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Futurecast: What Today's Trends Mean for Tomorrow's World


There are three types of people when it comes to the future: those who will watch what happens, those who will make it happen, and those who will wonder what happened. Which will you be?

Our society has widespread and unprecedented access to information, but what do we do with it all? Who do we trust to accurately track our societal trends, interpret them, and see possibilities for the future—and how can we help to shape that future?

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Futurecast: What Today's Trends Mean for Tomorrow's World

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There are three types of people when it comes to the future: those who will watch what happens, those who will make it happen, and those who will wonder what happened. Which will you be?

Our society has widespread and unprecedented access to information, but what do we do with it all? Who do we trust to accurately track our societal trends, interpret them, and see possibilities for the future—and how can we help to shape that future?

The answers lie in Futurecast, an insider glimpse of today’s world—and tomorrow’s. Researcher George Barna will inform you about the trends that are soon to change your life and environment, equip you to face them, and encourage you to stand among the visionaries who create the future rather than react to it.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781414324067
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/18/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Georga Barna is the author of 47 books, including bestsellers such as The Frog in the Kettle, The Power of Vision, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, and Revolution. His most recent books include New York Times bestseller The Cause within You (with Matthew Barnett) and Maximum Faith. His books have won a variety of awards and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Founder of The Barna Group, a leading research firm focused on the intersection of faith and culture, he currently leads the faith development ministry Metaformation and is also a founding director of the Strategenius Group, a business development and marketing firm. George lives with his wife and three daughters in Ventura, California. Visit
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Table of Contents


INTRODUCTION Why Futurecasting Matters: Making Sense Out of Information Overload....................vii
CHAPTER 1 How We Live and How We Want to Live: Our Lifestyles and Aspirations....................1
CHAPTER 2 Family Life: Foundations, Continuity, Disruptions, and Possibilities....................27
CHAPTER 3 Attitudes and Values: The Mind Stuff That Defines Us....................53
CHAPTER 4 Media, Technology, and Entertainment: The Tools and Conduits That Define Our Lives....................81
CHAPTER 5 Americans' Religious Beliefs: The New Train of Thought....................123
CHAPTER 6 America's Religious Behavior: Practicing What We Think We've Preached....................153
CHAPTER 7 Institutional Faith: The New Face and Emerging Emphases of Organized Religion....................177
CHAPTER 8 Our Profile: Demographics Are Not Destiny....................201
CHAPTER 9 Together We Can Redirect These Trends....................219
APPEND IX A Defining Our Terms....................227
APPEND IX B About the Research....................231
About BarnaBooks....................257
About George Barna....................259
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First Chapter




Copyright © 2011 George Barna
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4143-2406-7

Chapter One


Our Lifestyles and Aspirations

As recently as twenty years ago, people around the world longed for the American way of life. The global fantasy was that Americans had it all figured out, and anyone living in the United States had it made. But times have changed. Not only has the standard of living risen in many countries around the world, but the lifestyle of the average American has suffered some serious setbacks over the past quarter century—especially during the recession of 2007–2010. The United States is still a wonderful and desirable place to live—as evidenced by the millions of immigrants who still attempt to gain entry each year and cross-national surveys showing comparatively high satisfaction levels among American residents— but conditions and expectations have dropped a few notches.

What's Happening with Our Standard of Living

Americans are generally comfortable with their standard of living. Almost two-thirds say they have a higher standard of living than their parents did at the same age, even though median household income levels have fallen in the past ten years. Because median household income has risen by 40 percent since 1970, people fifty and older have less angst about the recent economic collapse than do younger Americans. Almost six out of ten adults (57 percent) believe that as time goes on, it will be increasingly difficult to achieve the American Dream.

Thanks to the recession, Americans have received an overdue wake-up call that has altered their economic thinking and behavior. Personal savings were in the 7 to 8 percent range during the 1960s and 1970s—until the onset of the 1973–1975 recession. At that point, savings ballooned to 14.6 percent in 1975 before declining to prerecession rates once the economy returned to health. During the economic insanity of the 1990s, though, the savings rate declined again, this time due to excessive personal spending and risky investing. By 2000, the savings rate had plummeted to just 3.5 percent, and it dropped to a mere 1.3 percent in 2008.

