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, 2018 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Key Traits of Kids Who Stay in Church What sets apart the kids who stay in the church? Here are 3 common traits according to Jon Nielson, college pastor at College Church in Wheaton, IL. 1. They are converted. Its converted students who go on to love Jesus and serve the church. 2. They have been equipped, not entertained. If students leave high school without Bible-reading habits, Bible-study skills, and strong examples of discipleship and prayer, we’ve lost them. 3. Their parents preached the gospel to them. The common thread that binds together almost every ministry-minded 20-something is clear: a home where the gospel was not peripheral but absolutely central. The 20-somethings who are serving, leading and driving the ministries in the church were kids whose parents made them go to church. Their parents punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious. They are kids whose parents read the Bible around the dinner table every night. And their parents were tough but ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another. ( 2/19/18)


Gen-Z According to Barna Research and Impact 360, Gen-Z (ages 13 to 18) are a generation actually larger than Millennials. 57% use screen media 4 or more hours per day. 63% are white, 21% Hispanic, 17% black and 9% Asian. 12% claim to be non-heterosexual and 33% say gender is how a person feels, not their birth sex. 34% self-identify as atheist, agnostic or religiously none. Only 42% agree the Bible is mostly or totally accurate. A mere 4% have a biblical worldview and just 34% believe lying is morally wrong. 43% believe the most important thing in their life is their future career or preparation for that career. 51% say their highest goal in life is happiness and happiness most often is defined by financial wealth. (Gen Z Simulcast 1/24/18)


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Billy Graham’s Influence About 80 years after he began his ministry, Billy Graham continued to impact the faith of millions with nearly half of all Protestant churchgoers saying they have watched one of his sermons on television. A recent LifeWay Research survey found Graham’s wide-ranging ministry influenced churchgoers through a variety of means. Two-thirds of Protestant churchgoers had some contact with his ministry: 48% watched a Billy Graham sermon on television. 18% listened to one of his sermons on the radio. 15% read one of his books. 14% read a Billy Graham newspaper column. 11% attended a Billy Graham crusade. 8% watched a Billy Graham sermon online. Only 4% of churchgoers said they “have no idea who Billy Graham is.” (Baptist Press 2/21/18)


The Evangelical Protestant Share of the population has dipped slightly in recent years (from 26.3% in ’07 to 25.4% in ’14), but more slowly than the mainline Protestant and Catholic populations. Though the percentage of Americans who identify with evangelical Protestant denominations has ticked downward, the absolute number of evangelicals appears to be rising as the overall U.S. population grows. In ’14, there were roughly 62.2 million evangelical Protestant adults vs. 59.8 million in ’07. (Pew Research Center 3/1/18)


Church Planters and Campus Pastors in their first 5 years at a church are 2.3 times more likely to have a vision to plant/launch a new church than pastors who have been at the same church more than 10 years. ( 2/17/18)


Belief in God Among Evangelicals According to the Pew Research Religious Landscape Study, 88% of U.S. evangelicals’ belief in God is absolutely certain. For 8% this belief is fairly certain and for 1% it’s not at all certain. Less than 1% fall into the following 3 positions: Don’t know, Do not believe in God or Other. (Pew Research Religious Landscape Study)


Gen Z De-Prioritizing Family New Barna research reports family is not a major priority for Gen Z. For instance, personal achievement, whether educational or professional (43%), and hobbies and pastimes (42%) are more central to their identity than family background/upbringing (34%). All other generations rank family at the top. Religious belief is also less influential among teens than other generations. 66% of Gen Z want to finish their education, start a career (66%) and become financially independent (65%) by age 30, while only 20% wants to get married by then. However, 50% say they do still seem to value their family’s authority or insight and 14% another family member. ( 2/6/18)


African Americans Are More Religious than whites and Latinos by many measures of religious commitment. For instance, 75% of black Americans say religion is very important in their lives vs. smaller shares of whites (49%) and Hispanics (59%). African Americans also are more likely to attend services at least once a week and to pray regularly. 83% of black Americans are more likely to say they believe in God with absolute certainty than whites (61%) and Latinos (59%). (Pew Fact Tank 2/7/18)


Best Friends The fall ’17 Gallup Student Poll found 70% of the nearly 800,000 students polled strongly agreed they have a best friend at school. Having a best friend at school gives students a reason to show up, helps them enjoy their days and encourages a range of positive behaviors. The same holds true for teachers. Having a best friend at work is one of the key drivers of performance with links to efficiency, innovation and enjoyment on the job. Having a best friend at work is the best predictor of having higher well-being and engagement. (Gallup 2/26/18)


Fact Vs. Values Relentless repetition was once enough to drive your message home. Not anymore! Fact-based statements can be proven or disproven objectively. But the “truth” of a values-based statement hinges on agreed-upon values. Modern advertising overflows with values-based statements, e.g. “Big selection,” “High quality,” “Low prices,” “Easy credit.” Even though they may be true in the mind of the advertiser, the public has heard them all before. The left hemispheres of our brains detect and prefer fact-based statements. Today we are hype-immune and hunger for statements of fact. To persuade today’s hype-resistant customer, you must learn to make fact-based statements in your ads. NOTE: I can help you make sure your ads are not just repeating clichés but clearly delivering meaningful facts that will deliver results. All you have to do is contact me at 419-238-4082, or (Monday Morning Memo 9/26/05, Foster Network)


Evangelical Majority The mainline tradition’s share of the Protestant population has declined along with its share of the overall population. Today, 32% of Protestants identify with denominations in the mainline tradition, down from 35% in ’07. Evangelicals now constitute a clear majority of all Protestants in the U.S., with their share of the Protestant population having risen from 51% in ’07 to 55% in ’14.

