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, 2019 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Mothers Are Teens Main Spiritual Coaches Practicing Christians teens consistently identify mothers as the ones who provide spiritual guidance and instruction and instill the values and disciplines of their faith. They are their primary partners in prayer (63%) and conversations about God (70%), the Bible (71%) or other faith questions (72%). Moms are also the ones who most encourage church attendance (79%) or teaching about the Bible (66%), God’s forgiveness (66%) and religious traditions (72%). (Barna 5/7/19)


Churches Are Declining A recent Exponential and Barna Research survey found 70% of churches are subtracting/ declining or plateauing. Only 30% are adding/growing and only 7% of churches are reproducing (planting churches). The majority of Protestant churches had less than 10 people commit to Jesus Christ as Savior in the past 12 months. Among those with worship attendance under 50, only 20% are growing vs. 42% for those of 250 and more. ( 3/15/19)


Forgiven Much, Forgiving Much Among U.S. practicing Christians who say they have received forgiveness, 87% say they have given it in return (compared to 64% of those who have not received it). And regardless of their own experi-ences with forgiveness, 81% believes offering undeserved mercy to someone else is an action that God blesses. (Barna 4/11/19)


Avocado Leadership Avocados are extremely easy to bruise. So, farmers used to try to carefully arrange them in the box after picking. However, they still experienced costly bruising. Over time, they noticed if avocados were simply set in the box, they would settle themselves in just the right formation if the farmer simply left them alone and walked on. It’s the same with leadership. “There’s a time to plan and to act strategically. There’s also a time to just let things settle in as we walk on. Sometimes we bruise things in our efforts to fit things in rather than letting them fit.” Let me help you discern when to “walk on” in your organization. E-mail or visit (Church Executive 7/18/13)


Is Sports Betting Morally Wrong? A new LifeWay Research study found most pastors believe it is morally wrong to bet on sports, while few agree it should be legalized nationwide. Yet, Americans waged more than $8 billion on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament alone. 59% of U.S. pastors agree it is morally wrong to bet on sports, while 32% disagree. 64% of the American public disagree that sports gambling is immoral, while 31% agrees. Significant majorities of evangelical and mainline pastors, as well as in every denomination, disagree that sports gambling should be legal throughout the country. (Facts & Trends 3/19/19_


Gen-Xers, Unhappy Workers New MetLife data finds that only 66% of Gen Xers say they’re happy at work, compared to 75% of millennials and 74% of boomers. And a survey from recruitment firm Robert Half found that while just 8% of millennials said they were unhappy at work, 16% of Gen Xers did. ( 3/25/19)


Americans Health Care Debt Soars 1 in 4 Americans skipped care last year because of costs, according to a new Gallup survey. An estimated 2.7 million Americans borrowed at least $10,000 and another 1.6 million borrowed more than $5,000 for health care. Americans collectively borrowed $88 billion to pay for health care over the past 12 months. 1 in 6 have a past-due medical bill on their credit report. More than half of those bills were for less than $600 and young adults were more likely to have an unpaid medical bill than older adults even though older adults typically spend more on health care. (USA Today 4/2/19)


America Is The Most Prosperous Nation in the history of the world and with that prosperity comes a lot of benefits like leisure time. (The Patriot Post 4/5/19)


Bible Use 70% of U.S. adults report no change in their use of the Bible over the past year, 20% report an increase and 10% a decrease. There was a 5 percentage point increase in the proportion of adults who reported their Bible reading remained unchanged from the previous year. Over time, there has been a downward trend in those who self-report increasing Bible use since ’12, when 27% reported an increase vs. the current 20%. 56% of adults express a desire to use the Bible more often, similar to last year. The more engaged with Scripture a person is, the more they have an appetite to use it. (State of the Bible 2019, American Bible Society)


Teens Who Regularly Pray or meditate, the study shows, are 30% less likely to become sexually active at a young age and 40% less likely to get an STD, finds a recent long-term study by two Harvard professors. ( 3/25/19)


Median Ages of Major Religions Worldwide Buddhists have a median age of 36 vs. the world’s overall population, which has a median age of 30, according to estimates as of ’15. This compares to a median of 24 for Muslims, 27 for Hindus, 30 for Christians and 36 for unaffiliated adults.

(Pew Research 4/5/19)


Fewer Americans Still Believe in God In the past 15 years, the percentage of Americans who say they know God exists and have no doubts dropped from 65% to 53%, according to the latest research from the General Social Survey. In 1991, 6% claimed “no religion vs. 23% today.” But Americans aren’t embracing atheism as much as they are rejecting certainty about God. Today, 5% of Americans say they don’t believe in God at all, up from 3% in 1993. Those who believe in God but have doubts climbed from 15% to 18% over the last 15 years. The percentage who says they “don’t believe in a personal God but some higher power” grew from 8% to 13%. (Facts & Trends 4/8/19)

Obstacles to Offering Forgiveness 23% of U.S. practicing Christians have a person in their life who “they just can’t forgive.” Theologically, this group is more likely to agree that people go to heaven because of good deeds (39% vs. 21% of those who can’t think of someone they struggle to forgive). Less than half feel that, in light of their faith, mercy is something that often influences their words or actions (46% vs. 67%). 66% of these Christians can also think of a circumstance in which they don’t want to forgive someone. (Barna 4/11/19)


