Five behaviours of disruptive innovators (Kim Hartshorne)

Kim HartshorneKim Hartshorne outlines five behaviours of disruptive innovators.

Pioneers are often people who find the status quo innately frustrating – mainly because they have seen a glimpse of how it could be better, improved, changed, more fit for purpose. But how do we get from where we are now in our organisations, to where we'd like to be? A bull in a china shop approach might not be the best way!

This article from the website of American media and publishing company, Forbes, talks about 'disruptive innovators' who agitate and help create the conditions where change can begin to happen:

Successful innovation requires the right culture but new or incumbent leaders frustrated with a slow pace of innovation can start making change happen by behaving differently. It takes work, and may require some retraining, but the authors’ point is that anyone can innovate if they follow the five skills of disruptive innovators. They are:

Questioning, which allows innovators to challenge the status quo and consider new possibilities. Example: Howard Schultz of Starbucks and Pradeep Sindhu of Juniper Networks.

Observing, which helps innovators detect small behavioural details – in the activities of customers, suppliers, and other companies – that suggest new ways of doing things. Examples: Rakesh Kapoor of Reckitt Benckiser and Jean-Paul Agon of L’Oreal.

Networking, which permits innovators to gain radically different perspectives from individuals with diverse backgrounds. Example: Marc Benioff of Salesforce. Victoria Barret's take on Benioff.

Experimenting, which prompts innovators to relentlessly try out new experiences, take things apart, and test new ideas. Example: Bobby Kotick from Activision Blizzard.

Associational Thinking – drawing connections between questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields – is triggered by questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting and is the catalyst for creativity. Example: Natura Cosmeticos, the 'Avon' of Brazil, which uses such cross-disciplinary teams to dream up new personal care products.

That's as good a description of pioneering as I think you'll see and I think it can be applied to so many situations we find ourselves in vis-à-vis the inherited church. Slow and steady sometimes wins the race and these skills will be incredibly useful for that.

You can read the full article on the Forbes website.

Do we offer a ‘plausible structure’ to others? (Kim Hartshorne)

Kim Hartshorne asks whether we offer a 'plausible structure' to others.

As a Bishop's Mission Order and small missional community, we at the Upper Room in Cirencester ponder how to appropriately and effectively do mission in our context. How do we reach people who have never heard the good news of the Gospel in a way that makes sense? How do we make sure we show and tell the Jesus story so that our actions and words work together to communicate clearly?

What we've learned over six years is that telling, proclaiming, witnessing and evangelising is just not enough – nor is inviting people into 'our church' and then expecting them to get the hang of it because it makes sense to us. This is somewhat to do with British postmodern society where experience and authenticity tend to make more sense to people than believing a list of doctrinal truths. It also makes sense in our context, where the group of people we're trying to reach have no recent history of following the Christian faith. In the main, they are marginalised people who have not had direct links with Christianity for several generations – or more.

They have no foundation to start from, given that many schools have not held Christian whole-school assemblies for years now and no-one said prayers with them at bedtime. Childhood Bible stories, cheery hymns, Sunday school treats and family Christenings have not been a part of their history. The language of faith is now foreign to many people of white, working class backgrounds.

Life in the Upper Room community is about opening up a space where people, who've lost their thread of connection to the gospel, can come. It is a space where people can be introduced to the narrative and try it on for size, question and explore, begin to find where they belong in the story, taste and see and participate in it. We offer the Upper Room as a 'plausible structure' to others, sharing the story of Jesus, who he is, what his coming, living, dying and rising is all about – and what being in the family of God feels like, eating and praying together.

The idea of 'plausibility structures' was first discussed by Peter Berger in The Social Construction of Reality (Berger & Luckmann, Penguin 1979) and explored further by Sam Richards in Mass Culture (ed. Pete Ward, BRF, 1999, pp116-130). The idea is that we all need spaces, relationships and experiences that enable us to understand, process, internalise and begin to believe and live the gospel. In a surrounding culture that no longer has this belief explicit in its daily story, this becomes important. In order for the narrative to make any sense, people need to be able to experience it, participate in it and chew it around, taste it, see what it feels like, try it out with others.

The need to 'have a go' is a very human characteristic and a facet of learning and growing. We need spaces to practice, and learn from each other's questions and reactions. A community where it is assumed we all agree and believe the same things is often a place where authority and the pressure to conform is subliminating the process of questioning that is a natural part of learning.

