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, 2019 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update

Social Media & Suicide According to a 2018 Pew Research Center study, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube are the most popular social media sites for teenagers, with 95% having access to a smartphone and 45% saying they’re on it constantly. Louis Appleby, a UK professor and head of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England, conducted a study between 2014 and 2016 investigating the clinical reasons behind suicide. The research into 595 suicides by young people under 20 showed 128 had used the internet in a way that was suicide-related. Appleby notes that although many cases for self-harm are spurred by poor health, bullying, school-related anxiety and relational stress, social media is normalizing self-harm further. Financial and emotional deprivation was also a cause. (MovieGuide 3/6/19)


Church Planting in a Shifting Religious Landscape Although 4,000 new churches are launched in the U.S. annually, 3,700 churches close each year. Meanwhile, the population is expected to top 400 million by 2050. By the same year, the number of unaffiliated believers in America could nearly double, from 17% to 30%. And an estimated 35 million young people raised in Christian homes will walk away from the faith. The return to church, that typically occurs when people begin their own families, will be more than offset by departures. However, if we can return the church’s retention back to Gen X rates, we will see over 16 million more youth begin or continue a life with Jesus. For that to happen and for the religious needs of an increased population to be met, America must “at least double the annual rate of church planting from 4,000 to over 8,000 per year over the next 30 years. That requires church planting rates that were common in this country until the 1930s. ( 2/4/19)

Teen Smoking Climbing From ’17 to ’18, the number of U.S. middle and high school students who said they had used a tobacco product within the previous 30 days rose by 38.3%, claims a new CDC report. Cigarette smoking rates have remained flat among teens; the sharp increase was driven by surging rates of e-cigarette use, with 1.5 million more students reporting vaping (in the past 30 days) in ’18 vs. ’17. In that one year, the share of high schoolers using e-cigarettes grew from 11.7% to 20.8%; use among middle schoolers grew from 3.3% to 4.9%. (Consumer Reports 2/13/19)


Need Help but reticent to add staff in today’s uncertain economy? Engaging a consultant is a relatively low risk/low cost way to resolve a wide range of management, marketing, product development and customer/donor service problems. Contact 419-238-4082, or


Delay Your Child Having a Cellphone One recent study gives you good reason to make kids wait as long as possible for their first mobile device: it appears that radiation from phones can hurt a teenager’s memory. Public Health Institute research says that radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) may negatively affect an adolescent’s brain from cellphone exposure, causing potentially harmful effects on his or her memory performance. The authors say having the device close to one’s head leads to the greatest amount of radiation exposure. Handheld smartphone usage, such as browsing the web, texting or playing games led to notably less exposure to the radiation and was not believed to impair the participants’ memory. (StudyFinds 2/15/19)


Global Warming Deception Writing in Forbes, James Taylor shows that the supposed 97% “scientific consensus” on global warming is false: Only 36% of geoscientists and engineers believe humans are creating a global warming crisis, according to a survey reported in the peer-reviewed Organization Studies.  By contrast, a strong majority of the 1,077 respondents believe that nature is the primary cause of recent global warming and/or that future global warming will not be a very serious problem. According to the newly published survey of geoscientists and engineers, merely 36% of respondents express the strong belief that climate change is happening, that it is not a normal cycle of nature and humans are the main or central cause. (LifeSite News 3/8/19)


Generation Z, the 69-70 million children and teens born between 1999-2015, is the least Christian and most racially, religiously and sexually diverse generation in American history according to the Barna Group. (Impact 360 1/25/19)


Most Young Adults Who Attended Church as a teenager say they believe in God today, but fewer consider themselves devout Christians. LifeWay Research surveyed U.S. adults, ages 23-30, who attended a Protestant church twice a month or more for at least a year as a teen. Today, 39% consider themselves a devout Christian with a strong faith in God, 27% believe they are not particularly devout. 14% believe in God but are uncertain of Christianity or consider themselves spiritual but not religious (11%). Only 5% are uncertain about their belief in God, don’t believe in God or in any higher being. 29% of those who dropped out of church for at least one year as a young adult say they consider them-selves a devout Christian today vs. 60% of those who stayed in church. Those who stopped attending church for at least a year are more likely to say they believe in God, but are uncertain about Christianity (17% to 8%); say they consider themselves spiritual, but not religious (13% to 5%); say they’re uncertain about their belief in God (7% to 3%); and say they don’t believe in God (6% to 1%). (LifeWay Research 1/31/19)


The New Golden Rule for business, first developed by Fred Reichheld, loyalty expert and author, is the one statistic that increasingly is taken most seriously by investors. Initially dubbed the Net Promoter Score, it could also be called the Customer Evangelism Score. It may be the most revealing question any business, ministry or church can ask its constituents. So what is this measure of success? Would you recommend us to a friend? I can help you find appropriate ways to ask this question to your customers and constituents. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or (The Gospel According to Starbucks, Leonard Sweet, WaterBrook, 2007)


Emerging Adults According to the Pew Research Center, over 50% of emerging adults identify as not religious. 3 out of 10 emerging adults are neither spiritual nor religious and 22% are spiritual but not religious. That means that this generation is less likely to affiliate with established religious groupings than previous ones, even if they do have a sense of spirituality. (The Exchange 2/27/19)