While savings dropped, debt rose to unprecedented levels: Household debt rose from 60 percent of household income in 1982 to 130 percent of income in 2007. Saving money became a thing of the past. Federal Reserve Bank statistics show that between 2005 and 2008, many people had blown through their savings and were literally spending more than they were making.

Public hysteria about the economic crash began a reversal of people's unrestrained spending, such that by April 2008, the savings rate had "rebounded" to zero. Since then, scared by high unemployment rates and declining salaries, people have begun to save again, and the savings rate has climbed back to the 4 to 5 percent range— not enough for many families to recover from previously incurred debt, but a move in the right direction. Whether it is too little too late, given the federal government's $13 trillion debt load, remains to be seen. Equity declined substantially as people borrowed against the value of their homes, relying on the prospect of better times in the years to come. But those hopes were destroyed with the crash of housing prices and stock market values. Home values, which had quadrupled from 1982 to 2007, declined by more than 25 percent during the slump, producing record numbers of foreclosures. Families whose net worth was tied up substantially in their home equity took a particularly hard hit.

Further, over the preceding twenty-five years, the stock market had soared as well, creating sizable gains for many investors. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, one popular indicator, increased by a factor of fifteen during that period. But when the market crashed, it took with it many people's dreams of a secure future. Money invested for retirement plummeted so much that by 2010 the number of people who believed they would be able to draw anything from their savings or home equity was in decline, and growing numbers of citizens were counting on a potentially bankrupt Social Security system to keep them afloat once they left the labor pool.

At one point, Federal Reserve Board statistics estimated that the economic freefall had cost Americans about $15 trillion in net worth. Mincing no words, a recent Nobel Prize winner in economics, Columbia University professor Edmund Phelps, warned that it could take up to fifteen years for people to restore the money they lost in the recession. Indeed, the nationwide financial blow is largely responsible for about half of all small-business owners (47 percent) eliminating retirement from their future plans. Many (41 percent) expect to reduce their workload at some stage in the distant future, but a greater share are concerned that the magnitude of their recent losses—in savings, personal income, and business revenue—precludes the possibility of retirement altogether. In their minds, retirement would be forced on them only by poor health. Millions of Americans justifiably lost confidence in the system as they watched news of record layoffs— and dreaded the possibility that they, too, could lose their jobs and benefits; saw numerous small businesses go under; and realized that they could be stuck in their current jobs for years to come without a meaningful raise in salary. They were angered by the unimaginable greed and dishonesty of a parade of busted financial managers (starting with Bernie Madoff and Goldman Sachs) who squandered people's investments and by mismanaged corporations (including AIG, Bank of America, and General Motors, among others) that received federal bailout money. The result is an era characterized by widespread fear, discouragement, confusion, anxiety, and doubt.

The Boston Consulting Group estimates that roughly 100,000 households in the United States have a net worth of $20 million or more (including real estate). That's a lot of money, but let's put those numbers in context: Those 100,000 households represent less than one-tenth of one percent of all U.S. households, and even that number may be too high. The IRS estimates that only half as many households are actually in the $20 million–plus category. In 2007, according to the Federal Reserve Board, the median household net worth was $120,300, and the mean was $556,300. More recent data, through the end of 2009, suggests that those figures have declined, with the median closer to $100,000 and the mean in the neighborhood of $450,000. Of course, the recession did not hit everyone with equal force. We still have a "wealth gap"—a situation in which the top one percent of households earns 19 percent of all pretax income (up from 12 percent in 1990). Households making $100,000 or more comprise 17 percent of the population but account for 37 percent of the nation's spending. On the other hand, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the wealthiest one percent paid out 28 percent of all federal tax revenue in 2008, and the wealthiest 10 percent contributed 55 percent of all tax dollars. The effective tax rate for the top one percent of earners is 31 percent, compared to a rate of just 4 percent among the bottom 20 percent of earners. Despite this disparity in taxes paid, the bottom line is that millions of Americans are now living on the edge. A December 2009 survey by TNS revealed that half of all American consumers fear an unforeseen financial challenge because they no longer have any personal financial reserves or external means of handling a sudden economic crisis. And that doesn't even include major crises such as funding cancer treatments or rebuilding a home destroyed by a natural disaster. In fact, more than 150 million adults believe they couldn't cover even a minor personal crisis, such as the need to replace the transmission in their cars, the need to replace the roof—or even the furnace— in their homes, or the cost of a non-life-threatening illness that required hospitalization. Adults would consider a wide range of options to get through a crisis. Half said they would be willing to drain their savings (but we know that the average American household saved less than $700 in 2008); one-quarter said they were willing to ask relatives for help (but their family members may be close to the edge as well); one-fifth said they would try to get an extra, part-time job (but the competition for those limited opportunities has stiffened considerably); another fifth reluctantly noted that they would run up bills on their credit cards, despite paying horrendous interest rates; and one out of five also agreed that they would be likely to sell some of their possessions to generate quick cash. In sum, roughly two-thirds of the nation's people are changing their minds—not only about spending and savings patterns, but also about what a "reasonable" lifestyle looks like. The consequences of decisions made before the recession continue to produce both suffering and redefinition, which in turn have altered our national psyche and affected our lifestyles— but not always in ways you might imagine.

