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The Ministry Futures Report

by Jay Gary, Jul 22, 2003

ministryready-lHow can our ministries develop leaders that have fluency with a changing and complex future?

Thirteen Christian leaders gathered in San Francisco on July 20-21, 2003 to examine how to raise up leaders of vision, creativity and foresight, through both formal and informal training. The participants represented theological think-tanks, global study centers, ministry associations and doctoral studies programs. The meeting was hosted by Christian Futures.

Our consultation theme was taken from Psalm 61:2 “from the end of the earth I call to thee, when my heart is faint. Lead thou me to the rock that is higher than I.” We examined five topics during our time together, believing that God could take the church higher and beyond “end of the age” thinking.

1. Why Faith Needs Foresight

Jay Gary, president of PeakFutures in Colorado Springs opened our consultation by sharing how both End-Time Bible prophecy and AD 2000 world mission deadlines had failed to set the direction for the 21st century church. He suggested that a new field of ‘Christian futures’ was now needed to help faith serve the purposes of God in our generation. In view of acclerating change, he appealed to 2 Peter 1:4-6, saying we must add ‘foresight’ to our faith. To respond to the challenges before us, Gary claimed we must increase our ‘response-ability’ by adding foresight to our hindsight and insight. For more, see the paper, “Exploring Christian Futures” by Jay Gary, or view the 8 minute webcast by Jay Gary, “Why Faith Needs Foresight.”

2. The Foresight Principle

Dr. Richard Slaughter, foundational professor of foresight from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia opened up the next morning by defining ‘foresight’ as an in-built ability of humans “to create and maintain a high-quality, coherent and forward view and to use the insights arising in organizationally useful ways.” While individuals might reflectively use foresight in their daily lives, foresight in social groups is less practiced. Slaughter shared how businesses in the ’90s such as Nokia or Interface became industry leaders by overcoming this shortsightedness through the use of “strategic” foresight tools, such as environmental scanning or trend analysis. Beyond this pragmatic use, he shared how “social” foresight operated progressively, to give leaders the tools to redesign society beyond the industrial age. Slaughter invited us to become program champions in our organizations and nurture them as “institutions of foresight” that could “highlight dangers” or “create social innovations” and thereby participate in the “deep design” of our society at the “civilizational” level. For more see “Futures Concepts” by Richard Slaughter, a 682 kb .pdf file.

3. Foresight Methodologies

In the second morning session, Dr. Slaughter presented an overview of various foresight methodologies that enable practioners to look beneath the surface and access depth phenomena in society, such as cultural assumptions, mindsets and social metaphors. He contrasted this probing or critical futures work with the more prevalent external problem-oriented futures work or superficial pop futures work. Various qualitative foresight tools were illustrated, including emerging issue analysis, causal layer analysis, the transformative cycle and Ken Wilber’s ‘all quadrants-all levels’ meta-framework. Slaughter claimed these “critical” and “epistemological” tools were re-balancing futures study, that had too long relied on systems or behavioral analysis. Slaughter encouraged us to revise our leadership paradigms and embrace the forward view as a significant domain of study and action. For more on internal foresight methodologies, see the paper, “The Emergence of Critical Futures” by Jose Ramos, a 387kb .pdf file.

4. The New Context of Christian Futures

Dr. Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon Conwell Seminary, offered a review of 20th century literature, illustrating how faith had thought about the future. While many writers had considered the future of the church, they had largely approached the issue from a impressionistic, pietistic, or a pop futures framework. Despite efforts by missiologists, such as the late David Bosch, few Christian leaders had engaged in the kind of depth analysis of the church and society that foresight demanded. The previous evening, Dr. Ted Peters, director of the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences in Berkley, Calif., had shared about his work in bio-ethics and how theologians were working to prevent genetic discrimination. Until ministry leaders become future fluent, they will continue to be prey to repressive populist movements that seek to legitimate themselves through religion. For more, see “The Future of Religion: rise or decline?” by Todd Johnson.

5. The Foresight Process

Jay Gary then framed out a ‘foresight process’ that leaders could use to reinvent their ministries. He shared various stories of how leaders had conciously moved their organizations from “mental model one” to “mental model two” over a period of five years. His map of the “strategic foresight” process included trend foresight, consumer foresight, sector reconception, business reconception and  architecture, and the crafting of a strategic pathway of innovative projects. For more, see the paper, “Why Strategic Foresight?” by Marsh, McAllum & Purcell, 300kb– a .pdf file.  Once there, click on the header, “The Book.”


There was a time when tomorrow merely brought more of yesterday. With the coming of the post-industrial society, that era has now passed. Rather than react to change, faith-based leaders need to understand change and create futures more in keeping with God’s will. Up until now, the balance of our leadership training has focused on hindsight or insight. While character development at the personal or corporate level are vital, we believe faith leaders need to intentionally cultivate foresight. Rather than being built on constants, control and boundaries, Christian ministry can be built change, creativity and connections. We left San Francisco with the realization that Christian leaders must give greater attention to building a fluency with the future. This symbolic mastery of foresight is essential if we are to raise up a church that thrives on chaos. Our next Christian Futures event, September 26-27th in Virginia Beach was the Regent “Foresight Roundtable.”

To be added to the Christian Futures network announcement list, contact:
Jay Gary, Christian Futures Network, 719-636-2000, Contact us.

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