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, 2019 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



Kids & Screen Time Research from San Diego State Univ. and the Univ. of Georgia shows time spent on smartphones can be a precursor to young people being more anxious and prone to depression, less able to finish tasks, less able to exhibit self-control over emotions and behavior. Pre-schoolers, or kids under 5, who are high users are twice as likely to often lose their temper and are 46% more prone to not be able to calm down when excited. Among 14 to 17 year-olds, 42% of those in the study who spent more than 7 hours a day on screens did not finish tasks. 9% of 11 to 13 year-olds who spent an hour with screens daily were not curious or interested in learning new things. The rise in screen time limits creative thought; it also has a negative impact on healthy sleep and many researchers are seeing trends connecting screen time to the rise in obesity, sleeplessness and a loss of important social skills. (Freeport Press 8/15/19)


The Church Has a Reputation Problem according to recent Gallup and Pew Research surveys. The Gallup study finds churches have an overall positive perception, but it has been on a decline since the 1980s and a steep decline since the early 2000s. Today, 36% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the church or organized religion (an all-time low), 36% have some confidence and 29% have very little or none. Men are more likely than women to say they have very little to no confidence in the church (33% to 24%) and 1 to 34 year-olds are the generation most likely to rate their confidence as the lowest (35%). In Pew Research’s study, 52% of Americans say churches and religious organizations have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country, down from 59% two years ago, 29% say they have a negative impact. Both Gallup and Pew report there is a significant partisan divide on the church’s cultural effect. (Facts & Trends 8/12/19)


Atheists and Agnostics know more about religion than most other religious groups, while people who identify as “nothing in particular” are among the least knowledgeable. (Pew Fact Tank 8/21/19)


Encouragement According to Hallmark, 90% of consumers want more choices in encouragement cards that 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)


Pro-Life Efforts Pay Off Abortions in the U.S. fell to their lowest number since Roe v. Wade in ’17, according to a recent Guttmacher Institute report. There were 862,000 abortions in ’17, down from 926,000 in ’14. The abortion rate of 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44 is the lowest it has been since Roe forced all 50 states to allow most abortions in 1973. As of 5/31/19, 479 abortion restrictions were enacted in 33 states this year. (LifeSite News 9/18/19)


The New Income Tax Provision could slash charitable giving by $19 billion a year, claims a new Indiana Univ./Lilly Foundation study. The ’17 federal income tax overhaul, which reduced the number of households that itemize deductions on their income tax returns, could cut the number of households donating to charity by 2.6 million per year and reduce charitable giving by up to $19.1 billion per year through 2025. These changes could possibly accelerate the long-term decline in the share of U.S. households that donate to a nonprofit. In ’00, 67% of American households donated to nonprofits vs. just 56% in ’14. (ECFA 8/22/19)


Teens Who Hold Off On Dating have better social skills, are happier, less depressed and more adept at dealing with a variety of social situations, finds a new Univ. of Georgia study. It’s generally believed that dating is a perfectly healthy part of being a teenager. Forming a romantic connection for the first time can help teens’ grow their self-esteem, mature on an emotional level and develop important social skills for later on in life. While all of that still holds true, researchers say that not dating can be just as, if not more, beneficial for teens. Surprisingly, the study’s authors discovered that non-dating students had either similar or better interpersonal skills than their dating classmates. Furthermore, while self-reported positive relationship scores did not differ between either group, teachers rated the non-dating students significantly higher than their romance-seeking classmates in terms of social and leadership skills and as less depressed. (Study Finds 9/9/19)


Intentional Time with God 38% of U.S. Protestant churchgoers set aside time for private worship, praise or thanksgiving to God every day, 29% do so a few times a week, 13% once a week, 7% a few times a month, 4% once a month and 9% rarely or never. Female churchgoers (40%) are more likely than males (3%) to set aside those moments every day. 40% of weekly church attenders set aside times for private worship every day vs. 33% of those who attend less frequently. (Baptist Press 8/16/19)


Black Americans Doing Great Under Trump America’s unemployment rate of 3.7% puts it near the lowest ever in the last 50 years. Black unemployment is at an all-time low at 5.5%. Also at an all-time low is the gap between black and white unemployment. With white unemployment at 3.4%, the gap is 2.1 percentage points. There were 349,000 more blacks employed in August ’19 compared with August ’18. According to BLS, the average number of blacks working during ’16, the last year of Obama’s presidency, was 18.2 million compared with 19.5 million now. (OneNewsNow 9/12/19)


The Best Actions to combat brand-deterioration are product innovation, refocusing marketing efforts on growth, exploring new targets, analyzing the root cause of the deterioration and completing a deep qualitative study on brand issues. I can bring objectivity to your brand issues. Contact 419-238-4082, or (Advertising Age 4/25/07)


