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, 2017 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


 Reformation Unreformed In 1517, Martin Luther staked his soul on two revolutionary ideas: sola fide, salvation is dependent on faith alone; and sola scriptura, Scripture is the only ultimate authority for Christian belief and practice and it does not need oversight from church leadership or tradition to be read and understood. Yet, today 52% of U.S. Protestants say both good deeds and faith in God are needed to get into heaven. The same numbers believe in addition to the Bible, Christians need guidance from church teachings and traditions, finds new Pew Research Center studies. In America, where many followers of the Reformation fled to escape Catholic persecution, 57% of Protestants now say Catholicism is more like Protestantism than different. Just 3 in 10 say they believed in both salvation by faith alone (sola fide) and the complete sufficiency of Scripture (sola scriptura). Among evangelical Protestants, about 6 in 10 say the Bible provides all the religious guidance Christians need, while nearly 7 in 10 say faith alone is needed. White evangelicals who attend church weekly are even more likely to believe in sola fide and sola scriptura. 80% believe in faith alone, 68% believe in the Bible’s ability to stand alone, and 59% believe in both. ( 8/31/17)


Churches & Money About 1 in 10 Protestant churches has had someone embezzle funds, according to a new LifeWay Research study. 9% of pastors say their church has had funds embezzled while 91% say they are not aware of any. Pastors of mid-sized churches (100 to 249 members) are less likely to say funds had been embezzled (6%) than those with 250 or more (12%). The Assoc. of Certified Fraud Examiners found 2.4% of business and non-profit cases involved churches or other charitable groups. The average loss was $82,000. 47% of pastors say their church has had a complete audit in the last year, 66% within the last 4 years, 34% more than 5 years ago and 10% never. 26% of churches have operating reserves to cover 7 or fewer weeks, 24% have between 8 and 15 weeks, 15% between 16 and 25 weeks, 12% between 26 and 51 weeks and 23% a year or more. Among churches with fewer than 50 people, 27% have a year of cash reserves vs. 15% of those with more than 250. (Baptist Press 8/3/17)


Characteristics of Believers Who Don’t Give Up Living for Christ is hard, sometimes so hard we’re tempted to wonder if it’s worth the sacrifice. It is, of course, but difficulties sometimes cloud that truth. Based on Chuck Lawless’s years of studying spiritual warfare, here are characteristics of believers who don’t give up in the battle: •They’re solidly connected to a local church. •They have a devotional life, even if it’s not perfect. •They have somebody to walk with them. •They choose to believe what the Bible says. •They rehearse God’s care in the past. •They trust that when they are weak, God is their strength (2 Cor. 12:10). •They understand the witness of faithfulness in the battle. •They cry out to God. There’s no pretense in their praying. (, Chuck Lawless 8/2/17)


Listen Organizations need to listen to their customers in a way that shows those customers are valued. This is especially important because customers’ expectations are constantly changing. If, for example, company A answers its toll-free number in 1 ring, and you are that person’s next call, she will expect you to answer in 1 ring as well. Customers and donors judge you on what they think ought to happen, not on what you’ve ‘trained’ them to anticipate. Let me help you hear customers and donors. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or


Generosity Gap According to The Generosity Gap, a new Barna report produced in partnership with Thrivent Financial, 67% of pastors agree generosity is always “a response to Christ’s love” vs. 47% of all Christian adults. Younger Christians are more likely than their elders to perceive generosity as always or often a spontaneous response to the circumstances of the moment. Compared to Boomers (28% always + often) and Elders (15%), Gen-Xers (37%) and Millennials (45%) say spontaneity is a core feature of generosity. Adults over 70 are more likely to say generosity is a discipline (62% vs. 51% Millennials) and is planned (43% vs. 31%). More than 40% of pastors say the most important reason to give is “to reflect God’s character by showing love to others” vs. just 25% of all Christians.

(Barna Group 8/1/17)


No Sacred Books In ’09, 45% of American adults read the Bible at least once a week; today that number hovers around 33%. The number of Americans who don’t recognize any books as sacred “has doubled in 6 years, from 7% in ’11 to 14% in ’16.” Barna blames “Millennials (22%) and Gen-Xers (18%), who are significantly more likely than Boomers (8%) and Elders (7%) to say none of the various holy texts—including the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, and the Book of Mormon—qualifies as holy writ.” (CT Pastors 2017)


Christians Are More Likely than Others to oppose embryonic gene editing to reduce the risk of disease in their babies, finds a Pew Research Center study conducted in ’16, a year before the latest breakthrough in genetic engineering. 65% of respondents Pew described as highly religious would not want gene therapy for their babies. Conversely, only 36% of those considered least religious would reject such therapy for their offspring. 75% of atheists and 67% of agnostics would accept the therapy. In its latest study, Pew polled respondents’ views on the potential use of gene editing to enhance people’s health, particularly by reducing the probability of disease over a person's lifetime. The general population of adults was about evenly divided on the use of gene editing in their children, with 50% rejecting it and 48% choosing the procedure. The rejection rate rose to 59% when limited to parents of minors; but 53% of parents with no children under 18 were in favor. Gene editing became less favorable for 54% of respondents if scientists used human embryos as test subjects in developing gene editing techniques. 66% of those with a say, such testing is unacceptable. (Baptist Press 8/11/17)