For example, you might expect to see Americans turn to a lot of creative solutions—but would you expect more couponing? That's right, those little cents-off slips of paper that were so common in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, but fell out of favor during the following decades of excess, are making a comeback. Inmar, a leading coupon processing firm, says the number of redeemed coupons rose by 27 percent in 2008, from 2.6 billion to 3.3 billion— the largest single-year jump in more than twenty years. Nielsen, which tracks consumer spending patterns, reports that the rise was aided by "extreme couponers"— generally upscale females, 54 and older, who redeemed 104 or more coupons over a six-month period. In the years ahead, you'll likely hear a lot more about value in products and services and see the emergence of a new generation of businesses that cater to discount-minded shoppers. Walmart, of course, already has a leg up on the competition in that market niche, but soon you'll see discount offerings in everything from funerals (increased cremations, cheaper caskets, no-frills ceremonies) to concert tickets (lower prices, greater quantities of cheaper seats, and more artist products available for sale at the show to compensate for revenue lost through lower ticket prices). More companies will introduce loyalty programs that reward consumers for consistent patronage. (One study, by Colloquy, found that one-third of consumers are now drawn by such programs, citing them as a "more important" part of their household's financial model.)

If Americans were truly committed to lowering the cost of living, one step they could take would be to reduce the number of lawsuits filed and pursued each year. The aggregate cost of legal action topped $250 billion in 2007, an amount that represents a "litigation tax" of $835 per person, up from $722 in 2001, and compared to just $12 in 1950. Resolving disputes in less costly and less hostile ways—the financial burden of which is often passed along to consumers—could lower our cost of living considerably, while potentially diminishing our stress levels at the same time.

What's Happening with Our Perspective on Life

Given the shock to the system that many Americans have received over the past few years, it's not surprising our stress levels have been rising. On any given day, about one-third of adults, and even higher proportions of teenagers and college students, report that they are feeling "stressed out." Dr. Richard Rahe, creator of the widely used Life Changes Stress Test, has also discovered that the nature and intensity of our life stresses have changed since 1967. Certain events—including several that are now common for a growing proportion of Americans—have become relatively more stressful than they were in years past. Those events include the death of a family member, being laid off or fired, pregnancy or the birth of a child, the death of a friend, a child leaving home, and changing one's job field. Interestingly, events that are relatively less stressful than before include the death of a spouse and divorce— indications that our marital relationships may have less emotional impact on us than we'd like to believe. Beyond the obvious financial challenges that many Americans face, what ignites our emotions and causes stress in our lives?

On the one hand, we are a people who worry. Among the dominant worries we harbor are concerns about the moral condition of the nation (86 percent worry about that). More personal worries include things such as addictions (12 percent) or feelings of loneliness and isolation (9 percent). And though most people believe they are fulfilling their calling in life (71 percent) and are making a positive difference in the world (78 percent), those two goals become burdens as people seek to reach their potential.

