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 25, 2017 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Faith and Health There is a rich body of peer-reviewed research telling us that faith is closely associated with significant improvements in one’s overall health and well-being. A new book, to be published in late May by Oxford University Press, adds to this knowledge. Research included in the book, According to recent research conducted at Harvard’s School of Public Health, couples who attend church weekly are 47% less likely to divorce than those who do not or seldom attend. Weekly attenders are 29% less likely to suffer from general depression. Weekly attenders experience a 33% reduction in overall mortality. Weekly attenders are dramatically less likely to commit suicide. (Pulse Check 3/13/17)


Too Little Influence More than half of Americans think the Bible has too little influence on a culture they see in moral decline, yet only 1 in 5 read it on a regular basis, according to a new American Bible Society survey. 88% of respondents own a Bible, 80% think the Bible is sacred, 61% wish they read the Bible more, and the average household has 4.4 Bibles. Just 57% of those 18-28 read their Bibles less than 3 times a year, if at all. (RNS 4/4/13)


Dunbar’s Number Oxford Univ.’s evolutionary scientist Robin Dunbar has proven that each human is surprisingly consistent in the number of social ties we can maintain: About 5 with intimate friends, 50 with good friends, 150 with friends and 1,500 with people we could recognize by name. That is known as “Dunbar’s number.” Dunbar thinks laughter, singing and religion are the key to explaining humans’ remarkable social networks. (New York Post 2/27/17)


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)


Worldview Differentiation The Worldview Measurement Project, conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute, reveals Millennials are by far the generation least likely to possess a biblical worldview. While 16% of those in the Boomer and Builder generations possess such an outlook, just 7% of Baby Busters and 4% of Millennials do so. For instance: Only 59% of Millennials consider themselves to be Christian vs. 72% of adults from older generations. 18% of adults 30 or older claim to be in the atheist-agnostic-none faith preference category while 28% of Millennials embrace that category. 33% of older adults are born again Christians vs. 20% of Millennials. (American Culture & Faith Institute 3/15/17)


Rags to Riches According to the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, the fashion industry brings in $1.2 trillion per year, with $250 billion from the U.S. alone. According to Fast Company, the fashion industry produces 150 billion pieces of clothing per year. (The Culture Trip 2/13/17)


Pastors Are Getting Older In ‛92, the median age of U.S. Protestant clergy was 44, 33% were under 40, 25% were over 55 and just 6% were 65 or older. Today, the average age is 54 with 14% under 40, and 50% over 55. The percentage of church leaders 65 and older has nearly tripled, meaning there are now more pastors in the oldest age bracket than there are leaders younger than 40. (Barna 3/1/17)


The Goodness Factor One of the core philosophies of postmodern society is that people are essentially good. Survey data from American Culture and Faith Institute show 74% of Americans have adopted that view. However, that is not a creed Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives (SAGE Cons) typically endorse. Driven by their Bible beliefs, almost the exact opposite proportion, 76% say people are not basically good. A huge majority of SAGE Cons accept the biblical narrative that all people are sinners and no one is righteous, raising the need for everyone to have a savior to represent them before a holy and righteous God who will judge their lives. They believe Jesus Christ is that savior. Only 20% of SAGE Cons who attend a Protestant church believe people are basically good vs. 81% who are Catholics. (American Culture & Faith Institute 2/8/17)


With Whom Do Pastors Lead Their Church? Most pastors say they are primarily responsible for setting the vision and direction of the church (60%) or are part of a team that develops the vision and direction together (35%). Most do not lead alone. 80% report to a board of elders or similar group of laypeople. 67% of pastors say their board is “hugely supportive” of them as a pastor, 60% describe the relationship as generating “healthy accountability” and 57% indicate they have “clear and shared vision and values.” Pastors of 250 or more adults are twice as likely as leaders in smaller churches to say their relationship with elders is a powerful partnership (64% vs. 34%). Those who lead growing churches are also more likely than leaders of shrinking congregations to feel their pastor-elders relationship is a powerful partnership (52% vs. 36%). ( 2/15/17)


Divorce Leads to Skepticism 56% of Protestant pastors say they’d believe domestic violence was really present if a member claimed domestic violence and 60% would investigate the claims while 1% would doubt such violence took place. The study showed 43% of pastors are unwilling to say whether or not they believe abuse took place. A previous LifeWay study found 40% of Protestant pastors rarely or never addressed the issue and another 22% do so once a year. According to LifeWay Research, 59% of pastors believe divorce may be the best option. Just 3% say couples should not divorce in cases of domestic violence. (Baptist Press 2/21/17)


Worry Rate Up Americans’ emotional health has suffered since the ‛16 election. The average percentage experiencing worry on any given day has increased 4.1 percentage points to 33.3% since early November. Higher levels of worry were first evident after the November Presidential election, but they continued to rise in January and grew more in the first month of Trump’s presidency. (Gallup 3/1/17)


Consumers Cultural Distinctives Individualism: Consumers expect to control access to content (Internet) and play a bigger role in the development and sharing of information (MySpace), but their desire to be unique also goes hand in hand with their need to be part of a community. 30 is the new 20: 30 somethings spent their 20s finding out what they wanted to spend their life doing. They’ve redefined the traditional process into adulthood. They’ve delayed marriage and childbearing, but this doesn’t mean they won’t do both. Retirement: Defied: Most boomers consider themselves 7 years younger than their true age. This generation set out to change the world, so its members do not expect to give up the driver seat just because they’re aging. Are you adapting to these new market realties? I can guide you through the process. Contact 419-238-4082, or (Target Marketing 11/06)


