Experience. Serve. Lead.

IF you’re between the ages of 18–24, you’re in an incredibly important time in your life. You’re making big decisions that will shape your future. You’re stepping out on your own. For many, a gap-year is a great way to discover more about your gifts and talents, interests and God’s calling on your life as you make those big decisions. As part of your preparation for wherever the Lord is calling you, a gap-year can be a great time to be part of something bigger than yourself, to grow in your faith, and serve the Lord.

The EXSEL Discipleship Program will allow you to do all those things and more. In addition to the unique opportunity for discipleship and spiritual growth, you’ll be gaining valuable vocational experience while working in various areas of the ministry, such as: guest services and hospitality; horsemanship; programs and operations; youth programs; facilities and maintenance; housekeeping; and food service.

Are you interested in learning more about who God designed you to be? Are you ready to be challenged to grow and mature as a disciple of Jesus? Are you ready to be part of a dynamic ministry and Christian community? Do you want to gain valuable work and leadership experience that will help prepare you for wherever the Lord is calling you?

Applications for EXSEL are due 28 February of the year in which you want to begin.



You have questions, and we have answers. Browse our list of FAQs.

Browse FAQs

Are You Ready to EXSEL?

Download an application now
Find out more about EXSEL

Meet the EXSEL Director!


Introducing Jim and Claudia Marrs
By God’s expansive and precious grace, both Jim and Claudia Marrs have been walking with Jesus for over four decades. Since 1980, they have walked this path happily united in holy marriage. God has blessed them with five adult children and four grandchildren. Throughout Jim’s 33 years of military service, they have hosted a number of home Bible study fellowships and have been actively engaged in their local church. The goal of their lives together has been to both live out and impart to others steadfast love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5). Most recently, they, along with their youngest daughter, Stephanie, served as the host family while living in a church-sponsored women’s shelter. Jim and Claudia are very excited about now serving at White Sulphur Springs through the EXSEL discipleship program, actively facilitating opportunities to Experience, Serve, and Lead.

Invitation to Participate – Prospective Interns
Jesus sometimes removed himself from the press of the crowds to commune with a few of His dearest followers or even to be alone with His Father for a time. Have you ever sensed the need for this kind of “refuge” from the demands of this world? Are you uncertain of the path God has for your life? As disciples of Jesus, we all require periods of reflection on His Word, as well as frequent opportunities to roll up our sleeves and devote ourselves in sacrificial service to others, as Jesus did. Such times help us better comprehend the person of Jesus and the purpose He has for us in this life. Consider taking a season to serve and thrive in the picturesque setting of White Sulphur Springs, with the hopeful expectation of discovering God’s direction through the guided Experience, Service and Leadership opportunities of the EXSEL Discipleship Program.


The EXSEL Discipleship Program exists to provide a Christ-centered discipleship experience integrating spiritual growth, vocational experience, and educational opportunities. We are seeking 8–12 young men and women who desire to pursue God through lives of servant leadership in their future vocational callings. Believers between the ages of 18 and 24 receive the gift of being immersed in an 11-month-long, positive, challenging, and highly relational environment. Cohort members join the White Sulphur Springs team and receive a truly unique discipleship experience, as well as vocational mentoring as they work and serve as part of the team, and opportunities to pursue their academic interests—all tailored to their walk and life goals. Through this unique opportunity, participants gain valuable experience, learn how to serve joyfully and are given opportunities to lead.

Program Details

Who? Believers between the ages of 18 and 24 who desire to grow and mature in their Christian faith and are committed to the Officers’ Christian Fellowship ministry at White Sulphur Springs.

When? Be immersed in an 11-month-long, positive, challenging, and highly relational environment (September-August). There is a fall “semester” that runs from the start of the EXSEL program in late August or early September through our Winter Retreat season that ends in early January. After a short break, the interns return for the spring semester that runs from mid-January through late May. Pending successful completion of the spring semester, the interns will be invited to assume leadership positions on our Summer staff as a capstone leadership event.

What & How? The White Sulphur Springs Conference Center applies an integrated approach to discipleship by linking experience, service, and leadership (EXSEL) in each of the three developmental areas of the experience: spiritual growth, vocational training and academic opportunities. Following their orientation to White Sulphur Springs, interns join the team as fully contributing members, while enjoying their unique discipleship experience.

Click a tab to learn more about each of the three developmental areas of the experience.

The EXSEL program provides a truly unique opportunity for discipleship that is just about as close to what the 1st century church experienced as you can find. Interns join the White Sulphur Springs community, where we work, serve, eat, play and generally “do life” together. Through this immersive environment, relationships are formed and from these relationships, discipleship blooms. EXSEL interns are provided “formal” opportunities for spiritual growth through directed readings, seminar style discussions, journaling, and reflective papers as part of their “class time” each week. This formal discipleship training each week covers relevant topics such as: Christian worldview and apologetics; conflict resolution; prayer; marriage and relationships; financial stewardship; and servant leadership. Discipleship happens throughout the rest of the week in one-one-one discipleship relationships with a member of our ministry team, by working and serving shoulder-to-shoulder with the Ministry Team on a daily basis, and in our homes as we welcome them as part of our extended families.
Interns will have the opportunity to work and serve as members of the White Sulphur Springs team, gaining valuable experience across a wide variety of vocational areas. Opportunities exist to serve in areas such as: guest services and hospitality; youth programs; with the horse program; in facilities and maintenance; with our food service team; in housekeeping; and in programs and operations. Regardless of where you serve, each intern will receive practical skills training in a face-to-face mentoring relationship with their ministry team leader. Through the course of the program, interns will advance from observer/server to learner/server to practitioner/server to leader/server, in a context reminiscent of the close relationships of the “trades” over a century ago. The EXSEL model of ‘experience, serve, lead’ comes together in their vocational training, in which they apply their accumulated spiritual, vocational and academic experience through the year to serve and lead guests and one another in the servant leadership model of Jesus Christ.
EXSEL members have an opportunity to participate in academic activities that support their personal goals and are consistent with their academic progress and abilities. Interns wishing to get a head-start on future college plans – and those wishing to add to their undergraduate education – have every opportunity to enroll in the online programs of their choice. Those without plans for college will have time to and are encouraged to develop individual reading, study or hands-on plans on topics or skills of interest to them that will help them develop and grow towards their future vocational interests and calling.
Selections for the current EXSEL year are made by 1 April

Are You Ready to EXSEL?

Download an application now