Why Much of What We Know about Pastoral Transitions is Wrong 

by J. Russell Crabtree

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Publication Date:  September 2015

This latest book from Holy Cow! Consulting studies the data from nearly a thousand churches and makes some startling discoveries regarding what happens to churches during a pastoral transition.  In a relatively brief number of pages, Russ Crabtree provides answers to questions like:

  • What happens to the morale of a typical church as it moves through a pastoral transition?
  • Why do conflict levels in a typical church tend to intensify during a pastoral transition rather than improve?
  • Why does the trajectory of a church through a pastoral transition not track what we might expect with a grief reaction?
  • What are the typical losses in attendance and giving during a pastoral transition and what are the impacts of those upon the congregation?
  • Do interim pastors typically help congregations become more flexible as they prepare to welcome a new pastor or not?

The book ends by proposing an entirely new way of thinking about pastoral transitions and suggests a transformation in the way we train interim pastors.

The myth of the grieving congregation in transition has finally been challenged with sufficient evidence to allow for “site specific” plans to emerge.    – Reverend Rebecca L. McClain

This book beautifully articulates what astute consultants have noted for years. Fear of the unknown and its uncertainty is a basic human characteristic that is the source of poor decisions, then wandering in the desert, and finally feelings of resignation.                                                                 – Dr. Keli Rugenstein, PhD, Director of Clergy and Congregation Care

Intrigued by the proposition that interim ministry is “overdue for some rethinking,” Russ began poking around in the Holy Cow! database and then turned (as he always does) to careful, systematic analysis of the data.  He began rethinking his own thinking about pastoral transitions and came away absolutely convinced, as he said to me, “we need a new model.”  So he designed it.    – Dr. James Pence, PhD, Walkalong Consulting