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, 2018 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Going to Church Matters for Your Marriage Contrary to the popular media myth, Census Bureau data shows 72% of those who have ever been married are still married to their 1st spouse! And the 28% who aren’t includes everyone who was married for many years until a spouse died. No one knows what the average 1st-marriage divorce rate actually is, but based on the rate of widowhood and other factors, we estimate it is closer to 20-25%. For all marriages (including 2nd marriages, and so on), it is in the 31-35% range. Yet, expert demographers continue to project that 40-50% of couples divorce; but the actual numbers have never come close, and divorce rates continue to drop, not rise! Even among baby boomers, the highest-risk age group, 70% are still married to their 1st spouse. Also, according to Barna Research data, regular church attendance lowers the divorce rate anywhere from 25-50%. (, Shaunti Feldhahn 5/2/18)


Boomers Returning to Faith Aging baby boomers are increasingly turning to faith as they move from their 50s into their 60s, finds a new Syracuse Univ. study. 21% of boomers 60-70 say they became more religious over the past decade. 56% boomers said their religiosity stayed the same and 11% became less while 12% said they were never religious. Of those who became more religious, 64% said their interest in worldly things had changed. 53% said they were concerned about the religious development of their children or grand-children and 46% said they had experienced a loss. Religion provided perspective on end-of-life concerns for several respondents, such as coming to ‘a greater understanding of the fleeting nature of this life’ and the desire to ‘meet my God on good terms.’ (Journal of Population Aging 4/18)


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U.S. Christian Women More Religious 72% of U.S. Christian women say religion is “very important” in their lives vs. 62% of the country’s Christian men, according to Pew Research Center’s ’14 U.S. Religious Landscape Study. Roughly 8 in 10 Christian women also say they are absolutely certain God exists and that the Bible is the Word of God vs. 7 in 10 men. 74% of Christian women say they pray at least daily, vs. 60% of men. Among Catholics 67% of women vs. 49% of men say they pray every day. Among mainline Protestants, 62% of women vs. 44% of men say they pray daily. Among Mormons it’s nearly equal, 86% of women vs. 84% of women pray daily. (Pew Research Center 4/6/18)


Evangelical Gap There’s a gap between who evangelicals say they are and what they believe. LifeWay Research reports 45% of those who identify as evangelicals strongly agree with core evangelical beliefs. Those 4 statements of belief are: • The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe. • It is very important for me to personally encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior. • Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin. • Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation. Only 69% of evangelicals by belief self-identify as evangelicals. (Facts & Trends 18 Important Stats for Ministry in 2018)


Americans Believe its Young People are more likely to think highly of themselves than their academic performance merits. A new Rasmussen Reports national survey finds 31% of U.S. adults think young people in America have higher self-esteem than young people in most other countries. 24% say they have lower self-esteem, while 29% feel their level of self-esteem is about the same as that of young people elsewhere and 16% are undecided. (Rasmussen Reports 4/12/18)


Contradictory Beliefs about the Afterlife 60% of U.S. adults say heaven is a place where all people will ultimately be reunited with their loved ones, but 54% say only those who trust in Jesus alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation. 52% also say they partly contribute to earning their place in heaven with the good deeds they do. (Facts & Trends 4/25/18)


Post-Millennials, defined by Pew Research Center as anyone born from ’97 on, makes them 11 to 22 years old now. Some call them Gen Z or iGens. According to a recent USA Today and Ipsos poll, 50% of them say their generation will be worse off than their parent’s generation while 20% disagree. Among those 18 to 24, more than 3 to 1 say their generation will be worse off, and 31% “strongly agree” that will be the case. 8 in 10 say higher education makes it easier to have a career and the overwhelming majority of those now in middle school or high school say they plan to go to college. But more than 60% say they aren’t sure they’ll be able to afford it.  66% say the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful, 12% disagree. 40% predict they will experience sexual harassment or gender-based discrimination. Nearly as many predict they will experience racial-based discrimination, 30% predict they will experience discrimination based on sexual orientation. By a 3-1 margin they agree with the statement that the American dream is still obtainable for their generation but the older they are the less certain they are. (USA Today 3/22/18)


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The Lack of a Parental Figure is linked to other disadvantages in young adulthood, such as lower levels of education, poorer health and more symptoms of depression.

