Now That’s the Spirit

Now That’s the Spirit

Youth programs RISEUP and YoungLife centered in faith

As the school year gains momentum, kids and families ease into a regular routine with pockets of weekly free time. The question arises: On which extracurricular activities or leisurely pursuits should students dedicate themselves?

Two of Jacksonville’s faith-based organizations, RISEUP and YoungLife, offer unique, worthwhile events for adolescents where they can spend time with friends, connect with peers older than them and experience Christian faith.

RISEUP, a Christian, nonprofit organization, whose mission is to provide youth with an opportunity to encounter Christ, was founded and has been working in Jacksonville since 2015. RISEUP currently spreads their message through bi-annual events and additional smaller events at select parishes. The events at parishes began this year.

The larger bi-annual events, which take place at The Bolles Middle School campus, are multiple-hour services that center around the idea of having an encounter with the Holy Spirit. The events have many different components to them, beginning with a pre-party, which includes games and time to mingle, followed by a “hype the crowd” event, then a concert and a speaker. The final step is adoration, and the event closes out with a post-party, where attendees can participate in line dances or listen to a DJ. The most recent like this was on March 25, which sold out with about 500 attending; the next is slated for Saturday, March 2, 2024. 

“There is nothing else like it. It is the most moving thing in the world to see a 13-, 15-, 17-year-old feeling the spirit and understanding they’re in a place where everyone loves them,” said Jenny Studer, president of RISEUP’s board.

female singing to crowd

When asked what she wants to see regarding RISEUP, Studer said, “I definitely want to see the big events continue to sell out and for us to need to consider a bigger venue, and also to see more people attend those smaller parish events so they have that opportunity to be moved.”

With the growing enthusiasm for RISEUP’s events, Studer mentioned she and the board are exploring ways to enhance interaction with kids.

“Most kids don’t get to go to a faith-filled concert that has adoration and a speaker, which is what makes RISEUP services really unique. That’s why we are going to continue our mission and hit as many kids as we possibly can with a moment with the Holy Spirit,” she said.

While RISEUP offers larger-scale events to celebrate and practice faith, YoungLife takes a more “relational approach,” hosting weekly and monthly club events, as well as a multitude of retreats and camps.

YoungLife is a worldwide organization for adolescents, dedicated to introducing those adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them walk in their faith. Additionally, YoungLife places a strong emphasis on meeting kids where they are.

“We’re very, very relationally focused. We’re meeting kids on their turf where they’re comfortable – at their sporting events, school plays, their lunchroom – and earning the right to share about Christ with them,” said Marlena Skinner, regional administrator for YoungLife in Northeast Florida.

In addition to engaging with kids’ everyday activities, YoungLife shares Christian messages through Club, a monthly, bigger group format meeting with games and gospel; and Campaigners, a weekly, small group Bible study for kids who are looking to grow deeper in their faith. College-age and older individuals lead Campaigners and serve as mentors for the participating kids.

“We, as leaders, want to walk with them, pour into them, minister to them and equip those kids to go out and disciple others,” said Skinner.

YoungLife was founded in 1951 and has been working in Jacksonville since 1958. It is currently serving 14 different communities in Jacksonville, with programs at Bolles, Episcopal, Bishop Kenny, Riverside Presbyterian Day School, and the beaches, and is relaunching ministry in Arlington at Terry Parker High School this year.

When talking about the relaunching, Skinner said that it has been “super, super exciting, and what makes [her] excited each day is thinking about how to reach the next kid.”

With a focus on discipleship and walking in faith, YoungLife’s end goal is to have kids give their life to Christ and disciple others.

“When you hear about a kid giving their life to Christ, [you] get chills every time. It’s a really special feeling, and it’s a privilege to be part of an organization that has that as their mission,” said Skinner.

To learn more about RISEUP or YoungLife, visit their websites at and, respectively.

By Lucy Rachels
Resident Community News

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