The military has been doing it for years. In fact, there is a large facility not far from where I live that is dedicated to it. Shell Oil Company has also been using this tool very well for a long time. Many other companies have learned from Shell and have followed suit. What is it: Scenario Planning. It is based on the idea that we cannot know the future, but we can create several scenarios of possible futures, and then plan with these in mind.
I have been studying Scenario Planning, particularly as it could relate to the church world. I really believe it has a lot of advantages over traditional “single point” strategy planning. The world is changing so rapidly that the old “Five Year Strategy Plan” is not very realistic these days. Just go back five years from right now and imagine the political, socio-economic, financial changes that have taken place. A plan based on what you knew five years ago wouldn’t be of much help today!
So far the only source I have been able to find in the church world on this is from the ever creative Robert Perry who wrote Futuropting: How Churches can do Multiple Scenario Planning. I haven’t read Perry’s book yet. Currently I am plowing through The Scenario Planning Handbook by Bill Ralston and Ian Wilson. Though this book is written from a business perspective it is very applicable to churches.
I am looking forward to adding Scenario Planning to my tool box. I really believe churches need to catch up with everyone else and begin looking at the future in a different way. My hope is to work with a few strategic churches this fall using Scenario Planning as a guide.