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Futurist Profiles Houston Changes

by Jay Gary, Feb 14, 2008

Josh Ellis keeps track of what is invisible to Houston: their changing ethnic make-up. Ellis is among a new breed of religious demographers who are trained as a professional futurist with an M.S. in Futures Studies.

While most church growth statistics are collected and managed nationally or globally, Ellis is finding new ways to collect local data to understand the shifting multi-cultural character of one’s of America’s largest cities. He is employed by the Union Baptist Association, an alliance of over 600 churches located in the greater Houston area.

Ellis claims, “My work helps pastors re-assess their changing landscape, engage in strategic planning, and lead their congregations in change.” Before Ellis started three years ago, no one was tracking the ethnic shifts among Houston’s population of two million, at the level of spoken languages.

At that time Ellis estimated that there were 90 spoken languages; but research has shown over 200 languages are spoken and more than 300 ethno-linguistic people groups are active in Houston, ranging from large groups national groups such as Vietnamese or Korean, to microgroups such as tribal groups from Asia, Africa and even small Pacific Islands. This has huge implications for starting new churches in immigrant communities.

Ellis completed his M.S. in Futures Studies in December 2006 from the University of Houston (UH) program under Dr. Peter Bishop. Through the years, a handful of Christian futurists have studied at UH, including Cassidy Dale, Jeff Waldo and Tom Hoffmann.

EDITORS NOTE: A year ago Hoffmann joined Jay Gary, director of Christian Futures, as an adjunct at Regent University’s new M.A. in Strategic Foresight program (MSF). The Regent Foresight program is attracting mid-career professionals who are looking for alternative ways to bring transformation to business, community and ministry contexts. Delivered as an online program, graduates learn to:

  • Create environmental scanning systems for organizations.
  • Utilize system thinking models to diagnose problems.
  • Create a baseline forecast of trends in various domains.
  • Lead strategic plan processes for departmental teams.
  • Lead scenario planning processes for leadership teams.
  • Forecast economic, workforce, and community development needs of a city.
  • Forecast impacts of policy interventions at the regional or national level.

Regent also offers strategic foresight training at the MBA to Doctoral level, in courses, tracks and majors.

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