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

October 25, 2017 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



The Millennial Exodus In his ominously titled book The End of White Christian America, Robert P. Jones (CEO, Public Religion Research Institute) chronicles the demise of the white American church. One major force of change in the religious landscape is young adults’ rejection of organized religion. Young adults are 3 times as likely as seniors to claim no religious affiliation. Even those raised by Christian parents, who’ve grown up in the church, walked the aisle, given their lives to Jesus, gone on mission trips and graduated from Christian colleges, are leaving the American church in droves. A ’06 Barna survey of 16-29-year-olds found 3 attributes young Americans associated with ‘present day Christianity’ were being antigay (91%), judgmental (87%) and hypocritical (85%). In the minds of many, the evangelical church is known more for what she’s against than for what she’s supposed to be for: bringing light, hope and great good news to a hurting world. (Church 10/2/17)


Minority Christians While Protestants in the U.S. remain mostly white; the share of Protestants of color has grown steadily from 17% in ’91 to 33% in ’16, according to a Public Religion Research Institute report. The American religious landscape is more diverse today than at any time since modern sociological measurements began. In fact, the number of nonwhite Protestants has grown so large that the group has surpassed white mainline Protestants, and has nearly caught up with white evangelical Protestants. Added together, minority Protestants—including black Protestants (8%), Hispanic Protestants (4%), and “Asian, mixed-race, or other” Protestants (3%)—make up 15% of the US population, while white mainliners comprise 13% and white evangelicals 17%. ( 9/6/17)


Finances & Friends A LifeWay Research study found 36% of Protestant pastor wives worry every month about making ends meet. 46% say they worry about not being able to save for the future. 60% say the compensation paid by the church isn’t enough to support their family. Many also feel isolated, with few close friends other than their spouse. 62% say they can count on their spouse “a great deal” when they feel under stress. 14% say they can depend a great deal on other family members in their household, 12% other relatives, 10% friends at church, 12% friends outside church or 12% other ministers’ spouses. 55% also say they don’t have enough relationships where they can be themselves. (Baptist Press 9/12/17)


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Teen Suicide According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of suicide for girls 15–19 doubled between ’07 and ’15, and there was a smaller though significant uptick in suicide rates for boys. ( 10-13-17.


If Not For The Teachings Of The Bible, Americans would probably value human life less than they do. A minority of adults hold a strong opinion on this idea. Those who do were more likely to strongly agree with it, by roughly a 2-to-1 margin (28% strongly agreed, 16% strongly disagreed). As expected, born again Christians have a much more positive view of this statement than non-born again people (42% vs. 23% strong agreement, respectively). Pro-life individuals are also much more likely than pro-choice adults to strongly agree (37% vs. 23%). (American Culture & Faith Institute 9/27/17)


Official Religion 22% of the world’s nations have an official state religion and a similar share (20%) have a preferred or favored faith tradition. The majority (53%) of the 199 countries Pew Research examined, including the U.S., have no official or preferred religion. Another 5% of the world’s nations are officially hostile to religious institutions. Although a number of formerly communist countries now have official or preferred religions, all of the 10 countries that are hostile to religion are either ruled by communist governments, such as China and Cuba, or are former communist states, such as Kazakhstan. (Pew Research Center 10/3/17)


Seniors Benefit Greatly from Exercise The amount of exercise Americans get is closely linked to their level of optimism about their lives. However, this relationship is much stronger among older adults than younger adults. U.S. adults 65 and older who report exercising regularly (30+ minutes at least 3 days the prior week) are 32% more likely than those who say they did not exercise at all to have high optimism. This compares with a 6% bump for those younger than 30 who exercise regularly. ( 9/19)


Market Intentionally Small Business Computing, 6/24/03, advises we tackle some critical groundwork before we are ready to start speaking to our target market audience. Focus on the specifics of your business and your audience: Who are you? What are your objectives and strategic considerations? With whom are you communicating? Why should your audience want to hear from you at this time? How will you successfully address their needs and motivations? Simple questions but no easy answers! But answer them you must to avoid falling into the trap of focusing on the “how,” rather than the “what” or “why,” of marketing. Persuading people to take action requires understanding the fundamentals of marketing and how it supports sales. Your goal is to market intentionally. Intentionality demands an honest appraisal of all players. I can help you objectively make those appraisals and craft a cost efficient marketing plan for every Christian market channel. All you have to do is contact me at 419-238-4082, or


At High Risk Members of the transgender population are at much higher risk of a variety of mental health problems vs. those who are non-transgender. Alarmingly, the rate of lifetime suicide attempts across all ages of transgenders is estimated at 41% vs. less than 5% in the overall U.S. population. One study found, compared with controls, sex-reassigned persons are 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and 19 times more likely to die by suicide. (LifeSite News 9/25/17)


