The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. – Eleanor Roosevelt
“Futuring” is a special discipline within the humanities that is used a lot by businesses trying to get ahead of new market opportunities. It is also a fairly complicated and incredibly inexact science with high stakes outcomes for companies seeking to remain profitable in a rapidly-changing world.
Lots of church folks trying to understand the decline of oldline churches such as the United Church of Christ have also become enamored of the techniques from the futuring gurus as a means for reversing this trend.
While studying for my doctor of ministry, we did some study of the disciplines of futuring and looked at ways to apply these insights in a local setting. One of the fundamental assumptions in futures studies is that the future is plural not singular.
In a congregational setting, this plurality of potential futures can be easily demonstrated by simply asking all the members of a spiritual community to imagine their congregation in five years.
Who will be the members of this church? Where will they worship? What will the mission of the church be as the world keeps changing? Will there be enough financial and human resources to carry out that mission? How many of us will still be here in five years?
As we ask these questions, we will all have different dreams about what the future will bring and all will have some degree of probability of coming true. In order to prepare for these different outcomes, it helps to recognize the limits of our ability to know for certain what the future holds.
Our dreams for the future of the church, however, can also inspire us to do the work of building and preparing for those dreams with imagination and faith. But first we must be willing to ask the questions, recognize that there is no “one” right answer, and love one another into the beauty and mystery of our dreams.