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

November 10, 2019 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



Disturbing Trends Among America’s Youth A new CDC report finds the suicide rate among young people 10-24 increased by 56% between ’07 and ’17, making it the 2nd leading cause of death for that group. And among preteens and young teens (10-14), the suicide rate almost tripled during that decade. By ’11, the suicide rate in youth surpassed their homicide rate. Despite being in decline for almost 10 years, homicides among 10-24 year olds increased 18% between ’14 and ’17. For ages 15-19, homicides jumped 30% between ’14 and ’17. ( 10/25/19)


Unmarried & Unchurched 38% of U.S. never married adults say they never attend church. Divorced (30%) and separated (29%) are also more likely to skip than married adults (26%). Widowed adults (23%) are the least likely to never attend church. (Facts & Trends 3/26/19)


Unchurched Men The gender gap with U.S. church attendance is often discussed and it remains relevant, as 33% of men say they never attend religious services vs. 27% percent of women. (Facts & Trends 3/26/19)


Divorce Has Declined in America Teen pregnancies are down. The rate of out-of-wedlock births is likely stagnant. But you might never guess that from the views of the most religious people in the U.S., because they’re more likely than other Americans to believe that social ills are on the rise.

American Family Survey research show a majority of people incorrectly suppose various social changes that they might view negatively are happening more frequently. For example, roughly 90% of Americans believe divorce is climbing, but that’s not the case: in ’07, according to the CDC, there were 3.6 divorces for every 1000 people vs. 2.9 in ’17. People who report that religion is important to them and who attend church regularly are more likely to respond incorrectly to questions about teen sex, teen births and births outside of marriage. On the other hand, the study found some aspects of the traditional family actually are in decline. Over the 5 years the study has been conducted, the percentage of people who consider marriage to be “old-fashioned and out-of-date” has risen from 12% to 18%, with the change being most obvious in the 18-29 age bracket. (RNS 9/23/19)


Say It Straight In ‘04 the Grammy’s scored a respectable 26.3 million viewers. In ‘05 they fell to just 18.8 million, so ’06’s 17 million should have come as no surprise. If you need advice about marketing in the new millennium, here’s all you really need to know: Say it straight…say it real! I can help you decide how to do this best. Contact 419-238-4082, or (Monday Morning Memo 2/20/06)

Steeple Drop Americans are spending much less on church buildings. In the last decade, monthly spending on religious construction, building new houses of worship and renovating old ones, has fallen more the 50%. In ’09 churches spent $6.8 billion on construction vs. $2.7 billion in ’19. (Christianity Today 10/19)

Generation Alpha, the tech-savvy young children of Millennials, is already playing an outsized role in household buying decisions, even though the oldest among them are only age 9. Born beginning in 2010, they are more comfort-able swiping a tablet or speaking to a voice assistant than most of their adult relatives. 81% of parents in the U.S. say the habits and needs of their children influenced their last technology purchase. It is going to be a large generation, with estimates of more than 2.5 million being born every week. By 2025, the last year Alphas will be born, there will be more than 2 billion, slightly eclipsing even Gen Z, which will reach 1.8 billion globally at that time. (Church Leaders 1/28/19)


Churches Missing Weekend Workers According to a ’16 Bureau of Labor Statistics study, 34% of the U.S. workforce works on the weekend. With a work-force of approximately 160 million, that means over 54 million Americans work on the weekend. If someone works either day, Saturday or Sunday, they are not likely to attend Sunday services. For Saturday workers, Sunday becomes their day off after a tough work schedule. If your church has Sunday-only service or services, you may be missing out on reaching 1 of 3 working persons. The two fastest-growing demographics working on weekends are entrepreneurs and those with more than one job. The rise of the entrepreneurial society and the gig economy virtually guarantees this weekend workforce will continue to increase. ( 10/17/19)


How Americans Define Success According to a new report by Populace and Gallup status drives the perceived definition of how others in society define success but is least important for one’s personal definition of success. After status, other top contributors to the overall composition of perceived societal success are education (19.8%) and finance (8.8%). In contrast, personal determinants of success are far more varied, with education (17.1%), relationships (15.6%) and character (15.4%) similarly important. Americans personal views of success are far more balanced than the way Americans think others in society view success. Different groups perceive success differently. For instance, compared with men, women assign modestly more importance to the attributes “is famous” (23.4% vs. 19.4%) and “has a large social media following” (4.3% vs. 3.3%) for the perceived societal definition of success. This means women believe others in society assign more value to status as a signifier of success. Differences also vary by age. Younger Americans (18-35) think others view of success centers more on being famous, having an advanced degree, being a graduate of an elite college or university, owning a business and having a large social media following than it does for those 65 and older (54.8% vs. 41.8%). This suggests older Americans tend to possess a slightly more diverse view of how they think others in society define success. (Gallup 10/2/19)


Religion In Schools is Normal A new Pew study has found public expressions of religion are a normal and accepted part of U.S. teens public school experience. Pew surveyed 5 types of religious expressions and activities: Wearing religious clothing or jewelry, praying before a sporting event, inviting other students to youth groups or services, praying before eating lunch and reading religious scripture during the school day. 67% of teens said they see at least some sort of religious expression at public school on a regular basis. 53% often or sometimes see students wear clothing or jewelry with religious symbols, and 39% often or sometimes have seen peers pray before a school sports event. 26% have seen peers praying before eating lunch and 8% have seen students reading religious scriptures outside of class. Among religiously affiliated teenagers, evangelical Protestants were the most likely to pray at lunch or invite others to a church event. (USA Today 10/9/19)


