The world is continually changing around you, and your past success isn’t guaranteed in the future. You need to be ready to adapt and act. This means looking boldly into the future, figuring out what is possible, and defining the way forward. Just asking the question “What Comes Next?” requires us to think about the future.
But, thinking about the future can be frustrating. We definitely get that! Thankfully, many before us have struggled with the same challenge. In fact, there is an entire field of research dedicated “futures thinking.” You can even get a Masters Degree in futures studies (Ali is so that you don’t have to and we will tell you why).
One of the main differences between taking a class in futures thinking and reading this book is that we offer a gospel-driven framework and consider the future from a Christian worldview. We wanted to create a guide for leaders like you, who are bringing the unchanging gospel to a changing world. As you navigate your organization, congregation, and ministry through this uncertainty, your primary aim is to usher in a future that is aligned with the purpose, vision, and calling God has placed on your heart.
This article is intended to help you understand what futures thinking is, what it isn’t, and why it matters so much to you.
What it is
Futures thinking is an approach to thinking about the future in a structured and intentional way.
It's like putting on a brand-new pair of kaleidoscope glasses and looking at the world through a new lens. It's useful for anyone who wants to spot opportunities, adapt faster, and become better prepared to benefit from the inevitable change ahead of us. In fact, we think this is a critical ability any leader who wants to have an actual impact must master.
Using the kaleidoscope glasses analogy, futures thinking works by systematically considering what comes next through a particular set of lenses. As you turn the kaleidoscope and change your perspective, you view the world differently and it helps you foresee a range of possibilities. From there, you can identify options, develop a strategy, and then act to shape the future.
What it is not
It is not a crystal ball that will tell you what will happen with certainty.
Some get confused in thinking that futures thinking is a like having a crystal ball which allows you to magically know what happens in the future. That's definitely not true! Most people will eventually realize that none of us has a crystal ball that will predict the future.
It’s important to remember that you can’t know the definitive future; only God knows that with certainty.
The purpose of futures thinking isn’t to answer the question of what will happen. Instead, its focus is what could happen and what that means for your organization, church, or ministry. Even though you do not have certainty, you can use futures thinking to have more clarity.
Why it matters
It will help you be prepared for the future you help create.
The goal with futures thinking is not to be right about the specific future but to be prepared for the future because you helped create it.
The Bible itself is clear that we are to prepare thoughtfully for the future. Proverbs alone is filled with wisdom such as “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds”, “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house”, and “the plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty."
Scripture is clear about the benefits of futures thinking, but it also warns us that without planning, we risk going bankrupt—financially, relationally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Futures thinking is powerful. You can use futures thinking as a way of inspecting your beliefs, habits, and assumptions. It can help you reveal your assumptions, break free of your constraints, and reevaluate what’s possible, even with the limitations of your current policies, practices, and processes. Changing your perspective can reveal gaps between today and tomorrow where you can apply innovation. It can also help you identify the areas where the current successful practices should scale up to have the most significant impact. It can stimulate conversation, widen your understanding of what might be possible, strengthen your leadership, and inform your decision making. Rather than waiting for change to happen to you, it gives you a chance to proactively navigate your reality in the direction you want to go.
We encourage you to pick up What Comes Next? and dive into a a futures thinking approach that is informed by the gospel, backed up by research and proven through our work with executives, entrepreneurs, and pastors. If you are in need of a dependable method to navigate uncertainty and gain clarity, invest in yourself and your team, and check out What Comes Next. This book will change the trajectory of your company, church, or ministry.