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, 2018 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



Faith Impacts Gen Z’s Moral Views Engaged Christian teens are a stark contrast to their peers on moral issues. For instance, 77% of engaged Christian Gen Z’s say lying is wrong vs. 38% of their churched counterparts and 20% of those who claim no faith. Among engaged Christian Gen Z’s 76% believe sex before marriage and 77% that homosexual behavior are morally wrong vs. 5% and 4% respectively among those with no faith and 25% and 24% respectively of churched Christians. (ECPA Rush to Press 10/15/18)


Many of The Least Churched Regions are in rural America, where about 14% of the U.S. population lives, claims Pew Research. Counties where residents have the least ties to a local church are scattered all across the nation also tend to have high poverty levels. Pew found poor white Americans in the South, where many rural communities exist, are prone to skipping church. For example, 32% of white Southerners who make less than $30,000 a year seldom or never go to church. That drops to 27% for those who make more than $100,000 a year. However, there is some good news for rural churches. After years of population decline, rural areas have begun to make a comeback: In ’17, they grew by about 33,000 residents nationwide after losing more than 15,000 in ’16. (Facts & Trends 10/2/18)


Christians Serving God @ Work Though Christian workers more often associate religious and pastoral roles with being a calling or serving the common good, it may not matter to most whether they or someone else works in a “sacred” or “secular” space. 64% of Christians say neither one is superior to the other. Also 64% of employed Christians agree on some level that it’s clear to them how their own work serves God or a higher purpose. (Barna 9/19/18)


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Humility Is Making a Comeback, according to a The Wall Street Journal  report and some companies are even hiring for this trait. The report notes that 3 recent studies have found those leaders who are considered humble “inspire close teamwork, rapid learning and high performance in their teams.” Similarly, employees who display the trait are less likely to quit or be absent from work. However, unlike charismatic or spotlight-craving leaders, humble ones tend to fly under the radar and are harder to find. (LinkedIn 10/15/18)


Gen Z Open To Faith Although only 4 in 10 attend religious services weekly, 78% of older Gen Z’s say they believe in God, according to a Northeastern Univ. survey. Yet, they are lost. They are not simply living in and being shaped by a post-Christian cultural context. They do not even have a memory of the gospel. They are extremely spiritually illiterate and have little if any spiritual direction from their families. (Facts & Trends 9/29/17)


Disturbing Core Doctrine Confusion A majority of evangelicals now believe God accepts the worship of all religions, according to a new Ligonier Ministries study. In The State of Theology survey that interviews 3,000 Americans, evangelicals were asked about their views on a series of theological statements including: “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

51% of respondents agreed with the statement, while 42% disagreed vs. 49% and 43% respectively two years ago. Among other troubling theology embraced by evangelicals is a majority of evangelicals believe most people are basically good by nature and Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father; 78% of evangelicals now agree with this vs. 71% in ’16. Top of Form

Ligonier’s Stephen Nichols says, “These results are a serious cause for concern.” (Christian Post 10/16/18)


Caring Spectrum Squeeze According to sociologists, an adult child caring for a parent is increasingly common for married couples in the Boomer or Buster generations. Because the average age for marriage has inched up (27 for women and 29 for men) and life expectancies are now just below 80, many of us can anticipate supporting two generations at some point in our lives. According to Pew, 68% of adults between 40 and 59 have at least one parent 65 or older. Of that group, 55% are already providing some form of help to both a parent and one of their own children. Caring for family on both ends of the spectrum, growing kids and aging parents, can compromise even the healthiest marriage.  (Christianity Today Online 10/11/18)


Morality a Grey Area to Gen Z 24% of Gen Z strongly agrees that what is morally right and wrong changes over time based on society, finds Barna. Twice as many Gen Z than Boomers (12%) believe this. The centrality of the self as moral arbiter is also higher among the younger generations, 21% of Gen Z and 23% of Millennials believe each person is his or her own moral authority, though Gen X (18%) and Boomers (17%) aren’t too far behind. Elders are a shrinking proportion of the overall population but for perspective, 61% strongly agree lying is immoral vs. 31% of Gen Z. There is a continuous slide by generation in conviction about this moral principle. ( 10/9/18)


More Young Evangelicals The number of Americans, 18 to 34, with evangelical beliefs (as defined by LifeWay Research) “rose significantly” from 14% in ’16 to 18% in ’18. Study sponsor, Ligonier Ministries, notes a “large increase” in millennials affirming that salvation is found in Christ alone (62% vs. 53% in ’16) and that Jesus Christ will return to judge the world (64% vs. 55% in ’16). In contrast, 53% of all U.S. millennials now agree the Bible “contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true,” continuing a trend up from 46% in ’16 and 44% in ’14. 36% of U.S. millennials are also now viewing God as “unconcerned with my day-to-day decisions”: 36% agreed in ’18 vs. 30% in ’16 and 21% in ’14. (Christianity Today Online 10/16/18)


