Jennifer Krueger is the founder of RISE UP! in Georgia. Learn more about their chapters at the RISE UP! website or follow them on Facebook. Contact RISE UP! by email at info@RiseUp4Christ.com. Be inspired by her story below.
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Two and a half years ago, God placed it on my heart to start a high-energy Bible study for kids in our backyard over the summer. A few families came together, made some fliers, and started inviting friends from our local elementary school. Over the course of 6 weeks, we had seen close to 65 kids come through our backyard. Friends started bringing snacks, staying to help, and donating towards supplies. As soon as a meeting would end, I would frantically write the curriculum for the following week. The stories we were hearing from the children and parents spurred us on. Momentum was growing and it quickly became clear that this couldn’t stop at the end of the summer. RISE UP! was born.
We prayed and decided to explore the option of meeting at the public school as a Biblically–based, free, after-school character education program. With non-profit status and liability insurance in hand, we held our first meeting in the public school September 2012. Other schools started to inquire about RISE UP! and with the rapid rate of expansion, we knew we needed help with the curriculum.
We approached 252 Basics and were in awe of the similarities of our vision for children’s ministry. 252 not only came along side of us with encouragement but the resources they have provided us has blown us away. This partnership made it incredibly easy for us to go deeper with the children and adapt to the various environments we see in the different schools. We take a month’s worth of curriculum and condense it into an hour and a half of programming time. We are able to pick and choose a number of games, small group activities and large group skits and allow each school to implement what works best for them based on their school’s space.
We don’t have the ability, time or funds to transform a cafeteria or gym. But with such strong themes and content from 252, we are able to transform the PEOPLE in the room. Volunteers dress up in the month’s theme (beach, 70s…) so when the kids walk in the room, they see a bunch of crazy adults fully embracing the theme. We also then transform the kids in some way—spray paint hair, paint their faces, give them sunglasses—so they are joining in on the experience.
A typical school averages 100 kids per meeting and about 20 adult volunteers, depending on the demographics, although a few of the schools have 150 kids with 60 volunteers! One of my favorite things is the dads who get off of work early one Friday a month to volunteer at RISE UP! To celebrate these committed dads, we usually throw them in a skit, an outrageous outfit, and often they get a pie in the face. But we also use the volunteer devotions “For Leaders Only” to minister to the adult volunteers in a simple, practical way.
RISE UP! Is a free program and each child receives a t-shirt upon registering. They wear that t-shirt the day of the meeting, and this serves as the best advertising for us. Word quickly spreads among the kids. We also love giving CUE boxes, devotions and widgets to every child that comes to a meeting!
Fast forward 2 ½ years and RISE UP! currently meets in 12 public elementary schools—1443 kids enrolled and 463 adult volunteers. RISE UP! is passionate about creating an environment that is high energy, incredibly fun and a cool place to invite friends to come and learn about what it means to follow Jesus. Our partnership with 252 helps us to in our quest to change our communities for Christ by strengthening the character of children. We hope that by teaching God’s word in a culturally relevant way, the children will RISE UP with character, as they stand firm in their faith.