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Scott McConnell to lead LifeWay Research

NASHVILLE (BP) — Scott McConnell has been named executive director of LifeWay Research, a Nashville-based evangelical firm specializing in surveys about faith in culture and matters affecting the church.

McConnell, 45, succeeds Ed Stetzer, who will join Wheaton College’s faculty July 1 as The Billy Graham Distinguished Endowed Chair for Church, Mission, and Evangelism in addition to serving as executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at the Chicago-area college.

McConnell has been a researcher for LifeWay Christian Resources for nearly 20 years, generating in-depth insights into the needs, views and opinions of church leaders, laity and the unchurched.

McConnell joined the staff of LifeWay Research when it was formed 10 years ago.

“Scott was the first person I brought to the LifeWay Research team in 2006, and he has been a key part of the growth of LifeWay Research over these 10 years,” LifeWay President Thom S. Rainer said. “Under his leadership we look forward to many more insights on the church and culture that shape the way we as church leaders approach our ministry.”

LifeWay Research, as a key source for church leaders, ministries and journalists, has been cited in the Pulitzer-winning series on domestic abuse by The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C.; lead stories in USA Today on the rise of the “nones” in U.S. religious life; The New York Times on mental illness and the church; and in cover stories for Christianity Today and Outreach Magazine.

McConnell has had a leadership role in numerous in-depth research initiatives to help church leaders, examining core functions such as pastoral ministry, discipleship and evangelism; helping leaders understand the experiences and perceptions of the unchurched, church dropouts and church switchers; how churches address difficult questions such as divorce and domestic violence; and the needs and perspectives of the mentally ill, women who have had an abortion, young adults and parents.

From its various surveys, LifeWay Research has developed a toolkit of online assessment tools including the Transformational Discipleship Assessment, the Transformational Church Assessment Tool and the Church Planter Candidate Assessment.

In its work for ministries and businesses that serve churches, LifeWay Research also has measured the health of churches and denominations; tested new product ideas and packaging; quantified brand perceptions; and identified motivations.

McConnell, in comments to Baptist Press, said, “For the last 10 years God has provided the team at LifeWay Research with opportunities to research mission-critical topics such as evangelism, discipleship and church health. And we have served other ministries by providing custom studies that addressed difficult issues such as divorce, abortion and domestic violence.

“It is an honor to follow Ed Stetzer as executive director of LifeWay Research. He raised awareness among church leaders that facts are our friends,'” McConnell said.

“It is imperative that church leaders understand the times in which we live today,” he noted. “This understanding cannot be blown and tossed by each day’s conversations. Research anchors our thinking on the realities of our day — real beliefs, challenges and opportunities.”

McConnell is the author of “Multi-Site Churches: Guidance for the Movement’s Next Generation” and coauthor with Rodney and Selma Wilson of “The Parent Adventure: Preparing Your Children for a Lifetime with God.”

He holds a bachelor of science in economics, marketing and strategic management from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Before joining LifeWay, McConnell was mentored in survey methodology and actionable decision-focused research as an associate project manager at NAXION, a Philadelphia-based firm whose research included segmentation, satisfaction and product development research for Fortune 100 telecommunications and utility companies.