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, 2019 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Religious Women are the Happiest Wives New Institute for Family Studies global research shows women in highly religious marriages, “especially traditionalists,” reported the highest satisfaction in the quality of their relationships. Women in “shared, secular progressive relationships” reported “relatively high levels of relationship quality.” However, women in “the ideological and religious middle” reported having lower quality relationships. Highly religious couples have better relationships and more sexual satisfaction than less or mixed religious couples and non-religious couples. In fact, women in highly religious marriages are 50% more likely to report they are strongly satisfied with their sexual relationship than their secular and less religious counterparts. (LifeSite News 5/24/19)


Charitable Giving Drop Charitable giving by individual Americans in ’18 suffered its biggest drop since the Great Recession of ’08-’09, according to the latest Giving USA report. Individual giving fell by 1.1%, from $295 billion in ’17 to $292 billion last year. It ended a 4-year streak of increases and was the largest decline since a 6.1% drop in ’09. Among various factors affecting charitable giving was a federal tax policy change that doubled the standard deduction. More than 45 million households itemized deductions in ’16 and that number likely dropped sharply in ’18, reducing an incentive for charitable giving. (Religion News Service 6/18/19)


Unwanted 44% of all Protestant churchgoers say they have been victims of the following types of sexual misconduct: unwanted sexual joking, unsolicited sexual messages, unwanted compliments and inappropriate glances. 12% say the misconduct occurred at church. Among all Protestant churchgoers, 1% say they’ve experienced at least one of these types of misconduct from the pastor, 2% a staff member other than the pastor, 2% a church leader not on staff and 3% another attendee acted in one of these ways toward them. 75% of churchgoers say the church is a safer environment when it comes to encountering sexually inappropriate comments vs. other places they socialize. (Facts & Trends 5/21/19)


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Evangelical Millennials are more likely to be engaged at church than older generations of evangelicals while also being more likely than Gen X evangelicals to give to charities every year, finds a new a Dunham+Company poll. The study found that 53% of self-identified evangelicals surveyed said they attend church once per week or more. By comparison, 61% of millennial evangelicals (ages 18-34), 54% of “boomers and matures” (55 and over) and 44% of Gen X (35-54) respondents said the same. (Christian Post 5/22/19)


U.S. Births are at Their Lowest Point in 32 years and fertility is at a record low, reports the National Center for Health Statistics. In ’18 both births and fertility rates fell 2% from ’17. For the past decade, fertility has been consistently below the replacement rate, the level at which a given generation can exactly replace itself. Births totaled 3,788,235 in the U.S. in ’18 vs. 3,855,500 in ’17. The numbers mark the 4th consecutive year of decline since a spike in ’14 and the lowest number since 1986. (Baptist Press 5/15/19)


Fastest Growing Cities Attract More Evangelicals Only 11% of the residents of the 10 largest U.S. metro-areas are evangelical Christians, according to the most recent data available from the Association of Religion Data Archive. Yet, among the fastest growing cities in America, many of which are suburbs surrounding some of the largest cities, the percentage of evangelicals is 20%. (Facts & Trends 5/31/19)


Bible History Only about one in 10 Americans supports the idea of Bible history electives in public schools. (Christian Post 5/30/19)


Couples Who Take Their Faith Seriously are much more likely to be flourishing in their marriages, finds a new report from the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institution. Lukewarm couples, those who attend church infrequently, do not enjoy better relationship quality than secular couples who never attend church and on some measures, such as men’s infidelity and women’s relationship quality; they actually do worse than secular couples. But research also tells us husbands and wives who attend church regularly are between 28% and 47% less likely to divorce. In addition, highly religious couples report the highest relationship quality, the best sex and less cheating. Overall, regular religious attendance is linked to higher-quality relationships. ( 5/28/19)


Role of Religion in Society 51% of Americans would like to see religion become more of a factor while 18% oppose and 21% prefer no change. However, 58% say religion has a less important role compared to 20 years ago. Fewer say there has been no change (21%) or a more important role for religion (19%). (Facts & Trends 5/14/19)


Millennial non-Christians are much more likely to have had one or more conversations about faith than their older counterparts and are twice as likely to express personal interest in Christianity (26% vs. 16%). They’ve also had much more personal experience with all kinds of evangelistic methods than older non-Christians, including through tracts (45% vs. 26%) or encounters with a person either at church (35% vs. 19%) or on the street (30% vs. 16%). However, their favored method for exploring faith is a one-on-one conversation with a Christian (53%), something only 32% of older non-Christians prefer. (Barna 5/28/19)


