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, 2017 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



Bible Readers More Likely to be Faithful Adults A new LifeWay Research survey finds the biggest factor predicting spiritual health as young adults is whether they read the Bible regularly as kids. Then they asked parents to describe their adult children’s spiritual health. The top factor: Bible reading. 29% of the young adults regularly read the Bible while growing up, according to their parents. On average, that group has 12.5% higher spiritual health than comparable individuals who didn’t. Also, spiritual health levels are 7.5% higher on average for young adults who regularly spent time praying while growing up (28%), regularly served in church (33%) or listened to primarily Christian music (22%) than for comparable individuals who didn’t. And scores average 6.25% higher for young adults who participated in a church mission trip while growing up (27%) than for comparable individuals who didn’t. Doing all 5 of these practices in childhood could boost a young adult's spiritual health score 41%, putting the young adult above the 90th percentile. (Baptist Press 10/17/17)


Evangelical Women may face unique barriers due to their religious communities, according to recent a Barna Group survey. Evangelicals, while generally supportive of working women, were the group least likely to support them compared with all Americans. 77% of Americans are com-fortable with the idea of more women than men someday occupying the workforce. Yet just 52% of evangelicals are comfortable with such a future scenario. Evangelicals were the group least likely to be comfortable with a female CEO (77% vs. 94% of all Americans) and least likely to believe women face unique barriers in the workplace (32% vs. 53%). 73% of evangelicals are comfortable with the idea of having a female U.S. President vs. 85% of all Americans. Not surprising, evangelicals were also the group least likely to be accepting of a female pastor (39%). ( 10/9/17)


500 Years of Reformation With so much attention being focused on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reforma-tion triggered by Martin Luther, Barna Research has found the following:  35% of U.S. adults know the main points and key factors of the Reformation, 33% have a comprehensive understanding, 18% never heard of it until now and 15% know almost nothing. Practicing Catholics know the most while people claiming no faith know the least. Of those who know the main points and those who have a comprehensive understanding, 89% believe it was good, 86% believe it was justified and 56% believe it was divisive. (Barna Infographic 11/1/17)


The Shifting Tide Over the 40 years from 1970 to 2010, the number of regular attenders of Protestant churches as a whole shrunk by an average of .05% per year, which is a striking decline when one considers the U.S. population grew an average of 1% per year during those years. At the same time, independent neo-charismatic congregations grew by an average of 3.24% per year. (The Conversation 10/11/17)


Trend Watching is about observing and understanding what’s already happening, the major and the minor, the mainstream and the fringe—in our case, in the consumer and Christian ministry/business arena. While spotting and tracking trends, not everything applies to everyone, and virtually every trend has its anti-trend. Furthermore, the new doesn’t always kill the old. I can help you identify current trends and how likely they are to impact your organization. Contact 419-238-4082, or (Trendwatchers 9/5/07)


Phubbing, a word that combines phone and snubbing, is becoming increasingly common in our social interactions, especially in romantic relationships. In a recent Baylor Univ. study of people in romantic relationships, 70% said cell phones “sometimes,” “often,” “very often” or “all the time” interfered in their interactions with their partners. In a follow-up survey, 22.6% said phubbing had caused conflict in their relationships and 36.6% reported feeling depressed at times because they felt like their partner was putting their phone above them. (MSN Lifestyle 11/2/17)


Christian Persecution in the U.S. Sociologist George Yancey analyzed 30-plus years of data to track approval ratings for evangelical and fundamentalist Christians. What has changed is not the number of Americans who dislike conservative Christians, but which Americans. According to the American National Election Studies, the people who rated evangelical and fundamentalist Christians most negatively over the decades have consistently, and unsurprisingly, been politically liberal, highly educated, and less religious. But in recent years, particularly ’12 and ’16, they’ve shifted to become richer. This trend means the people pushing back against conservative Christians now have bigger budgets to bankroll their viewpoint and thus wield more influence.  As a result, Christian activists may be correct in that they now pay a stiffer price for that animosity. ( 10/10/17)


U.S. Fertility Rate Plummets According to recent NCHS data, the U.S. fertility rate sank to a record low of 62.0 births per 1,000 women of reproductive age in ’16. This was a slight decrease from the ’15’s rate of 62.5. The downward trend is not showing signs of stopping. According to NCHS preliminary estimates, fertility slumped even lower to 61.5 in the Q1 ’17. The U.S. birth rate (a slightly different measure of fertility) also fell among younger women, 15-29. A small increase in births among women 30 and older was not enough to make up for the decline among younger women. The decline is driven by the still-lingering effects of the Great Recession of ’07. If birth rates continue to decline, and immigration drops off, the impact on the U.S. economy could be significant. Population growth, or more specifically, an increase in the labor force, is a key determinant of economic growth. Economists estimate that as much as one third of economic growth is attributable to workers being added to the labor force every year. (LifeSite News 10/5/17)


Pulpit Freedom 91% of U.S. pastors agree with the statement, “Pastors should have the right to speak freely from the pulpit without the fear of being penalized by the government.” That includes 77% who strongly agree. 6% disagree while 3% are not sure. Among those who agree: 96% of pastors at larger churches (those with 250 or more attenders). 88% of pastors at small churches (those with fewer than 50 attenders). 86% of pastors 18 to 44. 93% of pastors 45 and older. 96% of evangelical pastors. 85% of mainline pastors. 73% of all pastors agree with the statement, “Congress should remove the IRS’ power to penalize a church because of the content of its pastor's sermons.” That includes 60% who strongly agree. 21% disagree while 6% are not sure. Pastors of large churches (87%) are among the most likely to agree. Female pastors (49%) are among the least likely, as are pastors 18 to 44 (60%). (Baptist Press 10/16/17)