Faith-Based Recovery According to a study published in the Journal of Religion and Health, 73% of America’s addiction treatment programs (including 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous) contain “a spirituality-based element,” whether a reference to God or a higher power. An estimated 130,000 congregations of all faiths provide some type of recovery assistance, such as Teen Challenge, AA or Celebrate Recovery. While in the latest Gallup survey only 46% of Americans think religion can answer today’s problems, the reality is that religion provides answers for addiction, one of today’s biggest problems. 20 million Americans suffer with a substance abuse disorder at any given time and the annual death toll from alcohol and drug-related causes is 158,000. Up to 82% of substance abusers who experience a “spiritual awakening” during treatment and recovery are completely clean at the one-year mark. That compares to just 55% of substance abusers who don’t experience a spiritual awakening during the process. ( 9/17/19)


Unchurched Americans Think Well of Christians and are open to engaging matters of faith. For example, 42% of the unchurched think Christianity is good for society, 33% admire their Christians friends’ faith and up to 67% would be willing to attend a church event (depending on the type of event). There is a massive number of people among the unchurched who are open to being invited, persuaded and connected to a local congregation. ( 9/12/19)


Religious Leader Influence A recent AP survey found 55% of Americans say clergy members or religious leaders have had at least some influence in their lives, while 45% say they’ve had little to none. 21% say religious leaders have had a lot of influence, 33% say some, 25% say not much and 20% say none. Those who identify with a religion are more than twice as likely to say pastors have had an influence compared to the religious unaffiliated (63% to 26%). Among those who have a religious affiliation, those who regularly attend services (85%) are far more likely to say religious leaders have influenced their lives (47%). 47% of Americans want at least some influence while 52% want not much or none. 52% of parents of children under 18 want some or a lot of influence, while 48% want less. 59% of religiously affiliated Americans want a pastor to have at least some influence in their life vs. 7% of those unaffiliated. (Facts & Trends 8/24/19)


Following Christ According to the 2019 Discipleship Pathway Assessment most U.S. Protestants who attend church at least once each month believe an essential part of following Christ is saying “no” to the self and living to glorify God. This year, 66% of believers agreed with the statement, “A Christian must learn to deny himself or herself to serve Christ,” vs. 64% in ’11. Today 59% of churchgoers read the Bible every day or a few times each week vs. 45% in ’11. 75% agree with the statement, “I try to avoid situations in which I might be tempted to think or do immoral things,” vs. 73% in ’11. ( 8/2/19)


Pastor Character Traits Americans believe religious leaders are caring but are less sure, among other things, about their honesty. 50% say “caring” describes clergy members extremely or very well, 34% say it describes them moderately well, while 14% say not very or not well at all. 40% see pastors clearly exhibiting intelligence, 39% honesty and 34% trustworthiness. 31% believe pastors are narrow-minded, selfish (19%) or lazy (11%). (Facts & Trends 8/22/19)


Chick-Fil-A’s Annual Sales have more than doubled since LGBT and liberal groups began calling for a boycott of the restaurant in ’12, according to a new analysis. In ’12, when controversy arose over the CEO’s comments about same-sex marriage, sales totaled $4.6 billion, up from $4.1 billion the year before. In ’18, sales totaled $10.46 billion, making it the 3rd largest restaurant in the U.S. behind McDonald’s and Starbucks. The boycott may have driven a few customers away, although it apparently attracted far more. The chain also has opened nearly 700 new restaurants since the boycott began. “The only ones who seem to have any kind of beef with the wildly popular chicken restaurant are some squeaky extremists on the far left,” comments Focus on the Family’s Glenn Stanton. “They’ve concluded that Chick-fil-A is bigoted without the slightest bit of evidence, only that their founders believe in natural marriage.” It was named America’s favorite fast-food restaurant in a survey of customers this year.  ( 9/18/19)


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


Midweek Church Services Still Relevant 9 in 10 Protestant pastors say they have some type of activity on Wednesday night, according to a new LifeWay Research study. Only 10% say they have no regular events on Wednesday evening. While the historic roots of Wednesday night church services centered on prayer, the study found the modern usage of a midweek service stretch beyond that. 60% have small group adult Bible study classes, while 52% also have some type of student ministry or youth group gathering. 48% of pastors say they have children’s activities and 45% use the night for a prayer meeting. About 40% say they have choir or worship team rehearsals on Wednesday. 33% say their church has a worship service that night, while 8% say they do something else. 31% of Protestant churches with Sunday morning attendance of less than 50 don’t have any midweek events. Among those with Sunday attendance of 250 or more, 75% have small group adult Bible study classes, 80% have a student ministry or youth group gathering and 58% have choir or worship team rehearsal on Wednesday evening. The larger the church, the more likely they are to have a worship service on Wednesday night; those with a Sunday worship service of less than 50 (23%), those with an attendance of 50 to 99 (30%), attendance of 100 to 249 (38%) and attendance of 250 or more (41%). (Facts & Trends 9/10/19)


The Most Expensive Book in the World is the translation of Biblical psalms, The Bay Psalm Book which was sold for over $14 million. It is the first book printed in America and was the Puritan’s attempt to make their translation of the Old Testament book. ( 8/3/17)


Poor & Unchurched According to the General Social Survey, the lower class (36%) and the working class (32%) of Americans are more likely to skip church every Sunday than the middle class (27%) or upper class (24%). Those with only a high school diploma (34%) or less (29%) are more likely to never attend than those who at least attended college (24%). (Facts & Trends 3/26/19)


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