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, 2018 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Young People Lonelier Than Senior Citizens According to a new Cigna survey, Generation Z (ages 18-22), had loneliness scores of about 48 (on a 20-to-80 scale) compared with 39 for those 72 and older. Loneliness actually has the same effect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Although older people reported being less lonely than the youngest respondents, more than 40% of people over 65 reported being occasionally lonely. (USA Today 5/1/18)


Most Churches are Small According to a study of 320,000 U.S. Protestant churches by George Barna: 60% have an attendance of fewer than 100, 88% fewer than 200 and 95% under 350. That means, only 5% of pastors can expect to lead a church with more than 350 people. (Outreach Magazine 5-6/18)


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Gen Z Racially & Ethnically Diverse About half of kids under 5 in the U.S. are ethnic minorities, according to the U.S. Census. 6 of the 15 most common last names in the U.S. were of Hispanic origin in ’10 vs. none of the top 15 in 1990. About 1 in 6 marriages today are of an interracial couple, according to Pew Research. In 1980, the rate was fewer than 1 in 10. (Facts & Trends 9/29/17)


Single Parenthood Not So Single 35% of unmarried U.S. parents in ’17 are living with a partner today vs. 20% two decades ago, reports Pew Research. Only 53% of solo parents in ’17 were the stereotypical single moms raising kids vs. 88% in 1968. Solo dads make up 12% of unmarried parents, unchanged since 1968. Married parenthood remains the norm; 65% of U.S. kids live with married parents, but 25% of parents living with a child today are unmarried and the number continues to grow. 32% of children now live with an unmarried parent. According to Pew’s analysis of U.S. Census data, the median age of unmarried parents who live with partners is now 34 vs. 38 for solo parents and 40 for married parents. 54% have a high school diploma or less, while 16% live in poverty. 53% of cohabiting single parents have more than one child at home vs. 44% of solo parents. Also, 65% of cohabiting parents have never been married vs. 48% of solo parents. Among solo parents, 23% live with one of their own parents vs. 4% of cohabiting single parents. (Facts & Trends 5/7/18)


Churchgoer Giving Study The latest Vanco Payment Solutions’ Churchgoer Giving Study reports 62% of church-goers 45-54 prefer e-Giving vs. 50% in ’15. 58% of those 66-74 prefer it, up from 39%. Also, weekly attendance has declined and so has weekly giving. While almost half of churchgoers made weekly offerings in ’15, only 34% do now. 23% now give once a month vs. 20% in ’15., 12% now give every 2-3 months vs. 6% and 8% now give every 6 months vs. 2%. As expected, churchgoers 25-34 have the strongest preference for e-Giving. (Ministry Tech 5/24/18)


Secularization Widespread in Western Europe Rising shares of adults in Western Europe describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated and about half or more in several countries say they are neither religious nor spiritual. Still when asked, “What is your present religion if any?” and given a list of options, most identify as Christian, including 71% in Germany and 64% in France. (Pew Research Center 5/29/18)


Why We Seek Counselling According to the American Psychological Assoc., nearly half of American households have someone who has sought out mental health care. Studies by Mid-America Nazarene Univ. researchers have discovered the 3 most sought-after types of counseling in the U.S. are for marriage, alcohol and family. (The Exchange 5/17/18)


Depression is on the Rise in the U.S., especially among teens and young adults. There was a 33% increase in diagnoses of major depression from ’13 to ’16. (Bloomberg 5/14/18)


Fewer See Bible as Daily Necessity In the American Bible Society’s 2018 State of the Bible report, Barna found 37% of Americans say coffee is a daily necessity for them, followed by something sweet (28%), social media (19%) and the Bible (16%). The relatively small percentages who choose the Bible as what they need during the day is still larger than the percentage who say they actually read the Bible every day. Only 21% say their use of the Bible has gone up since last year, 65% say it’s stayed about the same and 12% say their Bible use has declined. 47% of Baby boomers and 46% of those 75 and older are more likely to say their day requires coffee than millennials (32%) or Generation X (30%).

Demographics more likely to choose the Bible are married adults, college graduates, parents with children under 18 and residents of the South. (Facts & Trends 5/11/18)


Details Matter Quirky and cute ads were effective in the 90s because they made corporate America warm and approachable. People still like these ads and may even compliment you on them but they’re no longer driving traffic. Buying decisions are increasingly based on logic. Give customers a no-loopholes warranty and a story that rings true and they’ll respond. Let me “logic-test” your ads before you needlessly burn up cash resources. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or  (Monday Morning Memo 5/21/07)


Women Still Outnumber Men in evangelical churches (55% to 45%) claims Pew Research. In America, 28% of women report attending religious services at least once a week, compared to just 22% of men. (Christianity Today 5/18)


Christian Population Shift 66% of the world’s Christians will live in sub-Saharan Africa (42%) or Latin America (22%) by 2060, finds new Pew Research data. That’s up from 51% in ’15. Europe is expected to see the biggest decline. In ’15, 24% of the world’s Christians lived there but could drop to 14% by 2060. This shift is being driven by a combination of demographic factors, including fertility, age and migration, as well as religious switching into and out of Christianity. (Facts & Trends 4/26/18)


