Program Description

The Apprentice Experience is an 18-month journey in discipleship intended for anyone who wants to go deeper in their study of Christian spiritual formation. During the four on-site gatherings, participants will learn from some of the brightest minds in the field of Christian formation. This journey is indeed experiential, with a balanced mixture of lectures, soul training exercises, group processing, and solitude/silence to hear God’s still small voice.

Participant Criteria

The Apprentice Experience is designed for Christians from various backgrounds and traditions. Pastors, church staff, para-ministry workers and lay leaders from multiple denominations are encouraged to apply. The curriculum of the Apprentice Experience is challenging, yet accessible for most people. You do not need a seminary degree in order to qualify. The most important criteria is a sense of calling to the study of Christian spiritual formation.


Community 4

  • November 6-10, 2017 / Spiritual Life Center – Wichita, KS
  • March 19-23, 2018 / Spiritual Life Center – Wichita, KS
  • October 23-27, 2018 / Apprentice Gathering (AI’s Nat’l Conference) – Wichita, KS
  • May 6-10, 2019 / Spiritual Life Center – Wichita, KS

Community 5

  • September 10-14, 2018 / Spiritual Life Center – Wichita, KS
  • March 25-29, 2019 / Spiritual Life Center – Wichita, KS
  • September 25-28, 2019 / Apprentice Gathering (AI’s Nat’l Conference) – Wichita, KS
  • May 11-15, 2020 / Spiritual Life Center – Wichita, KS

Community 6

  • November 4-8, 2019 / Spiritual Life Center – Wichita, KS
  • March 23-27, 2020 / Spiritual Life Center – Wichita, KS
  • September 23-26, 2020 / Apprentice Gathering (AI’s Nat’l Conference) – Wichita, KS
  • May 3-7, 2021 / Spiritual Life Center – Wichita, KS


The curriculum for the Apprentice Experience is based on James Bryan Smith’s model for Christian Formation. His triangle of transformation consists of the three main angles how people are formed, and ultimately transformed: narrative, exercises, and community. The four gatherings will take a deeper look into these important issues. For example, Gathering One will examine the role of narrative in our spiritual lives, looking particularly at Jesus’ narratives about God, personal identity, and the Kingdom of God. These gatherings will have an academic dimension to them, but equally important is the experiential aspect—hence the title, the Apprentice Experience. We will be practicing the classic spiritual exercises, alone and in groups, and meeting together to process how God is shaping us through these practices.

Prior to submitting an application, it is important to give careful, prayerful consideration to the qualifications for the Apprentice Experience. The criteria listed below is intended to help potential participants determine if they are spiritually prepared and compatible for the course curriculum. The Apprentice Experience is both ecumenical and inclusive. We are open to men and women who are seeking God and who desire growth while in Christian community. We encourage Christians from any ethnic background or people with disabilities to apply.


The cost of the Apprentice Experience is $6,000, which includes lodging, meals, instructors, and some supplies. Travel to the four retreat locations is not included in the cost. Three installments of $2,000 are spread out to make payments easier for the participants.

The Apprentice Experience is intended to be a spiritual investment, not a financial burden. The goal is to enhance your journey in discipleship. While we recognize that the tuition is a factor in the decision to apply, we do not want cost to be the only reason to prevent participation. There is a limited amount of financial assistance available through private contributions to the Apprentice Institute. Please be considerate of those who truly need help in this area. We also suggest checking with your local church to see if financial support is available.



Dr. James Bryan Smith (MDiv, Yale University Divinity School; DMin, Fuller Seminary) is the Executive Director of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith is currently a theology professor at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, and an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. He is the author of eight books, most notably The Apprentice Series (InterVarsity Press), which continue to shape the work of the Apprentice Institute.


Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. He earned his B.A. degree from Grand Rapids Baptist College (now known as Cornerstone University), an M.A. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from the University of Nottingham.


