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

June 25, 2017 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



Small & Mid-Size Churches Most Attended Despite the cultural impact of mega-churches, most churchgoers attend services in a more intimate context. 46% attend a church of 100 or fewer attendees. 37% attend a church of 100-499, 9% go to a church of 500-999 and 8% attend a church of 1,000 or more. (Barna Trends 2017, Barna Group, Baker Books, 2017)


1 Million Fewer Southern Baptists The loss of an additional 77,786 members from the Southern Baptist Convention in ’16 concludes a decade-long decline that has ultimately resulted in a total loss of 1 million members, according to new statistics released in LifeWay Christian Resources’ Annual Church Profile Report. Average giving, baptisms and weekly worship attendance also declined in ’16, in addition to memberships. The numbers indicate the lowest number of baptisms since 1946, the lowest membership since 1990 and the lowest worship attendance since 1996. While the overall decline is bad news for the SBC, the report indicated a few bright spots. In ’16, the Convention added 479 churches, increasing the total number of churches to more than 47,000. Also, SBC churches baptized 280,773 people last year. (Church Leaders 6/13/17)


Millennial & Gen Z & Social Media Millennials (aged 20-33) and Generation Z (aged 14-19) spend around 1 in every 3 online minutes social networking and messaging, with digital consumers engaging for a daily average of over 2 hours (rising to 2 hrs. 40 mins among 16-24s), according to new studies from Deloitte and GlobalWebIndex.  (Media Intelligence, Heard on the Web 5/25/17)


Giving By Women Millennial women are more likely than their Baby-Boomer counterparts to give spontaneously and encourage others to support the organizations they support, finds a new Fidelity Charitable study. 71% of millennial women are often motivated to give in the moment as opposed to strategically compared with just 48% of Baby Boomer women. 51% of millennial women encourage others to donate to the same organizations as they do vs. 30% of Boomers. 63% of millennial women are torn between donating money and keeping it for personal needs vs. only 40% of Boomer women. 55% of millennial women are more likely to support a wide variety of causes vs. 33% of Boomer women. Boomers are more likely than Millennials to make financial donations (82 % to 69%) and non-financial gifts such as furniture or clothing (95% to 82%). Millennials are more likely to give at point-of-sale such, as the checkout line (71% to 68%), participate in workplace fundraisers or matching programs (53% to 30%), and donate through crowdfunding or other platforms that address individual needs (49% to 29%). Overall, women are more likely to give with their heart as opposed to their head than men (64% to 53%) and more likely to give in the moment (51% to 40%). Men are more likely than women to seek the advice of family members (39% to 27%) and friends (27% to 15%) before making a gift. Women rely more on charity-rankers such as GuideStar and Charity Navigator (61% to 47%). (The NonProfit Times 5/11/17)


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Women Who Take Oral Contraceptives may be placing themselves at risk for decreased overall health and well-being, finds a new Swedish study. Mood, self-control, and energy level were all negatively affected by contraceptives. And the women taking the birth control pills in the study said their quality of life was “significantly lower” than those who were taking placebos. (LifeSite News 4/28/17)



8 Major Changes in Churches the Past 10 Years Several major changes that have taken place in congregations that are doing relatively well. None of the changes in healthy churches have compromised doctrine, diminished the centrality of preaching, or abandoned sharing the gospel.

Here are 8 of them as identified by Thom Rainer: 1.Today: Smaller worship gatherings. Ten years ago: Larger worship gatherings. 2.Today: Smaller church facilities. Ten years ago: Larger church facilities. 3.Today: First priority staff person hired: children’s minister. Ten years ago: First priority staff person hired: worship leader children. 4.Today: Ministry degree optional for church staff members. Ten years ago: Ministry degree strongly preferred for church staff. 5.Today: Emphasis on congregational singing. Ten years ago: Emphasis on performance singing. 6.Today: Community focus. Ten years ago: Community myopia. 7.Today: Vital importance of groups. Ten years ago: Marginal importance of groups. 8.Today: Church leaders are continuous learners. Ten years ago: Church leaders were “degree and done.” (Thomas S Rainer, Growing Healthy Churches, Together 6/6/17)


Teen Pregnancy Rate falls 42.6% after UK cuts liberal sex-ed, birth-control funding, finds a Univ. of Sheffield study published in The Journal of Health Economics. England has been forced to make severe cuts in recent years to its budget, including tax funds for sex-ed in schools and free birth control. The researchers discovered taking away tax funding for contraceptive-focused sex education in schools actually reduced teen pregnancy. The research shows those government programs actually increase teen pregnancies, and in turn increase abortions for teen single mothers. (LifeSite News 6/5/17)


BlessU-2-The Robot Artificial intelligence has taken a new form in BlessU-2, a robotic priest that offers digitalized blessings to the public. The robot, which has a head, two arms and a light, interacts with visitors through a display screen much like a banking machine, allowing users to choose a language, whether they prefer a male or female voice, and if they would like an encouraging blessing or a renewal-style encounter. The blessing can also be printed on paper for later reflection. The robot priest is part of an exhibition at the Protestant Church of Hesse and Nassau in the German town of Wittenberg, celebrating the anniversary of the Reformation in 1517. (Spring Wise 6/13/17)


