The Red Letter Disciple Episode 12

012: Scott McConnell on the Statistics that Pastors Get Wrong

Lifeway Research Executive Director Scott McConnell gives some encouraging data about discipleship and the church. He dives into the future of the church and shares what encourages him about the next generation.

Join the FREE webinar on August 11th at 1 PM CST called “Fund Your Vision—Don’t Let Money Limit Your Ministry.” Phil Ling, President of The Giving Church, will be joining me and we’ll dive into how The Giving Church has helped more than a thousand churches raise more than a billion dollars. They also commissioned a study with more than 4000 churches and uncovered some incredible data that we will bring out in this webinar. Phil will talk about what he has learned through both his experience and through this unique study. You won’t want to miss it. We will be giving away loads of free stuff as well! You can sign up at

Resources mentioned in the episode:

Lifeway Research

Most Teenagers Drop Out of Church When They Become Young Adults

Despite Stresses, Few Pastors Give Up on Ministry

Red Letter Challenge Assessment

5 Actions That Will Immediately Encourage Discipleship in Your Church

About Three-in-Ten U.S. Adults Are Now Religiously Unaffiliated

The Parent Adventure by Selma and Rodney Wilson and Scott McConnell

Americans Hold Complex, Conflicting Religious Beliefs, According to Latest State of Theology Study

Key insights from the episode:

Scott McConnell

Christians like to inflate the percentage of people leaving the church. One statistic that is not true is young adults leave the church and never come back.Scott McConnell

Our latest research was in 2021, and only 1.5% of pastors are stepping away from the pastorate in a year. – Scott McConnell

We tend to overinflate leaving rates (young adults and pastors). – Scott McConnell

We tend to want to toss out membership numbers these days because they aren’t great, but they are still relevant and an important indicator – Scott McConnell

We are trying to understand the discipleship needs so we can help people take a step closer to Christ and to encourage them to spur one another on to love and good deeds. – Scott McConnell

If you are anything but a small congregation church you cannot cover all the discipleship needs for each person, so tools and assessments are going to be a great systematic tool. – Scott McConnell

One of the challenges we face in surveys is to ask about more than just actions, we try to get at their desires, heart issues, and beliefs. – Scott McConnell

We asked what statistically predicts a closer walk with God and found that praying for opportunities to share your faith with others moved into the top spot.Scott McConnell

29% of Americans indicate no religious preference/atheist/agnostic and that percentage has gone up 1% every year for the past decade. – Scott McConnell

We spend significant time studying other world religions statistically, if we are about maximizing, then we need to be spending at least as much time reaching the atheist or agnostic. – Zach Zehnder 

People, whether they are followers of another religion or no religion, still have core human needs and if we can be sharing the gospel in a way that points to Jesus and how he satisfies in a way that no other source can, that’s our opportunity. – Scott McConnell

The numbers you see from statistics never tell the whole story. If the numbers look impossible, the Holy Spirit is still working. – Scott McConnell

People that are in a small group on a weekly basis are more likely to read their Bible, serve within and outside the church, tithe, and volunteer.Scott McConnell

A young person is 3.5 more times to stay in church if at least three adults poured into them at a young age and they can name them.Scott McConnell

Young people’s failures tend to be those that we pass on to them or reactions to the previous generation.Scott McConnell

As parents, one of the biggest encouragement you can give is to keep engaging with your teens and trying even if you are only getting one word back. – Scott McConnell

Scott’s Challenge of the week: Have a short conversation with God about opportunities that you can have this week to share your faith. 

How well are you following Jesus? 

Many want to be greater followers of Jesus but don’t know how. We did an extensive study of everything that Jesus commanded of us and located 5 key targets into which Jesus invites His followers. The five targets are Being, Forgiving, Serving, Giving, and Going.

In partnership with LifeWay Research, we created a Red Letter Challenge Assessment that will measure you according to these five targets. And the best news of all: it’s free! Not only will you get results back immediately, but you will also be presented with next steps to help you become an even greater follower of Jesus.

You can take the FREE Red Letter Challenge Assessment here. 

Some not-so-key insights:

I have found that 100% of the audience of Red Letter Disciple Audience has better lives. – Zach Zehnder

0% of people are leaving the podcast midway in this podcast. – Scott McConnell

57% of statics are made up on the spot. – Scott McConnell

Watch the entire season for free: 

We’ll be uploading every episode of season one of The Red Letter Disciple on our YouTube Channel. If you aren’t subscribed already, you can do so here!

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