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

May 25, 2017 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Who is Most Changing American Culture? According to a new American Culture & Faith Institute study, the types of organizations viewed as those responsible for the greatest degree of positive change in ‛16 were churches (noted by 47%); families (19%); and non-profit organizations (14%). On the other hand, the types of organizations viewed as least productive in bringing about positive cultural change were the news media (34%); the federal government (27%); and the arts and entertainment media (17%). Entities generally considered to not be significantly involved in cultural change, for better or worse, included large and small business, public schools, state and local governments, courts, healthcare industry, and military.  (American Culture & Faith Institute 4/25/17)


Life Happens in the Living Room Most families do almost everything together in their family or living room. 65% of parents say they spend the most time as a family in this space, with the kitchen coming in as the preferred second space. Families are most often participating in leisure or entertainment activities in the family room (79%), but it’s also the place where families say their creative activities happen (51%). (The Tech-Wise Family, Andy Crouch, Baker Books, 2017)


Postmodernism, the belief that everything can be explained objectively through the scientific method, advances the idea that there is no such thing as objectivity. It claims we are all limited by our experience, and at best we can know only what is true for ourselves. Sadly, 19% of practicing U.S. Christians strongly agree “no one can know for certain what meaning and purpose there is to life.” 23% strongly agree that “what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes.” Less educated Americans (high school or less) are more likely to affirm this view than their college-educated counterparts (31% vs. 21%). (Barna Update 5/9/17)


Most Americans Positive About the Bible 52% of U.S. adults call the Bible a good source of morals. 37% say it’s helpful, 36% true and 35% life-changing, according to a new LifeWay Research survey. 81% told the American Bible Society and Barna Group they believe it’s the actual or inspired word of God. But a growing segment (19% in ‛17, up from 10% in ‛11) say it’s simply a book of teachings and stories written by men. (CT Gleanings 4/26/17)


Breaking The Curse Of Knowledge We all tend to forget that the knowledge we possess is not common to everybody. We automatically assume everyone knows the same things we do. When we fall prey to the Curse of Knowledge, we phrase ideas as they exist in our own mind instead of expressing them in a way that appeals to the minds of others. The ‘Curse’ leads us to abstraction and separates us from our audience. I can help you communicate in a way that will connect with and appeal to your audience. Contact 419-238-4082, or (Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip & Dan Heath, Random House, ’07)


Parenting Today Is Harder Than Ever It’s a complex, rapidly changing world, and parents today are feeling it. 78% of parents believe they have a more complicated job in raising their kids today than their parents did raising them. Why? Parents say its technology. Beyond that, parents seem to most often identify issues that feel beyond their control and that are global in scope: a more dangerous world or a lack of a common morality. The consequences of these difficulties feel dire and so, perhaps, scare parents more than local or personal factors such as finances, bullying at school or high academic pressures. (Barna 4/18/17)


The Real Media Moguls According to the latest report from Zenith, Facebook and Google take $1 in every $5 of ad spend globally. That amounts to nearly $80bn for Google and $27bn Facebook -- well over $100bn combined in ‛16. (Media Intelligence-Heard on the Web 5/3/17)


Technology & After School Hours Aside from watching TV, technology occupies a central place in many of the after-school activities of kids: 42% of U.S. parents say their children regularly play video games after school, 27% are on social media or texting with friends, and 25% are online other than for homework. There are offline activities too: 56% spend time engaging with family members, 39% are playing informally, 32% are reading other than for homework, 23% are playing organized sports, and 22% are hanging out with friends. (The Tech-Wise Family, Andy Crouch, Baker Books, 2017)


Skeptics and Antagonistics Recent research for the American Bible Society conducted by the Barna Group found 19% of U.S. adults say the Bible is simply a book of teachings and stories written by men. Researchers broke the group in two, and found a marked difference between them resulting in 32% being labeled “skeptics” (those who believe the Bible was not divinely inspired, but neither was it written with the intent to manipulate) and 68% they labeled “antagonistics.” The Antagonistics’ average age is 41. He is more likely to be an unmarried male from the Gen-X or Millennial generation. They are largely non-Christian, do not attend church, and a small 5% report reading the Bible at least 3-4 times a year. Skeptics are slightly older, on average 43. More college graduates fall into this category than any other and they are largely single and not Christian, and most are unchurched. Antagonists are more likely than skeptics to be white (68% vs. 56%) or Hispanic (18% vs. 13%). They’re less likely than skeptics to make under $50,000 a year (39% vs. 47%) and more likely to make over $100,000 a year (27% vs. 14%). They’re notably less open to the Bible, 91% of antagonists have no desire to read the Bible more vs. 74% of skeptics. They’re more likely (53%) than skeptics (37%) to say that none of the traditional sacred texts ( Bible, Qur’an, Torah, or Book of Mormon) are holy. 72% of antagonists believe the Bible has too much influence on US society vs. 42% of skeptics. CT Gleanings 4/26/17)


Need to Control Costs by “right-sizing” your company or ministry? I can help steer you through this delicate process. Unless very carefully done, it can become a disastrous staff de-motivator. I can strategically assess your situation and craft a healthy implementation strategy. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or


Sleeping with My Smartphone  70% of U.S. parents sleep with their phone next to them while 82% their kids do likewise. 72% of parents of preteens say the same. 62% of parents say checking their phone is the first thing they do in the morning. Most check their email (74%), social media (48%), news (36%) and calendar organization (24%). Just 17%) are using a Bible or devotional app. (The Tech-Wise Family, Andy Crouch, Baker Books, 2017)


Lots of Concerns According to recent American Faith & Culture research, U.S. adults are least satisfied with life conditions in relation to the performance of federal government officials (23%) and race relations (26%). 37% expressed satisfaction with the objectivity displayed by the mainstream news media; 36% with the quality of public school education; 34% with access to financial opportunities for all people; and 33% with the quality of parenting provided by the parents of young children. 42% indicated they were satisfied with the degree of acceptance and tolerance found on college campuses and 39% were satisfied with the strength and reliability of marriages. (American Faith & Culture Institute 4/19/17)


Millennials Value Honesty While 99% of donors report “honesty in business practices” is a “somewhat” or “very” important quality in a ministry, millennial donors ranked highest (56%) by reporting this is the most important quality a ministry can have. (ECFA The Generosity Project 4/13/17)


Infant Mortality is on the decline in the U.S., claims a recent CDC report. Over the past decade, infant mortality has dropped nationwide by 15%. While infant mortality in the U.S. stood at 6.86 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births in ‛05, by ‛14 it had declined to 5.82 deaths per 1,000 births. A steady decrease in the rate from the 3 leading causes of infant death—congenital abnormalities, short gestation/low birthweight, and sudden infant death syndrome—helped, in part, to drive the trend. Despite these gains, infant mortality in the U.S. still remains higher than in Europe and other developed countries. In ‛14, the U.S. ranked 30th out of 35 member states of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In fact, each one of the top 10 ranked OECD countries had rates less than half of that of the U.S. (LifeSite News 4/18/17)


How Should Scripture be interpreted? Christians, who make up a majority of U.S. adults (71%), are divided over how to interpret the Bible. While 39% of Christians say the Bible’s text is the word of God and should be taken literally, 36% say it should not be interpreted literally or express another or no opinion. A separate 18% of Christians view the Bible as a book written by men, not God. (Pew Research Center 4/14/17)


New Spirituality New Barna research finds 28% of U.S. Christians strongly agree “all people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being.” Further, the belief that “meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is” has captured the minds of 27%. 32% strongly agree that “if you do good, you will receive good, and if you do bad, you will receive bad.” Over-all, at least 61% of practicing Christians embrace at least one of the ideas rooted in New Spirituality. (Barna Update 5/9/17)


Bible Reading Essential In ‛14, 42% of Christians said reading the Bible or other religious materials is an essential part of what being Christian means to them personally. An additional 37% say reading the Bible is important but not essential to being a Christian, and 21% say reading the Bible is not an important part of their Christian identity. (Pew Research Center 4/14/17)


Faith & Education According to a new Pew Research Center study of U.S. Christians, among evangelicals, more education correlates with a higher religious commitment in every area researchers studied. Evangelicals who graduated from college are more likely than those who didn’t enroll to attend religious services at least weekly (68% vs. 55%), to pray daily (83% vs. 77%), and to believe in God with absolute certainty (90% vs. 87%). They’re also more likely to say religion is very important to them (81% vs. 79%). 55% of evangelicals who didn’t finish high school now attend church at least once a week. Among evangelicals with a postgraduate degree, that number shoots up to 70%. Evangelicals with a graduate degree are more likely to pray every day (83% vs. 77% of high school drop-outs), to believe with absolute certainty in God (90% vs. 81%), and to say religion is important in their lives (84% vs. 82%). On Pew’s religious commitment index, 87 percent of postgraduates scored “high,” compared to 81 percent of those who didn’t graduate from high school. While evangelicals and Mormons grow across-the-board more religiously committed as they gain education, other categories of Christians do not. (CT Gleanings 4/26/17)


Sketch-a-Fridge Currently only available in Brazil, a GE refrigerator is covered in a special coating similar to dry erase whiteboards. Replacing the age-old practice of sticking grocery lists and children’s drawings on the fridge, missives can now be written directly on the appliance and easily wiped off. It’s a simple innovation that cleverly integrates existing human behavior, and it turns a mundane product into something playful and appealing. Opportunities? When rethinking a product or service, don’t just focus on features or haute design. An element of fun can be just as much of a sales magnet at a fraction of the cost. I’ll be happy to work with you and your team to re-invent, not just refresh, your products. Contact 419-238-4082, or ( 6/27/07)


Are Millennials Leaving the Church? In a recent article titled “59% of Millennials Raised in the Church Have Dropped Out—And They’re Trying to Tell Us Why” on Faith It, writer Sam Eaton reported “only 4% of the Millennial generation are Bible-based believers. This means that 96% of Millennials likely don’t live out the teachings of the Bible, value the morals of Christianity and probably won’t be found in a church.” One notable exception; Black Millennials are not leaving the church as they are more invested in the practices and rituals associated with church life. (ChurchLeaders 4/17/17)


Financial Accountability Impacts Giving 94% of all donors surveyed by the Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability (ECFA) consider financial accountability a positive influence on their decision to keep supporting a ministry, and 92% agree it is extremely important for ministries to uphold specific standards of financial integrity. (ECFA The Generosity Project 4/13/17)



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