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 10, 2016 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Evangelicals The GSS found in ‛72, 17.1% of Americans self-identified as evangelical. In ‛14, it was 22.7%. Similarly, the number of Americans regularly attending church rose from 7.9% to 12.5%. The 2014 GSS reported in the last 2 years of the study, a greater percentage of evangelicals were attending church than any other time in the last 4 decades, 55% attend church nearly every week. Pew data finds, about half of U.S. Christians claim to be evangelical or born again and constitute the largest single religious tradition in the U.S. Currently, one-quarter of U.S. adults identify with evangelical Protestant denominations. The share who identify with evangelicalism has ticked downward slightly in recent years (from 26% in ‛07 to 25% as of ‛14), but the number of evangelicals in the U.S. grew over this period. Today, about 62 million U.S. adults identify with evangelical Protestant denominations vs. 60 million in ‛07.  (The Exchange 9/13/16)


Most Important Goal of a Missions Trip Galatians 5:13 says to “serve one another humbly in love,” and for youth pastors and parents, this is the most important goal of a missions trip. Loving and serving others (pastors 74%, parents 56%) is the primary goal for both groups, followed by being the hands and feet of Jesus (pastors 56%, parents 40%). Other goals for pastors and parents are discipleship for youth on the trip (pastors 41%), teaching and modeling compassion (pastors 30%, parents 34%), and providing for the poor (parents 30%). Explicitly sharing the gospel is either very important (69%) or somewhat important (23%) by 92% of youth pastors. (Barna Group 9/2/16)


It’s About Community In these times, people are extremely anxious, unsettled, and uncertain because of massive changes introduced by social and economic forces that seem beyond our control. Your business or ministry is not really about marketing, product, net sales, or donor revenue—it’s about community. Businesses and ministries that can effectively build community with and among its audiences are the ones that will thrive. This should be in your organization’s DNA. Make me your ‘Community Consultant.’ Contact 419-238-4082, or


A Perspective Shift for Small Churches According to Pew Forum, there are more than 2.2 billion Christians in the world, or almost one-third of the world’s population. Over half of them are involved in churches with less than 250 people in them. (In America, that number is 350.) Are over one billion of our fellow believers because they’ve chosen to worship and serve God in smaller congregations? Absolutely not! It’s time to stop treating small churches, the pastors who lead them and the people who worship God in them as inadequate, as failures, as problems to be fixed or as obstacles to be overcome. Small churches are not a problem. They are an essential element in a divine strategy. A strategy God has been utilizing for the last 2,000 years.  (Pivot, Karl Vaters Blog, 9/26/16)


Persecution in North Korea According to a new Christian Solidarity Worldwide report, there are documented incidents of Christians in North Korea “being hung on a cross over a fire, crushed under a steamroller, herded off bridges and trampled underfoot.” The report explains Christians try to keep their faith a secret, even from their loved ones. “If discovered, [Christians] are subject to detention and then likely taken to political prison camps; crimes against them in these camps include extra-judicial killing, extermination, enslavement/forced labor, forcible transfer of population, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, persecution, enforced disappearance, rape and sexual violence, and other inhumane acts.” North Koreans are taught from childhood to give prayers of thanks to their father, Kim Il-sung, to say a perverted version of the Apostles creed to their leader, and to study their ideology. The violations of freedom of religion or belief in North Korea are among the very worst in the world the report claims. ( 10/3/16)


African-American Churches Historically, African-American churches and denominations have continued to report steady numbers overall. These include denominations like the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the National Baptist Convention, and the Church of God in Christ. These churches tend to hold similar beliefs to evangelical churches, but prefer to not use the evangelical label. In ‛09 Pew Research found about 7% of Americans identify with a historically African-American Church and 6.5% in ‛14. 85% of adherents of the historically black Protestant tradition say religion is very important in their lives. Also 85% of members believe the Bible is the word of God. 88% say they pray every day and nearly three-quarters think of themselves as ‘born-again or evangelical’ Christians. (The Exchange 9/13/16)


Fact Vs. Values Relentless repetition was once enough to drive your message home. Not anymore! Fact-based statements can be proven or disproven objectively. But the “truth” of a values-based statement hinges on agreed-upon values. Modern advertising overflows with values-based statements, e.g. “Big selection,” “High quality,” “Low prices,” “Easy credit.” Even though they may be true in the mind of the advertiser, the public has heard them all before. The left hemispheres of our brains detect and prefer fact-based statements. Today we are hype-immune and hunger for statements of fact. To persuade today’s hype-resistant customer, you must learn to make fact-based statements in your ads. NOTE: I can help you make sure your ads are not just repeating clichés but clearly delivering meaningful facts that will deliver results. All you have to do is contact me at 419-238-4082, or (Monday Morning Memo 9/26/05, Foster Network)


Facts about U.S. Mormons 81% of Mormons say being a good parent is one of the most important things in life and 73% say the same about having a successful marriage. 58% say a marriage where the husband provides and the wife stays at home is preferable to one in which both spouses have jobs. 97% consider themselves Christian vs. only 51% of U.S. adults. 67% are highly involved in their congregations. 91% believe the Bible is the word of God, 85% pray daily, 84% say religion is very important in their lives and 77% read scripture regularly. 94% believe the president of the LDS church is a prophet of God and 91% the Book of Mormon was written by ancient prophets. 95% believe families can be bound together eternally in temple ceremonies and 94% that God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate, physical beings. The median age of U.S. Mormons is 43 vs. 46 for the general population. 85% of U.S. Mormons identify as non-Hispanic white. (Pew Fact Tank 9/30/16)


