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 10, 2018 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Fewer Christian Sharing Their Faith Just 10% of Christians in 1993 who had shared about their faith agreed with the statement “converting people to Christianity is the job of the local church”—as opposed to an individual (i.e., themselves). 25 years later, 29% of Christians who have had a conversation about faith say evangelism is the local church’s responsibility.  In 1993, 89% of Christians agreed “Every Christian has a responsibility to share their faith,” vs. 64% today; a 25-point drop. The most common approaches believers take when sharing their faith are asking questions about the other person’s beliefs and experiences (70%) and sharing their faith in the way they live rather than by speaking about it (65%). These were common among Christians in 1993 as well, but a majority of Christians 25 years ago also reported emphasizing the beneficial aspects of accepting Jesus (78%)—a strategy that today is less common (50%). Also, less popular now is quoting passages from the Bible (59% in 1993 vs. 37% today) and challenging the other person to defend their beliefs (43% vs. 24%). Also, most conversations today (61%), as in 1993 (75%), happen unexpectedly. (Barna Update 5/15/18)


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Bible Engaged The American Bible Society asked 14 questions to determine a person’s level of engagement with the Bible. Those with the highest score are considered Bible-centered (9% of the U.S. adults). The next highest are the Bible-engaged (17%) and the Bible-friendly (15%). Those least engaged with Scripture are classified as Bible-neutral (5%) and Bible-disengaged (54%). 73% of the Bible-centered and 68% of the Bible-engaged say they are curious about the Bible. 81% of the Bible-centered and 73% of the Bible-engaged are curious to know more about Jesus. Among groups less involved with Scripture, 38% are not curious at all about Jesus or the Bible while 54% of the Bible-disengaged hold that view. (Facts & Trends 5/22/18)


Barriers to Faith Sharing U.S. Christians today, more than 25 years ago, perceive social barriers to sharing their faith. They are more likely to agree that faith-sharing is only effective when they already have a relationship with the other person (47% vs. 37% in 1993) and to admit they would avoid a spiritual conversation if they knew their non-Christian friend would reject them (44% vs. 33%). They are also more likely than Christians in 1993 to say they are unsure whether “most non-Christians have no interest in hearing about Jesus” (28% vs. 5%). 61% of people say a person must not share if their religious beliefs are “disrespectful or judgmental”. Beliefs perceived as disrespectful or judgmental are the top reasons sharing views on religion would be uncalled for 48% of all adults. 41% say talking about faith in anger makes sharing unacceptable. Other common barriers are when “someone has asked you not to” and “if the timing is inconsiderate.” (Barna Update 5/15/18)


Christian Colleges have attracted an increasing number of students over the past 15 years, according to U.S. News & World Report. First-time, full-time enrollment grew nearly 18% from ’03 to ’15 at schools affiliated with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. U.S. News also documented enrollment growth at schools with a Christian, non-Catholic affiliation. In that group, “the 5 schools that grew the most in first-time, first-year enrollment over the last 15 years are institutions that offer faith-based education.” (Facts & Trends 5/15/18)


Which Americans Identify as Christians? 79% of African-Americans identify as Christian, more than any other ethnicity, according to a Pew Research analysis. 77% of Hispanics, 70% of whites and 34% of Asians in America say they are Christian. Overall, 71% of U.S. adults identify as Christian. (Facts & Trends 5/16/18)


Phone Insomnia A ’15 study found 71% of Americans go to bed with their smartphone and 25% admit to falling asleep with it in their hands at least once. Glasgow researchers asked 91,105 participants, aged 37 to 73, to wear a wrist-work accelerometer for 7 days, to enable them to analyze how people’s habits affected their circadian rhythms. The results: 1 in 25 were found to be just as active at night as they were during the day, oftentimes because they were on their phones. These people had a 6% greater risk for depression and an 11% greater risk for bipolar disorder. Another recent study found people who stayed active at night were twice as likely to suffer from a psychological disorder and 10% more likely to die of any cause, as compared to those who maintain healthy sleep schedules. Univ. of Glasgow’s Daniel Smith said it’s crucial to impose a 10 pm cut-off on all phone usage in order to keep our body clocks in good shape. (Best Life 5/17/18)


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Tithing Redefined According to LifeWay Research, most churchgoers say the Bible commands them to give but their tithes don’t always go to their church. 50% of Protestant churchgoers say their tithes can go to a Christian ministry rather than a church, 33% say to help an individual in need and 18% say even to a secular charity. 83% agree when asked, “Is tithing a biblical command that still applies today?” 8% say it is not and 10% aren’t sure. 85% of those in the South, as well 74% in the Northeast, say tithing applies today. So do 87% of African-Americans and 80% of white churchgoers. 86% of evangelicals say it is a biblical command for today as do 79% of other churchgoers. 87% of Baptists, 86% of Pentecostals, 81% of nondenominationals and 68% of Lutherans agree as well. 54% of churchgoers say they give at least 10% of their income to the church, including 37% who say they tithe and 17% who say they give more than 10%. 20% give regularly but less than 10% while 17% say they try to give but aren’t always consistent, 8% say finances make it hard for them to give and 2% do not give to their church. 98% of U.S. churchgoers say money from tithes can go to their church, 48% to a Christian ministry, 35% to another church, 34% to individual in need, 18% to a secular charity. 47% say only giving to the church counts for tithing.

