Christian formation has developed from the early days when it was a kind of bricolage of various Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant spiritual practices into a far more developed theory of practices, but what has changed most is that the experience of spiritual formation directors with “students” has formed a much deeper and theologically sound understanding of spiritual formation. Jim Smith, with Apprentice Institute and the Apprentice Experience, is in my estimation one of the brightest lights in the whole movement. I am therefore more than happy to endorse the Apprentice Experience.
Jim has authored several books over the years. His most notable works are found in a trilogy entitled the “Apprentice Series,” made up of The Good and Beautiful God, The Good and Beautiful Life, and The Good and Beautiful Community. Jim also serves as the Executive Director of the Apprentice Institute at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas. I commend these books because their core formation theory is rooted in a deep biblical and formation narrative.
There is important work in the field of Christian spiritual formation currently being done by the Apprentice Institute. Over the past two years, I have enjoyed the opportunity to be involved in a new initiative by teaching in the Apprentice Experience. This is an adult certificate program in Christian spiritual formation designed for pastors, church staff, para-church ministry workers and laity. The participants are eager to learn and fully engaged in group discussions. The questions they ask and the feedback they provide has been impressive. I’ve not been in any group formation class I’ve enjoyed this much.
I would recommend — and have done so — that my students at Northern Seminary take this Experience as part of their own formation into a life of ministry. I also recommend this program for both those in ministry or for those who simply want to deepen their walk with the Lord.
The curriculum, based on Jim Smith’s Apprentice Series, creates unique learning opportunities for participants. The Apprentice Experience is focused on helping people learn more about their God narratives, putting on the character of Christ, and living their Christian faith amongst others. Perhaps the most important teachings involve helping people gain a deeper understanding of the Kingdom.
Frankly, some forms of spiritual formation are unknowingly rooted in an exclusively individual soterian gospel leading to a purely individualistic spiritual formation. But the gospel begins with Jesus and his narrative and incorporates our narrative into his along with others in the way of Jesus so that formation is formation as well into community.
Based in a comfortable retreat center, the Apprentice Experience blends class lectures with personal spiritual practices and group dialogue. Essentially, participants hear it, do it, then process it together. I find this to be an effective model for transformation.
If you would like to apply to the Apprentice Experience or simply learn more about the program, go to: www.apprenticeexperience.org. You can also reach John Carroll, the Director of the Apprentice Experience, directly at firstname.lastname@example.org