Only God Could Pull This Off - (a brief history of QuadW Missional Internship)

How do we form missional leaders?

That is the question that led to the creation of what is now the QuadW Missional Internship. As I researched and questioned people around the country, the work of Forge and the writings of Alan Hirsch and Mike Frost came up repeatedly. It was late 2007. Hearing that Alan and Deb Hirsch were coming from Australia to launch Forge in the U.S. I began to harass Alan via email, asking for his help to launch missional training in our little corner of the world.  Alan was nice but Mobile, Alabama wasn’t what he had in mind for his initial launch site.  (I’ll give you a moment to overcome your shock.)  I conceded the point but shared my own experience of working among young people who were genuinely hostile, not just apathetic, towards the church and the Christian faith.  I had come to understand how much we had failed as the Church, and that the type of church leaders we had were not the types of leaders who could help us reach them.  In April 2008, I drove down to Orlando to meet with Alan before he spoke at the Exponential Conference there.  I left the meeting with his blessing to launch “an early Forge experiment” in the North American context.  Alan connected me to the Forge team in Australia and they graciously sent a giant box full of resources they had developed over many years.  We’ve been a part of what is now Forge America since (see www.forgeamerica.com). 

The help from Alan and Forge eventually led to the launching of two related missional initiatives. One was a process that helped churches become less focused on themselves and more focused on their communities. The other was this internship opportunity for college students.  I shared my ideas related to college students with Johnny Peters, the Wesley Foundation Director at the University of South Alabama. Tapping into his experience, he really helped me think through what that might look like. It was important to me that we provide a stipend to make it possible for college students to participate. Johnny shared that he was part of a group that wanted to support mission experiences for young adults. That group was the “QuadW Foundation.”  When Johnny was in seminary at Perkins in Dallas, he worked as a youth pastor at Highland Park United Methodist Church. One of his students and friends was Willie Tichenor, who at 19 lost his battle with cancer. When it became clear that Willie’s treatment options had run out, he asked his family to support cancer research so that others might have options he didn’t. He also asked them to make transformative mission experiences possible for other young people, because those had played such an important role in his own life. To honor these requests, the “What Would Willie Want” or “QuadW” Foundation was established. The board members are Willie’s parents, brother, and closest friends. The Foundation was already funding cancer research and the internship idea was just the kind of thing they were looking to support. It was an amazing God moment. The QuadW Missional Internship program has grown through the years and has many supporters, but the QuadW Foundation has always provided the vast majority of the resources necessary for stipends and other costs related to the program. The program simply would not exist without their ongoing support and there aren’t words to adequately express our gratitude. Learn more about this group and their incredible work at www.quadw.org.

A Note About our Name Change. “Formerly 3.0.”  

In our first years, the name for both the church training process and the internship for college students was “3.0 Missional Leadership Training,” or just “3.0.”  That name resulted from a fun conversation with Johnny Peters, as well. We are both United Methodist pastors, and the churches we were working with were United Methodists as well. In an email, Johnny suggested “Methodist 2.0” for a name. I responded that we could shorten it to “Meth 2.0,” advertise and have our meetings in a rough part of town, and take “missional” to a whole new level!  More seriously, I suggested it would actually be Methodism 3.0. We started as a missional movement that dramatically changed the culture (version 1.0), then we became much more institutionalized and inwardly focused (version 2.0), and now must learn to become missional again, but in a post-Christendom context (version 3.0).  Johnny emailed back, “What about just ‘3.0’?”  Genius! Within a few years, though, I asked the QuadW Foundation if we could change our name to “QuadW Missional Internship” to honor Willie and those who make all this possible.  They approved the request. Since the beginning, our goals remain exactly the same.   We want to help young people understand the Christian faith in a thoroughly missional way and encourage them as they become part of God’s transforming work in the world.  We want to serve God in struggling communities in a way that makes a long-term impact.  And, we want to partner with churches and agencies in those communities, helping them connect more deeply with their own neighborhoods and supporting their long term ministry goals there.

There’s a lot more that could be said, but this is essentially the story of how we came to be.  God has been so good to us and it has been a deep privilege to do my littlepart.

---- Don Woolley | National Director, QuadW missional internship