25% Of Self-Identified Christians Don’t Believe fully in the biblical description of God, said Pew Research Center in its latest study. Rather, 25% of American Christians believe in what Pew described as “God or another higher power” who is not necessarily all-loving, omniscient and omnipotent as Scripture reveals. Overall, 75% of U.S. Christians believe God is loving, omniscient and omnipotent. 80% said they believe in the biblical God, but not in the 3 godly characteristics identified. Southern Baptist theologian R. Albert Mohler Jr. said self-described Christians who don’t even believe in a higher power are not Christians, they’re not even theists. 93% of Christians believe “God or another higher power in the universe” loves all people regardless of their faults, 87% believe God is omniscient or all-knowing and 78% believe God is omnipotent or all-powerful. The 75% of Christians who said they believe in all 3 of the identified characteristics of the biblical God was higher than the total found in the greater population, 56% of which reported such a belief. In all, 90% of Americans believe in a higher power not necessarily described as the biblical God. (Baptist Press 4/27/18)


Gen Z Post-Christian 23% of America’s adults and 33% of millennials are “nones.” (Although only 40% attend religious services weekly, 78% of older Gen Z’s say they believe in God, finds a Northeastern Univ. study. (Facts & Trends 9/29/17)


Religious Landscape Shift An analysis of ABC News/ Washington Post polls conducted over the past 15 years indicates the nation’s religious landscape has experienced a major shift. Last year, 36% of Americans identified themselves as members of a Protestant faith, extending a gradual trend down from 50% in ’03. That includes an 8-point drop in the number of evangelical white Protestants. 39% of whites now identify themselves as members of a Protestant denomination, down 13 points since ’03. (One News Now 5/13/18)


Clergy Health is Precarious Based on more than a decade of studies involving United Methodist pastors in North Carolina and other Southern states, Faithful and Fractured, by Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, reports pastors involved in the studies have higher cholesterol, higher rates of asthma and more hypertension than other Americans. The cause appears to be obesity. 41% of United Methodist pastors are obese compared to 29% of all Americans. Obesity isn’t the only risk factor for pastors. Stress, depression and financial worries also take their toll. (Facts & Trends 5/24/18)


What NOT To Do With Social Networking When building a social network for your customers, donors or prospects don’t:  1) Misunderstand your target audience. The demographics of users on MySpace differ greatly from those on Facebook, Friendster and other social networks. When creating any site, be very specific about whom you want to reach. 2) Be impatient. Like any marketing strategy, building a social network takes time. With the potential of exponential growth (members reach out to each other and tell others), the time it takes to build a membership base is worth the benefits of having a captive audience ready to experience the brand and hear the message. 3) Assume people will discover it on their own. Success requires outside promotion either online, offline or both. Some advertise their sites in various media or on the product donor communication itself. Word of mouth is a powerful tool but there has to be someone there first to spread the word. I can coach you and your team through this strategic marketing effort. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or (1to1 5-6/07)


Mixed Views of Economic Systems A recent American Culture and Faith Institute national survey reveals the more committed to biblical Christianity a person is the more likely they are to be distinguished from those who are less committed to the Christian faith, from those who favor a non-Christian faith and from people who have no faith at all. The survey’s director, George Barna, also noted that the more deeply people study and trust the Bible, the more likely they are to favor capitalism over socialism. However, among those under 35, socialism is rapidly emerging as the economic system of choice whether they are Christian or not. Just 23% of Americans contend capitalism is the system most compatible with biblical teachings vs. 29% who say that socialism is a better fit with scriptural principles. Among Protestants, 40% say the Bible is most compatible with capitalism while 28% chose socialism. In contrast, Catholics were more likely to say the Bible is most compatible with socialism (35%) than with capitalism. (American Culture & Faith Institute 5/30/18)


Fewer Church Weddings Religious institutions like churches hosted only 22% of weddings in ’17, according to The Knot, a major wedding planning website. That’s down almost half from ’09, when 41% of weddings were at religious institutions. In ’17, 15% of weddings were at barns, farms or ranches while 14% were at historic homes, 17% at a banquet hall, 12% in hotels and 12% in country clubs. (Facts & Trends 5/31/18)


VBS Still Effective Based on Annual Church Profile (ACP) data, VBS is used by more than 25,000 Southern Baptist churches each year to reach more than 2.5 million people. Last year, these churches reported more than 70,000 professions of faith as a direct result of VBS.  (BP News 6/7/18)


Reading Scripture Regularly When it comes to reading the Bible outside of religious services, 63% of evangelicals say they read Scripture at least once a week, while 61% of black Protestants say the same vs, 35% of Americans overall, 30% of  mainline Protestants, 29% of Orthodox Christians and 25% of Catholics. Pew also reports Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, at 88% and 77%, respectively say they read Scripture regularly. (Facts & Trends 6/5/18)


Why Church Members Are Attending Less Frequently •They are more mobile. •They are more affluent. •They have more options. •They consider church optional. •They have not been challenged. •They are likely not active in a small group. (Thom Rainer, Growing healthy Churches Together 5/30/18)



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