Richards posits acceptance into the ritual of communion as access to tasting and experiencing the action that surrounds the death and resurrection of Christ. In joining in, sharing the peace and the bread and wine, people are drawn into the welcome of God at the heart of the faith community. We always ask new people to offer the cup of wine to others at communion, and all are welcome to take bread and wine, as we have seen how transformative the invitation to participate is on people's journey to faith.

Rowan Williams writes in Lost Icons that our development as a person and a self occurs over time, in communities with others, and our self-awareness is shaped by shared understanding (pp140-143). This means we need to be aware that each person brings themselves into dialogue with tradition and culture. Where that has broken down, in terms of our shared understanding of the Christian faith, new spaces need to be made for this dialogue to occur. Williams believes we need a sense of ourselves being held within a narrative, even as this narrative is constantly being re-edited over time (p144). Every event that happens is connected to others and to the gospel and re-orders who we are and will be, so that 'every telling is a retelling, and the act of telling changes what can be…' (p144). In this way, new identities can be explored and inhabited.

This offering of a space and community of fellow humans to journey alongside, a place to retell and reshape our stories in the light of Christ's redemptive story, is what we are all about as we seek to offer a 'plausible structure' at the Upper Room.

The Upper Room – update Dec13

Kim Hartshorne gives an update on the Upper Room at Cirencester as it is granted a Bishop's Mission Order.

It has been a time of celebration at the Upper Room; five people were baptised and/or confirmed from our community in November and Bishop Michael of Gloucester conferred a Bishop's Mission Order upon us. This makes us officially a part of the Church of England, whereas before we were independent of any denominational affiliations. It may seem like a very odd move, for a project that had its own charity status and finance already in place, and so perhaps that requires some explaining.

We were established almost six years ago by four women who between them represented three different churches. The church that may have been the obvious sponsor of this mission project declined to be involved. A second church offered to consider if we were to be one of its 'spokes' but this too came to naught. After a while, we ceased to notice and just carried on doing what we felt God was leading us to do, which was to offer a space where people who were far off from the edges of church could explore faith and spirituality and receive prayer and a sense of belonging. We were hoping to 'show and tell' the Gospel message, and to bless and care for struggling people in practical ways. This was enough to keep us out of mischief and the question of whether we were or weren't a part of the church in any broad sense was not high on our agenda.

A few years later, we had our first part time staff member and some other new leaders and together we began to ask the question whether we should give up going to the various churches we attended and meet together to worship on a Sunday at the Upper Room. Up to that point our activities had taken place on Mondays and Fridays and we had considered them part of our individual offering of worship to God. At around the same time, a new vicar came to one of the churches in the town and he joined the Street Pastors team that operated out of the Room on Saturday evenings. We decided to approach him to ask if he would lead us in an occasional communion service, which over time turned into a monthly communion service followed by a community lunch.

So I guess we officially and publically began to offer formal public worship at that point and others gathered to join us. The people who came along to other activities at the Upper Room quickly gravitated to these times of worship and ate up the rituals offered, along with the obligatory quiche. We began to go together twice weekly with our folks to the brief midday communion service at the Parish church and get to know the team of vicars that led the services there. Then Archbishop Rowan Williams came to visit us last year; this made a deep impact upon many and people began to ask to be baptised and confirmed, much to our surprise. As post-moderns, and also some of the team recovering from hurt and disillusionment with church, formal liturgy and religious ritual was not at all on our agenda, but the truth is when you set something up to serve a people group who are unchurched and they ask for liturgical rituals and find deep meaning and resonance in them, you have to decide if what you’re doing is about what you want personally, or if you are willing to be the servant of what the people want. Sometimes our call is to die to ourselves and our right-on ideas and listen to what the people we hope to reach are asking for, and this has been our experience. Of course we wouldn’t say this is what everybody should do, and we know many new start-ups have had a much more difficult time trying to build bridges than we have. The Church of England is by no means perfect and we are aware of the potential domestication or commodification that could threaten our creative mission.

The reality is we have grown towards the Church of England over some years as relationships on the ground in the parish have been slowly built and invested in; at times this has not gone well, there have been misunderstandings and we have had to re-group and try again. At the same time, the people we journey with have responded positively to reimagined and adapted ritual and liturgy but in our very different setting, which has spurred us on. And our team here have been blessed by the grace shown to us by the Church and have felt the convergence of spirit and relationship that has culminated in the Bishop issuing us the first Mission Order in the Diocese. This is a bit of legislation enacted out of the Mission Shaped Church Report 2004, which allows us to join the body of the CofE but gives us freedom and elbow room to breathe and space to keep our missional identity and purpose. We don't report directly to the parish but gather around the Bishop; we maintain our trustees, charity status and financial independence. (We do not receive any funding from the Church of England, just to allay the fears of some who accuse fresh expressions of leeching resources that ‘should’ belong to the parishes! Nor do we pay Parish Share.)

