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, 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)


New Revenue Streams I can help you maximize existing revenue sources or discover brand new ones compatible with your vision and resources. Contact 419-238-4082, or


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)

Collegians and Millennials are abandoning organized religion at a dizzying pace. 39% of young adults (18-29) claim no religious identity. 60% say they stopped believing in the teachings of their childhood religion, according to a ’16 study by the Public Religion Research Institute. (Publishers Weekly 2/28/18)


On The Right Track There is widespread concern with the state of the nation and its leadership, claims a recent American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) survey that found 59% of U.S. adults describe themselves as “angry with the state of America” today. Actually that’s better than the 67% reported in ’17. 52% are satisfied that we’ve regained our way economically but also just 38% saying we’re on the right track culturally, with 34% saying we’re on the right track politically and 25% morally. In short, people believe we’ve gotten the economy in shape but other critical dimensions of our society are still a mess. Christians were far more likely than people who do not associate with Christianity to believe things are going in the right direction economically by a 58% to 38% split. They were also more likely to say things are going in the right direction politically.  (American Culture & Faith Institute 2/28/18)


Ethnic Differences Among Gen Zs Recent Barna and Impact 360 Institute research finds Gen Z (born between ’99 and ’15) racial minorities are substantially more likely than white teens to consider their race or ethnicity important to their sense of self. When it comes to perceptions of the church, African American and Hispanic teens are more likely to choose church-themed activities or icons that have a more communal feel and greater diversity vs. white teens. Also, white teens (who tend to benefit from households of greater wealth and comfort, on average) are more likely than black and Hispanic youth to say they are not excited to grow up (32% vs. 15% black teens, 26% Hispanic teens). White and black teens are more likely than Hispanic teens to report often interacting with people who are different from them (43% white, 38% black vs. 29% Hispanic teens), which black teens especially enjoy (28% vs. 15% white). 21% Hispanic teens strongly agree they enjoy spending time with people who are different from them. ( 2/6/18)


5 Lessons Billy Graham Taught Us 1. Live a focused life. He had one focus to his life: to preach the love of Jesus to a world that desperately needed it. 2. Stand with boldness. He boldly stood and proclaimed that Jesus was the only way. 3. Practice what you preach. He constantly surrounded himself with safeguards and accountability. Nothing hinders the ministry more than hypocrisy. 4. God does extraordinary things through ordinary people. God is not looking for all-stars. He already has an all-star, named Jesus. He is just looking for ordinary people who will follow the all-star, Jesus, with unwavering hearts. 5. There are no perfect people. Although Billy Graham was a godly man, he was not a perfect man. No one is perfect, and everyone needs Jesus. (Shane Pruitt, 2/22/18)


Planning Pays “There are two areas in finance where world-class organizations have actually increased spending relative to revenues. One of those is compliance, and the second is planning and analysis,” says Bryan Hall, a Hackett Group finance consultant. I can help you craft and monitor your plan. Contact 419-238-4082, or (CFO 12/07)


Importance of Christian Liturgy  More than 35% of practicing Christians say liturgy is an important part of their culture and tradition, a sentiment much more common among older generations (43% Elders, 39% Boomers) than younger ones (29% Millennials, 27% Gen X). 34% appreciate it as a practice alongside other forms and styles of worship and 31% say it helps them feel connected to church history. Of those who have some experience with liturgy, 13% say it’s always been part of their life and prefer it. 22% prefer contemporary forms of worship and 12% say liturgy has nothing to do with their faith. (Barna Trends 2/13/18)


Mixed Race Marriages 17% of U.S. newlyweds were married to someone of a different race or ethnicity in ’15. This reflects a steady increase since ’67, when just 3% of newlyweds were intermarried, claims a ’17 Pew Research Center analysis. While Asian (29%) and Hispanic (27%) newlyweds are most likely to intermarry in the U.S., the most dramatic increases are among black newlyweds, of whom 18% married someone of a different race or ethnicity vs. 5% in ’80. 11% of white newlyweds are married to someone of a different race or ethnicity. Intermarriage is most common in urban areas. (Pew Research Center 2/14/18)


Fewer Teen Believers According to a ’17 Pew Research survey, 27% of U.S. adults call themselves “spiritual but not religious,” up 8 percentage points in 5 years. Meanwhile, the number of “nones” (people who say they’re neither spiritual nor religious) is up to 18 % from about 10% in ’12. A new Barna Group study finds that among today’s teens, 13% call themselves “atheist,” vs. 6% of adults. (Publishers Weekly 2/16/18)


Drowsy Driving plays a role in nearly 8 times more severe accidents than federal estimates suggest, according to a new AAA study. By studying dashboard video from 700 accidents, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 9.5% of all crashes involved drowsy drivers, based on the portion of time the drivers’ eyes were closed in the minutes before a crash. The portion grows to 10.8% in more severe crashes. Federal estimates suggested drowsiness was a factor in only 1% or 2% of crashes. Drivers who don’t get enough sleep are putting everyone on the road at risk. The risks of drowsy driving include driving across lanes or not remembering the last few miles driven. Strategies for longer trips include taking a break from driving every couple of hours, taking turns driving with an alert passenger or pulling into a rest stop for a 20-minute nap. (USA Today 2/8/18)


It’s About Community In these times, people are extremely anxious, unsettled, and uncertain because of massive changes introduced by social and economic forces that seem beyond our control. Your business or ministry is not really about marketing, product, net sales, or donor revenue—it’s about community. Businesses and ministries that can effectively build community with and among its audiences are the ones that will thrive. This should be in your organization’s DNA. Make me your ‘Community Consultant.’ Contact 419-238-4082, or