If It Ain’t Broke—Fix It “Too many people hold onto good ideas for too long simply because they work,” claims Larry Bossidy, former chairman of Honeywell and author of Confronting Reality: Doing What Matters To Get Things Done Right. Smart business strategy not only means setting growth plans for the business or ministry and taking steps to improve productivity, but also identifying the things (margins, inefficiencies, customer/donor satisfaction) that put an organization behind where it wants to be. I can help you confront the issues that separate your business/ministry from greatness! Contact me at 419-238-4082, or


Why You Struggle to Say NO to Your Kids Today, we have a generation of kids who are not used to being told no, or being denied much of anything their hearts desire. This not only has the potential to lead to a dangerous attitude of entitlement, but also to a dangerous and destructive way of life. The Bible makes it clear children need loving reproof, supervision, guidance and correction. Here are 5 reasons why you might be struggling to tell your kids “No”: 1) You’re afraid of hurting their feelings. 2) You’re afraid of the repercussions. 3) You’ve become more of a pacifier than an enforcer. 4) You’re not the one in the driver’s seat. They are. 5) You’ve convinced yourself they’re “just being kids.”  They’ll grow out of it, but they won’t without parental correction when necessary. “Training up your children right in the younger years will set you up for parenting success in the older years.” (, Andrew Linder 8/19/17),


Common Reasons Churches Have a Dramatic Decline We consider a church to be in dramatic decline when the average worship attendance drops by 20% or more in 3 months or less. What causes such unusual declines? Here are 7 common reasons: 1. A scandal in the church. The two most common are sexual and financial scandals. 2. Sudden departure of a pastor or staff person.  3. Closure or decline of a major employer. 4. The church changes its position on a major biblical/moral issue.  5. A power group continues to wreak havoc in a church. 6. Another church moves close by. 7. A highly contentious business meeting. (, Tom Rainer 8/7/17)


What Parents Want in School Barna asked parents to rate 23 characteristics of a Christian school from “essential” to “nice to have” to “not necessary.” A safe environment is the most essential feature when choosing a school for parents of both current (98% essential) and prospective (94%) Christian school students. Next is Teachers who really care about their students (98%), followed closely by “accessible teachers” (94%). Third, academic excellence (95%) followed by intentionally developing children’s character (94%). Also, 82% of parents believe spiritual formation is essential when weighing a choice between different schools.  (Barna Update 8/22/17)


Most People Don’t Want to Be a Sinner According to LifeWay Research, 67% of Americans say they are sinners. And most people are not happy about it since only 5% say they have no desire to mend their ways. 34% of Americans say they are sinners and are working on being less sinful, 28% say they are sinners and rely on Jesus to over-come their sin, 10% say sin doesn’t exist and 8% say they are not sinners, while 15% prefer not to say if they are sinners at all. Only 5% are fine with being sinners. Americans with evangelical beliefs are more likely to say they rely on Jesus to overcome their sin (72%) than those without evangelical beliefs (19%). (BP News 8/15/17)


Hispanic Population Rise There are 24 million Hispanic Millennials in the United States, comprising 40% of the total U.S. Hispanic population. On top of this, 80% of U.S. population growth between ’15 and ’20 will come from minorities, with Hispanics accounting for more than half of this growth. (Christian Market 8/9/17)


Increase Energy, not just efficiency! Through an “energy audit,” understand what energizes your staff and fuels personal growth, which is the ultimate source for creativity and profit. Reduce activities that de-energize your team, and match your employees to activities that stimulate creativity. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or visit (Business Week Online 11/2/05)


Male Clergy are in Economic Crisis, and hanging on to a middle-class status by their fingernails. However, they pursue their vocations despite a strong fear they won’t be able to sustain a middle-class lifestyle or meet middle-class expectations for their children’s education or their own retirement years. According to a Duke Univ. study the clergy’s place within the professional middle class is becoming increasingly tenuous. Mean clergy income has remained relatively flat over the last 20 years, while others with graduate degrees, especially those in medicine and law, have seen their salaries rise. While the average mean salary for a married clergyman with a graduate-level degree was 11% higher in the 90’s than in the ’80’s, salary needs rose 25% for all married males with graduate-level degrees. For married doctors and lawyers income rose 37%, and 30% respectively. In the 90’s, the average mean household income of married male clergy between 45 and 55 with a graduate degree was $54, 044. Doctors were earning $186,630, and lawyers $155,801. Clergy household earnings also lagged well behind those of teachers ($90,250). In the past decade, those with graduate-level degrees earned an average mean household income of $105,539-almost double that of married male clergy. (Insights into Religion 8/17/17)


Distracted Drivers A ’15 AAA traffic safety study shows 80.6% of drivers between ages 35 and 55 say it is completely unacceptable to text or email behind the wheel, yet 77% of them said they talk on the phone while driving and 43.3% said they have read a text or email while driving in the past 30 days. (Home & Away, July/August 2017)


Statistics Show Women who identify as “lesbian” become pregnant at a much higher rate than “straight” women and “homosexual” men are impregnating women at a significantly greater percentage than heterosexual men, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Federalist’s Glenn T. Stanton noted, “That’s a great deal of pregnancy-possible sex going on among teens and adults who are supposedly ‘born that way’ to want non-pregnancy-possible sex.” (LifeSite News 8/21/17)


Media Shift Americans are expected to spend 81 minutes a day watching digital video in ’19, up from 61 minutes in ’15, according to projections by research firm eMarketer. Time spent reading a newspaper is expected to drop to 13 minutes a day from 16 minutes during that time. (Media Intelligence: Heard on the Web 9/5/17)


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