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, 2016 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



Mothers Drive Religious Upbringing According to recent Pew research 83% of Americans adults with affiliated/ unaffiliated parents report their mother was the religious one. And both men (30%) and women (33%) say the wife was more religious than her husband. 60% said the spouses were equally religious. Among Protestant couples, 66% take equal responsibility for their children’s religious education. 28% say their mother was more responsible vs. only 5% credited their father. Among Catholic and unaffiliated couples: parents shared responsibility (64% Catholic, 58% unaffiliated); where one took on more responsibility, it was overwhelmingly the mother (29% Catholic, 12% unaffiliated). In every combination of mixed-religion couples, 56% of respondents said their mother took responsibility for their religious upbringing vs. 6% of fathers and 31% shared. (Pew Research Center10/26/16)


Most Americans Attend Small to Medium Churches Despite the growth of megachurches 46% of American churchgoers attend a church of 100 or fewer members. 37% attend a midsize church of over 100, but not larger than 499, 9% a church with between 500 and 999 and 8% a very large church of 1,000 or more. (Barna 9/15/16)


Encouragement According to Hallmark, 90% of consumers want more choices in encouragement cards that will allow them to share support in unique ways for real-life situations. Do you have an encouragement strategy for your communities (board, team, clients, customers or donors)? It won’t happen if you don’t plan it. I can help you craft one. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or (CMA e-Newsletter 4/2/07)


American Faith Expressions While regular church attendance is a reliable indicator of faithful Christian practice; many Americans choose to experience and express their faith in a variety of other ways. 75% of Americans claim to have prayed to God in the last week. 35% of U.S. adults attended a worship service in the past 7 days. 34% have read the Bible on their own, not including when they were at a worship service, 19% have either volunteered at a nonprofit while 18% did so at church in the last week. 17% attended Sunday school (and 16% a small group. (Barna 9/15/16)


Religious Broadcasting Local Christian radio is booming in America; with emphasis on the local. More than a third of low-power FM (LPFM) radio stations (whose non-commercial radio signals don’t reach farther than about 3.5 miles) are religious in nature. According to Pew the number of stations nearly doubled since ‛14 (the year the FCC opened the low power frequencies), with more than 750 new stations joining the market, half of which have a religious or Christian focus. 42% of noncommercial radio stations have a religious format, though that may understate the number since some religious broadcasters operate mixed format stations, which count in a different category. 80% of the 2,400 Christian radio stations and 100 full-power Christian TV stations are nonprofits. (CT Gleanings 9/19/16)


Mainline Protestants While Christianity overall is not dying in America, Mainline Protestantism is getting closer. According to the GSS, 28% of Americans identified with a mainline church in ‛72. By ‛14, that number had dropped to 12.2%. (The Exchange 9/13/16)


What Do the Numbers Tell Us about the church in America? Overall, the church’s influence on Americans is beginning to fade. A growing number have given up on God; or at least on organized religion. They have become “nones.” They grew from 16% of the U.S. adult population in ‛07 to 23% in ‛15. In 1940, 37% said “yes” when Gallup asked if they had been to church in the last week, nearly the same as 36% in ‛15. Also, over the past 40 years, the share of Americans who regularly attend a Protestant church has only declined from 23% to 20%. The U.S. remains a remarkably devout nation with about 4 in 10 Americans claiming to go to church weekly. Also, more than 138 million Americans (44% the population) belong to a congregation. (Barna 9/15/16)


Compensation for full-time Southern Baptist church staff members has exceeded the cost-of-living increase over the past 2 years. However, health insurance coverage continues to decline, according to the 2016 SBC Church Compensation Study. Compensation (salary plus housing) increased 3.4% for full-time senior Southern Baptist pastors, 4.3% for full-time staff ministers and 2% for full-time office personnel. The U.S. Consumer Price Index for the same period increased only 1.1%. Those with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $4,040 more than otherwise equivalently qualified pastors without a college degree. Master’s and doctorate degrees correspond with incremental compensation increases of $2,171 and $11,151, respectively. Seminary graduates have an additional increase in average compensation of $4,706. (Baptist Press 9/12/16)


Most Americans Identify as Christian, according to Barna Research. 73% of Americans say they are a Christian, while only 20% claim no faith at all (that includes atheists and agnostics). A mere 6% identify with faiths like Islam, Buddhism, Judaism or Hinduism, and 1% are unsure. 73% also agree religious faith is very important in their life (52% strongly agree, 21% somewhat).  (Barna 9/15/16)


Never Assume You’ve Arrived When companies achieve success; they usually quit innovating and become guardians of the status quo. But yesterday’s perfect processes are obsolete tomorrow. Vinyl records were replaced by 8-track tapes. 8-tracks were replaced by cassettes. Cassettes were replaced by CDs. And now CD’s are being replaced by MP3 players. The same is happening with business practices. Lesson: Success, like failure, is a temporary condition. Don’t get leapfrogged by the competition! Let me be your innovation advisor. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or (Monday Morning Memo 12/8/08)


Children in America are continually in danger. According to the U.S. Department of Justice 62,939 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in’12, but only 30% of cases got reported. American parents have more reason to fear child molesters than Islamic Jihadists. (Movie Guide 9/16/16)


