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 25, 2017 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



What is College For? In partnership with the Assoc. for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE), Barna asked U.S. adults about their beliefs on the primary purpose of a college education. 70% of adults 18 and up believe it is to “prepare for a specific job or career,” and just over half say it is to “increase financial opportunities.” Half think it’s to “stay competitive in today’s job market.” Now compare the top choices with the bottom 3 options: “learn how to make a difference in the world,” “develop moral character” and “encourage spiritual growth.” Falling somewhere between are personal growth and practical skills: “strengthen critical thinking and writing skills,” “grow in leadership skills,” “discover who you are” and “learn about academic interests.” Self-identified Christians agree with the general population that college is primarily about preparing for a specific job or career, increasing financial opportunities and staying competitive in today’s job market. Perhaps most unsettling, is Christians’ overall disassociation of higher education with spiritual and moral development. Only 7% of self-identified Christians said college is for encouraging spiritual growth, and just 14% for developing moral character, the same as those with no faith. (Barna 7/18/17)


Americans Worried About Children 51% of US adults believe our nation’s culture these days has an overall negative influence on the lives of children under 18, according to a new American Culture & Faith Institute survey. Born again adults were more likely to cite cultural influence as negative rather than positive by a 4-to-1 margin (66% vs. 16%). Yet, among not born again adults, it was 45%, with 30% claiming it has a positive impact. 93% of adults who have a biblical worldview said culture leaves a negative imprint on children vs. only 48% of those with a secular worldview. 60% of adults predicted that 10 years from now it will be harder to raise children who know biblical values and want to live in harmony with them vs. 11% who said it will be easier. 72% of born again adults foresaw bigger challenges vs. just 55% of the non-born agains. 86% of adults with a biblical worldview predicted it would be harder to raise Bible-centered children a decade from now and those without one (58%). (American Culture & Faith Institute 6/27/17)


No Standing Still Even as it turns in its best financial results in decades, McDonald’s is doing a global brand-strategy study to ensure it keeps its momentum. Mary Dillon, EVP of Global Marketing, notes, “Consumer needs and attitudes change every day, so we have to be out ahead of it.” Are you staying ahead of your consumers or constituents? Contact me at 419-238-4082, or (Media Daily News 2/6/07)


What Is Needed to Succeed in Life? Only 33% of all U.S. adults and just 28% of born again adults are generally satisfied with how well children under 14 are being prepared to succeed in life.  A new American Culture & Faith Institute survey found the 8 top skills parents believe children need to have in order to succeed in life in America are: reading proficiency at a 10th-grade level or beyond (88%), basic personal money management competency (86%), the ability to accurately solve basic math problems (86%), basic logic and reasoning ability (86%), solid relational skills (83%), understanding how the branches of government work (72%), knowing how to perform first aid and CPR (70%), and studying the U.S. Constitution (68%). (American Culture & Faith Institute 6/27/17)


Top 7 Reasons Church Guests Return: 1) The presence of God is felt. There is an unmistakable awareness of the presence and power of God at work. 2) The key leaders are perceived as trustworthy. Even from only a message or two, or brief connections in the lobby, guests intuitively have decided if they can trust you. 3) The worship service is positive, relevant, biblically sound and executed with heart and excellence. 4) The volunteers and congregation express authentic love and care. Genuine love and attention is unmistakable and irresistible. 5) They hear current stories of life change. Life change is inspiring, and it gives hope that they too can experience positive and spiritually oriented change. 6) There are no “glaring” shortcomings. There should be nothing that is an immediate turn-off, or so grossly out of line it makes people feel awkward and uncomfortable. 7) The children’s ministry is outstanding. Each ministry matters, but children’s ministry is the one that receives the least grace from your guests. (ChurchLeaders, Dan Reiland, 6/28/17)


When Faith and Sexuality Clash, which side should prevail? Americans can’t decide. 48% of Americans say religious freedom is more important in such conflicts when faith and sexuality clash, says a LifeWay Research survey. 24% say sexual freedom is more important and 28% aren't sure. (Baptist Press 6/27/17)


America’s Most Post-Christian Cities According to Barna Research’s recent data, the most post-Christian cities in America are Portland-Auburn, Maine (57%). 8 of the top 10 most post-Christian cities are in New England and the Northeast (considered the foundation and home-base of religion in America). The next 6 cities on the list are Boston, MA-Manchester, NH (56%), Providence, RI-New Bedford, MA (53%), Burlington, VT-Plattsburgh, NY (53%), Hartford-New Haven, CT (52%), and New York, NY (51%). Next up are two big West Coast hubs: San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA (50%), and Seattle-Tacoma (50%).  (Barna 7/11/17)


Amazon grew its overall sales by 60% year over year during the 30-hour Prime Day (7/11/17). Based on Internet Retailer estimates of $1.80 billion in sales globally on Prime Day last year, Amazon had an estimated $2.880 billion in sales on Prime Day 2017. (Internet Retailer 7/10/17)


Reputation Is Everything The Internet and search make all information easily accessible and capable of becoming viral and ubiquitous in a millisecond. The Web is the new central nervous system of the marketplace. It’s introduced unprecedented speed and efficiency in synchronizing the core truth about who you really are with your actual reputation in the marketplace. The Web is driving expectations and sensitivity around brands higher than ever. As a result, marketing and brand-building is no longer about creating a desirable façade, but about driving all that is desired into the product in the first place. It’s living by the philosophy that the sum of all your actions equals your brand equity—including the experience of even mundane things like invoicing and returns. Are you really what you say you are? Contact 419-238-4082, or (Online Spin 4/11/08)


