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

March 10, 2017 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Purposeless Youth Only 1 in 5 American young people in the 12 to 22 age range express a clear vision of where they want to go and what they want to accomplish and why. Almost a quarter express no aspirations at all and in some cases, see no point in acquiring any. (The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life, William Damon, New York: Free Press, 2009)


Churches Part Ways for Many Reasons Sometimes a church must close a campus. In other cases, they start a spinoff campus or church. 1 in 5 churches has experienced a closing or cutting of ties with a campus. Low attendance is by far the most common reason for closing a campus, with 82% of those who have done so citing this reason. But other common challenges include leadership issues or turnover (32%) or financial problems (29% say the campus is expensive to maintain, 21% cite insufficient giving). When a church cuts ties with a campus, one common challenge is a campus’ vision diverting from that of the sending church (35%). However, a separation is most likely to occur due to success: 48% part ways after becoming self-sustaining and autonomous. (Barna 2/2/17)


What Causes Lower Bible Engagement? 58% of U.S. adults who say their Bible reading decreased in the last year report being too busy with life’s responsibilities (job, family, etc.). This is up from 40% in ‛14 according to a new Barna study for the American Bible Society. Other factors cited for less time reading the Scriptures include becoming atheist or agnostic (17%), deciding to leave the church altogether (17%), going through a difficult experience that caused them to doubt their faith (or God, or the Bible) (12%) or experiencing a significant change such as a job loss or death in the family (8%). Less impactful are seeing how reading the Bible made very little difference in the life of someone they know (6%) and being converted to another faith (5%). (Barna 1/18/17)


Assist For consumers, time, convenience, control and independence are the new currencies. This need requires B2C brands to turn many of their ‘campaigns’ (if not all interactions with their customers) into broader services. In short, it shows a shift from ‘broadcasting’ to ‘assisting.’ I can coach you and your team through this strategic brand-building effort. Contact me at, or 419-238-4082. (Trend Briefing 4/10)


No to Online Dating Overall, 28% of U.S. adults have either tried online dating once or twice (14%), use it regularly (5%), or have used it previously, but not anymore (9%). But 72% of U.S. adults haven’t tried it at all, and 52% would never do so. Of those who have never tried it, 16% are still open to it. Gen-Xers (7%) and Millennials (6%) are the most regular users and Gen-Xers are also more likely to have tried it (37%) than any other age group. 75% say they would never use online dating.  (Barna Research 2/9/17)


Why So Few Good Paying Jobs? One big reason for the lack of good-paying jobs in the U.S. is the decrease in new employer startups. In ‛06, about 558,000 new employer businesses were created, as opposed to about 385,000 in ‛10 and 404,000 in ‛13. This represents a decline of about 28% from ‛06 to ‛13. The decline spans almost all industries and sectors, and there could be many reasons for it: unfriendly regulations, lack of access to credit, general economic uncertainty, or lower demand for goods and services in the economy. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago calculated that if the new business entry rate had stayed at pre-‛06 levels, 1.7 million more jobs would have been created as of March ‛11. (Gallup 1/31/17)


Bible Reading Is Generally Stable Americans when asked if their personal use of the Bible has increased, decreased or stayed about the same as a year ago, 23% say it increased while 8% say it decreased and 66% report it stayed about the same. The findings over the past 5 years are very similar.

There are definitely increases in the amount of people reporting stable Bible reading habits (66% in ‛16 compared to 58% in ‛12). Higher than average rates of increases are reported among females (26%), those from lower income (<50K) households (26%), black Americans (42%) and southerners (29%), and the more obvious groups like born-again Christians (40%), Protestants (33%), practicing Christians (44%) and very-active church attenders (42%). The biggest decrease in Bible reading in the last year includes Millennials (11%), atheists and agnostics (10%), those who are much less active church attenders (16%) and again, black Americans (11%), who appear to be existing more on the extremes of usage. (Barna 1/18/17)


Smiling is one of the most powerful methods of conveying thoughts, moods, feelings and emotions. So, if smiling is so influential, why isn’t it recognized as a fundamental value in every aspect of business and marketing? A smile is one of the best ways to make others feel accepted! Why wouldn’t any business mandate all of its employees to connect with stakeholders with a smile to fulfill this basic desire? It exudes confidence; both within yourself and in the perception others have of you. It even makes tasks look easy and enjoyable, suggesting mastery of your subject. Smiling counters feelings of anxiety and intimidation in others, instills a sense of calm and trust. It also makes you look more attractive and should extend to every aspect of brand experience. Does your logo embody the spirit and effects of smiling? How about your marketing messages? How about the very product or service you offer customers or donors? Does it come with a smile? To be a great marketer and great brand, you must smile. Let me help you make your brand smile. Contact 419-238-4082, or (Online Spin 2/15/08)


Assess Moral Fiber of potential workers with a new evidence based Professional Trust Assessment tool from Veris Benchmarks. Veris Prime is a free online test that anyone can take which consists of 40 multiple choice questions. The test is essentially a tool for pre-employment assessments, and helps employers determine whether a potential hire might compromise an organization’s reputation by engaging errant behavior. The test takes 15 minutes to complete and results can be viewed instantly. (Springwise 3/1/17)


