At Three Worlds, we like to introduce the church to young, promising emerging leaders from North America, Europe and the Middle East. We do this in a variety of ways (through internships, mission-trips, 3w seminars) so that the church can follow and keep an eye on our most talented young people committed to ministry. Darren and Amy Adwalpalker (3W Seminar London), and Gina Shaner (3W Summer intern 2011) have been our first 3W Emerging Leaders. This December, we brought our next emerging leader, Josh Weiger over to Europe to help us co-lead 3W Seminars in Liverpool (Birkenhead) and in Paris. The subject was "Developing a Youth Ministry." Josh is the youth pastor at Park Place Church of God in Anderson, Indiana. Here is our interview with Josh:
3W: Josh, tell us about yourself?
My wife Audrey and I currently live in Anderson, Indiana and have been serving at Park Place Church of God for the last 4 years as associate Pastor with Youth. We’ve loved our time of serving at Park Place and find our lives to be whole as we live, work, play, and serve all in the same community. For fun I really enjoy playing Ultimate Frisbee and riding my mnt and road bikes. I love spending time outside doing pretty much anything as long as the weather isn’t too cold.
3W: Tell us about your cross-cultural experiences.
Being globally minded is something that my wife and I do very intentionally as we know God’s love is global and that our decisions really do have an impact on all of our neighbors.
At Anderson University I was first exposed to traveling abroad to the Dominican Republic through the Tri-S program. Since then my love for travel and the global community has taken me to Romania, Hungry, Uganda, Rwanda, London, and now Liverpool, Paris, and Berlin.
I spent 3 months in Uganda right after I graduated from AU doing an internship with some missionary friends in the region.
3W: What do you think the church needs to understand about today’s youth?
Oh where do I begin… I guess the first thing is that today’s youth have the world at their fingertips. The amount of information/ the amount of real life these students are exposed to would be overwhelming even for adults who’ve already experienced so much. For the young minds of our students this much information can be overwhelming to say the least. So many of our students experience great anxiety and fall into all kind of dangerous habits, not knowing how to handle the real life circumstances with which they must deal.
I guess another thing that the church must understand is that students are extremely skeptical of you. The get an unhealthy dose of those who claim to be Christ followers but that aren’t really the hands and feet of Christ. Students have seen the unhealthy church and don’t want to have a part. Instead students of today’s culture want their life to count for something. They are looking for something real, something to provide hope in a culture so overrun with fear and hopelessness.
3W: What has surprised you most about working with young people?
I’m always surprised by how much my time and the time of the youth mentors who invest in our students means to the students. Whether it’s taking a few minutes to write a handwritten note or just taking a few moments to listen about their life. Intentionally investing in students always bolsters fruit in the lives of the student and the mentor. That’s why we go deep rather than wide, long term rather than short term.
3W: In Europe, you were exposed to a very extreme post-Christendom environment in Liverpool and in Paris. What were your impressions of the situation in Birkenhead-Liverpool?
The physical surroundings in Birkenhead are a clear example of the spiritual condition in the neighborhood. Many of the churches in the close proximity are either closed down, run down, or not seeing the use they once did.
It’s not just the churches though… the houses in the area are all row houses. The physical space that these families share is a clear picture of the emotional proximity with which most people in this society bear their intimate details on facebook, twitter, or just interacting with one another.
3W: How do you think the religious situation for young people differs for Northern European Youth as opposed to in Indiana?
The immediate difference that I see is the plethora of cultural backgrounds in the European context. Many of the students in my community don’t get a chance to travel outside the state, let alone get exposed to multiple languages, cultures, and religions every day.
3W: Our 3W Seminar the you co-lead in Liverpool and Paris was about “Structuring a Youth Program.” What part of the seminar do you think was most important for churches to grasp?
Be Present and Engage! As it says in the Message: 1 Cor. 7:17
“And don’t be wishing you were someplace else with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and Obey and Love and believe right there.
3W: Do you have any particular impressions about Three Worlds and its effort to reach out to youth and emerging leaders in Europe/Middle East?
I believe wholeheartedly in the research and observations the Three Worlds team has done and how that has influenced the ministry practices that have resulted. I’ve experienced "the Three Worlds" in my ministry setting, but have not had the language with which to process what I’ve experienced. This trip has been insightful to me and affected the way in which I think about the ministry with which I’m involved. It will greatly influence the lives of those with whom we invest in the future.
3W: You did some sightseeing, what were some of your favorite sights or experiences of the trip?
The Liverpool Cathedral’s “Great Space” truly is a most incredible space that you must see if you are anywhere in that proximity. Just breathtaking! In Paris just about anywhere that Patrick takes you is an awesome place.
I won't soon forget my experience at the Arc de Triumph as I was up top when a political group swarmed together. They quickly collaborated, strung up a large banner and by that point I knew I better get off of that roof. So I hurried down the steps only to see a sea of political pamphlets raining down from the sky. Immediately the police closed the Arc and went to the roof and detained the people on the roof. It was a close call, but good ole' intuition paid off.
While we were in Liverpool we got a chance to go just 30 miles south to Wales… and what can I say except CASTLES!!!!!
3W: We thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to help to lead a 3W Seminar and for putting up with the hectic travel schedule. You are amazing at what you do and we love you!