Attracting Unchurched People to Small Churches Attracting and keeping people considered unchurched is rated as the top predictor of growth through new professions of faith at small churches (250 members or less), according to a new study. “These churches are places of invitation, welcome and involvement for the unchurched,” said The Billy Graham Center of Wheaton College study authors. Second to attracting and keeping the unchurched, small churches that grow by Christian conversions tend to offer classes for new attendees, even when they are not evangelistic. Also, if the pastor is a learner and stays inspired and growing in the area of evangelism, his church will reach more people who commit to Christ and who stick. Other top growth predictors among small churches are: •The pastor more frequently asks people to commit after he shares the Gospel. •The church spends a higher percentage of its budget on evangelism and missions. •Church members often tell the pastor they themselves are sharing the Gospel with others. •Unchurched visitors often communicate favorable feedback to pastors after weekly worship services. • The church shares the Gospel outside its walls and conducts community service. • Transfer and conversion growth tend to go together for small churches. •The pastor more frequently blocks out time in the calendar for the purpose of sharing the Gospel with non-Christians. (Baptist Press 6/28/17)


Americans with Student Loan Debt lag behind on measures of wealth accumulation, home ownership, and general economic well-being, according to surveys by the Pew Research Center. (CT Direct 6/28/17)


Humility Research Researchers have developed scales to measure intellectual humility, relational humility, and cultural humility. Some are working on spiritual humility as well.

As with forgiveness and gratitude, humility fosters physical, mental, and relational health. Humble people are more grateful and forgiving, so they enjoy the benefits of those virtues. They are also more generous and helpful than others, have better romantic relationships, have less anxiety about death, and experience less spiritual struggle. They perform better at school and work, show more compassion to others, and even have better self-esteem than less humble people. ( 7/21/17)


What Hinders A Child’s Growth? American Culture & Faith Institute survey respondents were given a list of 14 things their children could be exposed to and asked about the impact of those experiences. Among the 14 items tested, by far the most positive experience children can have was thought to be participation in extended-family gatherings.  3 other activities to which adults awarded very high net-positive scores were attending church services, going to art exhibits and reading the Bible. The other 3 experiences that were well-regarded by adults related to children’s’ development were reading bestselling books, exposure to professional sports events, and receiving a public school education. The experience generally seen as neutral was watching TV news programs. Strikingly, all 6 of the experiences adults see as having a net-negative impact on children were media experiences. Those included listening to popular music, watching current movies, exposure to websites and online content, viewing televised entertainment, exposure to social media exchanges and playing video games. Born again adults were more likely than non-born again adults to give negative assessments to the impact of everything tested except for extended-family gatherings, watching professional sports, attending church services, and reading the Bible. (American Culture & Faith Institute 6/27/17)


Pastors Who Intentionally Share Their Faith 75% of evangelistic pastors attempt to share their faith at least once a week. 80% spend time with non-Christians to make friends and share the gospel at least once a month. 60% intentionally block out time in their calendar to be outside the church office and share their faith with non-Christians. While 75% of pastors share their faith once a week, only 48% ask someone weekly to commit to Christ after hearing the gospel. When adding in the “once a month” frequency, the percentage of pastors grows to 75%. (Outreach 7/9/17)


It’s OK to Quit Contrary to conventional wisdom, winners actually do quit. Seth Godin points out in The Dip that knowing what to quit and what to keep is a key element in success. These are hard choices that my outside objectivity can help you make. 419-238-4082, or  (The Dip, Seth Godin, Portfolio, 2007)


Demand For Gay ‘Marriage’ A Myth A recent Gallup Poll reveals that facts contradict the popular media narrative about the unbridled joy gay “marriage” in America. The massive pent-up demand for gay “marriage” never actually existed, and it seems that its establishment across the land has caused gay “marriage” not to flourish but to decline. About 8% of LGBT Americans were already “married” when the Obergefell decision came down, having “wed” in liberal coastal cities. During the first year after the ruling, there was a modest increase to 9.6%. However, in the second year, only an additional 0.6% were “married”, a third of the previous year. While the number of gay “marriages” increased 2.3% over the course of 2 years, the number of gays “living with same-sex partner” has been sliced in half, decreasing from 12.8% to 6.6%, a total drop of 6.2%. The Gallup analysis suggests much of the decline in partnerships is attributable to those couples getting “married,” but during the last year, the number of “marriages” increased only 0.6% while the number of partnerships decreased by 3.5%, about 6 times the number of “marriages.” The number of gays identifying as single/never married didn’t decrease post-Obergefell; on the contrary, it has been increasing rapidly. The number went up by 2.5% during the first year, from 47.4% to 49.9% and a whopping 6% to 55.7% over the past year. Even if the numbers of cohabiting gays and gay “spouses” are combined, the total has slipped dramatically from 20.7% pre-Obergefell to 16.8% today. (LifeSite News 6/26/17)


Will Men Become Mothers? Health experts in the UK predict that men, and those who are born as males but who identify as females, will be able to receive womb transplants and bear children within a decade. Doctors in Europe have already successfully transplanted wombs into wombless women who have gone on to bear healthy children. Now ‘male-to-female transgenders’ are demanding they be able to receive womb transplants too, at the government health service’s expense. (LifeSite News 7/4/17)


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