Ministry & Pastors’ Families According to a recent major study by Barna and Pepperdine Univ., 96% of married U.S. pastors are satisfied with their spousal relationship. 70% say it is excellent, and 26% consider it good. This compares with 46% of all married American adults that rate their marriage as excellent and 35% as good. They also divorce at lower rates: About 10% of Protestant pastors have ever been divorced vs. 27% of all U.S. adults. 83% of those earning less than $40,000 a year rate their marital satisfaction as excellent. Pastors with children under 18 (35% of all pastors) are also enthusiastic about their relationship with their kids. 60% view it as excellent and 36% as good. This compares with 46% of all U.S. parents in the U.S., less than half say their relationship with their children is excellent (46%) and three in 10 say it’s good (32%). ( 2/15/17)


Fewer Americans Married The number of married Americans is at its lowest point since 1920. In ‛16, the median age for men marrying was 29.5 and for women 27.4.

72 % of Americans over 18 were married in 1960 vs. only about half today. Research also found that 8% of adults are cohabiting and 11% described themselves as being in a “committed relationship.” ( 2/14/17)


Are Science & Faith in Conflict? 59% of Americans say science and religion are often in conflict, but those more religiously observant are less likely than others to see this clash, according to a ‛15 Pew Research Center Survey. Among those who attend church at least once a week, 50% view religion and science as in conflict, vs. 73% of those who seldom or never attend house of worship. At the same time, 68% say their own personal religious beliefs do not clash with accepted scientific doctrine. (Pew Fact Tank 2/10/17)


How Does McDonald’s Keep Besting Itself? By getting the basics right! They are very focused on keeping their franchisees happy, using their marketing muscle, utilizing new products, keeping more stores open 24 hours. It’s a bunch of small things. The difference between good and excellent is how you execute the details. An operations audit of your business or ministry can uncover those “difference-making” details that can take you to the next level. Contact or or call 419-238-4082. (Marketing Daily 3/10/08)


Do Pastors Have Close Friends? Two-thirds of American pastors are happy with their friendships, rating their satisfaction in that area of their lives as either excellent (34%) or good (33%). This is on par with or only slightly better than American adults overall (28% excellent, 33% good). ( 2/15/17)


Millennials Worst Drivers The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found 88% of drivers 19-24 acknowledged engaging in risky behavior such as texting while driving, running red lights or speeding during the previous month. Millennials acknowledged typing or sending a text or email while driving at nearly twice the rate of other drivers (59.3% to 31.4%). Nearly half reported running a red light even if they could have stopped safely vs. 36% of the rest of drivers. 12% said it was acceptable to speed 10 mph over the speed limit in a school zone vs. 5% of other drivers. This finding come as driving is becoming more dangerous: The number of traffic deaths rose to 35,092 in ‛15, up 7% from ‛14 and was the largest 1-year jump in 5 decades. (USA Today 2/15/17)


Markers of Especially Welcoming Churches 1. They place the right people in hospitality. 2. They communicate intentionally and strategically. 3. They take security seriously. 4. They have an efficient children’s check-in process. 5. They think through the response after the sermon. 6. They are intentional about following up with guests.  (CT Pastors 2/13/17)


American Culture is Broken 95% of Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Christian conservatives (SAGE Cons) indicate they are not satisfied with the current state of American culture. Less than 1% said they are either “extremely” or “very” satisfied with today’s culture. The other 5% admitted they are somewhat satisfied. That extreme level of dissatisfaction fits with their concern about the direction of the country; the ineffective performance of government; their disappointment and lack of trust related to major social institutions; and their worries about the state of the family. The most common terms selected by respondents to convey their view of the present culture were “self-indulgent” (chosen by 96%), “selfish” (94%,) “intolerant” (84%) and “mean-spirited” (82%), “fast-paced” (65%), “corrupt” (61%) and “decadent” (59%). (American Culture & Faith Institute 2/15/17)


Lost Sheep 34% of U.S. senior pastors with children 15 and older says at least one of their kids is no longer actively involved in church and 7% have a child who no longer considers themselves a Christian. ( 2/15/17)


More Female Pastors According to the Barna Group 1 of every 11 Protestant pastors in the U.S. is a woman, triple the number 25 years ago. Typically women often lead smaller congregations than men. ( 2/27/17)


How many Muslims are there? There were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as of ‛10 , roughly 23% of the global population – according to a Pew Research Center estimate. If current demographic trends continue, the number of Muslims is expected to exceed the number of Christians by the end of this century. Indonesia is currently the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, but Pew Research Center projects India will have that distinction by the year 2050. In ‛15, Pew estimates there were 3.3 million Muslims in the U.S., or about 1% of the population and projects they will make up 2.1% by the year 2050. The two major factors behind the rapid projected growth of Islam are; each Muslim woman has an average of 3.1 children vs. 2.3 for all other groups combined and Muslims are the youngest of all major religious groups, 7 years younger than the median age of non-Muslims. (Pew Fact Tank 2/27/17)



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