 (Baptist Press 5/10/18)


U.S. Birth Rates Down Again A recent government report based on a review of more than 99% of the birth certificates filed nationwide indicates the lowest birth rate since 1987. It counted fewer than 3.9 million births last year. Births have been declining since ’14, but ’17 saw the greatest year-to-year drop. Surprising, since baby booms often parallel economic booms, and last year was a period of low unemployment and a growing economy. Experts say several factors may be combining to drive the declines, including shifting attitudes about motherhood and changing immigration patterns. (One News Now 5/17/18)


Is The Internet Good For Society? Once-enthusiastic Americans are becoming less certain, indicates a new Pew survey. 70% of U.S. online adults still believe the internet’s influence has been mostly positive down from 76% in ’14. Instead, a growing number say the impact of the internet has been a mix of good and bad. 14% held this view in January ’18 vs. 8% in ’14. Another 14% say its effect has been mostly negative or about the same as in ’14 (15%). Although uncertain about societal effects, nearly 9 in 10 online Americans say the internet has benefited them personally. (Facts & Trends 5/10/18)


Religion Should Be Kept Separate from government policies is the prevailing view in Western Europe. In Sweden, for example, 80% favor separation of religion and government, as do 72% in Belgium. Still, substantial minorities in several countries, including 38% in the UK and 45% in Switzerland, say government policies should support religious values and beliefs in the country, a position much more popular among churchgoing Christians than among non-practicing Christians. Religiously unaffiliated adults are less likely than Christians at all levels of practice to support church-state ties. (Pew Research Center 5/29/18)


What And When We Share Researchers find the most common approaches Christians use in faith conversations today are asking questions about the other person’s beliefs and experiences (70%) and sharing their faith in the way they live rather than by speaking about it (65%). These were common among Christians in 1993, but a majority of Christians then also reported emphasizing the beneficial aspects of accepting Jesus (78% vs. 50% today). Also less popular now is quoting Scripture (59% in 1993 vs. 37% today) and challenging the other person to defend their beliefs (43% vs. 24%). Most conversations today (61%) and in 1993 (75%), happen unexpectedly. Yet, compared to 25 years ago, Christians today are more likely to say they are proactive about looking for or trying to create faith-sharing opportunities with non-Christians (19% vs. 11% in 1993). (Outreach 5/29/18)


Fewer Worshipers Singing Whether a church plays hymns or the latest worship songs, fewer people want to sing along today. In ’98, 54% of American churches had a choir vs. 45% in ’12. Larger evangelical churches, in particular, have steered away from choirs. 69% had choirs in ’98 vs. 36% in ’12. A ’08 LifeWay Research study found 47% of worshipers said they were often “going through the motions” during the singing and prayer portions of worship services. From 1995-1999, the most popular CCLI songs remained fairly stable. In that period, 3 of the top 5 songs stayed in the top 5, as did 7 of the top 10, and 20 of the top 25. By contrast, from 2011-2014 (the most recent data available), none of the top 5 songs remained the same and only 3 of the top 10 and 13 of the top 25 remained. Among the leading reasons; Church attendance has become less frequent so people have fewer chances to sing in a group during a month. And corporate singing of any kind has steadily declined in American culture the last half century. (Facts & Trends 5/10/18)


Ad Pointers If today’s advertisers want to ring the bell, win the prize and cash the check, they must: 1) Gain attention, 2) Speak with impact, 3) Prove what they say and 4) In the fewest possible words. For more marketing counsel contact or, 419-238-4082. (Monday Morning Memo 4/18/11)


Multigenerational Households More Americans than ever before (64 million) lived in multigenerational households in ’16, according to Pew Research. Causal factors are the economy along with the nation’s increasing racial and ethnic diversity. Asian and Hispanic populations are growing more rapidly than the white population and those groups are more likely than whites to live in multigenerational family house-holds. In 1940, almost a quarter of the U.S. population lived in such households. By ’80, though, the share had fallen to 12%. Then it started rising again, especially during the ’07-’09 recession. But the numbers continue to climb even though the economy has improved. Most are households with 2 adult generations (e.g. parents with their grown children). Pew says 32.3 million Americans live this way, 28.3 million live with 3 generations (e.g. a grandparent, an adult child and a grandchild). And 3.2 million live in households made up of grandparents and grandchildren. (Facts & Trends 4/27/18)


Nobody lonelier than Generation Z In fact, students have higher loneliness scores than retirees and the least lonely Americans are 72 and older, finds a new Cigna survey. Loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.

Among the young adults of Generation Z, who are 18 to 22: 69% say they feel people are around them but not really with themn. 69% report feeling shy, 68% say they feel no one really knows them well. They’re also more likely than their elders to report feeling left out, alone and isolated from others. (Facts & Trends 5/4/18)



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