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 25, 2016 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



Evangelicals Confused On Who Goes To Heaven A recent LifeWay Research study found 64% of evangelicals, and 60% of Americans described heaven as a place where “all people will ultimately be reunited with their loved ones.” 54% of Americans agreed with the biblical view that only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone receive eternal salvation. At least 84% of evangelicals held the biblical view that hell is a place of eternal judgment, where God sends all people who do not personally trust in Jesus Christ. But, this means 16% of evangelicals either disagreed or were unsure. Only 40% of all Americans believed this. ( 11/18/16)


What Might Open an Unchurched Person to Church? LifeWay Research has found the following experiences would make an unchurched person open to considering turning to the church for help: Facing death 26%, Losing someone I love 25%, Facing a health crisis 19%, Recogniz-ing my drug addiction 11%, Moving to a new area 10%, Facing a broken relationship 9%, Getting married 7%, Losing my job 7%, Having kids 4% or None of these 37%.

(Facts & Trends, Fall ’16)


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Parents Influence American Youth Faith Contrary to common perceptions that youth are not religious, they are in fact, both religious and conventionally so: “When it comes to practicing religion, most U.S. teens appear happy to go along and get along.” Researchers found “the vast majority are happy simply to accept the one religion in which they were raised.” They emphatically claim “the single most important societal influence on the religious and spiritual lives of adolescents is their parents.” Adults all too often deflect their role in creating and maintaining a consumerist model of a human being (including our approach to religion) instead of owning this responsibility. However, adults typically frame adolescence in ways defining teenage life per se as itself a social problem. Adults who have become skillful in their navigation of the ideology of consumer capitalism and more refined in their self-deception about its importance to us, simply pass on a watered down faith that will not challenge the importance of consumer capitalism as the reigning system of meaning-making in the American culture. This, in turn, leads to the situation the researchers found: “Most U.S. teens have a difficult to impossible time explaining what they believe, what it means, and what the implications of their beliefs are for their lives.” This is not surprising, if it is true that adults are not willing to delve deeply into understanding the implications of their own faith commitments for fear it might mean changing a comfortable life-style by going against the cultural grain of our consumer society. (Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith and Melina Denton, Oxford Univ. Press 2009)


Teens Most Stressed Generation According to the American Psychological Association, today’s students are the most stressed out generation. The Huffington Post recently wrote an article titled: American Teens Are Even More Stressed Than Adults. The author, Carolyn Gregoire, suggested teens have very poor sleep, exercise and technology habits (the average teen consumes an average of 7.5 hours of media per day), which may be linked to their high stress level. These poor habits factor into a lot of things, such as part-time jobs, early-morning classes, homework, extracurricular activities, social demands, and use of computers and other electronic gadgets. The USA Today reported “more than a quarter (27%) of teenagers say they experience ‘extreme stress’ during the school year, vs. 13% in the summer. And 34% expect stress to increase in the coming year. Stressors range from school to friends, work and family. And teens aren’t always using healthy methods to cope.” Many feel they have to do everything and be perfect for colleges and they have a big workload. They also often talk about how stressed they are. Chap Clark in Hurt 2.0 found “that mid-adolescents are about as busy as humanly possible. They average 5-to-6 hours of sleep a night. The busyness they embrace keeps them from having to reflect on their dreams, their relationships and their lives.” Clearly today’s teens are crazy stressed and busy. These realities help explain why students are failing to make church a #1 priority. (Church Leaders, Jeremy Zach, 11/9/16)


The Global Refugee Crisis has hit epic levels, and although for now our news feeds may not be filled with current information on this humanitarian calamity, according to the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, “1 in every 113 people globally are now either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced, or a refugee; a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent.” (The Exchange 11/2/16)


Young Adults Missing While young adults ages 18–29 make up 22% of the adult U.S. population, they represent less than 10% of US churchgoers. With age can come great wisdom and depth, but few young people are receiving what older churchgoers can offer. (CT Online 9/22/16)


Ethnic Diversity in the American Church Pew Forum’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study reports ethnic diversity among North American churches increased from 29% in ’07 to 34% in ’14. This number is projected to continue increasing as the rate of immigration continues unabated in the coming decades. 49.6% of all international migrants are Christians. The same report claims 74% of foreign-born people living in the U.S. identify as Christians. These have tremendous implications for the church.  (The Exchange 11/10/16)


The Underground Church Movement in Iran is growing despite the regime’s crackdown on Christians. Hundreds are being baptized in large ceremonies and people are praising Jesus for saving them from despair and suicide, according to Christian ministries working in the region. Elam Ministries reports more than 200 Iranians and Afghans were baptized in a large service just outside the Islamic Republic of Iran, with 8 different Persian-speaking churches attending. 20 years ago, estimates put the number of believers in Iran at only 2,000–5,000, but new statistics are saying there could be anywhere between 300,000 and 1 million Christians in the country today. In the face of persecution, God’s Church continues to grow.Top of Form

 (Christian Post 11/16/16)


Multi-Channel is increasingly being adapted in the sales, marketing and fundraising mix of U.S. companies and ministries. Retailers may understandably object, but tight margins and the consumer’s desire to choose when, where and how they purchase goods or make donations is driving the shift. I can help you craft a multi-channel strategy that will minimize channel conflict with retailers while leveraging the power of cross-channel promotions. Contact 419-238-4082, or


