Review: Dancing with Cinderella by Jeff Harlow

John Everett Millais (1829-1896)
Jeff Harlow wrote the book Dancing with Cinderella: Leading a Healthy Church Transition published by Epiphany Publishing.

Jeff "pastored Crossroads Community Church in Kokomo, Indiana for nearly 38 years. Crossroads grew from less than 60 to a congregation of more than 3,000. The scope of the church's mission expanded from serving a handful of families to reaching thousands across north central Indiana. He led Crossroads through a strategic succession plan that ended with the reigns of leadership in Chris Duncan's hands and the church in full stride in its mission" (Amazon).

This book seeks to "help a leader, the leadership teams, and the members of a church think through principles of transition as they prepare for the exit of a current pastor and the entrance of their new leader... In these pages you can discover how to do transition right, so you don't have to figure out why it went wrong" (Cover).

His book is 183 pages with a larger than average font size. He has three parts to his book: Preparing for a healthy transition, the choreography of a healthy transition plan, and living the new day. His premise is that the senior pastor is like a father giving away his daughter to another prince at the point of his transition. It is really hard to let go. However, the transition can be good for all. He uses his own experience to guide the reader through their own church transition. He speaks mainly as a lead pastor to lead pastors; however, there are many questions that I found helpful for all church leaders.


  • What condition would you like your church to be in when the leadership transition starts? 
  • What first comes to mind when you think about handing over the reins of leadership to a new leader? 
  • Who do you think might be the most vulnerable during a time of leadership transition? 
  • What are your church's core values? 
  • What are the areas of giftedness in your church, and who are the gift-bearers?
  • ...Develop a list of the attributes of a successor that you know the healthy future of your church demands. 
  • How would you rank the unity in your church? 
  • What can you do to promote unity in your church? 
  • What, if any, are the challenges the congregation will face in accepting a candidate for a new senior leader? 
  • What do you believe is a healthy action plan to resolve a conflict between the leadership team or you and your successor? 
  • What steps can be taken with your team and your successor to safeguard against lame duck leadership before you leave? 
  • Who will be in charge of setting the schedule and agenda of celebrating the outgoing leader's tenure? What do you hope happens at the parties? 
  • What would you like the pastor's farewell to look like? 
  • What one message do you want to leave that will echo in the souls of the congregation after you're gone? 
  • As a leader, how do you deal with letting go? 
  • What do you look forward to most in celebrating your seventh day? 
  • Do you believe that God has an eighth day for you? What do you think that might look like? (New seasons of service). 


  • Leaders are supposed to lead good people with a worthy mission into the future, not let a movement die when they step away. p.1
  • The transition is not yours to stop, but it is yours to help facilitate. p. 2
  • The transition of my church to another senior leader started after thirty-four years, and that engagement lasted over three years. p. 3
  • ...Nothing educates like an invoice. At stake is your church's dowry, which is instrumental to the success of her future.  It may reek of business to you, but the stability of your church's finances, leadership team, and membership roll is mission critical. You are as accountable for the guardianship of their transfer as you were of their stewardship during your administration. p. 6
  • Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there - Will Rogers. p. 107
  • Leaders who have an enduring influence keep one eye on the compass and the other eye on the clock - John Maxwell. p. 124
  • One notable regret I have is of a party that was mine to throw, but I didn't. p. 132
  • I would never accept a call to serve as a leader within reasonable driving distance of your former church... Those infringements generally follow an unhealthy transition and almost always have an unhealthy impact. p. 152.