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)


Fulfillment from Spiritual Practices 64% of U.S. adults believe their religious faith is something that provides them at least some meaning and fulfillment, with 33% reporting a great deal. Of course, those who engage with their faith more regularly find greater fulfillment in their faith than those who don’t. Elders note a greater sense of fulfillment than do Millennials. The same is also true among African Americans. (State of the Bible 2019, American Bible Society)


Workers Use Skillsets in Ministry A strong majority of each church-attending generation aims to serve their churches through their professional skillset (82% of Millennials, 80% of Gen X, 80% of Boomers). (Barna 5/14/19)


The Bible is Transformative Overall, 59% of Americans agree the Bible has transformed their life, including 26% of adults who agree strongly. 42% of adults say the Bible has not transformed their lives. Bible Centered adults universally believe the Bible is transformative, vs. 75% of Bible Engaged, 37% of Friendlies and significantly fewer Neutrals, Disengaged and Skeptics. Adults from low and mid-income levels are more likely to report that the Bible has transformed their lives, vs. those who earn $100K or more. African Americans, Gen X and Practicing Protestants are also more likely to report life transformation as a result of their Bible use. (State of the Bible 2019, American Bible Society)


The Religious Gap Lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans are less religious than straight adults by traditional measures, according to a new analysis of data from Pew Research Center’s ’14 Religious Landscape Study. 41% identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” vs. just 22% of straight adults who say the same. Just 19% of bisexuals and 16% of lesbian and gay Americans say they attend religious services weekly vs. 36% of straight adults. Just 38% of bisexuals and 33% of gays and lesbians say that scripture is the Word of God vs. 61% of straight Americans. Likewise, 34% gays, lesbians and bisexuals say that religion is very important in their lives while 54% of straight Americans say this. Interestingly, 77% of LGB adults say they believe in God vs. 89% of straight Americans. (Pew Research 5/24/19)


Atheism Has Peaked There are fewer atheists in the world today (138 million) than there were in 1970 (165 million). Since 2000, atheism has rebounded slightly (only by 0.04%) but is expected to decline again and fall below 130 million by 2050. Agnosticism has maintained a small growth rate of 0.42%. After reaching 716 million this year, however, it is expected to drop below 700 million by 2050. (Facts & Trends 6/11/19)


Dads More Engaged A study by a team of sociologists at Brigham Young and Ball State universities indicates fathers today are more engaged with their kids than previous generations. The study indicates this change has led to fathers generally being more supportive in tough times and to provide their children with more warmth and reassurance. Men with younger children tended to engage with their kids several times a week, while those with older children were more likely to be engaged between once and several times weekly, but were keenly aware of what their kids were up to. The study is published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. (Study Finds 6/15/19)


Spiritual Religious or Christian 71% of U.S. adults describe themselves as a Christian. But do people prefer the term “spiritual” or “religious?” Overall, 73% of U.S. adults agrees the phrase “a spiritual person” describes them very or somewhat accurately, with 32% who claim the term is very accurate. 52% believe the term “a religious person” describes them very or somewhat well. 49% of adults who do not identify as Christian say they are a spiritual person vs. 85% of Christians who use this term to describe themselves. Relatively few non-Christians (14%), including 6% of those who align with no religious faith, describe themselves as a religious person vs. 71% of Christians. (State of the Bible 2019, American Bible Society)


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

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Teen Sexting A major new Univ. of Calgary study found worrisome associations between teen sexting and mental health as well as risky sexual behavior. Youth who sext, compared to those who don’t, were more likely to have multiple sexual partners, experience anxiety and depression and drink alcohol, take drugs and smoke. They were also less likely to use contraception. The associations were stronger in younger adolescents. ( 6/18/19)


Intentional Sacrifices Just 15% of Protestant churchgoers strongly agree they intentionally give up certain purchases so they can use that money for others. Including those who somewhat agree, 41% say they practice that type of intentional generosity according to the LifeWay Research’s 2019 Discipleship Pathway Assessment. Among those 18-34 attending a Protestant church once a month or more, 22% strongly agree they give up purchases to use that money for others. The same is true for 18% of those 35-49, 12% of those 50-64 and 8% of those 65 and older. Hispanic churchgoers (25%) are more likely to strongly agree than African American (17%) or white (12%) churchgoers. 62% of Protestant churchgoers intentionally try to serve people outside of their church who have tangible needs, with 25% strongly agreeing. 26% of weekly church attenders say they serve others in this way vs. 21% of those who attend less frequently. (Baptist Press 6/5/19)


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