The Youngest Millennials Are Adults, how do they compare with those who were their age in previous generations? In general, they’re better educated, more racially and ethnically diverse and Millennial women, like Generation X women, are more likely to participate in the nation’s workforce than prior generations. Millennials (ages 22 to 37 in ’18) are delaying or foregoing marriage and have been somewhat slower in forming their own households. They are also more likely to be living at home with their parents and for longer stretches. They are now the second-largest generation in the U.S. after Boomers. (Pew Research Center 2/14/19)


Transgender Teens now represent almost 2% of U.S. high school students, according to a new report from the CDC. Nearly 35% report having tried to commit suicide in the past 12 months, the CDC reports. (LifeSite News 2/4/19)


Church Member Perceptions Overall, 46% of young adults who attended church regularly as teens say church members were generally welcoming, 42% say church members were authentic and caring, 37% say those at their church were forgiving and 27% inspirational. However, 41% also say the adults were judgmental, 37% felt church members were cliquish, 36% said people in the church were disapproving of those who didn’t meet their expectations, 34% thought they were hypocritical and 31% said members were insincere. Those who stayed in church are more likely to agree with each of the positive attributes and those who dropped out are more likely to agree with the negative traits. (Facts & Trends 1/31/19)


Boomer Women surged into the workforce as young adults, setting the stage for more Gen X and Millennial women to follow suit. In 1966, when Silent Generation women were 22 to 37, 58% were not in the labor force while 40% were. For Millennial women today, 72% are employed while just 25% are not in the labor force. (Pew Research Center 2/14/19)


Millennials Are Starting Families Later than their counterparts in prior generations. Just 46% of Millennials ages 25 to 37 are married vs. 83% of Silents who were married in 1968. The share of 25 to 37 year-olds who were married steadily has dropped for each succeeding generation, from 67% of early Boomers to 57% of Gen Xers. In 1968, the typical American woman first married at 21 and the typical American man first wed at 23. Today, those figures have climbed to 28 for women and 30 for men. They are also waiting longer to become parents than prior generations. In ’16, 48% of Millennial women (20 to 35) were moms. When Generation X women were the same age in 2000, 57% were already mothers, similar to Boomer women (58%) in 1984. (Pew Research Center 2/14/19)


Unreported 90-plus percent of pedophiles are never in the criminal justice system and 85% of victims never report the crime. (One News Now 1/15/19)


Bible Engagement in America 48% of Americans engage with the Bible on their own (outside a church service) at least 3 to 4 times a year. 68% express at least some curiosity to know more about what the Bible says. 58% believe the message of the Bible has transformed their life. 25% of Americans have read the Bible in its entirety. 57% declare they wish they used the Bible more. 65% say their level of Bible use is the same as it was a year ago. Someone who engages with the Bible 4 or more times a week is: 407% more likely to memorize Scripture, 228% more likely to share their faith with others, 59% less likely to view porn and 30% less likely to struggle with loneliness. (Outreach Magazine 3-4/19)


Restoring Trust A few years ago JetBlue angered a lot of people when they cancelled a thousand flights in just a few days. Negative customer reaction was enough to make the average CEO want to hide. Instead, JetBlue CEO David Neeleman took the pilot’s seat and responded quickly with sincere atonement, hitting every media outlet he could, issuing apologies not just to every inconvenienced flier but also to his airline’s own crew members. They went the extra mile in a supreme effort to recover the public’s trust and confidence. It can be humbling and costly, but the short-term pain is part of a long-term vision of success. Success not focused on the 1st quarter, but on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th and rebuilding reputation in the eyes of customers and staff. Customers and donors will usually forgive incompetence but not bad character. Good behavior is the single most effective way to restore trust after an episode of bad or untrustworthy behavior. To craft an effective trust recovery plan contact me at 419-238-4082, or (1 to 1 Media 12/27/07)


American Women are Increasingly Susceptible to heart disease at a younger age. A report in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation revealed the rate of patients 35-54 who were hospitalized with heart attacks in the U.S. increased from 27% in 1995-1999 to 32% between 2010-2014. Among those, the incidence for women rose from 21% to 31% vs. men going up from 30% to 33%. (USA Today 2/27/19)


Don’t Rush to Evangelize When Christians attempt to engage in conversation with non-believing friends and family, they should not rush the effort to evangelize, finds a new Barna Group study. The survey found that while 62% of non-Christian and lapsed Christian respondents wanted to talk with a practicing Christian friend or family member who “listens without judgment,” only 34% said this practice was found among practicing Christians they personally know. Likewise, 50% of non-Christian and lapsed Christian respondents said they wanted to dialogue with someone who “does not force a conclusion,” yet only 26% said that applied to practicing Christians they knew. Be aware that not everyone may be ready to go from A to Z in a single conversation and pressing the topic forward may feel forced to the non-Christian, to the point of turning them away. Go slow! Take the time to build familiarity and appreciation of the non-believer’s context first, then build trust, then discuss… not lecture. (Christian Post 2/25/19)


          For information on how to become a subscriber to the entire 3-4 page Foster Letter---Religious Market Update, E-mail us at: