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, 2016 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update



What Do Americans Look For In A Church? About half of all Americans have looked for a new congregation at some point in their lives. Younger adults were more likely than those older to turn to the web or to other people when looking for a new church, according to a new Pew Research Center study. They also were less likely to prioritize religious education for children when choosing a church. 75% of adults under 30 talked to a congregation member or a friend (82%) as part of their search vs. just 55% and 54% (respectively) of people 65 or older. 80% of all age groups attended a worship service as part of their search, and roughly half or slightly more talked to a clergyperson. 87% of younger adults say the quality of sermons was important vs. 77% of older people. Other commonly cited decision factors across age groups include the style of worship, a sense of feeling welcome and the physical location of the church. At the same time, younger adults are more likely than older age groups to say that having friends and family in a congregation was an important factor. About 62% of younger Americans say this compared with roughly half or less in older age groups. (Pew Research Center 8/23/16)


Keeping the Faith Although a significant number of Americans who don’t identify with any particular faith group, they say they believe in God, and roughly 40% pray daily or weekly. (The Atlantic 8/24/16)


The Baby Boomer population will grow by 25% in the next decade while other segments remain flat. As the U.S. population grows older it becomes more multicultural, busier than ever and increasingly cynical toward traditional sales pitches. Communications and creative strategies need to address these facts. I can help you ensure your strategy is on target. Contact 419-238-4082, or (Direct 10/07)


The Millennials Population, in all its glorious diversity, is huge. At 82 million, it’s 6 million greater in number than the last big population bulge, the Baby Boomers.  ( 8/9//16)


Leadership Training Lacking According to LifeWay Research 48% of pastors leave the pastorate before retirement age because they weren’t effectively trained to lead. (


Teen Bible Reading 69% of U.S. teens personally own a Bible. 44% read it at least 3 or 4 times a year, and 25% read it at least once a week including 3% who read it daily. 11% report reading Scripture several times per week and 11% do so once a week. 37% never read the Bible. The average teen Bible reader spends 15 minutes reading the Bible at each sitting. (Barna Research 8/26/16)


Higher Healthcare Costs Coming Businesses and consumers can expect to see more increases in their healthcare costs in ‛17. The hikes are expected to be about the same as 2016, and employees will continue to pick up a larger share. Larger U.S. companies expect their healthcare costs to rise about 6% next year according to National Business Group of Health data. Employers listed rapidly rising pharmaceutical drug prices as the chief reason for their increase in costs. Employees can probably count on higher premiums as well as paying more out of pocket for healthcare expenses. About 84% of the large corporations surveyed said they would offer employee’s high-deductible health plans next year. 35% will offer the high-deductible plans as the only choice. People who sign up for health plans under the ACA exchanges may see their insurance premiums rise about 9%. (Healthline 8/16/16)


Most U.S. Churches Are Aging. While young adults ages 18-29 make up 22% of the nation’s population, they represent less than 10% of churchgoers. In a recent 10-7 year study of congregations, people over age 60 increased by 5% and people under age 35 decreased by 5%. Many churches see the average age of their attendees increase year by year. (Outreach Sept/Oct/16)


Homosexuals who “marry” each other are almost 3 times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts, even in very gay-friendly Sweden, according to a study published in the May issue of the European Journal of Epidemiology. The longitudinal study found participants in homosexual marriages had an overall 2.7 times greater chance of suicide than participants in heterosexual marriages.

Homosexual men in same-sex “marriages” were found to have a higher elevated risk (2.9) than women (2.5). The study’s results are similar to numerous other studies in recent years. (LifeSite News 8/5/16)


America’s Changing Religious Landscape Pew Research Center’s ‛14 Religious Landscape Study  finds the percentage of adults (18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly 8 percentage points in just 7 years, from 78.4% in ‛07 to 70.6% in ‛14. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated (atheist, agnostic or nothing) has jumped more than 6 points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in ‛07 to 5.9% in ‛14. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base. (Pew Research Center 5/12/15)


Time for Courage When times are good and money is abundant; it’s easy to coast on yesterday’s reputation. You’ve seen it happen. But when there’s not enough business to go around, the rules revert to “survival of the fittest.” This is when courageous little companies leapfrog their traditional masters and leave them behind on the trail. I can help make sure you are a thriving survivor. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or

 (Monday Morning Memo from Wizard of Ads)


Christian Gun Owners A new national survey of Christian conservatives shows millions of Christians not only own guns, but pray for peace and the nation’s political leaders each week! They are also upset with how things are going in America and engage in politics to see things turned around in the country they love. The survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) also revealed these are not the working class, unsophisticated people ill-informed pundits portray them as being. A majority have a college degree and a median household income exceeding $100,000. 58% of SAGE Cons (Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives) own one or more guns. Nationally, it is estimated that about 1 in 3 US adults own a firearm. That makes Christian conservatives nearly twice as likely to own a gun as are adults who are not Christian conservatives. Just 23% have military background. 57% describe themselves as “extremely proud to be an American” vs. 46% of SAGE Cons who do not own a gun. Yet, 92% described themselves as “angry about the current state of America”. In addition to embracing Christ as their Savior, nearly 90% attended a church service and had read from the Bible during the past week, more than double the proportion of adults nationwide. 68% listened to Christian radio in the past week, 56% discussed their religious beliefs with someone who had different beliefs in the past week, and 39% watched Christian TV programming in the last week. 96% either believe the Bible is “the actual word of God and should be taken literally. (American Culture & Faith Institute 8/31/16)


