May 5, 2021

Scenario Thinking

Leaders that start new faith communities tend to be some of the most agile, flexible leaders we have in the Church. In fact, most church planter assessments tend to look for these traits in candidates for church planting. What these leaders are able to do is make meaning within an ambiguous context. And yet across Christian traditions and regions in the U.S. I've spoken with church planters that have been immobilized during the pandemic. During the last year, generative work has often been replaced with stagnation. In place of enthusiastic, energetic, hopeful and joy-filled leadership, some have experienced grief, exhaustion, frustration and boredom. Those are just a few words that could have easily described my emotions on certain days throughout the last year. I'm sure you've felt them too. In fact, I know many church planters have indeed had such emotions.
What I'm compelled to say first is that there is nothing wrong with feeling this way. Considering all that is going on in the world around us it is completely reasonable. The second thing I want to offer is that part of our problem may be that we continue to grasp at one solution. Even as vaccinations continue to roll out and some semblance of normalcy appears on the horizon, we tend to hear people use the term "light at the end of the tunnel." Which may expose part of our problem for those paralyzed by this precarious time: we're only looking for one outcome. 

I'm currently fascinated with scenario thinking. This approach to future planning was brought to my attention by the work of Steven Weber and Arik Ben-Zvi.

"Against the backdrop of such uncertainty, planning seems impossible." They write, "Cognitive biases get multiplied. Wishful thinking and/or paralysis take over. Strategic thought and action is the victim.
Sound familiar?
These two posit whether it might be worth mapping out multiple outcomes so that we can be prepared with different strategies:
"Scenario Thinking is an antidote. It involves a structured effort to imagine different plausible futures in a disciplined way. Then it asks probing questions about what would have caused those future to come about and what implications those futures hold for the business, the marketplace, and the political landscape of the country."
What might it look like for faith communities to apply this? Could it help us map out different scenarios, different outcomes and what corresponding responses might be? One of the greatest outcome of such a practice might be the sense of control it offers us. Such an exercise assists us in clarifying what is within our power and what is not, which is incredibly helpful in times such as this.
I encourage you to take a look at their slide deck.

You can find the second post on "scenario thinking" here.

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