It’s hard to believe but I’ve been in pretty much full-time ministry now for 27 years. I’m originally from California, but have lived here in Georgia since 1997, minus a 3 year stint in Colorado. I am honored and privileged to be the pastor of RISING Church. It is a responsibility that I do not take lightly. Personality-wise I am very laid back. You won’t find me wearing a robe or suit, or even a tie for that matter. I’ll be the guy up front wearing jeans and a casual shirt. I like watching movies, listening to music, traveling, and hanging out with my wife and 3 kids.
I accepted Christ at the young age of 5 but it didn’t really mean anything to me until the summer going into my freshman year of high school. It was then that my eyes were opened and I understood that I could never earn my way to heaven by being a good kid. I needed Jesus as my Savior, the perfect sacrifice for my sins and shortcomings. I also needed Jesus as my Lord to direct my path and lead my life. My life has never been the same since that summer. Although I am far from perfect, God is at work in me daily shaping me to be more and more like Jesus. I have been blessed by God with a full and abundant life. Sometimes my life is way too busy, but I am cherishing each day I have to get to know the God who created me and who loves me better.
I was born in Orange County, California
Favorite Scripture Romans 12:1-2
Lori grew up on the Jersey Shore with her Mom, Dad and two younger sisters. She became a follower of Jesus in 5th grade and was called into ministry shortly after graduating college. Almost immediately after college Lori worked several administrative jobs while volunteering in the children’s program at Bethesda UMC. After serving as the VBS Director Lori was offered the part-time position of Director of Children’s Ministry. Lori served as children’s director for 11 years at Bethesda (full-time for 7 years) and then was called to serve seven years at Sugarloaf UMC. In September of 2012, Lori joined RISING Church in the North Gwinnett Community. At RISING she served as Director of Children’s Ministry for 1 year and transitioned to the position of Associate Pastor in 2013.
Lori met her husband Phil while in college at St. Thomas University in Miami, FL. They married in 1990, and they have two children: Chloe and Colin. Chloe graduated from Georgia Southern in 2014 and is teaching Math at Clarkston HS in Stone Mountain, GA. Colin is enjoying his time in college at Valdosta State University and is a member of the VSU Basketball Team. We have one dog, Bernadette, and a cat named Willow.
I was born in Point Pleasant, N.J.
Favorite Scripture Jeremiah 29:11-12
I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa and as a high school graduate I decided to move to the United States to pursue college. I attended Moody Bible Institute and lived in downtown Chicago for the next 4 years. I graduated from there in 2002 with a Bachelor of Art: Youth Ministry degree and knew that I wanted to be an intern at a growing and thriving youth program. After a general search on the internet I was blessed to connect with Aaron who at the time lived in Denver, Colorado and a move to the Rockies was in order. After two years in Denver, getting to do ministry, snowboard and meet the girl that would years later, become my wife, I followed Aaron to Atlanta and served alongside him and Ryan till 2011 when my wife Paige and I decided to start a new business in film called Stuart Atkins Films. It was during my time as a youth pastor that I realized a desire and passion to capture moments and events with the intention of sharing that with others. Since then, we’ve been hard at work capturing weddings and sharing stories through businesses, ministries and organizations from around the world. I’m also the part time Associate Pastor at Rising and feel really blessed to be a part of an amazing team here.
I was born in Cape Town, South Africa
Favorite Scripture Isaiah 40:31
I was born in Colorado and lived in the same house until I a attended college in Chicago, IL.. My parents raised me in a Christian home, and we went to church every Sunday. I became a Christian when I was in 1st grade; however, I really didn’t have a clue what that meant until the summer in between my sophomore and junior year of high school. That summer I went on a mission trip to Romania with my then student pastor, Aaron Young. It was there that God opened up my eyes and my heart to show me what it meant to serve and truly live for Him. My life has never been the same. I had such a desire to serve God with everything I had after that trip and in particular, I had a passion for serving youth. After graduating college in 2008, I moved to Georgia and started working in youth ministry full time with my former student pastor, Aaron. During those years, he mentored me in engaging in students’ lives — walking with them, discipling them, and challenging them to grow in their faith — and in leadership — planning and leading events, retreats, and mission trips. Because of those experiences, I am the leader I am today. Additionally, in December of 2015 I completed my Masters of Divinity. Through hands-on work and my time in school, I have gained valuable experience and have grown tremendously. I am excited to continue to serve youth in this community.
On October 12, 2013 I married my wife, Brittany Nelson. We do not have any children at this moment, as both RISING Students and RISING Kids keep us pretty busy.
I was born in Colorado.
Favorite Scripture John 6:66-68, Philippians 2
Women’s Community Life Director
I was born in Gainesville, Florida but have lived all over the world. I’m the oldest of seven children, six girls and one boy (and yes he was spoiled rotten)! I married my husband, Steve, in 2009. He’s a bona fide mountain man and teaches me the way of the wild. In 2015 we had our son Levi Tennessee! He enjoys going on hikes (in his ergo) and the Mr. Rogers theme song. Some of my favorite books are The Rock Priest, Is That Really You God, No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green, The Forgotten God, and The Princess Bride. The top four most recently played on my iPod would be, Somewhere only we know by Keane, You’re for me by Kari Jobe, Forever by Ben Harper, and Beautiful Things by Gungor. On a free day you’ll find me climbing and cooking with my husband. Something you would never guess about me is that I was a white water rafting guide on the Ocoee River.
