Johnson University has a rich history of offering educational opportunities for nontraditional students and for making these opportunities available in nontraditional ways. Troy (’14, ’18) Stanley is a graduate of our Florida campus who benefited from these diverse academic opportunities.

Troy was not raised in a Christian home, but he learned about God through Vacation Bible School and the influence of his grandmother. As a high school student in Florida, Troy started attending New Smyrna Beach Christian Church at the invitation of his high school girlfriend (now wife!) Valerie. After three weeks, Troy was immersed into Christ.

Calvin Warden was the minister of the church and encouraged Troy’s growth in the faith. In addition to providing opportunities to lead, Calvin encouraged Troy to attend the Florida campus. But Christian college was not a part of Troy’s plans.

After graduating high school, Troy joined the family construction business, building houses in central Florida. When the housing market crumbled in 1988, Troy and Valerie lost everything but their house. They tried several other jobs to meet family needs, but it was the Navy that proved to be the family’s door to a more secure future. Troy spent 20 years serving in the Navy, and through his service he earned a pension and the G.I. Bill that would pay for a college education.

After growing in the faith, Troy became more interested in theological education. He took a couple of extension courses Florida Christian College offered at Christ’s Church at Mandarin in Jacksonville. Valerie encouraged Troy to reconsider attending Florida Christian, pointing out that Florida’s online program was designed for working adults. The LEAD program offered credit for vocational experience, and Troy was able to complete his undergraduate degree from the Florida campus in just two years. He worked for a brief time in church planting and assisted Greg Marksberry in planting Thrive Church in Lake Nona, Florida.

During his time helping with the church plant, representatives from Johnson reached out to Troy about the Strategic Ministry graduate degree being offered through Real Life Christian Church in Orlando. It was a one-year, high-intensity program that included a trip to Israel.

The combined value of this ministry training and hands-on experience prepared Troy to lead a church himself, and today Troy serves as the lead pastor at First Christian Church in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Troy went to the church, his first ministry, in 2020 amid the Covid pandemic and a great deal of uncertainty. But the church is healthy and growing. On his first Sunday, only 20 people showed up for services. Today more than 80 worship together each week.