/10/18)


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