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 10, 2019 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Few Churched Teens Become Devout Christians Just 39% of U.S. adults 23 to 30 who attended a Protestant church twice a month or more for at least a year as a teen say they consider themselves a devout Christian with a strong faith in God today, finds a new LifeWay Research study. 27% consider themselves Christian but not particularly devout and 14% say they believe in God but are uncertain of Christianity, while 11% say they consider themselves spiritual but not religious. 5% say they are uncertain about their belief in God and 4% say they don’t believe in God or in any higher being. (Facts & Trends 1/31/19)


People Leaving the Church Based on the current rates of retention and evangelism, it’s estimated that 42 million young people could leave the church by 2050. (Pinetops Report 2019)


Home Schooling The National Center for Education Statistics reported that from 1999–2016, the percentage of American students educated in homeschools went from 1.7% to 3.3%. The most important reason for homeschool-ing in ’16 was concern about the school environment, such as safety, drugs or negative peer pressure, reported by 34% of parents of homeschooled students. Other reasons cited were dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools (17% of homeschooled students’ parents) and a desire to provide religious instruction (16% percent). In ’03 NCES found that 29.8% of respondents selected “religious or moral instruction” as their most important reason. (Christian Post 2/18/19)


Customer/Donor Loyalty According to the 2006 1 to 1 Customer Loyalty Survey, 87% of corporate executives say their companies understand loyalty is driven by the overall customer experience created, yet only 38% have a system in place to identify the experiences that are most important to loyal customers or donors. Do not put it off if you want to close the gap between customer expectations and delivery. I can help you make customer/donor loyalty the center of your corporate strategy. Contact 419-238-4082, or

Is Belief In Hell A Pathological Fear? Baylor University researchers have learned that individual belief in hell was not in itself connected to any neuroses and that most people did not display an unhealthy focus on the possibility of eternal damnation. The findings included: • The more religious an individual was, the less likely they were to display hell anxiety. • Unhealthy fears were not related to dogmatism or religious fundamentalism. • Free will, or the idea individuals have control over where they will spend their afterlife, was a key element in reducing hell anxiety. • That does not mean belief in hell may not have a dark side when other mediators are involved. Researchers found those who viewed God primarily with fear, those who believed they were likely to go hell and those with a sense that outside forces could decide their fate, were more likely to experience greater hell anxiety and death anxiety. Overall, the results suggested belief in hell should not be considered a pathological fear, “but is perhaps a rational response to personal theological beliefs,” researchers concluded. (C 2/4/19)


Feeling Reluctant to Speak Out Half of U.S. Christian pastors says they frequently (11%) or occasionally (39%) feel limited in their ability to speak out on moral and social issues because people will take offense. The other half says they only rarely (30%) or never (20%) feel limited in this way. When asked to identify the source of the concerns, pastors are much more likely to say that they feel limited by those inside the church than those outside. (Barna 1/29/19)


Fast Changing Culture Confusing Teens Today only 34% of Gen Z can agree that “lying is morally wrong, that’s a big problem. Not only is our culture deeply confused about moral and spiritual truth, gender and sexuality, but we are getting to the point where no one will listen to someone else’s point of view unless they completely agree with them. (Impact 360 1/25/19)

Millennial Income & Wealth Divide The financial well-being of Millennials is complicated. The individual earnings for young workers have remained mostly flat over the past 50 years. But there is a notably large gap in earnings between Millennials who have a college education and those who don’t. Similarly, the household income trends for young adults markedly diverge by education. Those with a bachelor’s degree or more and a full-time job had median annual earnings valued at $56,000 in ’18 vs. $36,000 for those with some college education. Millennials in ’18 had a median household income of roughly $71,400. For households headed by Millennials ages 25 to 37 in ’18, the median adjusted household income was about $105,300 for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, roughly $56,000 greater than that of households headed by high school graduates. (Pew Research Center 2/14/19)


Biblical Worldview by Generation According to Barna research, 10% of Boomers have a biblical worldview as do 7% of Gen X, 6% of Millennials and 4% of Gen Z, not an encouraging trend. (Impact 360 1/25/19)


Completely Committed Churchgoers with evangelical beliefs are more likely to be completely committed (67%) than those who don’t (45%). Baptists (60%) are more likely to be completely committed than Lutherans (47%). ( 1/29/19)


Christian Product to Market I can help you craft a cost-effective marketing plan for any Christian market channel: trade, institutional, church or consumer direct. Contact 419-238-4082, or


Children Interact with Devices More than Parents Children are spending an average of 23 hours a week on smartphones and other gadgets, twice what they spend conversing with their parents, finds a CensusWide poll. The survey of families with children below age 14 found that on average they were spending 3 hours 18 minutes a day on personal devices vs. 1 hour 43 minutes a day engaged in conversation with family members. 80% of parents had tried to persuade their children to spend less time on their personal devices and 40% admitted to giving children devices in order to keep them occupied. The review found 38% of teen girls spending more than 5 hours a day on social media suffered from depressive symptoms vs. 18% among those spending 1-3 hours on such sites. Levels of depression among teen boys rose from 6.8% to 14%, in the group spending longer time on such sites. (The Telegraph 2/7/19)