Mumbo vs. Jumbo Jumbo was the famous elephant PT Barnum exhibited. His name came to stand for the big story, for the audacious claim, for making a big noise. You probably need more Jumbo in the story you’re trying to tell. Mumbo, on the other hand, is deliberately complicating the facts. It’s manipulation, the creation of placebos that don’t scale or the extension of power without the facts to back you up. I can help you remove the mumbo from your message. or visit (Seth Godin, Seth’s Blog 8/3/13)


The Robocall Epidemic Last year saw a dramatic increase in the number of scam and spam calls to landlines and increasingly, to cell phones. In fact nearly 45% of all calls to cell phones are projected to be spam calls this year. Accord-ing to robocall tracking company YouMail, 1,517 robocalls are placed every second, 5,461,100 per hour, 131,066,390 per day, 3,986,602,683 per month and 47,839,323,200 per year, of which 40% are scams. (Consumer Reports 5/19)


Fewer Than You May Think A recent Gallup survey found the average American believes 23% of the population identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. But, only 1.7% say they are gay, lesbian or homosexual, statistically unchanged in the last decade, according to the latest General Social Survey. The percentage of those who identify as bisexual, however, has increased slowly but steadily since ’08, from 1.1 to 3.3%. This means 5% of Americans say they are gay, lesbian, homosexual or bisexual. However, more 18-34 year-olds are identifying as bisexual. In ’08, 2.6% classified themselves in that way vs. 7.3% in ’18. Still 90% of Americans among all age groups say they are heterosexual or straight, including 89.7% of young adults. Regardless of their own personal identification, 70.1% of young adults say there is nothing wrong at all with same-sex adults having sexual relations, up from 16.4% in 1988. Also, 55.3% of young adults say homosexual couples should have the right to marry, a rise of more than 50 percentage points in 30 years. (Facts & Trends 4/15/19)


Parents Time With Their Teens Among U.S. parents who live with their teens, 45% say they spend too little time with their teenage children; a quarter of teens say the same about the time they spend with their parents.  65% of teens say they spend the right amount of time with their parents, while 9% say they spend too much time. Teens from lower-income households are the most likely to say they spend too little time with their parents. 59% of U.S. teens say they get a hug or kiss from their parents every day or almost every day. 31% say they get help or advice from their parents with homework or school projects on a daily or almost daily basis, and 19% say they regularly get into arguments with their parents. (Pew Social Trends 2/20/19)


Comfort is Not the Goal One of the reasons ministries get stuck is being unwilling to change. They don’t want to rock the boat. Leaders are afraid. People may leave. Donors may stop giving. Over time the status quo becomes the driving value. When any organization stops changing, people get comfortable. It’s impossible to get comfortable and be sold out to Jesus at the same time. Comfort is not the goal. To be a ministry that embraces change, you have to begin to make some changes. It begins with establishing a clear vision, values and strategy. I can help you through this vital process. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or ( 8/3/13)


Bible Engagement & Relational & Spiritual Growth 49% of monthly Bible users agree their engagement with the Bible has made them feel more willing to engage with their faith, finds a new American Bible Society study. Among adults who use the Bible at least 3-4 times a year, 61% express they always experience a greater awareness of how much they need God. 51% agree they consistently feel a sense of connection with God and 50% desire to know God better. Another 46% say they show more loving behavior toward others and 34% are more generous with their time, energy or financial resources. Findings also show a positive influence on how they treat people of a different race than themselves (62%), their support for refugees (55%), their decisions at work or school (53%) and their decisions about sex and sexuality (49%). (Barna Group 4/18/19)

Confidence in Higher Education in the U.S. has decreased significantly since ’15, more so than for any other U.S. institution that Gallup measures. This drop in confidence in the higher education industry comes after Gallup detected a similar decline in the public’s view that higher education is available to those who need it, suggesting that access and more specifically, rising costs, may be affecting the public’s view of the industry more generally. Concerns about the future of higher education also exist within academia. When asked about the top issues influencing the public’s negative perceptions of higher education, large majorities of trustees cite news or media about college student debt (72%) and news or media about the price of tuition (64%). In fact, over half of trustees (58%) say their top concern about the future of higher education in the U.S. is the price of higher education for students and their families. (Gallup 4/12/19)


Americans Favor an Increased Role for Religion According to a massive new report from the Pew Research Center, almost 3 times as many Americans say they would view “a more important role for religion” in the U.S. as a positive change (51%) vs. a negative change (18%). In general, that sentiment is shared around the globe at the same rate. Across all 27 countries surveyed, a median of 39% of respondents favor religion becoming more important in society, while only 13% oppose it. Only 5 countries surveyed have population majorities opposed to religion playing a more important role. All 5 are in Europe: Sweden (51%), France (47%), the Netherlands (45%), Germany (35%) and Spain (38%). Americans, who identify as somewhat or very conservative, are 42 percentage points more likely than left-leaning Americans to favor an increased role for religion in society. (Pew Research Center 4/22/19)


Bible Centeredness Decreasing A recent Barna Research study finds the number of U.S. Bible Centered adults have decreased from 9% to 5% in the past year. Also, 35% report never using the Bible in ’19, up from 25% in ’11. (Barna Group 4/18/19)


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