Thursday, March 03, 2011

Thinking about the Future

Churches spend a lot of time on visioning processes and strategy planning.  Of course, sometimes these are a waste of time and effort.  The work is done and put on the shelf, leadership changes, or the ministry context changes due to unforeseen circumstances (economics, demographics, etc.).  This does not mean that we should not think about the future and the opportunities that God will provide in coming days, months, and years.  There are always open doors for those who look for them.

In his e-book The Knight and the Gardener, futurist Cassidy Dale writes:

The future cannot be “won” for any one party, group, nation, or religion.  Instead, the longer term we think, the more we realize we can only enable good futures to emerge by building robust capacities for people to solve problems we cannot yet foresee.

Dale suggests that rather than pursuing a simple “problem-solving” approach, we should seek to discover a “meme”—a contagious idea—or a “metaidea”—an idea that enables other ideas to arise.  This approach enlarges our vision and opens our eyes to previously unseen possibilities.

There have been many of these throughout history.  I would submit that putting the Bible in the vernacular language of the people was such an idea, one which had unexpected consequences even for those who translated and printed those early versions.  In contemporary times, the free flow of information on the Internet through Facebook, Twitter, and other applications has had unexpected consequences for authoritarian regimes around the world.

What “meme” or “metaidea” will transform your ministry by increasing your capacity to dream or conceptualize?  Just thinking about this approach can open new doors for you.  This is a good time to move beyond processes and programs to powerful ideas.

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