Big Brands Profit from Porn Amazon, HBO, Comcast, Snapchat, Twitter, and the American Library Assoc. are among the nation’s leading corporations promoting porn and sexual exploitation, according to the annual “Dirty Dozen” list released by NCOSE (National Center on Sexual Exploitation), a leading organization fighting porn. NCOSE’s Dawn Hawkins said. “The disturbing truth is that many well-established brands, companies, and organizations in America are major perpetrators of sexual harm, whether that be through pornography, prostitution, or sex trafficking.” Other organizations on the 2017 Dirty Dozen are Amnesty International,, Cosmopolitan, EBSCO Information Services, Roku, Snapcash and YouTube.  (LifeSite News 3/7/17)


Kids Value What Their Parents Value Harvard psychologist and founder of Making Caring Common, Richard Weissbourd, argue the key to fostering moral development is to focus on your actions and not words alone. In survey of 10,000 diverse middle and high school students from 33 U.S. schools across the nation seemed to echo what they thought their parents and teachers valued more: When asked, 48% chose achievement as their top value, 30% chose happiness, and only 22% chose caring as a top priority. Students were 3 times more likely to agree than disagree with this statement: “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.” About 80% said their parents are more concerned with their kids’ achievement or personal happiness than whether they care for others in their community or school. And when asked, school administrators, teachers, and staff agreed that parents prioritize achievement over caring—by 80%. There’s a gap between what adults say and what message they actually convey with their behavior. Adults’ actual lived values are being reflected back to them in the behavior of their kids. (CT Online 3/13/17)


Honest Feedback The Wall Street Journal asserts: “Top company officials are often surrounded by ‘yes’ people who filter out bad news.” The result is a culture of “yes people” who don’t contribute truthfully to the health and progress of the organization. Effective executives must have a culture of truth-telling to know what is and isn’t working. I can help you determine the culture in your organization and counsel you to implement one that fosters a reliable honest feedback environment. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or


Irreconcilable” Differences A nationwide American Culture & Faith Institute survey of adults that measured how many people have a biblical worldview discovered people who are politically conservative are more than twice as likely as those who are politically liberal to have biblical positions on the 20 belief indicators tested. In addition, political conservatives are about 60% more likely to hold biblical positions on those indicators than are those who qualify as politically moderate. Among the findings: Saying that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect creator of the universe who still rules it today (a 43 percentage point difference between conservatives and liberals). Strongly agreeing the main purpose of life is to know, love, and serve God (40-point gap). Asserting everyone is a sinner in need of a savior, repentance and forgiveness (39-point gap). Believing the Bible is the Word of God, with no errors (38-point gap). Strongly disagreeing Satan does not exist but is just a symbol of evil (36-point gap). Saying God created human beings in what is pretty much their present form, just as the Bible says (34-point gap). Strongly agreeing the Bible is totally accurate in the life principles it conveys (33-point gap). Believing God is aware of everything happening and remains actively involved in peoples’ lives (33-point gap). Believing the Bible is the most reliable source of absolute moral truth (32-point gap). Believing the most important indicator of personal success in life is one’s commitment and obedience to God (31-point gap). Believing success is best indicated by commitment and obedience to God (31-point gap). Firmly asserting their religious faith is very important to them (31-point gap). Contending there are moral absolutes that are unchanging (30-point gap). Saying it is very important to be engaged in developing a deeper relationship with God (27-point gap). Saying it is very important to increase their personal understanding of God’s ways, as described in the Bible (27-point gap). (American Culture & Faith Institute 3/8/17)


Missing the Mark A ‛13 LifeWay Research study asked regular protestant church attenders how often they read the Bible outside of church. While 19% answered “every day,” 18% said rarely/never, 25% said a few times a week, and the rest answered “occasionally.” Interestingly, 90 percent of this same group said, “I desire to please and honor Jesus in all that I do.” Yet, more often than not, the world, our feelings, and/or our emotions direct us one way and God’s word another. What our culture deems acceptable and what God says is acceptable often conflict. It’s not just that we don’t know our Bible but that we have so fragmented, dissected, and compartmentalized the Bible that we have lost sight of its great overarching story. As a result, bits and pieces of the Bible are absorbed into the prevailing cultural story, which then supplants the authority of the Bible in shaping our lives. Only the unified biblical narrative has the authority to help us withstand the countervailing humanist narrative currently shaping our culture. (Institute for Faith, Work & Economics 3/13/17)


Science Confirms that human life begins at conception (fertilization). In their latest edition of The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, professors Keith Moore, TVN Persaud, and Mark Torchia shed significant light on the development of the human person – and they don’t shy away from the reality of when life begins. Here are 5 revealing quotes on fetal development: “Human development begins at fertilization when a sperm fuses with an oocyte to form a single cell, the zygote.” “All major external and internal structures are established during the 4th to 8th weeks.” “Upper limb buds are recognizable at day 26 or 27.” “Embryos in the 6th week show spontaneous movements.” “By the end of week 8, the embryo has distinct human characteristics.” (The Pulse 3/10/17)



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