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, 2016 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



Are Churches Making a Difference? Americans appear to be growing more skeptical of how much of a difference churches and other houses of worship make in tackling social concerns finds recent Pew Research data. A majority of U.S. adults still say religious institutions contribute either “a great deal” (19%) or “some” (38%) to solving important social problems. But the combined figure of 58% has fallen significantly in recent years. 39% now say religious institutions make little to no contribution in this area. In ‛12, 65% and in ‛08 75% said churches and other houses of worship played at least some role in solving society’s dilemmas. 38% of religious “nones” say religious institutions contribute at least some help to solving social problems vs. 65% of Protestants and 63% of Catholics. (Pew Fact Tank 7/18/16)


Who are the Unchurched? According to recent LifeWay Research data 67% of unchurched Americans (have not attended worship in the past 6 months) are white, 53% are male, 47% have a high school diploma or less, 62% went to church regularly as a child, 32% consider themselves nonreligious and 20% identify as Protestant while 25% identify as Catholic. 51% say a personal invitation from a friend or family member would be effective in getting them to visit a church. 70% agree there’s an ultimate plan and purpose for every person. 57% say it’s important for them to find their deeper purpose in life. (LifeWay Research 7/7/16)


Barna Group Research indicates practicing Christians are more than twice as likely to adopt as the general population, and 50% more likely to foster parent. (Herm•eneutics 4/16/16)


7 Future Changes for Local Churches According to the church will look much different 20 years from now than it does today. 1. More churches will be led by bi-vocational pastors and/or bi-vocational teams. 2. Seminary training will not be a requirement for a growing number of churches. 3. Midsize churches will face a lot of pressure to compete with much larger churches in the programs and ministries they offer. 4. The current trend of a lower commitment to the denomination in which people were raised will continue and even increase. 5. Lay people will be much more involved in ministry than they are today. 6. Churches will become more creative in raising funds. 7. Expect to see more home churches. ( 6/20/16)


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)


Millennials (14% of the general U.S. population) are half as likely as Elders (29%) to believe the Bible is the actual word of God and twice as likely to believe it is a manmade book of teachings and advice (20% vs. 11% among Elders). (Barna 6/15/16)


45% of Americans With Student Loan Debt claim college was not worth the cost. Of those, 38% didn’t graduate, 69% have trouble making loan payments, 78% earn less than $50,000 per year and 43% didn’t get help from parents in making financial aid decisions. (Consumer Reports 8/16)


Morally Unacceptable Americans find pornography “morally unacceptable” by a 2 to 1 margin according to a new Gallup poll. 61 % of Americans say porn is morally unacceptable vs. 34 % who rate it acceptable. Gallup has tracked moral trends for several years, finding homosexuality has made the biggest gains: while 40 % found it morally acceptable in ‛01, 60 % are fine with it today. Meanwhile 32% found teen sex acceptable in ‛13, and 37 % find it so today. Pornography is also tracking upwards with 31 % viewing it as acceptable in ‛11 and 34 % doing so today. (LifeSite News 6/23/16)


Tough Marketing Problem Count on me for a cost effective solution. Contact 419-238-4082, or


Make It Personal 51% of unchurched Americans say a personal invitation from a friend or family member would be effective in getting them to visit a church. Other methods, such as a TV commercial (23%), postcard (23%), church member knocking on the door (21%), or Facebook ad (18%) are less effective. (Baptist Press 6/29/16)


Church Influence Fading Pew’s ‛07 Religious Landscape Study, which polled 35,000 respondents, found 16% of Americans claimed no religious affiliation. By ‛15, it had grown to 23%. In ‛67, Gallup found 2% of Americans claimed no religious preference, but by ‛14, it had grown to 16%. In ‛07, Pew found 80% of Americans identified as Christians, but by ‛14, it had dropped to 70%. Pew also found fewer than half (45.6%) of Americans now identify as Protestants for the first time in history. These studies show American religion is in a period of slow decline, says Duke Univ. Mark Chaves. None of this decline is happening fast, and levels of religious involvement in the U.S. continue to remain very high by world standards. But the signs of decline are unmistakable. Fewer people claim to be Christians, but churchgoers, are holding steady in some segments, and thriving in others. GSS data shows only a slight decline among frequent churchgoers. In 1940, 37% of Americans said, “yes,” when asked by Gallup if they had been to church within the last week while 36% said they’d been to church in ‛15. Over the past 40 years, the share of Americans who regularly attends a Protestant church has only declined from 23% to 20%. The U.S. remains a remarkably devout nation with about 4 in 10 claiming to go to church weekly. More than 138 million (44% of the population) belong to a congregation.  (The Exchange 7/5/16)