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Czechs Don’t Believe About seven-in-ten Czechs (72%) do not identify with a religious group, including 46% who describe their religion as “nothing in particular” and an additional 25% who say “atheist” describes their religious identity. When it comes to religious belief (as opposed to religious identity) 66% of Czechs say they do not believe in God vs. just 29% who do. (While a lack of affiliation and a lack of belief may seem to go hand in hand, that is not always the case. In the U.S., for example, a majority of religiously unaffiliated adults, 61% say they believe in God. (Pew Fact Tank 6/19/17)


Engaged Students Do Better in School Findings from the 2016 Gallup Student Poll, a survey of students in grades 5 through 12, show students who strongly agree they are involved in at least one activity, such as a club, music, sports or volunteering, are 1.6 times more likely to be engaged at school than students who do not strongly agree. This same group who strongly agree they are involved in an activity are also: 1.7x more likely to be hopeful for the future, 2.1x more likely to say they get excellent grades and 2.1x more likely to say they do well at school. Research data also shows getting to do what they do best every day at school is a top driver of self-reported excellent grades for high school students. (Gallup 6/15/17)


No Access The 1.6 billion people in Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka (the countries of South Asia) make up the world’s greatest concentration of people with no access to the Gospel.

(Baptist Press 5/8/17)


Millennials Displaying Inclination to Give Millennials are closer to being as active as their elders than dollars indicate. Millennials gave an average of $580 to charity during the past year, according to a Campbell Rinker study. Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and Matures, by comparison, gave $799, $1,365, and $1,093, respectively. As a piece of the pie, Millennials make up just 11% of reported donations vs. 20% for Gen Xers, 43% for Boomers and 26% for Matures. However, they fair better in giving-related behaviors such as religious service attendance and. Millennials surveyed averaged 40 volunteer hours during the past year vs. 34 for Gen Xers, 41 for Boomers and 70 for Matures. Additionally, 25% of Millennials reported attending religious services once or more per week; similar Gen Xers (27%), Boomers (28%), and Matures (36%). Millennials show a particular willingness to support houses of worship and faith-based organizations.  Millennials surveyed gave an average of $416 per year to houses of worship, $96 to faith-based nonprofits and $84 to education-focused organizations. 22% stated they plan to give more to houses of worship in the coming year. 51% give through a charity’s website while 37% use a smartphone to give. 36% were motivated to give by something they saw on a charities’ website. 50% expect to receive postal mail from charities they support at least once per month and 66% expect at least one email per month. ( 6/19/17)


Starbucks Strategy Starbucks may not be the first business to sell affordable luxury, but it’s hard to argue they haven’t been the most successful. The company is built on 5 principles every business or ministry can apply to their service quality: make it your own; everything matters; surprise and delight; embrace resistance; and leave your mark. For truly successful ventures, customers/donors are not merely customers/donors; they are customer/donor-evangelists. 80% of companies believe they provide good service, but just 8% of customers agree they’ve received such an experience. 419-238-4082, or to ensure your customers/donors receive excellent service from you. (The Starbucks Experience: Five Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary, Joseph Michelli, McGraw Hill 2007)


In The Event of a Personal Emergency or a difficult time, 69% of U.S. adults say they would have someone besides a family member who would help or support them. (Barna Research 5/15/17) 


Fewer Generic Military Christians The general categories of “Protestant, no denominational preference” and “Protestant, other churches” have been removed from the Department of Defense (DoD) list of recognized religions as the US military seeks out more detailed designations for its 1.3 million service members. This spring, the DoD doubled the religious identities that military personnel can declare on official paperwork and dog tags. The list now totals 216 different affiliations. About 150 of them are Protestant groups, with the Southern Baptist Convention remaining the most popular individual denomination in the Armed Forces.

Evangelicals without denominational ties can choose from options including Reformed churches, the National Association of Evangelicals, Evangelical Church Alliance, “evangelical churches, other,” and “Christian, no denominational preference.” The military is also prompting the “nones” to narrow down their beliefs. The new list nixes not applicable and no religious preference—among one of the most popular affiliations among service members— and replaces them with a litany of designations. In addition to agnostic and atheist, soldiers can now mark no religion, no preference, none provided, humanist, or heathen. The Armed Forces Chaplains Board made these changes to better measure the religious makeup of the military and thereby provide more targeted spiritual support for them. (CT Gleanings 5/30/17)


Words of Encouragement Matter Studies show that members of the most effective work groups give one another 6 times more affirmation than disapproval, disagreement or sarcasm. Least productive teams tend to use almost 3 negative comments for every helpful word. (Our Daily Bread 6/20/17)


An Urban World According to the latest UN figures, in 1950 just 30% of the world’s population was urban. In 2015 that was 54%. In 2050, it will be 66%. That means an additional 2.5 billion city dwellers by 2050. (Trend Watching  4/27/17)


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