In What Comes Next?, Nick Skytland and Ali Llewellyn provide us accessible concept frameworks that make the elements of strategic foresight (“futuring”) meaningful and manageable. I find that motivating! Church, ministry, and agency leaders don’t need (or want) yet another book that is too simplistic–cool, but not practical; or too complicated–erudite, but inscrutable. Because navigating current chaos and future uncertainty is too strategic to our congregations and organizations for us to miss the mark on this.
As futurists, Ali and Nick have years of experience applying their professional expertise to help leaders work with relevant principles and practices. They aren’t here to TELL us what our future holds and what to do. Instead, they provide a roadmap that SHOWS us how to figure out what is POSSIBLE and then apply foresight principles in our own context for what is PREFERABLE. I see this as inspiring hope, and hope is an active verb.
While they acknowledge our mixed feelings about things to come and how emotions can hold us back, they help us hearken back to when we were all futurists as children. They use relatable examples of how play, imagination, curiosity, and exploration set the course for things to come. They implant and feed the seed that we can be active shapers of the future instead of passive clay that takes the imprint of whatever may happen. Yes, we really can impact the way things go! But how?
Nick and Ali detail Four Forces that form this main framework in understanding and applying What Comes Next?–purpose, people, place, and technology. This is not just a set of factors, but a system of forces. A system implies more interconnections and interactions among the members, not just a bunch of independent pieces thrown into a set list. So, various intersections among these Four Forces bring out important questions that help us find clarity in our current times, so we can then navigate our own local situations.
And, as they emphasize, “Clarity precedes strategy. ” So, their equipping process facilitates better discussing, discerning, and deciding. Leaders will (1) learn about navigating uncertainty, (2) apply curiosity and creativity to have more “successful failures,” and ultimately, (3) use these experiences for a more positive trajectory in ministry endeavors.
I appreciate how they’ve made this book engaging for people like myself who process information better in pictures more than words. And in fact, they provide elements that connect with a diverse range of ways people learn: theory and story, principles and practices, statements and questions. But then, that makes sense, if we’re to lead a flock or a team, we need a field guide to conducting and compositing a theologically sound “spiritual MRI” on trends and issues that directly affect us, so we can navigate our way forward with hope and confidence, even in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty.