The future of our church seems in a constant state of flux, and casting a vision for this future is undoubtedly a difficult task. Having recently read Patrick Dixon’s book “The Future of (Almost) Everything”, I have been inspired to create a short series on how we can engage with the work of futurists and develop our people in this space.

Futurist, what?

At first glance, perhaps, you may think I’m suggesting we swap our bibles for crystal balls and tea leaves, but futurism is based on facts and can track its history back to Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687.

So what is a futurist? A futurist combines both science, via research and statistics, with imagination to make educated predictions about our future. These predictions may be about environmental, demographic, cultural, or technological trends. Science fiction fans will probably have engaged with futurists without being aware of it; think of the works of H.G Wells or Arthur C. Clarke. More recently, futurism has filtered into the mainstream, and most companies employ someone to work within this space under various guises.

Whilst a dozen types of futurists have been identified, there are two main tracts.

Social Futurists tend to predict future trends for society and the environment.

In contrast, Methodological Futurists focus on the tools of prediction and projection and how we can claim to make those social predictions.

The following article will investigate the different types of futurists and how they intersect.

So why, as a church, do we need to engage with futurism?

Our actions at this moment will affect generations that come after us, so what church and world do we wish them to inherit?  What can be more important than the future?

Not to be trite, but in our personal lives, we tend to be good at planning for all our tomorrows by investing in our pensions and taking care of our homes and health. Humans tend to be myopic, more than able to gauge cause versus effect as a short-term phenomenon but struggle to look further.

As the Church of Scotland, how do we predict the outcomes of our current actions for the church of our children and grandchildren? How do we begin to imagine the cultural, social and economic costs of not fully engaging with different ways of being church, the five marks of mission or our young people over future years or even decades? A Social Futurist can write or speak compellingly on the visions of our future, driving people to act, whilst Methodological Futurists explore and analyse as I do now.   Embracing futurism will help us survive in our changing society and thrive.

Clare Milrine, Ascend