Q: Is teaching the Bible during the school day really legal?
Yes! The concept of Released Time Religious Instruction (RTRI) has been upheld multiple times at the Federal (SCOTUS) level as constitutional. RTRI guidelines both guard against government establishment of any one religion and allow expression of the right to the “free exercise of religion,” also protected by the First Amendment. Read more about the legality of LifeWise Academy.
Q: What’s the history of LifeWise Academy?
LifeWise Academy (LW) is a division of Stand For Truth (SFT), a 501c3 nonprofit Christian ministry with the vision to reach unchurched public school students with the gospel. SFT was founded in 2007 as an event-based ministry working with churches across the U.S. to reach their local schools with character-based school assemblies and corresponding gospel-centered evening outreach events. More than 2,000 communities and 1,000,000 students have been impacted by SFT events in the last several years! In 2018, SFT leadership learned about the seemingly untapped opportunity of Released Time Religious Instruction through an incredible ministry in Van Wert, OH. This program has a nearly 95% participation rate among public elementary school students. The two organizations teamed up to create LW, launching the first two LW locations less than two years later.
Q: How does LifeWise compare to before and after school programs?
LW is complementary to existing before and after-school programs like Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Youth For Christ and Child Evangelism Fellowship. The primary distinctive feature of LW is that it operates during the school day, thereby engaging the students who are most unlikely to attend before and after school programs due to transportation, extracurricular and other issues.
Q: How is LifeWise different from other Released Time programs?
LW offers a structured, “plug-n-play” model which provides communities all the tools to launch and maintain an effective program while limiting administrative duties. The proven model also lends credibility to school administrators, parents, donors and volunteers.
Q: Does LifeWise Academy interfere with classes during the school day?
No, while classes are held during the school day, they do not interfere with children’s mandatory courses or extracurricular activities. The class schedule is set by school personnel in consultation with LW representatives. Usually, LW classes are scheduled as part of the “specials” rotation or for times when other elective courses are offered.
Q: How large are the class sizes?
LW classes are usually the size of normal school classes, between 15 and 25 students.
Q: How often are LifeWise classes?
Typically students attend LW once each week for a class lasting between 45 minutes and one hour.
Q: Does each LifeWise location have to file for a 501c3?
No. Each LW location has 501c3 tax exempt status for the administration of their program under the SFT umbrella. However, SFT/LW will not purchase local real estate. If a local community decides to purchase a property for LW use, then they may opt to form a separate 501c3 simply for the ownership of the property. An individual, company, church or other existing nonprofit may take ownership of the land and facility.
Q: Do we need to choose our own program name?
No. Each LW location uses the name “LifeWise Academy” with a school district or geographical surname, whichever is most appropriate (e.g., “LifeWise River View,” “LifeWise Defiance Area”).
Q: What are the options for LifeWise classroom facilities?
The ideal facility is located adjacent to the school. This allows students to walk to LW, reducing transportation time and increasing classroom time. However, using a vehicle to transport students to a nearby facility is sometimes the most viable option. The four primary types of RTRI facilities:
Rent or use an existing space like a church or business.
Purchase existing property, like a home, and remodel as necessary.
Build your own facility. This could be a LW model design or unique local design.
Use a modular/mobile classroom.
Q: If we build a local facility, would LifeWise own it?
No, SFT/LW will not purchase or own local real estate. If a local community decides to purchase property for LW use, they may opt to form a separate 501c3 for the ownership of the property.
Q: How will students get to the off-site location? Where will they meet?
Students will either walk under the supervision of volunteer chaperones or be driven by bus or vans to the off-site location. Locations can include churches, community centers, dedicated LifeWise Academy buildings or other facilities.
Q: Does each LifeWise Academy need its own insurance policy?
No, each LW location is covered under the SFT insurance policy paid for by the LW Support Center.
NOTE: The cost of the following coverage for all local programs is paid by the LW Support Center- Directors and Officers, Religious Freedom, Sexual Acts, Employment Practices, Property, Media Fallout, Medical Coverage, Income and Extra Expense and Donations. Building and Personal Property coverage, if applicable, is managed by the LW Support Center, but the cost is passed along to the local program.
Q: What is the cost to operate a local program?