Relativism Is On The Rise in Generation Z, the 69-70 million children and teens born between ’99-’15. A recent Barna Group study found both Christian and non-Christian teens were confused when it came to moral truth. Only 34% of Gen Z agree lying is morally wrong. This is in comparison to 61% of Elders, 54% of Boomers, 50% of Gen X and 42% of Millennials. The research also revealed: 24% of Gen Z agrees what is morally right and wrong changes over time based on society. 21% believe what is morally right and wrong depends on what an individual believes. If a generation doesn’t think moral and spiritual truth exists, then the Gospel won’t make sense to them. (Impact 360 Institute 2/20/18)


Student Loan Borrowers According to the Brookings Institution, of the more than 40 million Americans who have student debt, 6 million (14% of the total) owe more than $50,000. That’s nearly triple the percentage who owed that amount in ’00. However, repayment rates have slowed, largely due to the availability of newer extended and income-driven repayment plans. In total, this group holds a combined $790 billion in debt, slightly more than half of the $1.4 trillion in all outstanding student loans. In other words, that 14% of borrowers owes the majority of student debt. 30% of all dollars in default are held by borrowers with balances over $50,000. While defaults among high-balance borrowers are rare, these borrowers are paying down their debts more slowly; for the first time, recent borrowers in the group actually owe more than their initial repayment amount. (Money, 2/22/18)


Evangelicals More Racially Diverse 76% of evangelical Protestants in the U.S. are white, but the share of evangelicals who are not white is growing. As of ’14, 11% of adults who identify with evangelical denominations are Hispanic, 6% are Black, 2% are Asian, and 5% identify with another race or as mixed race. (Pew Research Center 3/1/18)


People Intuitively Seek Traits of the Heart over skills of the trade when choosing a pastor to connect with and follow spiritually. Things like good preaching, wise administration and strong ministry programming matter, but they are not at the top of the list. In a smaller church, that heart connection happens at a personal level while in larger churches it happens more because of the authentic love they communicate from the platform. 12Stone Church’s Executive Pastor, Dan Reiland, identifies Top of Form

Bottom of Form

5 traits of the heart people want from their pastor. 1. Authentic faith that reveals you trust God both in the good times and in the difficult seasons of life and ministry. 2. Genuine love and compassion. 3. A disposition of grace in leading people. 4. Trustworthy character. 5. Hope-filled leadership. (, Dan Reiland, 3/19/18)


Academic Rigor Pays The top reason students cite for going to college is to get a good job. Recent Gallup research shows student experiences such as having supportive relationships with faculty and mentors, working on long-term projects, obtaining relevant internships and being involved in extracurricular activities are strongly linked to higher well-being and better workplace outcomes. They are also closely tied to alumni perceptions of college value and feelings of preparedness for life outside of college. Alumni who strongly agree they were challenged academically are 3.6 times as likely as those who do not strongly agree to say they were prepared for life outside of college. Similarly, those who strongly agree that they were challenged academically are about 2.4 times as likely as those who do not strongly agree to say their education was worth the cost. (Gallup 2/26/18)


Fail Forward Fast is the slogan of O’Reilly Media. It underscores the need to “maximize learning relative to time and money -– make the big mistakes early on, when you have less invested,” in order to limit costly mistakes as the scale grows. This is edgy but apt counsel for most Christian ministries and businesses today. Let me help you apply this to your organization. or, 419-238-4082. (Publishing Perspectives 5/11/11)


Interfaith Marriages 39% of Americans who have married since ’10 have a spouse who is in a different religious group vs. only 19% of those who wed before ’60. Many of these interfaith marriages are between Christians and those who are religiously unaffiliated. (Pew Research Center 2/14/18)


Today’s Volatile Religious Landscape Nearly 1 in 5 Americans switched their religious tradition in a 4-year window from ’10 to ’14 according to The General Social Survey that has tracked religious affiliation bi-annually since ’72. For smaller groups, the movement is relatively minor. Since the early 80s, the Jewish share dropped by about a single point, black Protestants stayed relatively stable and those with “other faith” remained around 6% of the population. Similarly, evangelicals and Catholics have almost the same proportions of the population they had back in ’72. While evangelicals saw a surge in the early 90s, that number has essentially stabilized (23.6% in ’16). The Catholic share, which was reliably 23% to 25% in the 90s, has dipped 2 points to 22.6%. The biggest, and likely the most important, story in modern American religion is occurring among mainline Protestants and those of no faith (“nones”).

In the 70s, mainline Protestants made up the largest share of population (30%). By ’86, mainline Protestants made up less than 20% of Americans. In ’16, the number stands at 10.6%. On the other hand, the number of nones has spiked from 5.1% in ’72 to 21.6% today. ( 3/2/18)


Why Church Giving Levels Are Down Thom Rainer, church specialist, identifies these possible causative factors that may be at work in your church. 1) Lower attendance: The family who attends 3 times a month is more likely to give more than the same family attending 2 times a month. 2) Generational shifts: In many churches, Millennials are replacing Builders; hence, more generous givers are being replaced by less generous ones. 3) Giving to purposes rather than organizations: From Builders to Millennials, there has been a dramatic shift in motivations for giving. Church leaders must demonstrate how church funds are being used for a compelling greater purpose. 4) Little teaching on giving: Many members do not comprehend that giving is both a mandate and a blessing. They’ve not been taught about it in their churches. 5) Not as much discretionary income among churchgoers: Many church givers only give discretionary income. (Growing Churches Together, Thom Rainer 3/5/18)



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