(Pew Research Center 5/12/15)


The Millennial Generation is the largest generation in America’s history (though they may be surpassed by Gen Z). There are 78 million young adults ranging in ages from 18 to 38. And they have lots of kids. (Thom Rainer 2/12/18)


Are You Familiar With Christian Liturgy? A new Barna study has found most practicing Christians are at least aware of the concept of liturgy: 32% are very, 30% are somewhat familiar with Christian liturgy, while 19% have never heard of it. 37% of white practicing Christians and 28% of Hispanic practicing Christians are very familiar with the concept of liturgy vs. just 14% of black practicing Christians. Among faith segments, evangelicals are the least aware, while Catholics and mainline Protestants (American Baptists, Episcopal, Lutheran, United Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.) know it best. Almost half as many evangelicals as non-evangelicals are very familiar with the concept (19% vs. 35%), while 49% Catholics and 37% of Protestant mainliners are very familiar. Similar to evangelicals, only 18% of Protes-tant non-mainliners know liturgical practice well. Among generations; Millennials (34%) and Gen X (41%) are especially acquainted with liturgy vs. Boomers (26%) and Elders (31%). (Barna Trends 2/13/18)


Looking For Love Online 15% of U.S. adults have used online dating sites and/or mobile dating apps, finds a ’15 Pew Research Center survey, up from 11% in ’13. 41% know someone who uses online dating, and 29% know someone who has entered a long-term relationship via the process. The share of 18-24 year-olds that use it has spiked from 10% in ’13 to 27% in ’15. 22% of 18-24-year-olds now use mobile dating apps vs. just 5% in ’13. 59% of Americans say it is a good way to meet people, and 47% agree it is easier and more efficient than other ways. (Pew Research Center 2/14/18)


Remarriage On The Rise In ’13, 23% of married people in the U.S. had been married before vs. just 13% in 1960. 4-in-10 new marriages in ’13 included a spouse who had been married at least once before, and in 20% both spouses had been married at least once before. Among previously married men (divorced or widowed), 64% remarried vs. 52% of previously married women. Why the disparity?  Among previously married women, 54% say they did not want to marry again vs. 30% of men. (Pew Research Center 2/14/18)


Will, Skill & Till Contrary to conventional wisdom—and in many cases, to instinct—a recession might be just the time to increase marketing spending, thereby taking advantage of listing competitors and capturing the attention of cash-strapped consumers. Many companies will tend to conserve during difficult times, but a number will increase spending for strategic reasons. Not every company can or should expand during a downturn. Those who do need to have the will, the skill and the till. The will—a culture to resist the instinct to pull back in tough times. The skill—a competent and creative marketing team. The till—resources ample enough to weather the tough times plus increase marketing spend. During a recession, you’re unlikely to see returns immediately, so you’ve got to have sufficient resources.  I can help you make these strategic choices. Contact 419-238-4082, or

 (Deliver Magazine 11/08)


The Number Of U.S. Adults Cohabiting with a partner is on the rise. In addition to the half of U.S. adults who are married, 7% were cohabiting in ’16. The number of Americans living with an unmarried partner reached about 18 million in ’16, up 29% since ’07. Roughly half of cohabiters are under 35, but cohabitation is rising most quickly among those 50 and older. (Pew Research Center 2/14/18)


The (Not So) Common Book of Prayer The Book of Common Prayer is an Anglican prayer book that contains liturgical services of worship and other rites. Though common in mainline circles, few practicing Christians overall incorporate it into their daily personal spiritual practice or discipline. 26% of practicing Christians they have either never participated in the practice and 27% have never heard of it. 44% of evangelicals have never even heard of the Book of Common Prayer, double the amount of non-evangelicals (22%). In fact, only 10% of practicing Christians use it daily and 14% within the past week. (Barna Trends 2/13/18)


Millennial Faith Enhanced by Tech According to Barna Research, 70% of practicing Christian millennials read Scripture on a cell phone or on the Internet vs. 34% of all millennials. 56% of practicing millennials check out a place of worship’s website vs. 34% of all millennials. 54% of practicing Christian millennials watch online videos about faith or spirituality vs. 31% of all millennials. 59% of practicing millennials search for spiritual content online vs. 30% of all millennials. (Ministry Tech 2/18/18)


Gender Differences Biological According to a new study, differences between boys and girls are biological and not fluid, as transgender theory claims. Research revealed in the Infant and Child Development Journal concluded gender preferences in children are the result of their environment and upbringing as they are intrinsic within the child. 16 studies composed of 787 boys and 813 girls were document-ed. Researchers consistently found boys played with male-type toys more than girls, and girls played with female-type toys more than boys. Not surprising to most parents, but it defies prevailing transgender theories that say gender differences are simply a “social construct.” (LifeSite News 2/15/18)



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