The cost varies from location to location. Some of the most significant costs include:
Director/Teacher(s) - Local programs are encouraged to hire a part-time paid director upon entering launch phase three. If a local community has a nearby regional Field Representative, it is recommended that the Field Rep serve as the interim Director. It is also highly recommended that local programs hire paid teachers.
Facility/Transportation - These costs can vary greatly depending on whether a facility is donated, rented, purchased or built, and whether transportation to an off-site location is required.
Membership Fee - After the initial startup fee, the LW Support Center provides all the curriculum, technological systems, liability insurance, background screenings, training, coaching, etc., to local programs for an annual fee based on the number of students enrolled.
Miscellaneous - This includes the cost of classroom supplies; printing and postage for promotional materials, permission slips, thank you notes, etc.; endowment contributions to invest in the future of the local program as well as the national expansion fund; along with a launch fee paid to LW HQ to offset the cost of staff, travel, systems and promotional fundraising materials provided by HQ through the launch process.
NOTE: Our numbers indicate that a local program with modest teacher pay and a modest facility can operate at the cost of about $120 per student per year.
Q: Who pays for all this?
Local Donors. Each LW is funded by private donations through local fundraising efforts.
Q: How are the donations raised to support the program?
The LW Support Center provides strategies, training and marketing materials to local LW leaders to effectively raise the necessary funds. The strategies include one-on-one meetings, small group gatherings and Sunday morning church presentations.
Q: If a community raises funds to launch a local program and then decides not to proceed, what happens to the donations?
The donations will remain earmarked for the local area for one year from the date the launch is officially put on hold. If no additional donations for the local area are made after the one year mark, funds raised will be redirected to the national launch fund. Additional donations will extend the one year hold from the date of deposit.
Q: How is a local program governed?
A LW Leadership Team is made up of individuals filling nine leadership roles for the purpose of running a local program. The nine leadership roles are:
Assistant Director/Fundraising Leader
School Relations Leader
Church Relations Leader
An individual can fill multiple leadership roles, but at least five individuals are recommended.
Q: How can a parent elect to enroll their child in LifeWise?
Parents must complete a LW permission slip that is registered with the school office before their child may attend.
Q: What happens if a parent wants to remove their child from LifeWise?
LW is completely voluntary, and parents have the right to withdraw their child at any time for any reason. Parents who wish to have their child dismissed from participating in LW will be asked to fill out a Dismissal Form which includes a section encouraging parents to provide feedback as to why they wish to remove their child.
Q: Does LifeWise have guidelines/protocols for behavioral issues?
Each LW class should have two adult volunteers to aid teachers with behavioral issues as necessary. The default procedure for poor behavior is to escort the child back to the school through a process agreed upon by the LW location and public school.
Q: What are the volunteer needs?
Volunteers are needed to walk the students to and from the school, assist in the classroom and help as needed.
Q: How many volunteers does a location need?
Each class should have at least two volunteers plus the teacher for each class. Our goal is to have two adults in the classroom at all times, especially at the Elementary School level.
Q: How do we choose a teacher?
The LW Support Center provides a thorough vetting process for teachers to ensure they are sound in their theology and understanding of the gospel. Also, we highly recommend looking for someone with previous educational or teaching experience.
Q: Do you perform background checks on all volunteers and teachers?
Yes, all LW location’s Leadership Team members, teachers and volunteers are required to complete a background screening through Protect My Ministry (PMM) to ensure the safety of the students and the program. Additionally, we encourage completion of child safety video training offered through PMM.
Q: How do churches with differing beliefs and practices partner together to provide LifeWise to local students?
The LW Statement of Faith, Philosophy of Ministry and Team Member Conduct is designed to focus on the core tenets of the Christian faith, particularly the gospel, so as to be inclusive of all orthodox Christian churches and most attractive to those which are gospel-centered. A special effort is made to avoid teaching an official position on secondary issues (e.g. mode of baptism, the millenium, the gift of prophecy, etc). If any of these topics come up in class, whether through curriculum or discussion, teachers are encouraged to make it clear to students that these are things which many well-meaning Christians and churches disagree about and that LW, as a program, does not have a particular stance on the issues.
Q: Has there been local opposition to LifeWise?
The very minimal opposition we’ve seen has been based on misconceptions, misunderstanding and false information regarding the legality of RTRI and LW. The most effective strategy in dealing with local opposition is to direct people to lifewiseacdemy.com and encourage them to explore the site and watch the video.