Sexual Harassment isn’t just a problem in big business. Employers, including small business owners and ministries are responsible for protecting their employees and their organizations from harassment and its legal ramifications. The consequences can be disastrous for those who don’t. A total of 11,364 sexual harassment charges were handled by the EEOC and state agencies in ‛11 (the most recent data). 26% of those cases were decided in favor of complainants, with employers of all sizes paying out $52.3 million in victim settlements in one year alone. Yet 67% of small employers have no anti-harassment rules or training in place. 41% small business owners polled said sexual harassment policies were “unnecessary given my small number of employees.” 11% said such rules were “too PC for my company’s culture.” (Manta Trends 8/8/116)


When Do You Check Social Media? Though studies continue to warn us of the dangers of bright screens prior to sleeping, 46% of all women admit to checking their social media right before going to bed. 50% check it first thing in the morning. 67 % report doing so every day, while nearly 28% do so 3 to 5 times a week—a total of 95% check 3 or more times a week. This means about half of all women both begin and end most of their days with social media, proving its significant influence on American women’s lives. (Barna Group 8/17/16)


The Most Common Negative Impacts of Social Media use relate to wasting time (38%) and getting distracted from work or things they need to do (27%). 14% of  women ,Barna Research studied, admit judging other people is a negative impact of using social media. In addition, not being “present” to those physically around them (13%) and comparing themselves to other people (12%) are also negative impacts of social media use. (Barna Group 8/17/16)


More Than a Storefront America’s biggest consumer advertisers are learning that just having a website isn’t enough to establish and cultivate an ongoing customer relationship. Many have launched free e-magazines filled with relevant content, offering entertainment and practical advice along with soft-sell product promotion where appropriate. “It’s a major trend, and it’s a moving trend,” claims Gary Stibel, New England Consulting Group. It’s not really new, but marketers are historically far too blatantly commercial. I can help you craft an effective e-marketing strategy that can help you build brand loyalty and, ultimately, sales. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or (AP 1/3/06)


Americans Seem Lukewarm about starting a spiritual conversation. 30% say starting a conversation is interesting, 29% easy and 29% natural. 9% say starting a conversation is scary, 5% boring and 4% embarrassing. 72% of churchgoers say they have the right amount of training to help them share their faith. 49% say their church treats sharing the gospel as extremely urgent (24%) or urgent (25%). (LifeWay Research 8/22/16)


Persecution of Christians in India increased dramatically the first half of ‛16 and is on pace to far exceed cases the previous 2 years, finds a new Evangelical Fellowship of India’s Religious Liberty Commission report. The 134 incidents of violence against Christians in India for the first 6 month of ‛16 were just a fraction of the actual violence on the ground. Yet, even this number is on a pace to nearly double ‛14’s 147 total for the entire year and last years’ 177. Physical violence, arrests on false allegations and stopping church services were frequent, with attacks on churches, vandalizing and recurring threats among the most common incidents. Hindu extremist factions were the groups most often behind the violence. Often, local administration and police refused to act and openly sided with the assailants. (Baptist Press 8/23/16)


SAGE Cons Opinions A new American Culture and Faith Institute survey highlights some of Christian conservatives’ opinions on current issues. 82% of the SAGE Cons (Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives) strongly agreed “corruption is widespread throughout the federal government.” Another 15% moderately agreed. This helps to explain why SAGE Cons have gone from a mere 11% supporting Donald Trump early in the primary to 84% currently supporting his candidacy. 98% agreed “the stakes in this presidential election are higher than in previous years.” 72% said this election outcome will make “a big difference” in their life, and another 24% said the outcome will make “some difference.” 96% agreed the U.S. is at war with ISIS. 92% indicated they “would like to see Christian churches play a more important role in this election than they have in the last few.” Although 84% said they have friends who are politically liberal, only 6% often discuss political matters with them and another 32% enter into such discussions occasionally. The remaining 47% “rarely” or “never” discuss political matters with their liberal friends. ( 8/16/16)


Who Most Influences Millennials? In a survey of more than 2,000 Brits by affiliate marketing network Affilinet, 43% of Millennials said it was ‘family members’ who were the most likely to influence them online, almost double the number that answered ‘friends’ (26%). Instead, it was older generations for which ‘friends’ were their biggest online influence, particularly those between 25 and 34 (41%).

With parents the most selected category it’s clear they feel family is still the biggest influence on them. Just 3% of Millennials cited social media accounts with a ‘high number of followers’ as influencing them online, and just 2% were influenced by ‘colleagues’.  (BizReport 8/23/16)


Church Goers More Involved 51% of Americans go to church or another worship service somewhere between once a month and multiple times per week, while 49% go rarely or never. But within that 51%, more than half go more often than they used to—in other words, about quarter of Americans have gotten more active in their religious communities in recent years, not less. On the other hand, according to a recent Pew study, fewer than half of the people who rarely or never go to church say this has been a new decline in the last few years; a greater portion of that group say they’ve always stayed home on Sundays. All of this is a way of saying that, comparatively speaking, there’s more activity happening on the devout side of the spectrum than the drop-out side; this study suggests even in a time of religion’s public decline, some people are experiencing religious revival. (The Atlantic 8/24/16)


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