Looking to the future – what next?

Ascend & Faith Nurture recently hosted a series of two-part conversations involving a wide variety of people from across the church to engage in creative thinking and preparation for the season ahead, asking questions about the new things emerging and encouraging agile thinking for complex season of transition.

These documents provide you with the framework used in those conversations, so that you can host similar conversations in your presbyteries, networks and congregations.

 The Conversation

The idea is to gather a few people who have minds which enjoy enquiring, imagination which can be stimulated and an ability to see beyond today’s concerns. These conversations will be hard work if we only gather people who want to be given answers, because we won’t have them!

Invite people to a two part conversation, online, using the best platform available – it really helps to be able to see everyone on the one screen. Set good expectations and a clear focus (more below) with people. Something between 60-90 minutes will be enough for each session.

Preparation work

This film by Todd Bolsinger https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHpOpBYqogI  encourages helpful thinking. Encourage people to watch it before they join the conversation.

Also ask them to reflect on these questions from their perspective, for the whole of your church / network etc and for the area where they have greatest involvement.

  • What of the learning / experience of this season of lockdown do we wish to keep?
  • What from this past season is not sustainable?

The format of session one

Set expectations for our time together – we are here to engage, grapple and notice things, say what we can see as we look ahead. We will generate good thinking for one another. This is a safe space and no one will repeat things said here in another context.

An introduction to each group member, no more than 90 seconds per person (perhaps use a timer!), bringing the headlines from their answers to the preparatory questions. Remember, this conversation is about looking ahead and not simply rehearsing all that has gone on during lockdown, so don’t allow this section to grow too long.

Explain the primary purpose of this conversation is to ask “What can we see?” as we look ahead to this season beyond lockdown, when we still have a way to go before a new normal. The first conversation is deliberately broad, picking up all areas of life and church.

Spend the remaining time asking a few (around four) of the questions from the accompanying document. Don’t choose too many, and feel free to discern what is right for the group you have.

It may be helpful to stop in enough time to ask something like “What one thing might you begin to think about, pray into, plan for or do as a result of this conversation today?” and give people time to think / possibly answer out loud.

Take time to pray as you finish. Then set some simple homework for next time.


Encourage people to further engage with the questions raised in session one. What might they be able to discern or see differently as a result of this conversation?

Preparation for session two, considering the future of the particular ministry area they are involved in or you have asked them to speak about. We anticipate a season of a mixed economy of people shielding and others with more freedom, as well as the possibility of another future lockdown. How will this affect this area? What might be possible that wasn’t possible before?

Session two

The host should identify the best way to run this session, based on the issues involved and the dynamics of the group.

We are looking for opportunities to simplify. We also want to equip people to be the church wherever they are, not only when they come together.

NB. Caution too much talking about how we return to ‘what was’, and instead look for the new possibilities and refreshed engagement ahead.

At the end of session two, it’s worth noting a few things…

  • A summary of the key, helpful things identified
  • We might reconvene in the autumn as we experience more phases of change
  • Anything you might encourage individuals to do, pray for or think about going forward.