As we are studying Ecclesiology at CMS on our Pioneer Leadership MA this term, I have been really fascinated to consider the question of when we stopped being a 'mission project' and became a church – indeed some people locally are still unconvinced we are a church at all! I guess I feel that at conception, at the twinkle in the eye of God when he planted the dream in a group of housewives, he saw this as a part of his body, and that it has been an almost six year journey for that to become consonant and allow us to grow towards it. For me, when the Bible is shared, along with prayer and Communion, then relationships start to grow and develop and by the Holy Spirit transform us and others, then that is church.

How this will work going forward, and what God will do with it, I am unsure. But we have journeyed along together, seeking to be open and follow the wind of the spirit and this is where we have unexpectedly found ourselves. When you are the servant of a call from God, you have no certainty it's going to go where you expect or want, but you have to keep saying yes, one step at a time, even when it really doesn't feel like what you signed up for. So, please pray for us as we embark on this next stage of the unexpected adventure!

(This article was first posted on the CMS pioneer mission leadership training website).

Uncovering what is hidden (Kim Hartshorne)

Kim Hartshorne uncovers what is hidden.

I recently went to a 'ReSource' weekend away for people interested in finding out more about mission in very different contexts. It involved going to a location with other practitioners and discovering what is happening on the ground. Based around a project or charity rooted in a local community, it was an experiential time offering opportunity for input, reflection and questions.

It was also a very sociable time with lots of eating and drinking, joking and messing about, confession and truth telling.

Weekends are run by a partnership of ACPI (Anglican Church Planting Initiatives), the CMS Pioneer Leadership training course and the Fresh Expressions team. This particular getaway was hosted by Streetspace and the Frontier Youth Trust.

The theme behind them seems to be incarnational, indigenous mission that bubbles up in a local area out of the soil of genuine relationships – rather than something imposed from outside by people who are not locals. It really helped me to get under the skin, understand and experience what these 'new forms of church' really look and feel like – a much better use of time than reading 1,000 books!

The experience energised me and I came home with a head full of thoughts, challenges and inspirations – and a new self-awareness about where I'm struggling and why. Here are a few of the things I learned, re-learned, remembered or caught a glimpse of:

  • The real scope of the church is much larger, more varied and complex than the part we see that self identifies as the church (or the Church). Wherever relationships, mutuality, people becoming more fully human, expressing creativity, working for justice are seen; these are included in the scope/footprint/body of the church. The medium of human relationships is the fertile soil that the hidden church expands and grows in.
  • Many more people are priestly than those who are ordained and recognised as such by the church. They manifest that via relationships; affirming and enabling the expansion of humanity in another – or the working of reconciliation or justice, or the creation of beauty and creativity. They uncover an enlarged reality and often name or map it for the first time. In these cases, the development of new language and means of expression is often a part of the work they offer.
  • The parts of the body that are identified and uncovered are often unaware that they are not the whole church, and so at times they may behave like the hand that says to the body part that is unseen or unglamorous 'we do not have need of you'. Grace is needed, if you are the pancreas! By the same token, the newly minted parts may say to the old wrinkly parts, we are embarrassed by you. This isn't helpful either; each has different experience of parts of this sacramental road we all travel, and travelling together as guides and companions walking at different paces exposes the beauty we all share.
  • At one point, we saw a plaque by a river that said, 'Uncovering what is hidden'. This sums up the work of pioneers for me but it's also the remit of all humans made in God's image. It includes the church as a part of what is hidden and needs to be seen in a new way, re-imagined for a new destiny.
  • I remembered again that I am energised – as an extrovert and pioneer – by being in the thick of a crowd of similarly energised people. I need the banter, the pacey exchange of ideas and challenges, lots of jokes and messing about with those engaged in challenging situations on the edges of the map. I love being out and about, involved in direct work with people but am somewhat deadened by accounts, admin, management, insurance, form filling and box ticking. Sadly, part of being a grown up and running a safe project has to include some of this, but perhaps praying for others to share the tedious stuff would be wise.
  • I learn most from experience, from being out in the context that is being explained and taught. I smell it, taste it, imbibe it and assimilate it, and then apply what I experience to other scenarios. I learned more than I have done in the entire academic year – as well as being more challenged and excited too. It reminded me of who I am in a way that the classroom never can.
  • The real frontier of mission pushes us along the jagged edge of powerlessness, being a guest in another space, building relationships that grow into the creation of another, new space. Other names for this are a thin place, a third space, a liminal space, or the Kingdom of Heaven. We don't turn up with a solution that we invite others into, we open up spaces together that we build and create in together.
  • When I submit to this powerlessness, I am the beneficiary of the mutual discovery in powerful ways that change and transform me. Perhaps more than those I am seeking to journey with, I need this exchange of life to revive and resurrect me! It’s like a blood transfusion.
  • God is in the business of uncovering the hidden; discovering buried treasure. Often what is most precious is buried in us most deeply – we have protected it as a survival strategy when facing risk, danger or pain. This has been true for me. Encounter with others, sharing their pain, gives breakthroughs to the treasure seeker in each of us. Take the risk!