Millennials, hard hit by the Great Recession, are more likely to live in their parents’ home than previous generations. In ’18, 15% of Millennials (ages 25 to 37) were living in their parents’ home, nearly double the share of early Boomers and Silents (8% each) and 6 points higher than Gen Xers who did so at that age. This is especially prominent among those with lower education. Millennials who never attended college were twice as likely as those with a bachelor’s degree or more to live with their parents (20% vs. 10%). (Pew Research Center 2/14/19)


Young Americans’ Theology LifeWay Research’s 2018 State of Theology Study found 73% of those 65 and older believe God accepts the worship of all religions vs. 62% of those 18 to 34. Young adults are the most likely age group to agree even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation and among the most likely to say hell is a real place where certain people will be punished forever. Among all young adults, 58% agree with the importance of personal evangelism vs. 89% among evangelicals 18 to 34. However, they are the age group most likely to say the Holy Spirit can tell them to do something that is forbidden in the Bible (30%) and most likely to believe modern science disproves the Bible (47%). 52% say the Bible contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true. 43% say God will always reward true faith with material blessings in this life and 46% that churches must provide entertaining worship services if they want to be effective. 36% say God is unconcerned with one’s day-to-day decisions and 38% that Christians should be silent on issues of politics. 45% say gender identity is a matter of choice and 51% that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today. Like all Americans, 60% say religious belief is a matter of personal opinion and not objective truth. 62% of all Americans and 63% of 18-34s say Jesus’ death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of sin. (Facts & Trends 2/18/19)


Millennials Divorce Less From ’08 to ’16, the U.S. divorce rate dropped 18% with Millennials and Gen X are driving the trend, finds a Univ. of Maryland study. Since the 90s, the prevalence of divorce for people under age 45 appears to level off, whereas it continues to rise for people over 45. The primary factors contributing to Millennials (22-37) and some Gen Xers (38-53) staying together are that the population is getting older and is more highly educated. (USA Today 9/26/18)


Social Media Addiction makes it harder for people to make and keep friends in real life, finds a new British study. That’s because relying on social networks to connect with one another leads people to go out less and worsens friendships. 60% of survey respondents meet up with friends less frequently, with 55% agreeing that social media has made relationships with friends more superficial. Not surprisingly, the average person has drifted apart from 7 friends, placing the blame squarely on seeing one another in person far less than they used to. Respondents say beyond social media, working long hours, being a parent and living farther away from their friends all contribute to a fading friendship. The average respondent would classify just 23% of their Facebook friends as true friends in real life. 33% admit they wish they had more close friends now than they actually do. The average person has 12 “real” friends, but feels they can only confide in 4 of them. Still, 20% say Facebook, Twitter or Instagram use has been a positive force in their lives, leading to new, real-life friendships. 56% agree the key to not letting a friendship fizzle is conviviality or sharing genuine moments with friends and loved ones. (StudyFinds 2/9/19)


Searching for Love Of the 920 million readers who visited the Bible Gateway website in ’18, most were searching for love more than anything else. Only 3 of the other 9 Fruits of the Spirit joined love among top searches: peace (#2), faith (#3) and joy (# 4). (Christianity Today International 2/14/19)


Most Sacred Cows are Just Cows It takes courage to learn from our mistakes. But not everyone who

makes a mistake gains useful knowledge from the experience. The average person explains away their failure, unwilling to stare into the light and see that their “sacred cow” was just a cow. Are you strong enough to see the truth and name it? Are you willing to identify the substance of your own mistakes? This humility is the key to progress. It’s hard to say, “Our product or service fell below the customer’s expectations.” It’s easier to say, “We ran into unforeseeable circumstances” or “We were ahead of our time”; then what we might have learned from the mistake is lost and now history must repeat itself. This is why so few who hold a job for 10 years get 10 years of experience; the average blame-shifter gets 1 years’ experience 10 times. Don’t be among them. To learn things most people will never know, you must summon courage, see clearly, swallow your pride and speak the truth. Sometimes it helps to have a safe, objective point of view. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or (Monday Morning Memo from Wizard of Ads, 8/6/07)


More Ethnic Diversity Among Worshipers 33% of pastors polled told LifeWay Research the ethnic diversity of worship attendees at their church grew the last 5 years. 62% say it stayed the same and 4% saw it decreased. Looking toward the next 5 years, 62% of pastors say it will increase. (Facts & Trends 2/13/19)


What’s Behind the Spiritual Slump? According to a recent LifeWay Research study, many emerging adults (ages 18- 29) experience a spiritual slump in the years after high school. For some the slump is about life transitions, the constant instability of emerging adults’ lives and the separation from parents, church communities, pastors and mentors who had nurtured their adolescent faith. Others fall prey to the distractions of life that come with new relationships, responsibilities, social activities and technology habits that gradually crowd out spiritual practices. And some stray from a strong faith because of the kind of faith they embraced as teens. (Christianity Today Int’l 2/19/19)


Confident Attitudes Large majorities of U.S. practicing Christians and especially millennials and evangelicals report 2 confident attitudes: They feel their faith is a force for good (88%) and that it is essential for society (75%), according to a recent Barna Research study. (Facts & Trends 2/7/19)



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