The most influential people in my life have been my parents, who first taught me about the Lord; Roger Bain, one of my youth leaders who saw potential in a young 15 year old; and Jacob Kollar, my leader in Youth With A Mission, who believed that a 20 year old could change the world! I’m passionate about seeing God glorified throughout the earth. I love John Pipers quote, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” My desire is that RISING Church would be a people who have tasted and seen the goodness of God. That we would have a deeper revelation of the height, depth, length and width of Christ’s love. And that we would live to make His love known to the world!
Favorite Scripture Ephesians 3:17-19.
Rising Kids Director
I have lived in the Suwanee/Lawrenceville area most of my life and attended Auburn University (War Eagle!) after graduating from Peachtree Ridge High School in 2009. I accepted Christ at a camp in 5th grade, but the reality of that decision didn’t sink in until I went on a mission trip to Costa Rica the summer after my sophomore year of high school. That’s when God taught me that I had to let go of my own plans and follow His. All throughout college, I worked as a summer intern with Student Life at Sugarloaf UMC and as the intern for my college ministry at Auburn UMC, focusing on freshmen ministry. After graduating from Auburn with my bachelor’s degree in English Literature in 2013, I started working part-time with RISING Kids as the Nursery and Preschool Director and eventually moved up to the full-time Children’s Director of all 4 age groups. I had always planned on being a high school language arts teacher, but as I continue to follow God’s plans rather than my own, He continues to reveal better ones! I never thought I’d be a children’s minster, but I have LOVED every minute of it and can’t wait to see what God has in store for our little ones as they continue to grow in His image.
I was born in Atlanta, GA.
Favorite Scripture 2 Corinthians12:9-10; Acts 5:33-39
I was born and raised here in Gwinnett County, first living in Lawrenceville, then moving to Suwanee where I attended high school at North Gwinnett. I grew up as a child going to church, most of the time dragged by my parents. Baptized as a baby, I was later confirmed in 4th grade. However, through most of middle school I was not close to The Lord at all. I was never a “bad kid” so-to-speak, but I was very quick to follow the mentality of the world and my relationships in middle school with family and friends showed that. In 8th grade, I began to come to SHIFT regularly, and I met Jesus for the first time at Fall Camp. In that moment at the Athens Y Camp, I remember looking up into an eternal future and saying, “Lord Jesus, what I have in this life is yours, and I devote it all to you.” – so that was the “big moment” for me. Future trips and retreats at Altaer such as my first ever mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico affirmed the calling on my life to live for the glory of God.
If you know me, you know that I love sports and am very competitive – to a fault sometimes. Growing up, sports were a huge part of my life, and if you live in Gwinnett County you know that high school athletics are a big time commitment. So a lot of my early faith was spent wrestling with a commitment to sports or to building into a community that I was rapidly falling in love with at Altaer. I wasn’t sure why The Lord was pulling me away so strongly from athletics, but I knew he had bigger things in store. The summer after I gave up football, I was blessed with a passion for guitar and discovered the gifting I have for music. The following spring I began leading worship at Altaer and after some years of learning and blessing I have the great privilege to lead worship at Rising Church.
I was born in Suwanee, GA.
Favorite Scripture Philipians 3:7-14; Hebrews 4: 14-16
Rising Sound Engineer
I was born in Miami, Florida, but spent most of my life growing up in Georgia. Throughout high school, I played keyboards in various bands, including my local youth group. I began learning to record music simply because the groups I played with wanted to make CDs to give out to friends and family. However, recording music eventually overtook my interest in performing. Because of this, I took an internship position at my youth group running live sound prior to graduating high school, which eventually transitioned me into my first staff position running sound for a church. I went on to study Audio Engineering at the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media, and graduated in January 2013.
I was born in Miami, Florida.
Favorite Scripture Jeremiah 29:11
I have lived in Utah, California, Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Georgia, and Mexico City, Mexico! I grew up with a younger sister and 3 younger brothers, and many, many foster children (up to 6 at a time)! When I was 9 years old, my parents adopted one of the foster girls, so all the sudden I was not the oldest child…she was 10 months older than me. Then, later, my parents divorced and my dad remarried…bringing another sister and 2 brothers into my life! As a result of my ‘large family’ experiences, I am completely in my comfort zone with my current family which consists of my awesome husband, Mike, our 6 children (ages 18 to 42), 3 daughters-in-law, 1 son-in-law, and 7 grandchildren! Needless to say, our house is chaotic when we’re all together – which is rare because we are spread all over the country. After my childhood experiences with foster children and having an adopted sister, my husband and I adopted our youngest daughter, Wendi, when she was only 2 years old. It was through that journey that I came to know Christ. As a result, I literally live on top of the world every single day.
I was born in Boulder, Colorado.
