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

September 10, 2018 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Student Ministers’ Biggest Struggles Barna recently asked Protestant student ministers what frustrates them the most? Here’s how they ranked their biggest ministry struggles: 68% say parents not prioritizing their teen’s spiritual growth. 45% say lack of consistent participation. 33% say “undoing” what the world teaches them. 27% say balancing the needs of unchurched teens with growing those who do have a faith. 22% say having to entertain teens to keep them coming. 21% say parents not aligned with beliefs and practices they’re trying to instill. 16% say having the time to really get to know the teens in their ministry. 12% say getting teens to talk about the hard or complex questions about beliefs, world-view, or morality. 10% say not having time to “go deep” on topics that matter. 9% say they have to spend too much time dealing with practical life topics and not enough time talking about foundational beliefs. 3% say being ill-equipped to answer complex questions. (Facts & Trends 8/20/18)


Americans Volunteer Most at Church Bureau of Labor Statistics researchers found religious organizations are the main organizations people volunteered for (33.1%). Next is educational or youth service organizations (25.2%) followed by social or community service organizations (14.6%). The most reported volunteer activity was collecting, preparing, distributing or serving food (11.3%), followed by tutoring or teaching (9.2%), fundraising or selling items to raise money (9.0%) and engaging in general labor or supplying transportation to people (8.8%). 40% of volunteers got involved with a particular organization by approaching that organization themselves while another 40% were asked by someone else already involved in that organization.  (Facts & Trends 7/26/18)


The Most Important Questions in business are often never asked: What is our motive? What is our purpose? Are they worthwhile? Motive and purpose guide behavior, color decisions and add or subtract joy from work. Keep asking these questions and use the answers to measure success. I can help you ask and answer these vital questions in your organization. Contact 419-238-4082, or (Joy At Work, Dennis Bakke, 2005)


Church Staff Compensation According to the 2018 SBC Church Compensation Study, Southern Baptist churches spend an average of 51% of their budget on personnel expenses. Compensation (salary + housing) increased 3.8% for full-time, Southern Baptist senior pastors over the last 2 years, 1.5% for full-time staff ministers and 2.3% for full-time office personnel. The U.S. Consumer Price Index for the same period increased 4.6%. Factors correlating with compensation for senior pastors include weekly church attendance, education and years of experience. For every additional 100 attendees, an otherwise similar pastor’s com-pensation averages $3,641 higher. Those with a bachelor’s degree average $5,681 more than similarly qualified pastors with no college or an associate degree. Master’s and doctorate degree holders average $5,754 and $10,868 more respectively than college grads. Pastors earned $358 more for each additional year of experience. (Facts & Trends 8/30/18)


Why Americans Don’t Go to Church According to a new Pew Research Center study, among those who attend services no more than a few times a year, about 30% say they don’t go because they’re not believers. But a much larger share stays away for other reasons. Yet, 70% identify with a religion (including 60% who are Christian) and most say religion is either “very” or “somewhat” important in their lives. 37% don’t attend because they practice their faith in other ways. A similar share mention things they dislike about religious services or particular congregations, including 25% who say they have not yet found a house of worship they like, 20% dislike the sermons and 14% do not feel welcome. 22% cite logistical reasons for not going (not having the time or being in poor health) and 25% something else. (Pew Research Center 8/1/18)


Why Americans Do Go to Church A recent Pew Research Center survey found 80% of regular attenders say becoming “closer to God” is a very important reason they go to religious services. 66% attend to give their children a moral foundation, to become better people and for comfort in times of trouble or sorrow. Smaller majorities say valuable sermons and being part of “a community of faith” are very important reasons for their regular religious attendance. 37% cite their family’s religious traditions, 31% a feeling of religious obligation, 19% socializing and meeting new people and 16% pleasing their spouse or family. When asked to choose the most important reason they attend religious services, 60% cited to become closer to God while just 8% say they go to become a better person and 5% to be part of a community of faith, to find comfort in troubling times, to provide their children with a moral foundation or because they find the sermons valuable. (Pew Research Center 8/1/18)


Screen Time Linked to ADHD Teens who report high-frequency digital media use are twice as likely to develop attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports. Christian mental health practitioners say excessive screen time can damage the soul as well. “Screens today are the modern-day Baal,” says LifeWay Christian Resources’ Joshua Straub. “When we train our brains for screens, they become wired for screens. When we train them for relationships, they become wired for relationships.” (Facts & Trends 8/7/18)


Consumers Cultural Distinctives Individualism: Consumers expect to control access to content (Internet) and play a bigger role in the development and sharing of information (MySpace), but their desire to be unique also goes hand in hand with their need to be part of a community. 30 is the new 20: 30 somethings spent their 20s finding out what they wanted to spend their life doing. They’ve redefined the traditional process into adulthood. They’ve delayed marriage and childbearing but this doesn’t mean they won’t do both. Retirement: Defied: Most boomers consider themselves 7 years younger than their true age. This generation set out to change the world, so its members do not expect to give up the driver seat just because they’re aging. Are you adapting to these new market realties? I can guide you through the process. Contact 419-238-4082, or (Target Marketing 11/06)