Among young adults, 20% say they have no father figure, while 6% say they have no mother figure. Some have no relationship with either parent. The most common reason young adults didn’t have a relationship with their father is either his death (9%) or never having had a father figure (7%). For those without a mother, it was mostly because she died (5%). Young adults are 4 times as likely to be estranged from their father as their mother. Recent research shows 24% of Americans, 25 to 32, (7.9 million young adults) lack an active relationship with one or both parents. (Facts & Trends 18 Important Stats for Ministry in 2018)


Freshman Nones Almost a third of college freshmen say they have no religious preference. In the last 30 years, the number of incoming freshmen who claim to be nonreligious has tripled, according to data from the annual Cooperative Institutional Research Program Freshmen Survey. 10% of college freshmen said they had no religious preference in ’86 vs. 31% today. That includes those who say they are agnostic (9%), atheist (6%), or have no religious preference (16%). Since ’87 the percentage of college freshmen who identify as part of a Christian denomination fell from 81% to 60%. (Important Stats for Ministry in 2018)


Church Commutes 68% of U.S. churchgoers say it takes them 15 minutes or less to get from their home to their place of worship, according to Baylor Univ. research. 21% say their drive is 5 minutes or less. 47% say it takes them 6 to 15 minutes. 23% commute16 to 30 minutes and only 9% say it takes them longer than 30 minutes. Half of Americans who live within 15 minutes of their place of worship report attending services weekly or more. 53% of those who live within 5 minutes attend weekly while only 32% of those who live more than 30 minutes away do the same. (Facts & Trends 18 Important Stats for Ministry in 2018)


Preach the Bible and They Will Come Most church attenders admit sermons focused on the Bible are the primary reason they choose a congregation. 76% say sermons that teach more about Scripture were a major factor. 83% of Protestant church attenders say Scripture-focused sermons are a major factor in their church decision. Sermons that help connect faith to life are a major reason for 80%. Fewer Protestants credit programs for children and teenagers (68%), community outreach and volunteer opportunities (61%), or dynamic leaders (53%) as major factors for their church selection. (Facts & Trends 18 Important Stats for Ministry in 2018)


Matters of Death & Dying A Kaiser Family Foundation study found 71% of Americans prefer to die at home, if possible. Only 41% believe that will happen while 24% expect to die in a hospital, 6% in hospice, 4% in a nursing home and 17% don’t know what to expect. 70% believe comfort at the end of life matters more than avoiding death as long as possible. 87% say patients should have more say than doctors in the matter. Also, if there’s little chance for recovering, 88 % want their doctors to tell it to them straight. 53% of Americans say they’d be open to talk about the end of life with a minister or other religious leader. 50% also say faith or spiritual beliefs play a major role in how they view the end of life, 22% say faith plays a minor role while 25% say it plays no role. 46% say that being at peace spiritually when they die is very important. 77% of weekly churchgoers say their beliefs play a major role in how they want to die vs. 15% for those who never go to church. (Facts & Trends 4/18/18)


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2018 Christian Book of the Year™ The Evangelical Christian Publishers Assoc. has named Jesus Always by Sarah Young and published by Thomas Nelson, as the 2018 Christian Book of the Year. (ECPA Rush to Press 5/1/18)


Screen Time Increasing 26% of U.S. adults say they’re online “almost constantly,” Pew Research reports, up from 21% in ’15. And while young people are at the forefront of the trend, the middle-aged aren’t far behind. 39% of those 18 to 29 say they’re almost always online. For those 30 to 49, the number is 36% and growing quickly, up 12 points since ’15. In a recent LifeWay Research survey, most Protestant senior pastors said their churches have a website (84%) and a Facebook page (84%), and 68% provide Wi-Fi for both guests and staff. (LifeWay Facts & Trends 4/12/18)


Skeptics constitute the fastest-growing faith segment in America. While the growth of that segment was initiated among Millennials (29% are currently Skeptics) in recent years the expansion of the segment has largely been among older adults. Even among adults 65 or older (historically a staunchly Christian group) 14% are now in the Skeptic category. Clearly, being a Skeptic is about more than just ditching church services or religious labels. The moral perspectives of Skeptics are far different from those of most Americans. (American Culture & Faith Institute 4/24/180


Church Discipline Recent LifeWay Research data finds more than 80% of U.S. pastors say their church has not disciplined a member in the past year. More than half say they don’t know of a case when someone has been disciplined and 55% say no member has been disciplined during their time as pastor or before their tenure. Part of the reason for the low percentage of reprimands could be because informal discipline is taking place before the issue makes its way up to the pastor or other church leaders. Only 8% of churches say “the responsibility for discipline lies solely with the pastor.” The study did reveal the following about discipline within various denominations: Pentecostal (29%), Holiness (23%) and Baptist pastors (19%) are most likely to say a church member was disciplined in the past year. Methodist (4%) and Presbyterian/Reformed (9%) pastors are less likely. (One News Now 4/16/18)


Less Education = Less Belief in God Americans with a high school education or less are more likely than college graduates to believe in God or a higher power (94% vs. 84%). They also are more likely than those who graduated from college to believe in the God of the Bible (66% vs. 45%) and to believe that a higher power determines what happens in their lives most or all of the time (59% vs. 33%). (Pew Fact Tank 4/25/18)



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