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 10, 2019 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update

Who is Responsible for Spiritual Formation? Church leaders universally agree it should start with parents. 99% of Protestant pastors, along with 96% of Catholic priests, ranked parents 1st, followed by the Church (92% of Protestant leaders and 77% of Catholic leaders ranked it 2nd). 70% of Protestant pastors ranked the Christian community 3rd, and 68% ranked schools 4th in the chain of responsibility. (Barna Research 3/20/19)


Women Lead Generosity Across Race & Ethnicity finds a new report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) called Women Give 2019: Gender and Giving Across Communities of Color. Households give to charity and a donor’s race does not have a significant effect on the amount given. Single women and married couples are more likely to give than single men. Religion and basic needs are the top 2 causes supported across race and income. For all groups, single women are more likely than single men to give to charity; married and cohabiting couples are more likely than either single men or single women to give to charity. (NonProfit Times 3/14/19)


Religious People Are Happier People who are active members of a religious community are more likely than those who don’t have those strong religious ties to describe themselves as “very happy,” finds a new Pew Research Center study. In America, 36% of regular worship service attendees say they are “very happy,” compared with 25% of infrequent attendees and 25% of the religiously unaffiliated. (Huffington Post 2/6/19)


Improve Board Meeting Efficiency Board meetings are costly and should be highly productive. I can help your Board accomplish more and make better informed decisions without longer meetings. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or


Single-Parent Families of all kinds are becoming increasingly common in the U.S. From 1880 to 1970, around 85% of U.S. children lived with 2 parents, reports Pew Research Center, but over the past 50 years this has changed radically. In ’15, less than one-half of U.S. children lived with 2 parents in their first marriage. In ’18, there were more than 16 million single parents in the U.S. and 40% of U.S. births were to unmarried women. ( 4/25/19)


Church Membership in U.S. Plummets The percentage of U.S. adults who belong to a church or other religious institution has plunged by 20 percentage points over the past 2 decades, hitting a low of 50% last year, according to a new Gallup poll. The biggest drops were recorded among Democrats and Hispanics. Church membership was 70% in 1999 and close to or higher than that for most of the 20th century. Since then it has fallen steadily, while the percentage of U.S. adults with no religious affiliation has jumped from 8% to 19%. Among those identifying with a particular religion, there was a sharp drop in church membership among Catholics (from 76% to 63%) and Protestants (from 73% to 67%). Over the same period, church membership among Democrats fell from 71% to 48% vs. just 77% to 69% among Republicans. Among those 65 and older, membership in ’16-’18 averaged 64% vs. only 41% among those 18-29. (AP 4/18/19)


Religiously Unaffiliated Millennials According to Pew Research Center, 35% of adult Millennials are religiously unaffiliated. And a few more say they have no religious affiliation compared with those who identify as evangelical Protestants (21%), Catholics (16%) or mainline Protestants (11%). ( 3/12/19)


Tax Act: Help or Hurt Only 14% of Americans say their federal income taxes have gone down as a result of the law, while 21% say they have actually gone up. 43% of Americans don’t know how the law has affected their taxes. (Gallup 4/17/19)


Pre-Born Babies’ Brains show significant differences between sexes before any parental or societal conditioning, claims a new study published in the 4/19 edition of Develop-mental Cognitive Neuroscience. By looking at 16 distinct networks of the brains, the study found differences between male and female fetuses in functional connectivity across gestational age. They concluded, “These observations confirm that sexual dimorphism in functional brain systems emerges during human gestation. The present study demonstrates for the first time that development of fetal brain FC [functional connectivity] varies with sex.” The study concluded, “The differential development of FC over gestation in male and female fetuses likely acts as a precursor to sex-related brain connectivity differences observed across the lifespan. Further, the fetal brain networks observed in the present study likely serve as the building blocks for nascent neonatal, toddler and adult networks.” The study shows that sexual differences in brain development come before birth. (LifeSite News 4/4/19)


Evangelicals Are Not Keeping Pace with America’s rapidly changing racial diversity. In ’18, about 70% people living in the U.S. are non-Hispanic whites. However, that will dramatically change over the next 30 years. The Census Bureau projects that between 2045 and 2050, the share of the population that is white will drop below 50%. There are 2 key driving factors: the average age of the white population is steadily increasing faster than other racial groups and the fertility rate of racial minorities is far higher than whites. Yet, 70.9% of young evangelicals are white vs. 58.5% of those under 35 who are not evangelical. While 14.1% of young non-evangelicals are Hispanic, the rate of Hispanic evangeli-cals is just 6.7%. For other racial groups, these disparities are less dramatic. In fact, the share of African-Americans between the groups is statistically the same (~15.5%). African -Americans and Hispanics are on the forefront of the rise of “nothing in particular” category of religious affiliation. While 51% of white evangelicals attend church at least once a week, for African-Americans it’s nearly 60% and for Hispanics it’s over 66%. For Asian Hispanics, nearly 80% attend church at least once a week. (Christianity Today International 4/1/19)


Older Americans pulled an estimated $22 billion from long-term savings to pay for their healthcare in the past 12 months. Such savings withdrawals can be problematic for younger Americans, but for seniors the impact can be severe. Many seniors are living off long-term savings, so this can put their day-to-day solvency at risk. The cost of prescription drugs is a large part of the cost hindrance for seniors. Medicare projects spending $116 billion on retail prescription drugs in ’19. An estimated 7.5 million seniors are unable to pay for medicine prescribed to them because they don’t have enough money. And to make the matter worse, seniors reported that 80% of the prescriptions they cannot afford are for a somewhat or very serious health condition. (Gallup 4/15/19)


Advertising isn’t working as it did a few years ago. TV, radio and newspapers all bemoan the decline in ad results. “Wizard of Ads” Roy Williams claims he’s discovered and proved that (A) Internet surfing has trained us to disregard empty words and (B) Relevance has become more important than repetition. The audience is still there. What’s gone is their willingness to pay attention to drivel. He says, to make your advertising work like it should, you’re going to have to: (1) Talk about things your customer actually cares about. (2) Write your ads in a style that rings true. (3) Avoid heroic chest thumping. “We are the number one…” is now considered gauche and passé. (4) Close the loopholes in your ads. Offer evidence to support what you say. (5) Be specific. Details are more believable than generalities. (6) Deliver a real message. Substance is more important than style. Creativity and repetition can no longer cover up for an ad that actually says nothing. You’ve got to have a message that matters. For an analysis of your ads contact 419-238-4082, or (Monday Morning Memo, Wizard of Ads 3/5/07)


Do Porn Filters Work? Of adults in the general population, 29% “seek out” porn at least monthly. However, for those who use a filter to block porn, 39% seek it out at least monthly. More alarming, 54% of the general population say they “never” seek out porn vs. 0% of filter users.  All filter users say they seek out porn! Over and over again, studies show “accountable families who take the spiritual formation of their families seriously are successful in passing their values on to the next generation.” Good parenting works! (Covenant Eyes 4/21/16)


Why Do People Leave the Church? Here are the 10 most common responses: I got out of the habit. I left after I graduated from high school. I decided I didn’t like the institutional church. I was hurt at the church. I just couldn’t find a church to meet my needs. I had a need and the church didn’t meet it. I never felt connected in the church. I did not give to the church. I left when Pastor John left. We moved and never went back to church. (Thom Rainer 4/3/19)


Teen Mental Health Problems on the Rise 70% of U.S. teens say anxiety and depression are major problems among their peers today, according to Pew Research Center survey. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in ’16, 12.8% of 12-17 year-olds experienced a major depressive episode in the past year, while depression led to severe impairment for 9%. Of teens dealing with major depression, less than half said they’d received treatment in the last year.

Meanwhile, General Social Survey research shows happiness of those 18-34 fell to an all-time low in ’18, with 25% of young adults reporting they’re “very happy.” (Facts & Trends 4/4/19)


DaySpring Cards has started a new direct-sales business called Blessings Unlimited that offers gifts, home décor products, greeting cards, items for quiet times with the Lord and many other products for sale direct to consumers through independent consultants. To learn more, visit This is a Christian product company willing to risk entering a new market channel. All new endeavors involve risk. Let me help you assess the risks in any new direction you will pursue. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or (Foster Network 3/28/07)


Giving Forgiveness Exceeds Receiving It In a new Barna study on forgiveness, conducted in partnership with The Reimagine Group, found 76% of U.S. practicing Christians believe they have offered unconditional, joyful forgiveness to another person who had hurt, upset or sinned against them (or someone they love). 15% have never offered this level of forgiveness and 9% are unsure. Just 55% remember another person being merciful to them in this way, with another 38% say this has not happened and 7% don’t know. 22% report struggling with receiving forgiveness for something they have personally done wrong. (Barna 4/11/19)


Humanitarian Habits Of Religious People When researchers document how people spend their hours and their money, religious Americans look very different from others. Pew Research Center researchers examined the behavior of a large sample of the public across a typical 7-day period. They found that among Americans who attend services weekly and pray daily, 45% had done volunteer work during the previous week vs. just 27% among all other Americans. (Philanthropy Roundtable, Winter 2019)


People & Transitions:

  • Warren Wiersbe, an author and pastor credited with influencing thousands of preachers toward biblical exposition, died May 2. He was 89.

Alcohol Consumption The World Health Organization estimates around 2.3 billion people worldwide drink alcohol, with average per person daily consumption at 33 grams of pure alcohol a day. That is roughly equivalent to two 150 ml glasses of wine, a large (750 ml) bottle of beer or two 40 ml shots of spirits. (Reuters 4/4/19)


Is America Becoming Godless? The number of people who have no religion has risen 266% (33% of the population) in 3 decades. People with no religion accounted for 23.1% of the U.S. population in ’18. By comparison, Catholics make up 23% and Evangelicals account for 22.5%.

The three are now statistically tied as the largest religious groups in America. (Dailey Mail 4/5/19)


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