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Gen Z Trying to Climb Out of Student Debt The average American college student owes $28,500 in student loans. Collectively, the U.S. has around $1.5 trillion in student debt. According to a UCLA survey, after seeing their millennial predecessors drown in student debt, Gen Z is trying to avoid that fate. The share of freshmen who used loans to pay for college peaked in ’09 at 53% and has declined almost every year since, falling to 47% in ’16. (Movie Guide 10/15/18)


Aging Congregations Cause Concern Unless current social trends change, Mainline Protestant churches will face an even bigger drop-off in coming years. A Hartford Seminary study shows mainline Protestant churches are losing members but evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian congregations are experiencing dips or stagnation as well. About 25% of members are 65 or older in 60% of mainline denominations, 24% of evangelical churches and 36% of Roman Catholic churches. Also, aging congregations often have less clarity of purpose. The less a church feels it is distinctive, the weaker it’s spiritual vitality and vice versa. Congregations with a strong sense of identity and mission have a much higher level of vitality. (Insights into Religion 10/18/18)


Confidence in Pope Down As allegations and investiga-tions of sex abuse in the Catholic Church become more widespread, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the crisis has plummeted among U.S. Catholics. Just 3 in 10 Catholic adults say Francis is doing an “excellent” or a “good” job addressing the issue, down 24 points since ’15 and 14 points from when Pew Research Center last asked the question in January of this year. (Pew Research Center 10/3/18)


Many Christians Hold New Age Views, including belief in reincarnation, astrology, psychics and the presence of spiritual energy in objects like mountains or trees. Many religiously unaffiliated Americans also have these beliefs, reports Pew Research Center. Roughly 60% of U.S. adults accept at least one of these New Age beliefs. 40% believe in psychics and that spiritual energy can be found in physical objects, while somewhat smaller shares express belief in reincarnation (33%) and astrology (29%). But these aren’t necessarily replacing belief in traditional forms of religious beliefs or practices. While 80% of Christians say they believe in God as described in the Bible, 60% believe in one or more of the 4 New Age beliefs analyzed, ranging from 47% of evangelical Protestants to 70% of Catholics and Protestants in the historically black tradition. (Pew Fact Tank 10/1/18)


Stressed Teens The Huffington Post recently wrote an article about teens being more stressed than adults today. It 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. USA Today reported 27% of teens 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 they average 5-6 hours of sleep a night. The busyness they embrace keeps them from having to reflect on their dreams, their relationships and their lives. ( 10/16/18)


Sketch-a-Fridge Currently only available in Brazil, a GE refrigerator is covered in a special coating similar to dry erase whiteboards. Replacing the age-old practice of sticking grocery lists and children’s drawings on the fridge, missives can now be written directly on the appliance and easily wiped off. It’s a simple innovation that cleverly integrates existing human behavior and it turns a mundane product into something playful and appealing. Opportunities? When rethinking a product or service, don’t just focus on features or haute design. An element of fun can be just as much of a sales magnet at a fraction of the cost. I’ll be happy to work with you and your team to re-invent, not just refresh, your products. Contact 419-238-4082, or ( 6/27/07)


Americans Are Friendly but Lonely 62% of U.S. adults have between 2 and 5 close friends but 20% regularly or often feels lonely, finds Barna Research. Those who report the highest levels of loneliness are single, male, young and likely earning a lower income. Those who aren’t working or those who are part of the growing proportion of Americans who work remotely or for themselves, are likely making fewer friends because 42% of adults meet their friends on the job. Outside of their work place, adults meet their closest friends through other friends (35%) and in their neighborhood (29%). Celebrations are what bring together most U.S. neighbors: 24% say they eat dinner together, 23% celebrate birthdays or holidays together and 22% gather for neighborhood events. (Barna 10/23/18)


Beware of E-Cigs and Vaping.  A new study of nearly 70,000 people found daily e-cigarette use can double the risk for heart attack. If the user continues to smoke regular cigarettes each day along with e-cigarettes, the combined risk goes up 5 times. Worse still, another study found e-cigarette vapor can contain up to 5 cancer-causing toxins. And yet another study published in Pediatrics found youth who experiment with e-cigarettes were nearly two times more likely to become established smokers of regular tobacco cigarettes. In April, the FDA launched the Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan, designed to address the growing use of e-cigarettes in preteens and teens. In early September, the FDA took the historic action of sending over a thousand warning letters and administering 131 fines to stores for the illegal sale of e-cigarettes to minors. (CNN 10/20/18)


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