Want Hired, Wear Black A recent job applicant survey conducted by recruiting software firm SmartRecruiters, found 70% of hired candidates wore mostly black clothing to their interview, while a mere 33% of rejected candidates wore black. (Money Talks News 8/22/18)


Pastors Want to be Better Equipped LifeWay’s Thom Rainer has uncovered these top 8 areas seasoned pastors wish they could be better prepared and equipped. 1. Leading the church in evangelism/reaching the community. 2. Leadership development. 3. Finances/business issues/ administration. 4. Leading staff. 5. Counseling. 6. Dealing with change and conflict. 7. Dealing with their own depression. 8. Equipping others. Pastors expressed gratitude to the Bible colleges, seminaries and books that prepared them well in the classical disciplines. But the cries were for better preparation in practical issues and practical ministries. (Thom Rainer, Outreach 8/20/18)


Compliant Card Requirement Coming As of October 2020, a new federal travel restriction will make it a requirement for anyone looking to fly domestically, enter federal facilities or military bases to possess a “compliant card.” The newly issued compliant card is the equivalent of a driver’s license on steroids. To obtain a compliant card when renewing a license, customers will have to bring in additional documentation: passport or birth certificate, social security card and 2 additional documents proving residential address among them. While the compliant license is said to be infinitely harder to fake, the bottom line is that it also stores a lot of valuable personal data on it as well. Is this another data breach disaster waiting to happen? (Ministry Tech 9/18)


Church Can Serve Miscarriage Sufferers Anywhere from 10% to 25% of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, reports the American Pregnancy Assoc. Ball State Univ. sociologist Richard J. Petts, found there may be a positive connection between high levels of religious participation and the mental health of women who struggle with miscarriage. Analyzing National Longitudinal Survey of Youth data, he found higher levels of religious participation are associated with higher mental health levels for all groups. The difference in mental health between those with low and high levels of religious participation is greatest among women who experience a miscarriage. Petts’ findings suggest that miscarriage is linked with lower mental health only among women who’ve experienced a live birth as well as a miscarriage. Among this group of women, mental health levels were 8% higher in frequent churchgoers than they were in infrequent churchgoers. Among women who’ve experienced a miscarriage but never a live birth, mental health levels were 6% higher. For women who were currently pregnant but have experienced a miscarriage in the past, mental health levels were 3% higher. (Facts & Trends 4/22/18)


Honest Feedback The Wall Street Journal asserts: “Top company officials are often surrounded by ‘yes’ people who filter out bad news.” The result is a culture of “yes people” who don’t contribute truthfully to the health and progress of the organization. Effective executives must have a culture of truth-telling to know what is and isn’t working. I can help you determine the culture in your organization and counsel you to implement one that fosters a reliable honest feedback environment. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or


Christianity Is the World’s Largest Religion, with a big presence in most parts of the globe. But not all Christians share the same levels of religious commitment. Christians in Africa and Latin America tend to pray more frequently, attend religious services more regularly and consider religion more important in their lives than Christians elsewhere in the world, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. Christians in the U.S. also have comparatively high levels of commitment to their faith, the opposite of most other wealthy nations. (Pew Fact Tank 8/22/18)


New Age Beliefs 42% of Americans believe spiritual powers rest in physical objects like mountains, trees and crystals, according to a new Pew Research study. 41% believe in psychics, 33% believe in reincarnation and 29% believe in astrology. New Age beliefs are common, even among Americans who are highly religious in traditional ways. (Facts & Trends 8/31/18)


Cremation, which was once rare, has become the most common way for Americans to lay their earthly remains to rest. 53.5% of Americans who die this year will choose cremation over burial, according to the National Funeral Director Assoc. That’s up from 32% in ’05. If current trends continue, 80% of Americans will choose to be cremated after they die by 2035. The remains of those who have been cremated end up in a number of places. 37.1% end up being buried, 39% are given to family and 8.6% are placed in a columbarium. 1 in 5 are scattered, either at a cemetery (1.6%) or in another location (19.8%). (Facts & Trends 8/23/18)


Children Pay a Price Children from broken families accumulate approximately $61,600 less wealth on average, over the course of their lifetimes, than those raised in an intact family, according to a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. (Christian Post 8/23/18)


Moral & Spiritual Crisis The CDC has just announced last year, nearly 2.3 million cases of sexually transmitted diseases were diagnosed in the U.S., breaking the record set in ’16 by nearly 200K cases. Franklin Graham responded, “I believe what America has is a moral crisis and a spiritual crisis and it manifests itself in many ways, including this public health crisis. Sin always has a cost, a consequence.” The CDC claimed a ‘steep and sustained’ increase in syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia, adding that diagnosed cases are likely only a fraction of the actual number. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are curable with antibiotics, however, gonorrhea has become resistant to all but one of them and experts fear it’s only a matter of time before it no longer works. In ’17, gonorrhea diagnoses increased 67%, primary and secondary syphilis diagnoses increased 76% and a Chlamydia epidemic also continues to rage. Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men made up almost 70% of primary and secondary syphilis cases. Primary and secondary syphilis are the most infectious stages of the disease. (One News Now 8/30/18)


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