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, 2019 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



Faith is Important The latest Rasmussen Reports national survey finds 71% of U.S. adults regard their religious faith as important in their daily lives, with 44% who describe it as very important. Among those who say their religious faith is very important, 61% agree with Attorney General William Barr that “secular forces and their allies have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.” 67% of these voters also agree with Barr’s statement that “the problem is not that religion is being forced on others. The problem is that … secular values are being forced on people of faith.”

(Rasmussen Reports 10/17/19)


Men Are More Likely than Women to finish Bible reading plans on an app, but they don’t glean as much as when using a good, old-fashioned paper book, according to a recent study in the Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture. Women retained about the same amount of information and completed a similar amount of reading on either medium, though men finished more daily readings than women. ( 9/23/19)


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20s Dropouts Today 64% of young adults in the U.S. with a Christian background have dropped out of church at some point during their 20s, according to Barna Research. That is up from 59% in ’11. (Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon, David Kinnaman & Mark Matlock, Baker Books 2019)


Girl Gamers 9.3 million U.S. girls aged 13-17 play video games, compared to 11.4 million boys. Among gamers, girls are more likely than boys to play mobile games (95% for girls vs. 90% for boys) and they are less likely than boys to play on consoles and PCs. The top games among girls aged 13-17, are Minecraft, Candy Crush Saga and Pokémon Go. (Female Power Shopping 9/19)


A Millennial Exodus A recent Pinetops Foundation and The Veritas Forum study projects 35 million youths raised in Christian families will depart from Christianity by the year 2050. The 131 page report, titled The Great Opportunity, is based on reviews of Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study (2007-2014), the Baylor Religion Survey (2007 to 2011), a September 2016 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Gallup Annual Religion Surveys (1992-2016). Also, Christians in America will comprise just 59% of the country’s population by 2050 vs. 73% today. Meanwhile, the population of the religiously unaffiliated will double to 30% of the total population in 2050. The situation is urgent; the last Millennials are now nearly 20 and all data suggests most people settle on their religious affiliation by 25, with the door closing by 35. The report calls for a number of things, including a doubling or tripling of church planting efforts in the U.S. At least 215,000 churches will need to be planted by 2050 just to maintain the status quo. The report also calls for churches to “transform youth discipleship,” contending that the youth ministry models of the last 50 years are no longer effective. (Christian Post 9/24/19)


Most American Voters Are Religious Whether Republican or Democrat, odds are religion is important in your life. Both parties are mostly full of religious voters. A recent Pew study found 76% of Democrats say they are “absolutely” or “fairly” certain they believe in God vs. 90% of Republicans. 70% of Democrats say religion is very or somewhat important in their lives vs. 80% of Republicans.

However, Democrats do have a lot more “religiously unaffiliated” voters. 54% of America’s nones say they lean left vs. just 25% who say they lean right. (Relevant Magazine 9/9/19)


Vegetarianism According to a ’18 Gallup poll, 5% of U.S. adults consider themselves to be vegetarian. Nonwhite Americans (9%) are 3 times as likely as white Americans (3%) to describe themselves as vegetarian. 11% of self-identified liberals identify as vegetarian vs. 2% of conservatives and 3% of moderates. Vegetarianism is less prevalent among older Americans: 2% of adults 55 and older adhere to a vegetarian diet vs. 8% of 18-34 year-olds and 7% of 35-54 year-olds. (Gallup 9/27/19)


Problems Happy Couples Encounter A new study recently published in Family Process evaluated 2 groups of married couples who said they were happy in their marriages. 64 of the couples were in their early 70s and had been married an average of 42 years, while 57 were in their mid to late 30s and had been married an average of 9 years. The greatest potential sources of conflict for the couples included communication, financial pressure, children, in-laws, intimacy and older couples also mentioned health. All of the couples said jealousy, religion and family were among the issues that gave them the least amount of trouble. The researchers also found the longer people were married, the fewer arguments they had, suggesting that over time couples had learned some topics were simply not worth addressing. ( 9/19/19)


Unchurched Upturn The number of Americans who say they don’t attend church is at an all-time high. For the first time, 3 in 10 adults say they never attend religious services, according to the General Social Survey. The number of completely unchurched has doubled in the last decade and a half. In ’04, 15% said they never attended religious services. Today, it’s 30%. Today, more than half of Americans have limited contact with a local congregation, 59% attend several times a year or less, 42% once a month or more and just 23% attending at least once a week. (Facts & Trends 3/26/19)


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Suicide #1 Cause According to the National Institute for Mental Health, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in people 10-34, right behind accidental deaths. (Nat’l Institute for Mental Health 9/9/19)


