Church Leadership Books

Front Door Back Door

In this groundbreaking book, Russ Crabtree explores some of the most basic assumptions that leaders make regarding the churches they serve. He discovers:

  • The characteristics of churches people tend to join and why there are so few of them.
  • The three things that churches tend to do well in developing the people who join them, whether conservative, progressive or somewhere in-between.
  • The areas where people tend to coast without much growth even after years attending a typical church.
  • The areas where people tend to experience deterioration over time; the longer they stay in a typical church, the less positive they feel.
  • On the whole, churches are not learning. Churches with more seasoned members tend to fare no better than churches with more “rookies” in attendance in dealing with conflict, mission or engagement. The author proposes a core competency model that is aligned with a church’s particular mission so congregations can be more fruitful and, in the words of Jesus, bear fruit that abides.


Owl Sight

Leading a church in the 21st century can be a bewildering experience as tried and true programs fail. Ministry approaches that have proven fruitful in other church settings often yield disappointing results. Both leaders and members wrestle with the feeling that they are missing something important.

Organizational Intelligence

Consultant J. Russell Crabtree identifies this missing component and names it organizational intelligence. Church leaders and members are immersed in the life of their church. However, they typically have little clarity regarding how people are experiencing the church overall. They might not understand congregants’ hopes for the future, or the patterns of thinking and behavior, unique to their congregation, that must be addressed to realize their vision.

Owls survive and thrive by seeing what other creatures do not see. The effective church in the 21st century will be one that invests in the kinds of information that are enabling other organizations to be effective in the world today. As churches move beyond simply counting attendance and dollars, and pay equal attention to the quality of the experience that members are offered, a whole new landscape opens that was previously invisible.



Penguins in the Pews

We are living in an age of the “de-churched” — people who have walked away from the church, but not from faith. In this book, J. Russell Crabtree examines the responses of nearly 200,000 persons to a variety of questions, including:

  • Why is the distinction between quality and quantity both false and unhelpful?
  • What makes the difference between a church that is growing and one that isn’t?
  • Why does a church growth “program” seem to work in some churches, but not in others?
  • What kind of church climate do people need to experience to stay involved over the long term?
  • What is church culture, and how does it aid or inhibit church growth?
  • When does a church need to stop focusing on surviving and shift to leaving a legacy for their community?



Transition Apparitions

This book studies the data from nearly a thousand churches and makes some startling discoveries regarding what happens to churches during a pastoral transition. The author proposes an entirely new way of thinking about pastoral transitions and suggests a transformation in the way we train interim pastors. Russ Crabtree provides answers to:

  • 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 State of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America

This book represents findings from 287 Presbyterian congregations, with 40,000 responses from the members of those congregations. The churches include those of every size, from those with under 100 in worship attendance to churches with over 1,000 persons in worship. While mega- churches and family-sized churches possess different characteristics, they share this fact in common: member experience matters.

Because the Presbyterian Church is a denominational system, this book includes  an assessment of the relationship between local church members and their presbytery. It explores those perspectives, experiences and aspirations using a separate instrument called Landscape™. This is one of the larger studies of its kind in the PCUSA. This includes 13 different presbyteries with over 3,000 leaders reflecting on the work of their presbytery.




The State of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America

In his reflection on the responses of nearly 41,000 Episcopalian congregation members to a variety of questions, Russ Crabtree addresses a number of topics including:

  • How does the experience of Episcopalians compare with other mainline denominations?
  • What are the five promises that Episcopalians want their churches to make and keep?
  • What factors make the difference between Episcopal churches that are experiencing vitality and those that are struggling?
  • How are Episcopalians experiencing life in their congregations over their lifecycle? This includes from the teenage years and young adulthood, through child rearing and eventually, retirement.
  • What are the aspirations of Episcopalians for their churches, and how do these vary through congregants’ individual generations?

“…Russ Crabtree helps us live out our promises as a church that inspires our witness of God’s will and dream.” – Susan Tamborini Czolgosz



The State of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

In his new book, The State of the ELCA, J. Russell Crabtree examines the perspectives, experiences, and aspirations of a large cross section of members in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In his reflection on the responses of nearly 60,000 members to a variety of questions, he addresses a number of topics including:

  • How does the experience of Lutherans compare with other mainline denominations?
  • Which groups feel most positive and which groups feel less positive about their experience in the Lutheran church?
  • Factors that affect church vitality versus churches that struggle.
  • Church experiences, from the teenage years to young adulthood, and through child rearing to retirement.
  • What are the aspirations of Lutherans for their churches? And, how do these vary from Boomlets up through Boomers and the GI Generation?
  • What are the motivating factors for giving among Lutherans? Do these differ from one congregation to another?

“This book is a must-read for congregational leaders, synod staffs and synod councils. For those who have ears to hear, it will guide us into more effective and faithful leadership.”
– Bishop Wayne N. Miller, Metropolitan Chicago Synod



Fly in the Ointment

An ecumenical resource that helps churches and church leaders begin to think about how to transform themselves into vital, flourishing organizations. This transformation requires deep, systemic change on the part of the bodies that are meant to help congregations live into their mission in the world.








Elephant in the Boardroom

Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree have written a nuts-and-bolts guide to developing a succession plan for smoothing pastoral transitions. Filled with strategies and solid advice, this handy resource is based in solid research and the authors’ many years of experience working with churches in a wide variety of denominations. Weese and Crabtree clearly show that leadership succession should be part of every church’s planning process.

"Working with Crows Feet Consulting and Michelle Snyder has brought significant blessing to our congregation and its leadership. Michelle's strong knowledge of and history with "the workings" of congregational ministry as well as her professional qualifications as a therapist are an incredible combination that we are fully utilizing. In addition, Crows Feet's use of and expertise in organizational intelligence has left us with a very strong foundation on which we plan to discern and build the next decades of ministry at Community of Grace Lutheran Church. I cannot recommend their team highly enough. If you have the opportunity to work with them, take it!"

— Community of Grace Lutheran Church


Michelle Snyder
(814) 758-2056