People Are Living Longer, more expensive lives, often without much of a safety net. As a result, nearly 1 in 5 of Americans over 65 are working. Although some work by choice rather than need, millions of others are entering their golden years with alarmingly fragile finances. Today, 9 million senior citizens work vs. 4 million in ’00. Two recent recessions have devastated personal savings. And at a time when 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, Social Security benefits have lost about a 3rd of their purchasing power since ’00. Even people who manage to save for retirement often face a grim calculation: Among people 55 and 64 who have retirement accounts, the median value of those accounts is just over $120,000, according to the Federal Reserve. (Washington Post 9/29/17)


Liars A recent survey by financial company, LearnVest, found more than one-third of men and 26% of women admit to posting fake vacation photos to social media. The numbers break down further to a startling 56% of millennials involved in such behavior. (Movie Guide 10/3/17


Parents’ Behavior is related to their adult children’s spiritual health, finds LifeWay Research. Young adults had higher spiritual health scores if they grew up with parents who spent time: •Reading the Bible several times a week. •Taking part in a service project or church mission trip as a family. •Sharing their faith with unbelievers. •Encouraging teens to serve in church. •Asking forgiveness when they messed up as parents. •Encouraging their children's unique talents and interests. •Taking annual family vacations. •Attending churches with teaching that emphasized what the Bible says. •Teaching their children to tithe. Essentially it’s showing kids what practicing your faith looks like. (Baptist Press 10/17/17)


How Pastors Feel About Ministry 73% of U.S. pastors often feel motivated to become a better leader (vs. just 22% of all U.S. adults), 68% feel well-supported by people close to them (vs. 43%) and 60% are energized by their work (vs. 24%). 45% of U.S. pastors sometimes have feelings of inadequacy about their work or calling (vs. 22% of U.S. adults) and 54% sometimes have feelings of emotional/mental exhaustion (vs. 32%). (Barna Group 10/3/17)


European Conservative Scholars and intellectuals have released a manifesto, called the Paris Statement, aimed at restoring Europe to its “true genius” and actively recovering “what is best in our tradition.” It lists concerns about the growing secularization of Europe, Muslim immigration, and the rise of a “false Europe.” It outlines ways Europe can return to respecting the sovereignty of its nations, overcome “isolation and aimlessness,” and restore “true liberalism.” Included in the statement is, “The true Europe has been marked by Christianity. The universal spiritual empire of the Church brought cultural unity to Europe, but did so without political empire. This has allowed for particular civic loyalties to flourish within a shared European culture.  It is no accident that the decline of Christian faith in Europe has been accompanied by renewed efforts to establish political unity—an empire of money and regulations, covered with sentiments of pseudo-religious universalism, that is being constructed by the European Union.” The complete statement is available online in 9 languages. (LifeSite News 10/16/17)


Not Necessary To Believe In God To Be Moral When it comes to religion and morality, 56% of Americans say belief in God is not necessary in order to be moral and have good values vs. 42% who say it is necessary. This is the first time a majority has expressed this view. In ’11, about as many said it was necessary to believe in God to be a moral person (48%) as said it was not (49%). This shift in attitudes has been accompanied by a rise in the share of Americans who do not identify with any organized religion. (Pew Research Center 10/5/17)


Why People Left Their Church About 5 in 10 people left their church for reasons other than a move. 46% disagreed on a theological issue, 14% had a strained relationship with someone in leadership, 10% never felt known by the community, 9% disagreed on a  non-theological issue, 7% didn’t like the preaching, 5% had no opportunity to serve, 4% not enough opportunity for kids and 2% decided church was no longer a priority. (Uncomfortable, Brett McCrackin, Crossway 2017)


You Market When you hire and when you fire. You market when you call tech support, and you market every time you send a memo. Information spreads like wildfire. Your words and actions, even those intended to be private, can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion. Call me, and I can help you more intentionally market whenever you communicate and carefully craft what you say and do. E-mail or visit

(Seth Godin'’ Marketing Maxims, visit his website)


Challenges Facing Women 55% of Americans say “there are still significant obstacles that make it harder for women to get ahead than men,” while 42% say “the obstacles that once made it harder for women than men to get ahead are now largely gone.” 64% of women and 51% of men say there are still significant obstacles that make it harder for women to get ahead, while 34% say they are largely gone. (Pew Research Center 10/5/17)


Fewer NFL Fans The percentage of U.S. adults who self-identify as professional football fans has fallen from 67% in ’12 to 57% today. In contrast, every other sport measured in the Gallup survey, except for Olympic sports, did not change meaningfully from 5 years ago. Men, older Americans, whites and Americans with at least a college degree have shown the greatest declines. (Gallup 10/13/17)


Private Devotional Activities 67% of U.S. worshipers spend at least a few times a week in private devotional activities; things like reading the Bible or other devotional materials, praying, or meditating. 48% do so every day! The remaining 33% of worshipers do so once a week, occasionally, or never. (U.S. Congregational Life Survey 2/17/14)


New People are one of the key strengths of U.S. congregations the U.S. Congregational Life Survey. 33% of worshipers are new people who’ve been attending their current congregation for 5 years or less. 18% are new within the last 2 years. (U.S. Congregational Life Survey 2/17/14)


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