Unchurched Young Adults Young people are the most likely to be skipping Sunday services, as 35% of 18 to 34 year-olds say they never attend religious services. Among 35 to 49-year-olds, 32% never show up. Those 65 and over (27%) and 50 to 64-year-olds (23%) are less likely to never attend services. (Facts & Trends 3/26/19)


American Evangelicals Trust Religious Leaders and police officers significantly more and trust journalists significantly less, than the average American, finds new Pew Center research. Most Americans see people in various positions of power as empathetic, fair and good stewards “some” or “most or all of the time.” This goes for religious leaders, police officers, K–12 public school principals, military leaders, local elected officials, journalists and leaders of technology companies. However, evangelicals have a distinct confidence in certain kinds of leaders. They have a more positive view of religious leaders; 86% of evangelicals say they “care about others or ‘people like me’” vs. 69% of Americans overall. 83% of evangelicals say religious leaders provide fair and accurate information vs. 63% of the general population. Evangelicals also hold a higher-than-average view of police officers (86% of evangelicals consider them caring vs. 79% of Americans). They’re also more likely to believe information from police (81% of evangelicals vs. 74% of Americans) and military leaders (72% of evangelicals vs. 66% of Americans). More evangelicals believe religious leaders, police officers and military leaders handle resources responsibly than Americans overall. The only leaders examined that evangelicals trust significantly less than the general public are journalists. Members of Congress were the only leaders about whom fewer than half of U.S. adults, including evangelicals, say they believe they sometimes or mostly provide fair and accurate information to the public, or that they handle resources responsibly. ( 9/30/19)


The Lost Generation In The Twentysomething Soul: Understanding the Religious and Secular Lives of American Young Adults, authors, Tim Clydesdale and Kathleen Garces-Foley write “Today’s 20-somethings, have been labeled the ‘lost generation’—for their presumed inability to identify and lead fulfilling lives, ‘kidults’—for their alleged refusal to ‘grow up’ and accept adult responsibilities—and the ‘least religious generation’—for their purported disinterest in religion and spirituality.” Why? Their analysis focuses on the 91% of American 20-somethings who identify as either Christian (Catholic, evangelical or mainline Protestant) or “religiously unaffiliated.” As a group, they are a thoughtful, religious and praying tribe. 66% of evangelicals, 33% of mainline Protestants and 40% of Catholics attend worship services regularly. (Christianity Today Online 9/25/19)


Happiest Wives Are Religious Conservatives One of the most consistently interesting things about our cultural debates surrounding marriage and sexuality is the resistance that many of those on the secular side of the spectrum exhibit towards the slowly growing mountain of evidence supporting the fact that Judeo-Christian values are often essential to both social stability as well as personal happiness.

A recent Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institution study found “the happiest of all American wives consider themselves religious conservatives.” For many in today’s age of aggressive secularism, the idea that religion could be a potent force for social stability and personal happiness is an offensive one, perhaps because it forces people to address those petty doubts that perhaps they might be wrong about a very important thing.  (LifeSite News 10/8/19)


Sexual Abuse Churches continue to grapple with the risks of sexual abuse and the fallout for victims. According to a new study from LifeWay Research, most people in the pews feel safe at their own church but believe the abuse crisis isn’t over. Members also tend to believe that their own churches are now better prepared and equipped to protect children. And younger churchgoers indicate they’re less likely to tolerate sexual misconduct and more likely to leave a church because of it. (Church Leaders 5/29/18)


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Pastors Experience Depression Too A survey of protestant clergy in Canada conducted in ’03 showed that 20% of respondents had been diagnosed with an emotional condition; specifically, 16% said they had been diagnosed with depression. This is double the Health Canada findings which states that approximately 8% of Canadian adults will experience major depression in their lives. A ’14 LifeWay study among U.S. pastors found that these numbers don’t seem to have changed much in the almost decade that has transpired between the studies. LifeWay’s study indicated more than 20% of pastors have personally struggled with mental illness of some kind. It should be noted this number mirrors the national average of people in the U.S. who struggle with mental illness, according to research from ’18. ( 9/23/19)


The Rising Cost of College Tuition in the U.S. is one of the biggest deterrents to attending the school of their dreams or going to college at all. According to a National Student Clearinghouse Research Center study, college enrollment in the U.S. has declined for the 8th consecutive year, decreasing 1.7% from the previous spring. Experts say the main reason is the rising cost of tuition. Millennials face record levels of student debt: In the last 10 years alone, total student loan debt more than doubled in the U.S., hitting an all-time high of $1.5 trillion, according to Forbes. Over the same period the average price for tuition and fees at 4-year private colleges and universities increased by more than $7,000. Today, students can expect to pay an average price of $34,740 to attend a private university. Yet, a college degree matters: Studies show college grads earn significantly more money throughout their lifetime than those who don’t gain a higher education. Also, college is a formative time where students develop important character habits that will last the rest of their life. (Christian Post 10/8/19)


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