Time for liturgy to find a different ‘voice’? (Kim Hartshorne)

Kim HartshorneKim Hartshorne asks whether it's time for liturgy to find a different 'voice'.

I lead a small missional community in a small market town that is socially and economically polarised. The aristocracy are often present in the parish church on Sunday mornings, reading the lesson with cut-glass accents gleaned from an elite education. On the other hand, a national survey showed our town to have very low levels of literacy and numeracy with many people barely able to read at all. 

At the Upper Room, we serve and journey with people who find themselves at the bottom of the heap and we are learning to walk slowly together towards Christ. We are presently going through a Bishop's Mission Order process and are committed to the Church of England as the part of the Body we live within. But there are many tensions and dichotomies that we wrestle with in our calling to this context, with conflicting family groups.

We are sure Christ would have spent time listening to the difficult stories of our people. He would have used the language of their everyday lives to weave his story into theirs, showing compassion to those who hung on to him to find hope and healing. We depend on the Holy Spirit for creativity to tell that story in ways it can be grasped and made available, for Christ was accessible to all.

This brings us to a thorny issue, for the Church of England is very dependent upon its liturgy and use of authorised texts for worship, believing that these shape us into God’s people as we say the words together. However, we find many of these are words we cannot say as a community, as they do not reflect our experience of life, or of God. These are not our words; culturally they have not come out of our hearts, our streets or our struggles, and so cannot easily come out of our mouths. What happens in this situation is that many fresh expressions or new forms of church do not use the authorised texts and forms of worship, but creatively frame their own liturgy, empowering people who use indigenous language and expression to find their own authentic voice in lament and worship. 

There have been some surprisingly savage critiques evaluating new forms of church and I wonder if this is one of the unacknowledged reasons: 'If these new expressions keep exploding and growing, while some parts of the parish system shrink and close, will we lose our liturgy, identity, tradition and all we hold dear as a Church?' This is a real question which perhaps needs to be aired much more openly. 

These questions are about power, accessibility, and who writes liturgy – who is allowed to determine how we will speak of God, and to God? Much of the language beloved of the Church historically has been written by people who are white, male, middle class, likely to be privately educated, and perhaps middle aged. It is unsurprising that the language does not reflect my life experience or that of friends in our community. All those descriptors bring with them perspectives – liturgy or theology are not written in a vacuum, but in a context that brings a certain slant and set of assumptions to bear on the words. 

In recent years, the area of theological reflection has bourgeoned as many others voices have begun to be heard. Second- and third- world theologians (labels that are now themselves rejected!), feminist and Marxist theologians, the voices of the marginalised and dispossessed are being exercised. The dominance of the northern hemisphere during Modernity and its academic system is probably over, and as such fresh expressions are not causing this to happen, only following the leading of the Holy Spirit into broader pastures, as many more voices begin to be heard. 

Liberation theology from other parts of the world brings a fresh and vital perspective on living through the struggles of life. In this it shares a similarity with life in a British 21st century small missional community affected by issues of powerlessness, worklessness, debt, hunger and chronic sickness. 

The scriptures do express much of this range of emotion found in the Psalms and the minor Prophets, urging society and the Church to express the justice and mercy that God requires. If we had liturgy which voiced this more urgently, then perhaps we as the Church of England would be changed and shaped, even radicalised, by these words and spill out from our pews to change the world again. Maybe the Liturgical Commission would give up power to groups such as ours to shape our own poetic cry to God, or hire pioneers to help it to listen. Until then, we will do the best we can to honour God, our people and our life experience, and our mother Church and its traditions.