Why Even the Committed Attend Church Less Often Gone are the days when people attended 50 out of 52 Sundays, but the issue is reaching a tipping point in the church today. Carey Nieuwhof, pastor, author and church leader trainer offers these 10 underlying causes. 1. Greater affluence—money gives people options. 2. Higher focus on kids’ activities and affluent parents are choosing sports over church. 3. More travel—when people are out of town, they tend to not be in church. 4. Blended and single parent families. Shared custody and financial struggles reduce attendance frequency. 5. Online options impact physical attendance. 6. The cultural disappearance of guilt. 7. Self-directed spirituality—the post-modern mind instinctively moves away from institutions. 8. Failure to see a direct benefit. 9. Churches valuing attendance over engagement see declining attendance. 10. A massive culture shift. All of these trends witness to something deeper. Our culture is shifting seismically.  (Sermon Central, Carey Nieuwhof, 11/7/16)


Education by Religious Affiliation According to Pew’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study by far, Hindus and Unitarian Universalists have among the largest share of those with a college degree; 77% and 67% respectively. 59% of Jews have college degrees, as do 59% of Anglicans and 56% of Episcopalians. Other religious group members’ college education rates are as follows: Buddhists 47%, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 47%, Orthodox Christians 40%, Muslims 39% and Mormons 33%, Catholics 26% (same as the general public), National Baptist Convention 19%, African Methodist Episcopal Church 21% and Southern Baptist Convention 19%.  (Pew Research 11/4/16)


Millennial Job Hoppers It’s fair to say that many millennials are job-hoppers. 6 in 10 members of this generation say they’re open to different job opportunities; only 1 in 2 plan to be with their company one year from now; and 50% say they’d consider taking a job with a different company for a raise of 20% or less, according to Gallup’s report How Millennials Want to Work and Live.

Millennial job hopping is problematic because they currently make up 38% of the U.S. workforce; some estimate they will make up as much as 75% of it by 2025. (Gallup 11/8/16)


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Teens, Sex & Unhealthy Behavior The Centers for Disease Control just released a major report examining teen health behaviors by sexual experience. Stunningly, it found teens who are virgins have significantly and consistently higher measures of healthy behaviors than their sexually involved peers. For example: Teens who are sexually active are 3300% more likely to smoke every day than their virginal peers. 337% more likely to binge drink, 24% less likely to eat breakfast every day, 224% more likely to have carried a weapon on school property, 133% more likely to have been in a physical fight, 143% more likely to never or rarely wear a seatbelt, 94% more likely to have ridden in a car with a driver who has been drinking, 282% more likely to use indoor tanning booths, 260% more likely to experience dating violence. Saving sex for marriage is not just an old-time moralism. It is associated with a great many important human benefits. (Focus on the Family Pulse Check 11/14/16)


Sexual Orientation NOT Unchangeable A top researcher for the American Psychological Assoc. (APA), lesbian activist, Dr. Lisa Diamond, co-author-in-chief of ‘the APA Handbook’ of sexuality and psychology and one of the APA’s most respected members has admitted that sexual orientation is “fluid” and not unchangeable.  By doing so, she confirmed the myth that “homosexuals can’t change” is now a dead-end theory.  She summarized the relevant findings in a lecture at Cornell University stating abundant research has now established that sexual orientation (including attraction, behavior and self-identity) is fluid for both adolescents and adults for both genders. Her announcement flies in the face of legislation in several U.S. states and Canada, which ban “reparative therapy”, which seeks to help patients experiencing same-sex attraction. It also destroys the argument that sexual orientation is the “civil rights movement of our times”. (LifeSite News 11/15/16)


Less Spanking Parents are spanking their kids way less than they were in the late ’80s, finds a recent study published in Pediatrics. The study analyzed 4 national studies taken between ’88 and ’11.  Those who endorsed physical punishment in the 90th socioeconomic percentile (the wealthiest parents) dropped from 39% in ’88 to 12% in ’11. In the 50th percentile, it dropped from 46% to 21%. And for the 10th percentile, (the poorest parents studied), it dropped from 50% to 30%. In ’88, 42% of parents in the 90th percentile had spanked their kids in the past week vs. just 10% in ’11, 54% of 50th percentile parents in ’88 had spanked their kids vs. 15% in ’11, and in the 10th percentile, 58 % had spanked their kids vs. 22% in ’11. For the 90th percentile, sending kids to their room rather than spanking went from 50% to 85%, for the 50th percentile it went from 41% to 81%, and in the 10th percentile it went from 45% to 71%. In ’88, 83% of the 90th percentile talked to their kids vs. 86% in ’11. It jumped from 78% to 86% for the 50th percentile, and from 71% to 85% for the 10th percentile. The study still shows people in lower income brackets are more likely to use physical discipline than wealthier parents. ( 11/17/16)


Salvation and Works Christians especially evangelicals are supposedly united in their belief that only those who believe the gospel (that Jesus Christ died on the cross for humanity’s sins and rose from the dead 3 days later) will be saved. Yet, not all who identify as evangelicals believe this. According to a new study by LifeWay Research, 77% of Americans agreed people must contribute their own effort for personal salvation. 52% said good deeds help them earn a spot in heaven. At the same time, 60% said Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of their sin. ( 11/18/16)


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