Favorite Scripture Romans 15:13
I was born in Jacksonville Beach, FL. My family moved to the Atlanta area when I was just over a year old. I grew up in DeKalb County where I attended Elementary and High School.
I met my husband, Richard, at work and we have been married for 29 years. We have two children, David, 24 and Maggie, 20. David is a full-time student and working part-time and Maggie is working with Feed My Starving Children as a Mobile Pack Event Team Leader. We currently live in Suwanee, Georgia and have two dogs and two cats.
After being a stay-at-home-mom when our children were little I worked at Sugarloaf UMC with the Children’s Ministry Team for six years. After leaving there, I worked with Georgia Gymnastics Academy for two years in the front office. It is now my privilege to serve my RISING Church family as the Assistant Bookkeeper.
I was born in Jacksonville, Florida.
Favorite Scripture Jeremiah 29:11
Assistant Children’s Director
I grew up in or around Raleigh, NC on a small farm surrounded with my parents and younger sister. My grandfather was a Church of God minister so I had the privilege of knowing who God is at an early age. My parents were committed to providing opportunities for me to grow spiritually. I attended Christian school from first to twelfth grade, attended every child and youth event that was available to me at church, was shown the ABC’s of salvation as a first grader and accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior shortly after. However, it wasn’t until after a failed marriage and becoming a single mom to my precious son, Caleb, that I realized what it truly means to have an intimate relationship with Christ. My current husband, David, and I met at a church concert where he was playing the guitar for a Christian rock band. We married a few years later in December of 2001 and were blessed to have our son, Landon, the next year. I love serving the Lord in so many different areas, but my favorites have been volunteering with the youth, FMSC, coordinating MOPS and being a counselor for foster care kids at RFKC (Royal Family Kids Camp). Hmm looks like a theme here…I love serving His kids! Proverbs 22:6 says “train up a child in the way that he should go, so that when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This verse couldn’t be more true for my life. My parents, school teachers, and youth leaders invested in my spiritual life as a child and now I have the honor of following their lead for a new generation of princes and princesses of the King. In July of 2014 God called our family to move to Suwanee, GA and brought us to RISING Church!
I was born in Raleigh, NC
My favorite scripture Psalm 139:13-17
Rising Sound Engineer
I’ve lived here in Gwinnett my whole life, and I’m currently a sophomore at Lanier High School. Ever since I can remember, my family’s gone to church, but my faith didn’t become my own until my freshmen year of high school. Because of that year’s Winter Retreat, my life was changed forever. During that camp I was getting frustrated because I felt like nothing was sinking in. I knew the speaker was saying some beautiful, powerful things, but my heart just wasn’t getting it. Two days after we got home, I was texting a friend about what we got out of camp. I can’t explain what happened then, but all of a sudden I got it. I was blown away by Gods love and how great He is. That’s when my life went from living for me to living for Him.
I’ve always had a passion for music and technology, so in 6th grade when the church asked if anyone wanted to be on the youth production team, I signed up. Then at the end of my 7th grade year, I was asked if I wanted to learn guitar, and I decided to try it. now I get to lead worship at Surge and ALTÆR and get to work on the pro team on Sundays. Everything I know about sound, production, and worship leading has been taught to me by people at the church who took time to invest in me. Some day I would love to go into ministry and get to use all that I’ve learned because of RISING’s investment in me.
Rising Students Intern
I have grown up my entire life in Georgia. When I was four we moved to the Gwinnett, Suwanee area and found such a community here. I spent most of my life playing sports and going to church. I grew up from the age of third grade going to a Methodist church and going on mission trips, and in seventh grade I got confirmed. A true intimate relationship where I devoted my life to Christ didn’t happen until the summer going into my senior year of high school though. That summer God broke me and started healing and moving through me from the inside out. Jesus broke my chains and from that moment on I started striving for Christ and it changed how I interacted with the world around me. Once I graduated high school I took a gap year between high school and college to go on a DTS (Discipleship Training School) and work with an organization called YWAM (Youth With A Mission). Once again God continued to reveal and show himself to me during that six month program. Now God is taking my passions for music and allowing me to invest into those younger than me through music and lead them in how to become better leaders, musicians, and living a life for Jesus.
I was born in Louisville, Kentucky
My favorite scripture is Isaiah 43:2
Rising Kids Intern
I am currently a junior at Peachtree Ridge High School and hope to become a teacher after college. Cool fact about me – I am a twin! My twin sister is named Ansley, and I also have an older sister in college named Hannah. I started going to church in first grade and came to Rising when it first started. Since my parents are both Christians I also became one early on in elementary school but until my freshmen year of high school I had no idea how to lead a Christian life. From my mission trip experiences to Washington D.C., New York, and especially in Costa Rica, I have learned that God is not only present on Sundays and on these mission trips but also in my everyday life. Letting go of my own ways I realized God has so much more to offer and a much better plan than I had planned for myself. I am very excited to learn how God can use me in ministry and to help Rising’s children grow in their faith!
I was born in Lilburn, Georgia
My favorite scripture is Jeremiah 29:11