The Upper Room

Upper Room - Kim HartshorneHope Cirencester opened The Upper Room in 2008 with the aim of reaching out to people who had never been to church to show them that Jesus loved them in a way they could understand and relate to. Leader Kim Hartshorne tells how a cup of tea and chat can lead to a world of opportunities.

We provide a welcome and a place of acceptance. We felt that society has become quite fast moving and many people are isolated, not heard or noticed by anyone, especially those who are vulnerable. We felt Jesus would want to welcome them and so we became his hands and feet for that. We try to demonstrate Jesus' love for people – that they are each unique, valuable, precious and made in God's image.

Listen to Karen Hartshorne discuss The Upper Room with Karen Carter.Read the transcript

We run a drop in space called The Upper Room above a shop in the Market Place, Cirencester. This is open on Monday and Friday mornings and that's when we listen and welcome everyone with a cuppa. We run meditation classes, eat out together and support local people and charities. Many people who find their way to us have never had any background in church and so we gently offer to pray if they have a problem, explaining that Jesus does care about the small things of daily life. We try and chat in a relaxed way about what the Bible says, but always offering space for disagreement or conversation. We are helping people start their faith journey and travel alongside them as it develops.

Upper Room - paintingWe have seen some amazing answers to prayers small and large. It is noticeable in the past year however that we have seen our visitors suffering greater pressures than anything we've seen before in the areas of finance, family issues and mental health problems.

As a registered charity, Hope Cirencester's aims are to show the love of Jesus and alleviate need and distress in Cirencester and elsewhere. It all started when a group of us we were praying for our town and we were really hoping to take church out onto the streets and just get involved in a missional 'day to day' sort of way with our community. We were praying for a building on one of Cirencester's estates but we didn't find one so we kept on prayer walking and calling out to God, 'Where do you want us to do this?'

Eventually an estate agent contacted us to say they had a set of three rooms right in the market place so we asked him for the keys and brought a team of about 12 people here, including some church leaders from other churches in the town. We prayed in the building for the morning and very much sensed the presence of God here so we felt that this was the place to be.

The Upper Room is accessible to those who wouldn't necessarily do traditional church because they feel it wouldn't be for people like them, saying it's only for people who are clean and neat and have nice clothes and drive big cars or whatever. A lot of our visitors are homeless or people with addictions, severe depression or mental illnesses, those who have perhaps suffered abuse in the past, people who just find it very difficult to access things that they just consider to be for the well-educated. Perhaps church is too 'intellectual' for them and they need to 'see' the Gospel demonstrated practically in order to grasp it.

Upper Room - bibleSo they come in for a tea or coffee and to talk to us about what's going on in their lives. We offer to pray with them, signpost them to other agencies, and go with them where they need to go or advocate for them if they need us to. Social justice is really connected to the gospel and so when Jesus comes to someone, you would expect to see changes in every area of their life – and that's why we just try and look at where Jesus really would begin to work in their life and we follow on from that. For example we have supported mums learning to read for the first time, sent someone away on holiday for a break, we supply starter boxes to people moving into a refuge and fill up flasks of coffee for homeless people in the town.

The Message translation that says, 'The Word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood', is talking about Jesus transforming whole neighbourhoods when he comes. So we work really collaboratively with all the other churches, charities, Citizens Advice, local council – everybody that will have a connection with us in order to go and try to build bridges for the sake of the Kingdom.

I'm inclined to say The Upper Room is like a mini branch of social services combined with a prayer room and a coffee shop; just like the church in the Victorian era built schools and eradicated slavery, and Anglo-Catholic revival 'slum priests' ministered to the poorest people. Instead of a binary way of thinking that is 'either/or', for us, it's 'all/and'. That to me is a sacramental view of life – everything belongs to God and so we are 'being' church in everything we do.

Upper Room - hotelWe don't have a Sunday expression at the moment but it seems that the Spirit is leading us to consider that and we're really praying and brainstorming and just waiting on God to see what will bubble up. I'm sure something is coming, we don't know what it's going to look like yet, our team is still waiting – but God has gone ahead of us and has a plan.

Our people seem to want things that lead to belonging, they want to be together with each other and be together with us so people will say things like, 'Why don't we go out for a curry?', 'Why don't we invite some people in?' or perhaps we'll have a birthday party for someone. On Easter Sunday we gather at my home for a BBQ to celebrate our belonging – to Jesus and to one another. We're open to all of that because belonging is a big deal in today's society; belonging is such a huge part of faith to me and if we can help people to belong and to feel safe, to join in community and in family together we'll have already done so much of the journey towards the gospel, towards Christ.