Healthy Long-Term Tenure Pastor Traits The median tenure of a pastor at a church is around 4 years. That means over half of pastors leave a church before their 4th anniversary. And LifeWay research shows the time of greatest fruit in a pastor’s ministry does not begin until somewhere around years 5 to 7. LifeWay’s Thom Rainer shares these 10 traits of pastors with healthy long-term tenure: 1. They pray daily for their church members and staff. 2. They view their family as their first line of ministry. 3. They connect with and love people in their community. 4. They choose their battles carefully and wisely. 5. They welcome structures that make them accountable. 6. They spend time developing staff. 7. They expect conflict and criticism. 8. They connect with other pastors and ministries in the community. 9. They affirm both theology and practical ministry. 10. They ask long-term questions. (Church Leaders 9/28/16)


Hell 84% of Americans who hold evangelical beliefs say hell is a place of eternal judgment, where God sends all people who do not personally trust in Jesus Christ. Only 30% of those who don’t have evangelical beliefs hold that view. Overall, just 40% of Americans say those who don’t believe in Jesus will go to hell. (LifeWay Research 9/29/16)


Broken Market Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean the market cares any longer. It's extremely difficult to repair the market. It’s a lot easier to find a market that will respect and pay for the work you can do. If Wal-Mart or some cultural shift has turned what you do into a commodity, don’t argue. Find a new place before the competition does. It's not easy or fair, but I can help. Call 419-238-4082, e-mail or visit (Seth Godin’s Blog 1/6/09)


Keeping the Faith American Protestants are keeping their children in the faith at a higher rate than Catholics or the unaffiliated, finds a new Pew Research study. 4 out of 5 children raised by 2 Protestant parents remained Protestant into adulthood. For those raised in Protestant homes where religion was very important or often discussed, the retention rate jumps to 85% and 89%, respectively. For those raised by a single parent who was Protestant, the retention rate 75%. Those raised by 2 Catholic or unaffiliated parents 62% remain in their parents’ religion or nonaffiliation. Among Americans with an exclusively Catholic background, 16% are now Protestant vs. just 3% of those raised in an exclusively Protestant home have switched to Catholicism. 14% of Americans raised by Protestant parents are now unaffiliated while 28% of those raised by unaffiliated parents are now Protestants. Those raised in a home with one Protestant and one unaffiliated parent are more likely to grow up to identify as Protestant (56%) than unaffiliated (34%). However, only a quarter have stuck with their Protestant parent’s particular denomination. (Pew Research Center10/26/16)


Religiously Unaffiliated Subgroups A recent Public Religion Research Institute 3 religious none subgroups—the “Rejectionists,” the “Apatheists” and the “Unattached Believers.” The Rejectionists are the largest group, at 58% of all nones, and agree religion is “not important” in their lives and “does more harm than good.” Apatheists, 22% say religion is not important to them, but isn’t harmful to society, while Unattached Believers, 18 % say religion is personally important to them. (Exodus: Why Americans Are Leaving Religion—and Why They Are Unlikely to Come Back, PRRI & RNS 2016)


Insights about the Unchurched *46% of U.S. adults are now unchurched, up from the 35% in ‛05. *62% consider themselves to be Christian. *59% of Americans disconnect from church life either permanently or for a prolonged period of time between ages 15 and 29. *48% indicate they are not connected to a church because it provides no value. *14% are open to trying a new church. George Barna said, “Churches are facing a radically different outreach environ-ment than existed a decade ago, including an antagonistic media that continually portrays churches in a negative light. The unchurched population is substantially larger and has a different demographic profile than in the past. To penetrate that population, churches must raise their game to meet more demanding and sophisticated expectations than ever.” (America at the Crossroads by George Barna, Baker Books, 2016)


New Research indicates a decline in attendance at the great majority of U.S. churches, while churches attracting 400 people or more on Sundays are seeing dramatic increases. In just the last decade, the median weekend worship attendance in U.S. congregations declined from 129 to 80, according to the Faith Communities Today 2015 survey. In ’05, less than half of congregations had fewer than 100 people attending; by ’15 nearly 60% failed to break the 100 mark. The National Congregations Study revealed a similar drop-off, with median attendance at worship services declining from 100 in ’06 to 76 in ’12. At the same time, larger congregations report substantial growth. Just 7% of U.S. congregations have 400 or more members, but they contain half of churchgoers. A separate study of megachurches found more than 70% reported average attendance increased more than 10% from ’09 to ’14, with about a third reporting growth of 50% or more. Also, just 3.4% of congregations overall had multiple sites in ’12, but 16.5% with 500 or more adult participants had more than one location. (Insights into Religion 11/6/16)


White Evangelical Protestants are more likely to hold a negative view of today’s American culture than any other social demographic, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. 74% of white evangelical Protestants feel the American culture has changed for the worse since the 1950s. This compares with 65% of white working class citizens, 59% of white mainline Protestants, 57% of white Catholics and 56% of all white Americans. (CP Politics 10/26/16)


Generation M The ‘M’ stands for the media lives of 8-18 Year-Olds. Students spend, on average 6.5 hours per day with media, more than 3 hours a day watching TV, 26% of the time they are using more than one media device. This means 8.5 hours’ worth of media per day is packed into 6.5 hours. Students read an average of 45 minutes a day. (Church Leaders 10/14/16)


Unchurched Americans aren’t hostile to faith; they just don’t think church is for them, reports Lifeway Research. 67% of unchurched Americans are white, 53% are male and 47% have a high school diploma or less. 62% went to church regularly as a child. 47% are willing to freely discuss religious beliefs. 43% never wonder about going to heaven when they die. 33% say they are likely to go to church regularly sometime in the future.  (Facts & Trends, Fall ’16)

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