Keas Keasler is the program director of the Master of Arts in Christian Spiritual Formation and Leadership and a theology professor at Friends University. Previously he was the teaching pastor of Rhythm Church in Miami, Florida, a non-denominational church he co-founded in 2010. He has his B.A. from Baylor University, M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in theology. Keas has done extension work in the areas of spiritual formation and missiology, presented at various conferences around the country, and serves on the board of the Ecclesia Network, a missional network of churches and leaders in North America. Ordained as a Baptist minister, Keas has a deep love for the global church, having traveled and done mission work in over forty countries and preached on six continents.


Shane Claiborne graduated from Eastern University and did graduate work at Princeton Seminary. In 2010, he received an Honorary Doctorate from Eastern. As a peacemaker, his journeys have taken him to some of the most troubled regions of the world – from Rwanda to the West Bank – and he’s been on peace delegations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Shane is the visionary leader of The Simple Way, a faith community in inner city Philadelphia that has helped birth and connect radical faith communities around the world. He and his wife, Katie Jo, launched the Simple Way community in 1995. Shane writes and travels extensively; his foci are peacemaking, social justice, and Jesus. Some of his books include: Jesus for President, The Irresistible Revolution, and Common Prayer.


Dr. Keith Matthews is Chair of the Graduate Ministry Department and Professor of Spiritual Formation and Contemporary Culture at Azusa Pacific University’s Graduate School of Theology. He is also an ordained pastor, church consultant, and retreat speaker. As a “teacher to pastors,” Keith’s expertise is in Christian Formation and Leadership, along with Contemporary Cultural issues in ministry. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary where he taught with Dr. Dallas Willard in Fuller’s Doctor of Ministry Program. He has written articles for Sojourners Magazine, Conversations Journal and Christianity Today, as well as designed and co-authored Dallas Willard’s Study Guide to The Divine Conspiracy, and The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation. Keith was also a Co-Editor and Author of The Dictionary of Everyday Theology and Culture. Keith is married to Christa and has three grown children, Cori, Kyle and Kate, and resides in Southern California.


Jan Johnson is the author of twenty books (including Abundant Simplicity and Invitation to the Jesus Life) and truckloads of Bible studies. Jan speaks frequently at events and is an adjunct professor at Azusa Pacific University and Denver Seminary. She has been a spiritual director for 20 years and holds a D. Min. in Ignatian Spirituality and Spiritual Direction. She lives with her husband in Simi Valley, California


John oversees the Apprentice Experience, as well as directs the Institute’s digital platform and Wichita-based local pastor’s network. With a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary, John brings a unique blend of experience (corporate recruiting and the local church) to the Apprentice Institute. John is happily married to his wife, Amber, and together they have two children, Aidan and Amelia. In his free time, John enjoys reading, watching football and spending time with family and friends.


J.R. Briggs is the founder Kairos Partnerships, an organization that partners with, equips and invests in hungry kingdom leaders through coaching, consulting, speaking and writing. He is also the founding pastor of The Renew Community, a Jesus community for the hungry and the hurting in the Greater Philadelphia Area. He is the author of several books, including three with InterVarsity Press: Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure and Eldership and the Mission of God and Ministry Mantras with Bob Hyatt. He and his wife, Megan, have two sons, Carter and Bennett, and live in the heart of Lansdale, PA.

Northern Seminary

Doctor of Ministry, Transformative Discipleship

The Apprentice Experience is a valued ministry partner of Northern Seminary (Chicago, IL).  Our partnership has formed a program intentionally designed for Christian leaders who desire a deep experience in personal discipleship while simultaneously growing in the capacity to bring transformation to others within their own ministry context.

In between the four Gatherings, students deepen their learning as they interact and reflect biblically and theologically with their seminary professors through meaningful academic assignments. The curriculum includes four cohort gatherings, plus three core online Doctor of Ministry courses and a practical thesis project.

If you are interested in exploring a Doctor of Ministry in Transformative Discipleship, click here to learn more.

Contact The Apprentice Experience

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