On the other hand, we are a people who try to look to the future and who typically believe the best is yet to come. Still, the recent downturn and the long-term economic challenges facing the nation have reduced both the number of people who are optimistic and the level of certainty about the good times they hope to encounter. Some everyday things we look forward to include a good night's sleep (71 percent), time with friends (55 percent), and listening to music (54 percent). We also embrace long-term hopes, plans, and dreams that give shape and identity to our lives—such as being in good health (85 percent), living with a high degree of integrity (85 percent), having one marital partner for life (80 percent), having a clear purpose for life (77 percent), having a close, personal relationship with God (75 percent), having close, personal friendships (74 percent), living a comfortable lifestyle (70 percent), enjoying a satisfying sexual relationship within marriage (66 percent), having children (66 percent), living close to family and relatives (63 percent), and being deeply committed to the Christian faith (59 percent). Whew! That's a lot of pieces to the puzzle for a person to develop and organize, but it gives a good sense of what really matters to us and how we will apply our resources.

Perhaps you've noticed that a few outcomes you might have expected to rank high on the list didn't register— such as achieving fame (7 percent), having the latest and greatest technology and electronics (11 percent), owning a big house (18 percent), or working at a high-paying job (28 percent). Most adults are not opposed to those experiences, but such things are not the life outcomes that motivate most Americans to get out of bed every morning.

By the same token, Americans have adopted some distinct limitations when it comes to decision making. For instance, there is a widespread reluctance to sacrifice downtime just to make money or to become better informed. Likewise, people are generally unwilling to give up public services in order to cut taxes, or to reduce personal pleasures and entertainment to be more connected to other people.

What does it take, then, to be happy? One recent study discovered that it takes a healthy annual income, but that money alone doesn't do it. Based on an analysis of surveys among 450,000 adults, Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman concluded that the more money people earn, the more contentment they experience in the moment—until income reaches $75,000. After that point, the additional toys and comforts afforded by increased income do nothing to improve their current mood. However, additional income beyond that point does seem to improve people's overall satisfaction with their quality of life and place in the world, if not their level of day-to-day contentment. So, making money is not a magic formula for joy and contentment—but anyone who reads the Bible closely already knew that. But old dreams die hard, even in the face of empirical evidence to the contrary. For instance, a substantial plurality of adults dream about becoming rich. When offered the option of being richer, thinner, smarter, or younger, 43 percent opted for the money, with fewer desirous of being thinner (21 percent), smarter (14 percent), or younger (12 percent). The remaining 10 percent had no interest in any of those four options. Wealth was of slightly greater interest to men (46 percent) than women (41 percent), whereas being thinner was twice as appealing to women (29 percent) as men (14 percent). Surprisingly, men were twice as likely as women to desire being younger (16 percent versus 8 percent). In a culture in which celebrities are often thought of as glamorous and carefree due to their wealth, it may be natural to pine for more money, but wealth is a lure that rarely fulfills people's expectations.


Excerpted from FUTURECAST by GEORGE BARNA Copyright © 2011 by George Barna. Excerpted by permission of TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Posted October 31, 2011

    Do Not Be Left Behind- Read this Book

    FUTURECAST: what TODAY"S TRENDS mean for TOMORROW'S WORLD by George Barna Typically church leaders and their congregants are Left Behind when it comes to an understanding of the cultural milieu in which they find themselves. Before they know it, they get galvanized or pulverized in the milieus quicksand and are stuck, unable to pull themselves out or are crushed underneath it's weight. But that does not have to be the case. George Barna's Futurecast helps all of us have an astute, deep and detailed view of what is going on with society, church, family, religion, faith education, books, music, technology and a host of other important topics and dynamics which when realized can help the church be pro-active and astutely Christ-active in the world, particularly our Western society. I want to be a church leader who takes seriously the research that Barna presents. I don't want to rely on the wisdom that God gave me for yesterday's challenges and adventures, I want to rely on "the now wisdom". The kind of wisdom that helps to foster creative, passionate, missional and Pneuma filled/inspired church environments that change ourselves and the world we live in. We can redirect trends that we find to be destructive and beautifully create trends that are Christ-conscious and constructive. Barna asks a poignant question: "There are three types of people when it comes to the future: those who will watch what happens, those who will make it happen, and those who will wonder what happened. WHICH ONE WILL YOU BE?" Tyndale House Publishers has provided me a review copy of this book.