Teen Sexual Activity Lower The number of American high schoolers who have never had sexual intercourse has increased by 28% since ‛91, claims a new CDC data. Today, 41.2 % of U.S. high school students have had sexual intercourse vs. 54.1% in ‛91, the first year such statistics were measured, and down from 46.8% in ‛13. The data also indicated decreases over both the past 24 years and the past 2 years in the number of teens to have sex before age 13, the number of teens who have had sex with 4 or more different partners and the number who currently are sexually active. 69.9% of high schoolers are not currently sexually active (no intercourse in the last 3 months). (Baptist Press 6/29/16)


Fraud Abuse The Assoc. of Certified Fraud Examiners finds the typical organization loses 5% of its revenues in a given year as a result of fraud and the median duration was 18 months. (ECFA ChurchPulse 7/16)


Women Now Own 38% of America’s Businesses finds the American Express OPEN’s 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.  1,072 new women-owned firms have been started each day since ‛07. The growth in women-owned businesses has increased at a rate 5 times faster than the national average since ‛07, as have the number of small businesses owned by women of color. When you consider small businesses in America account for 54% of all U.S. sales and provide 55% of all jobs, it’s clear that the increasing number of women starting small businesses is driving significant economic growth.  (Manta 7/6/16)


The “No Difference” Myth A new study published in the July ‛16 Depression Research and Treatment journal contributes to mounting evidence against the “no differences” thesis about the children of same-sex households. According to the longitudinal National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health study, when the kids raised in same-sex households had become young adults 24 to 32, 51% report ongoing depression vs. less than 20% young-adult children of opposite-sex parent. 72% of young adults with same-sex parents are obese vs. 31% among their opposite-sex parent counterparts. 73% of same-sex home young adults feel distant from one or both parents vs. 36% among opposite-sex parent peers. (LifeSite News 7/11/16)


Giving by individuals was up more than 6% during ‛14 and another 4.1% for ‛15, according to Giving USA. Donors gave more of their disposable incomes than before the Great Recession. (NonProfit Times 7/14/16)


The Average Worker in America works 47 hours a week, not 40. 25% of the population report they work more than 60 hours a week, and another 20% works around 50. So, almost half of America is working 50 hours a week or more. (Manta 6/7/16)


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)


Optimistic But Unhappy According to a new Harris Poll, happiness decreased by more than 30% among U.S. adults in ‛15, only about 31% now say they are ‘very happy’. Of course, there are degrees of happiness, and researchers found most (81%) are ‘generally happy’, and that women are probably happier than men (33% vs. 29%). For both genders, the happiness quotient has steadily declined since ‛08 when 33% of men and 36% of women stated they were happy with their lives. Yet 7 in 10 Americans say they are optimistic about the future. Americans are most happy about their relationships with friends and family, but 73% report that they ‘feel unheard’ on a national/governmental level and that their voice isn’t heard on issues that affect them. Americans are least happy (62%) about their financial situation and 34% report their ‘work is frustrating’. Only 33% regularly take part in hobbies or enjoyable pastimes. (BizReport 7/11/16)


Rise of Nondenominational Churches The majority of the 100 largest churches in the U.S. are nondenominational. Soon, the largest evangelical ‘denomination’ will be non-denominational. (The Exchange 7/7/16)


Transgender Morality 54% of Americans say it is wrong to switch genders by taking hormones or having surgery finds LifeWay Research. Evangelicals are almost twice as likely (61%) as non-evangelicals (32%) to say using surgery or hormones to change birth gender is morally wrong. Far fewer Catholics (29%), those of non-Christian faiths (41%) or the nonreligious (21%) believe it’s wrong to alter gender by medical means. Tragically, excluding evangelical believers, 75% of Americans cite no moral qualms about changing gender identification. While 54% of evangelical believers say it’s wrong to identify with a different gender, just 35% of Americans share that view. Only 26% Catholics, 35% of Jews and Muslims and 20% of those nonreligious agree. 14% of Americans say identifying with a different gender isn’t a matter of morality at all, and 11% say it isn’t a moral issue to alter one’s gender. (CT Gleanings 7/14/16)


Youth Who Go To Church Watch Porn Less The 5-year study published in the 6/17 issue of Journal of Adolescence, shows porn use increases dramatically as youth grow into adulthood, but a significantly lower increase in porn use is seen among youth who attend religious services. Researchers concluded, “Pornography consumption is weaker at higher levels of religious attendance, particularly among boys, and religious attendance also weakens age-based increases in pornography consumption for both boys and girls. Overall, pornography use increases across adolescence into young adulthood, but immersion in a religious community can help weaken these increases.” It is important to not assume those involved in church are immune to the harms of porn. Recent research reveals more than half of Christian youth pastors have had at least one teen come to them for help dealing with porn in the past 12 months. (LifeSite News 7/14/16)

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