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

July 10, 2017 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



Can Facebook Replace Church? Facebook communities can fill the void left by decreasing religious participation, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently suggested. He wants groups formed on his social media platform to fill the role in people’s lives once held by churches and groups such as little league teams. People are in need of purpose and support, the millennial social media mogul said, and Facebook groups can provide that meaning. Zuckerberg also said. “It’s so striking that for decades; membership in all kinds of groups has declined as much as one-quarter. That’s a lot of people who now need to find a sense of purpose and support somewhere else.” He has also stated that Internet access is a human right. His 13-year-old social media site recently reached roughly two billion users. The average user belongs to 30 groups, and while more than one billion are members of groups, just 100 million are in “meaningful groups” or groups where they have a sense of purpose. (LifeSite News 6/27/17)


The Generosity Gap When asked to identify their ultimate financial goal for life, half of Christians first think of others (not themselves) according to The Generosity Gap, a Barna report produced in partnership with Thrivent Financial. On the other hand, about one-third are self-focused in their priorities. Barna categorized and analyzed these two groups as Givers and Keepers. Givers are motivated by “others-focused” goals: to provide for their family (43%), to give charitably (23%) to serve God with their money (20%) or to leave a legacy for others (14%). 50% of Christians are Givers. Keepers are motivated by “self-focused” goals: to support the lifestyle they want (42%), to be content (37%), to be debt-free (16%) or to earn enough to show how hard they work (5%). 35% of Christians are Keepers. Millennials are significantly more likely than other generations to prioritize providing for a family above other financial goals (31% vs. 18% Gen-Xers and Boomers, 13% Elders). Elders are most likely to say serving God with their money is their ultimate goal (19% vs. ~10% all others). These percentages push more Millennials and Elders into the Giver category than their middle-aged counterparts. Givers are more likely than Keepers to be married (65% vs. 51%). Protestants overall, and especially non-mainline Protestants (includes evangelicals) are more likely to be Givers, while Catholics are about evenly split between Givers and Keepers. Nearly 6 in 10 Christians who attended a worship service within the past week are Givers (57%), vs. 45% of Christians who did not. Christians who report orthodox beliefs are more likely to be Givers than Keepers (23% vs. 8%). Givers are also more likely to say their faith is very important in their life and to say they sense God actively involved in their day-to-day life. 33% of Givers say they donated $500 or more last year to their church or other nonprofits, compared 22% of Keepers; they are nearly twice as likely to report donating $2,500 or more (14% vs. 8%). Plus, they are more likely to report setting their own giving at 10% or more of their income (25% vs. 13%). (Barna Update 6/13/17)


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Personal Space According to the State of the American Workplace report, employees who have a personal workspace are 1.4 times more likely to be engaged at work. (Gallup 6/22/17)


Saying Grace According to a Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 48% of U.S. adults say they give blessings to God or say grace before meals at least a few times each week. A slim 51% majority say grace in both rural and urban America; in the suburbs, 45% say grace regularly. 62% of Republicans say grace at least a few times a week, vs. 43% of Democrats and 41% of independents. 60% of Protestants say grace a few times a week or more, as do 52% of Catholics. But the practice is far more prevalent among black Protestants (80%) and white evangelical Protestants (74%) than among white mainline or non-evangelical Protestants, 31% of whom report saying grace frequently before meals. Overall, about 8 in 10 blacks, about 6 in 10 Hispanics and about 4 in 10 whites say grace at least a few times each week. (Washington Post 6/16/17)


Children Need Protection Not Experimentation Increasingly, gender therapists and physicians argue children as young as 9 should be given puberty-blocking drugs if they experience gender dysphoria. But a new article by 3 highly credentialed and recognized medical experts reveals there is little scientific evidence to support such a radical procedure. The article, “Growing Pains: Problems with Puberty Suppression in Treating Gender Dysphoria,” published in The New Atlantis, discusses over 50 peer-reviewed studies on gender dysphoria in children. The best studies, the ones even transgender activists cite, 80 to 95% of children with gender dysphoria will come to identify with and embrace their bodily sex. Also, 41% of people who identify as transgender will attempt suicide at some point in their lives, compared to 4.6% of the general population. People who have had transition surgery are 19 times more likely than average to die by suicide. These statistics should stop us in our tracks. Clearly, we must work to find ways to effectively prevent these suicides and address the underlying causes. We certainly shouldn’t be encouraging children to “transition.” Rejecting human nature has real human costs. (LifeSite News 6/20/17)


Reputation Trumps Conscience Many Americans are more worried about their reputation than their conscience. They worry less about guilt and fear and more about avoiding shame, according to a new LifeWay Research study. Researchers note, shame has become our biggest cultural fear. When asked which feelings do you seek to avoid most, 38% of U.S. adult survey respondents chose shame while 30% claimed fear. Those with graduate degrees (44%) are more likely to avoid shame than those with high school diplomas or less (34%). Americans 25 to 34 avoid guilt (37%) more than those 55 and older (27%). Those 35 to 54 are the most likely to worry about shame (44%). Nones avoid guilt (35%) more than those who are religious (30%). Those who are religious avoid shame (39%) more than nones (33%). Those from non-Christian faiths are most likely to avoid shame (48%). (LifeWay Research 5/23/17)