Leverage Your Current Assets Transformation is different than starting anew, so use your assets such as current products, services, customer relationships, a terrific team. You can start ahead of the competition. I’m here to help. Contact 419-238-4082, or (USA Today 2/26/10)


Teens Who Identify as Evangelical Protestants are much more likely than Catholics and mainline Protestants to participate in religious activities in their public school, such as praying before lunch or inviting other students to their worship services or a religious youth group. For example, among teens who attend public schools, 39% of evangelical Protestants say they sometimes or often pray before lunch, vs. 18% of Catholics and 11% of mainline Protestants who do so. Roughly 60% of evangelical teens say they sometimes (47%) or often (11%) talk to their friends about religion, vs. 40% mainline Protestant teens, 33% of Catholics and 20% of religious “nones.” Girls are more likely than boys to talk to their friends about religion (41% vs. 31%) and somewhat more likely to be religiously similar to most of their friends. Teens who describe themselves as evangelical Protestants are more likely to be home-schooled (11%) than “nones” (5%) and Catholics (2%). And, not surprisingly, teens with a religious affiliation (6%) are more likely than those without one (1%) to attend a religious private school. (Pew Research Center 10/3/19)


College Students & Church Most church-going college students never join a church during their time away, electing either to retain membership at their old church or not join anywhere. (For The Church 9/17/19)


Minister’s Retirement Transition A new LifeWay Research survey found that among currently retired U.S. pastors and missionaries, 76% say they were prepared for the adjustment to retirement and 70% say the transition was easy. Still, 33% say they have struggled with the adjustment and 28% feel they lack purpose since they retired from the ministry. 39% say they have had to rethink their sense of value and worth since retiring and 27% say retirement forced them to think about their value to God. (Facts & Trends 10/23/19)


Student Achievement Crisis According to the annual Nation's Report Card, a little more than a third of U.S. 8th graders are proficient in reading and math and a third of 4th graders are proficient in reading, while more than 40% of 4th graders are proficient in math. “This country is in a student achievement crisis and over the past decade it has continued to worsen, especially for our most vulnerable students,” said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. (OneNewsNow 10/30/19)

\Why Are Pastors Depressed? According to a study conducted by Rev. Andrew Irvine of Knox College, Univ. of Toronto, 70% participating pastors disagreed with the statement, “I feel fulfilled in ministry.” 67% agreed with the statement, “I sometimes project my job frustration on the family.” 62% agreed with the statement, “Sometimes my outward appearance seems happy and content while inside I am emotionally distressed.” 75% agreed with the statement, “I am afraid to let my parishioners know how I really feel.” 80% agreed with the statement, “I feel guilty if people see me taking time off during the week.” 50% disagreed with the statement, “I am consistent between who I am and how I appear to others.” 80% admitted to being jealous of the success of other pastors and just 40% said they had someone they considered a personal pastor, while only 16% said they had a spiritual director. ( 9/23/19)


Christian Products Sales Growth will continue to outpace mainstream books due to a strengthening economic and spending climate, growing awareness of such products among Christian consumers and their increased availability through mainstream retailers. Are you maximizing this limited window of opportunity? Contact 419-238-4082, or visit


Suicides Not Reduced by Same Sex Marriage Laws For years, LGBT activists have asserted that society’s refusal to fully recognize homosexuality as indistinguishable from heterosexuality was a key contributor to suicide among young gay Americans, but a new study is challenging the notion that the advent of same-sex “marriage” reduced the suicide rate at all. New research analyzing data, State Youth Risk Behavior Surveys concludes: “We find little evidence that SSM laws have reduced suicide attempts among teen sexual minorities, nor have they decreased the likelihood of suicide planning, suicide ideation or depression. Instead, we find some evidence that SSM legalization via judicial mandate is associated with worse mental health for these individuals, consistent with a story of social backlash.” The paper also found “little evidence” that redefining marriage improved other mental health markers for gay teens or reduced bullying or risky behaviors such as substance abuse, instead finding “SSM legalization was associated with a 3.4% point increase in binge drinking among self-identifying LGBQ youths. (LifeSite News 10/15/19)


Gen Z Facts Piper Jaffray’s 38th semi-annual survey on Gen Z highlights today’s teens spending patterns and brand preferences. Gen Z spends approximately $830 billion a year on retail products. Nike remains the top footwear brand, owning 42% of the market. Ulta topped Sephora as the top beauty shop. Kevin Hart was voted the most popular celebrity, while David Dobrick is the top “influencer.” Video games make up 9% of teen spending, up from 8% last year. 86% of teens expect their next phone will be an iPhone. Gen Z’s top social cause continues to be the environment. 37% of teens prefer YouTube as their daily media consumption channel, besting Netflix by just 2%. Chick-fil-A is Gen Z’s favorite restaurant and Instagram is their most popular social media platform. (The Culture Translator 10/11/19)


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