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  • Posted October 4, 2011

    Eh, not really worth the buy.

    Futurecast, by George Barna, is a book describing his lastest research on American trends related to religion, technology, family, and values. Barna wrote it to encourage Americans (specifically Christian Americans), to hear "reality" and then to live the change that they would like to see.

    This book is heavy on the research findings, and if you are unaware of what is going on in the above categories of American life, it may be quite useful. If you don't put a lot of stock in statistics, don't read this book. I found that by simply talking with people and being a careful observer of life, I could have come up with these conclusions myself. Some people need statistical data to validate their everyday life, so if you work with people where this is the case (or are one of those people), this could be a handy book for you to use as a reference tool.

    A few of his findings were surprising, one of them being that couples who co-habitate before marriage are no longer any more likely to divorce than couples who do not!

    I enjoyed Barna's sentiment with the book, and I think the points outside of his statistical reporting could have been written in a short online article. This isn't a book that I would really recommend to friends.

    Thanks, Tyndale House, for providing me this book for free to review-- and allowing me to express my authentic thoughts!

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  • Posted September 13, 2011

    If facts are your friends, then this is a must read

    I really enjoy the multitude of facts about the world we live in today. A number of them you understand instinctively but there are others that are a total surprise. I enjoyed it because I do beleive that if we arm ourselves with facts then when we have conversations with others we are not debating conflicting opionions but the truth as described in the book.

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  • Posted June 12, 2011


    It has been said that they only constant in life is change. Regardless of how much we like, or dislike the present way of life, the future will look nothing like it. In George Barna's latest book "FutureCast; What Today's Trends Mean For Tomorrow's World", he shows us how current trends in areas such as lifestyle, family, media, religion, faith, and economy will affect our future. Barna, founder of the Barna Research Group, has compiled extensive research on factors and trends in today's society and organized them in an effective and easy-to-understand manner. Barna says that there are three kinds of people when it comes to the future: those who will watch what happens, those who will make it happen, and those who will wonder what happened. I appreciated the breakdown of this book. In each chapter, Barna gives the research that reflects today's trends. At the conclusion of each chapter, there is a section which forecasts what is likely to happen in the future. I was surprised by a lot in this book. I was also discourage by a lot of what I read. Between the facts and figures and the future forecasts in areas such as marriage and institutional religion, it is clear the evangelical community has many challenges ahead. As a pastor, I found the chapters on faith and religion the most insightful and helpful. It has also been said that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. FutureCast helps to make sense of why things are the way they are and how to prepare for the years to come. I recommend this book for all church leaders in order to better prepare for future ministry I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale in exchange for my honest review.

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  • Posted June 11, 2011

    "It is what it is" but doesn't have to stay that way! Read how!!

    I despise our current culture's mantra "It is what it is." It's like throwing your hands in the area and saying "whatever". It's an excuse to do nothing and just accept the world as it is. Perhaps sometimes this is an appropriate response, but it's never the place to end. It can be the beginning point for moving forward. George Barna, renowned researcher and founder of a leading research firm focused on the intersection of faith and culture, explains there are three types of people: 1) those who will watch what happens, 2) those who will make it happen, and 3) those who will wonder what happened. In his book Futurecast: What Today's Trends Mean for Tomorrow's World, he challenges the reader to understand the societal changes in our world of readily-accessible information at the touch of a finger and to decide which type of person you will be. In this book, Barna explores American trends in the areas of lifestyles, hopes and aspirations, family life, relationships, attitudes and values, media and entertainment, technology, religious beliefs and behavior, churches, and demographics. Using statistics from his research, he explains what is happening in various aspects of each of these areas and then reflects on what this means for the Christian. I loved Barna's discussion on the trend toward mediocrity, but my favorite chapter in the book was the last one in which he explains how we can redirect these trends. However, this chapter was much too short - I wanted to read more! While the statistics could easily plummet you into depression, the author offers encouragement by suggesting that we allow God to transform us through a dynamic relationship with Him instead of the world, a starting point for impacting the world for Him. If you are interested in the current trends of our culture and how they may possibly shape the future through a Christian perspective, this book is a good read. I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from Tyndale House.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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