Is Finding a New Church Easy? 7 in 10 U.S. adults who have looked for a new congregation say finding one was easy, while 27% it was difficult. When asked what made it easy, many indicated their new congregation was conveniently located and easy to get to (43%), that they had been invited to join by family or friends (20%), or that it was easy to find the kind of information they needed (14%). Among those who found the task burdensome, common explanations were; they disagreed with the theology of the congregations they encountered (26%), there was a shortage of acceptable, conveniently accessible churches in their area (24%), or they were dissatisfied with the sense of fellowship at the congregations they considered (23%). (Pew Research Center 8/23/16)


Sex Offenders @ Church More than 60% of the 800,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S. are currently under some form of community supervision, which often includes faith-based guidance. (


Marriage Material Christian author, Gary Thomas, has been following major character weaknesses that become signify-cant hurdles for marital intimacy and satisfaction and even destroy some marriages. Although not an exhaustive list each one is significant enough that if the person you are dating displays several (or even 1 or 2 to a deep degree), they may not be emotionally or spiritually ready for marriage—regardless of how much fun it is to date them. 1. He/she is a “taker”. 2. He/she is lazy. 3. He/she lives primarily in the virtual world instead of the real one. 4. They’re not kind. 5. They’re addicted to porn and not dealing with it. 6. They’re not humble. (Gary 1/23/16, 8/28/16)


The Incarceration Rate in the U.S. has surged over the past 2 generations. In ‛85, 743,000 people were incarcerated in the U.S., reports the Dept. of Justice. If that number had simply kept pace with the population, it would be 988,000 today. Instead, it’s 2.3 million, including prisons, jails, juvenile correctional facilities, military prisons, immigration detention facilities, and civil commitment centers. China and India (with more than 1 billion citizens each) together incarcerate roughly the same number as the U.S. alone, with its population of just 315 million. The great majority of those imprisoned are still men, but the number of women grew 700% from ‛80 to ‛14. Today they represent 9% of the state and federal prison population. (Christianity Today 9/16)


Formerly Churched Still Religious Among people who were raised religiously and fell away from it in adult life, 20% said their dislike of organized religion was the reason, finds new Pew study. Another 50% stopped believing in the particular tenets of the faith they were raised in. Insofar as the decline in U.S. religious affiliation: Fewer people are willing to sign on with the rules and reputations of institu-tions that promote faith. That doesn’t mean they don’t care about religious ideas or questions, many of those who are unaffiliated with a particular group still consider themselves “religious” or “seeking,” but they might not be as sold on the religious institutions themselves.  (The Atlantic 8/24/16)


Inspired Word of God 30% of U.S. teens say the Bible is the inspired word of God with no errors, though some verses are meant to be symbolic. 20% believe the Bible is the actual word of God and should be taken literally, word for word. 16% say the Bible is the inspired word of God with some factual or historical errors. 19% say it is just another book of teachings written by men that contains stories and advice. (Barna Research 8/26/16)


The Bible’s Influence on Society 40% of Americans 13-17 believe the Bible has too little influence on American society today. 25% believe it has just the right amount of influence on society, and 17% believe the Bible has too much influence. 86% of practicing Protestants and a 54% of practicing Catholics believe the Bible has too little influence on society. 34% of non-practicing Christians say the Bible has just the right amount of influence, while 33% of non-Christians, including atheists and agnostics, say it has too much influence. (Barna Research 8/26/16)


Planning Pays “There are two areas in finance where world-class organizations have actually increased spending relative to revenues. One of those is compliance, and the second is planning and analysis,” says Bryan Hall, a Hackett Group finance consultant. I can help you craft and monitor your plan. Contact 419-238-4082, or (CFO 12/07)


Teens Who Attend Church with Their Parents are more likely to participate in service with their church. 60% of teens who attended church with their parents participated in service projects vs. only 16% of those who did not, finds a recent Barna study. (Barna Group 9/2/16)


Is Working 9-5 a Thing of the Past? 49% of workers report they check, or answer, emails after work and 45% complete work outside of normal working hours finds recent Project: Time Off research. Younger workers were the most likely to check their emails, or keep working, after business hours. Work martyrs (employees who believe skipping vacation shows dedication to their job) worry taking time off will cause them to be viewed as replaceable. 43%of work martyrs are Millennials vs. 29% of all workers. Virginia Tech research found even shutting off from work after normal working hours is hard for many, and is leading to “emotional exhaustion” and disrupting the work-family balance. (BizReport 8/30/16)


More Students Go Out of State Students have long traveled across state lines to go to selective private colleges. But at public colleges, which have historically served local residents, the number of out-of-state freshmen has nearly doubled since ‛86, claims U.S. Dept. of Education data. Budget cuts have driven many public universities to seek out-of-state students, who pay higher tuition. As a result, it can be cheaper for a Minnesota student, for example, to go to North Dakota State Univ. at a lower tuition than the Univ. of Minnesota. (NY Times 8/26/16)


Intelligence Comes from Mom New research featured in Psychology Spot says people are born with conditioned genes that work differently depending on if they’re from your mother or father, and when it comes to your intelligence, those genes are from mom. Intelligence genes are located on chromosome X and since women carry two; children are twice as likely to get their intelligence from mom. Also, according to a ‛94 Medical Research Council Social and Public Health Sciences Unit study of 12,686 moms, ages 14 to 22, the best predictor of intelligence is the IQ of mom. ( 9/12/16)


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