John Carroll and his wife, Amber, know the joys and struggles of saying yes to God. In the mid-2000s, John worked in corporate America and lived the American dream, complete with a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house, two cars, two kids and two mortgages. He knew he was being called to ministry, but at the time was so deep in debt that he couldn’t imagine taking on more.
But then he said yes.
In 2009, God called him to sell all he had and move in with a family of five in order to pay off the Carroll’s credit card debt.
“I was a literal rich young ruler,” John said.
The Carrolls lived with their friends, combining paychecks and paying off $60,000 in 18 months. In the fall of 2010, John started school on the Florida-Dunnam campus of Asbury Seminary. While a student, John attended The [Apprentice] Gathering conference with the Apprentice Institute. Here, he met Dr. James Bryan Smith, executive director of the Apprentice Institute.
The two became friends and after John completed his M.Div., Dr. Smith invited him to combine his theological training with his entrepreneurial spirit to develop the Apprentice Experience.
“My wife and I have never said no to God,” John said. “If God was opening a door for us to do something big and start an adult certificate program, then why would we start saying no now?”
John and his family relocated to Kansas in January 2014 and by May of that year, they had the infrastructure in place for a November launch. The Apprentice Experience invites participants from different backgrounds and education levels to go on an 18-month journey that pursues a life more like Jesus.
The curriculum is based on Dr. James Bryan Smith’s model for Christian formation and helps participants understand how they are formed and transformed through narrative and community. Participants gather four times, exploring topics such as their God narrative, personal identity, Christ-like character, and living faith in community.
“One of the things we want to get straight from the get-go is that God loves you, is for you and wants to be in a relationship with you,” John said. “God’s not up in heaven eating antacids because he’s so upset with you.”
Jeff Darnauer, Adjunct Instructor of Theology and Ministry at Sterling College and Pastor of Families and Young Adults at Sterling First UMC, joined the Apprentice Experience in 2016. He had served as a youth pastor for 12 years and was on a trajectory for burnout.