Outside Point-of-View Does it seem like something is wrong but you’re not quite sure what? Let me help you pinpoint problems and needed changes through a custom-tailored management or operations audit. Contact 419-238-4082, or


Romantic Love No Longer The Norm According to Mark Regnerus’ book Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage and Monogamy, women no longer need a husband to be financially comfortable, and a man no longer needs a wife for uncomplicated and socially safe sex. Therefore, the “exchange model” of marriage, in which a wife provides her husband with comfort — a clean house, clean clothes, hot meals, fun in bed; a husband gives his wife financial and emotional stability in exchange; and they give each other children, is no longer the norm for Americans under 40. Even romantic love, which implies permanence, is no longer the norm for American young people. Both marriage and romantic love have been replaced by what Regnerus calls “confluent love,” which has at its heart neither “settling down” nor “starting a family” nor “happily ever after” but the goal of sexual fulfillment. (LifeSite News 10/24/17)


Merry Retailer Christmas Gallup’s measure of consumer ’17 Christmas shopping plans suggests the best holiday sales in years. The main reason; a sharp increase in the amount Americans plan to spend on Christmas gifts ($906 vs. $785) in October ’16. As one of the biggest year-over-year increases in Gallup’s trend, it pushes the spending projection to its highest level in a decade. (Gallup News 10/26/17)


Pastors’ Vacations When asked about the amount of time taken for vacations each year, pastors responded as follows: None to 1 week 21%, 2 weeks 28%, 3 weeks 14%, 4 weeks 25% and 5 or more weeks 12%. Very few pastors take all of their allocated vacation at one time. Many are very sensitive about how many Sundays they missed. Two factors typically contributed to more vacation time: size of the church and length of pastoral tenure. A third say they always take fewer vacation days than the church permits. Bi-vocational pastors, as a rule, have much greater difficulty taking vacations than other pastors. (Thom Rainer 10/25/17)


Millennial Muslims The Muslim population in the U.S. is younger than the U.S. population at large. In fact, while Millennials make up 32% of all U.S. adults, they account for 52% of American Muslim adults. (Pew Research Center 10/26/17)


Religious Restrictions Growing Nepal recently enacted a law to curb evangelism by criminalizing religious conversion, joining neighboring countries like Indonesia, India and Pakistan, where the region’s small-but-growing Christian minority faces government threats to their faith. 80% of Nepal population practices Hinduism. If found guilty of encouraging conversion from Hinduism; there will be punishment of 5 years of imprisonment and penalty of 50,000 rupees (approximately $770 USD). If foreigners are found guilty; they will have to be deported within seven days after completing the imprisonment. ( 10/25/17)


Millennials Saving More A Bankrate Financial Security Index survey finds 3 in 5 U.S. adults are limiting their monthly spending. The most common reason is to increase savings, which is particularly true for Americans between 18 and 26. 75% of them say they need to put more money away. ( 10/26/17)


Pastors’ Top 10 Discouragement Sources 1) Conflict and criticism from church members. 2) Members leaving the church. 3) Church decline. 4) Staff conflict. 5) Family pressures. 6) Members who are resistant to change. 7) Personal financial pressures. 8) The comparison factor. 9) Church financial pressures. 10) Facility challenges. (Thom Rainer 9/28/17)


Globally, Protestants made up 37% of Christians in ’10. That’s a smaller share than Catholics, who comprised 50% of Christians around the world, but substantially larger than the percentage of Orthodox Christians, who represented 12%. 87% of the world’s Protestants lived outside of Europe, particularly in Southern Hemisphere. The largest share of Protestants around the world (roughly 20%) lived in the U.S. (Pew Fact Tank 10/27/17)


Social Media is not going away anytime soon, for better or worse. According to Pew Research Center in ’16, about 79% of adults who use the internet use Facebook, 32% use Instagram, and 24% use Twitter. Of the 68% of all Americans who use Facebook, 76% of them use it daily. (CT, The Exchange, Ed Stetzer 10/18/17)


America’s Drinking Habits 67% of U.S. adults 21 and older drink at least occasionally. While Elders are more likely than Millennials to affirm they drink alcohol, Millennials who drink actually consume more than others, with an average of 3 drinks per week, compared to the average adult, who reports consuming 2 drinks a week. 43% of Millennials and 38% of Gen Xers who drink at least occasionally report they sometimes overdo it vs.15% of older generations (Boomers and Elders). Evangelicals (46%), practicing Christians (60%) and those of other faiths (41%) are less likely to partake in drinking alcohol, and if they do drink, they consume less than the average adult in a given week. 33% of U.S. adults 21 and older say they do not drink alcoholic beverages of any kind. ( 10/17/17)


In Latin America, where nearly 40% of the world’s Catholics live, Protestant populations have risen sharply. In ’14, 9% of adults in 19 Latin American countries said they were raised as Protestants, while 19% identified Protestant (or evangelical) Christianity as their current religion. 84% of survey respondents were raised as Catholic while 69% identify as such today. (Pew Fact Tank 10/27/17)


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