Excerpts from the
March 25, 2018 edition of
The FOSTER Letter—Religious
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.
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.
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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
(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.
percentage of Americans who identify with
evangelical Protestant denominations has ticked downward, the
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.
Belief in God Among
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.
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.
African Americans Are More Religious than whites and
Latinos by many measures of
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%).
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.
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,
Morning Memo 9/26/05, Foster Network)
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.
Research Center 5/12/15)
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.
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%).
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.
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.
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.
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
(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.
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
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
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
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
5 Lessons Billy Graham Taught
1. Live a
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
(Shane Pruitt, ChurchLeaders.com 2/22/18)
“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,
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.
Mixed Race Marriages
17% of U.S. newlyweds were
married to someone of a different race or ethnicity
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)
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,
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
of Gen Z agrees what is morally right and wrong changes over time
based on society.
believe what is morally right and wrong depends on what an
generation doesn’t think moral and spiritual truth exists, then the
Gospel won’t make sense to them.
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, MSN.com 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
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
of the heart people want from their pastor.
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.
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.
(Publishing Perspectives 5/11/11)
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
1 in 5
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
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.
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
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