Ready or Not? While 96% of chief academic officers of colleges and universities believe their institutions are very or somewhat effective at preparing students for the workforce, only 11% of business leaders strongly agree. Companies in major industries report they are unable to grow and compete because they struggle to identify properly skilled talent: 49% report unfilled job openings, and 37% can’t take on a new project or major initiative. In addition, only 35% of college students say they are prepared for a job, and over half of recent grads are unemployed or underemployed. Also, just 16% of Americans think a 4-year degree prepares students for a well-paying job in today’s economy. And, in fact, shows 40% of bachelor’s degree holders would study a different major if they could do it over. Yet, while the value of a college degree is increasingly called into question, college enrollment rates at public higher education institutions have fallen by less than 2% each year since ’13. Meanwhile, as of ’17, 44 million Americans carry $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. (Gallup 6/20/17)


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Loneliest People Adults of a lower socio-economic status are more likely to: be lonely (27%), say they have no one close by to call on in case of an emergency (47%), have fewer friends in general (on average 2.5 close friends), or say they have no close friends at all (20%).(Barna Research 5/15/17) 


U.S. Millennials Give More to charity than their counterparts in the U.K. and Australia. U.S. Millennials gave an average of $580 during the past year while U.K. Millennials gave an average of $234 and Millennial Australians gave an average of $317. ( 6/19/17)


For Jews and Jewish Life, the postponement of marriage or lifelong singlehood, hold disturbing consequences. While intermarriage has long been understood as inhibiting Jewish engagement and connection, the same is almost as true of non-marriage. Synagogue membership among non-Haredi (ultra-orthodox) Jews aged 25-54: It reaches a healthy 65% among the in-married, but only a paltry 22% among the non-married and an even tinier number, 13%, among the intermarried. While almost all in-married Jews attend Passover Seders (93%), that’s true of just over half the intermarried or non-married (53% and 59%, respectively). And not only do the in-married act more Jewish, they feel more Jewish. 63% say being Jewish is very important to them, as compared with just 40% of the singles and 25% among the intermarried. (Jewish Telegraph Agency 6/20/17)


Orthodox Christianity Growing Almost half the nearly 1 million Orthodox Christians in the U.S. today are converts. The majority of these married into the church. But a growing number are joining simply out of an affinity for the faith. More than 70% of the roughly 75,000 Antiochian Orthodox Christians in the U.S. are converts. The Orthodox Church in America, with roots in Moscow and about 85,000 adherents, reports a 50% figure. In Greek Orthodox Christianity, by far the largest branch in the U.S. with almost 480,000 members, it’s about 25%. The strength of Orthodox Christianity (also known as Eastern Christianity, Eastern Orthodoxy or Greek Orthodoxy) stems from the conviction that its traditions are the same as those practiced by Jesus’ original followers, the 12 apostles, and the theologians who codified those practices in their writings over the first few centuries after his death. (Baltimore Sun 6/26/17)


Be Merciless As you begin to plot out 2017, be brutally honest. It’s time to admit that spin-off will never turn the corner, that launch was badly executed or that tired title or ministry is too weak to stand on its own. It’s ok for products and projects to have natural life cycles; they’re not all meant to live forever. The reinvention of business and ministry models for the biggest winners with real potential requires focus: of resources, brains and cash. Side projects and money-losers are distractions, you can’t afford. Investment in new ideas is crucial. I can help you put aside emotional blindness and make the hard calls. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or


The 6 Largest Book Markets Worldwide account for 66% of all revenue generated from books, and their share is still expanding. Those countries and their respective market shares are: USA (33%), France (17%), UK (8%), Japan (5%), Germany (4%) and China (3%). (The Business of Books 2017, Frankfurt Book Fair Business Club)


Most Valued Life Direction When LifeWay Research asked Americans “What directions do you value most? Reaching my potential, bringing honor to family and friends, or having friends in high places.” Just 3% chose having friends in high places. Instead, 51% said reaching their potential and 46% bringing honor to family and friends. (LifeWay Research 5/23/17)


Family is ranked by American adults as more central to their identity than any other surveyed factor (i.e. being an American, faith, ethnicity, etc.), finds Barna Research. 62% also say family plays a significant role in their identity. But this is changing generationally. Only 53% of Millennials say family plays a significant role vs. 76% of Elders. Despite these shifts, parents are taking their task of character building very seriously. Self-control, patience, fairness and conflict resolution are some of the virtues being discussed daily between parent and child. (The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place, Andy Crouch, Baker Books, 2017)


Feeling of Freedom Declining In ’06, 91% of Americans were satisfied with the freedom in their lives vs. 75% today. The 16 point decline is dramatic, but looking at how far the U.S. has fallen in comparison with the rest of the world, the decline is even worse. The U.S. ranked 11th when Gallup asked this question in ’06 (among 118 countries). In ’16, the U.S. came in 71st (among 139 countries). This puts the U.S. in the bottom half of all countries measured. Researchers attribute this to what they think about their financial situation and their government. (2017 Global Emotions Report)


The Most Common Reason Missionaries Go Home isn’t due to lack of money, illness, terrorism, homesickness, or even a lack of fruit or response to the gospel. Regretfully, the number one reason is conflict with other missionaries.

( 7/4/17)


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