*What’s Up? by Jack Klumpenhower

*What’s Up?: Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You REALLY Are (Teacher Guide), by Deborah Harrell and Jack Klumpenhower. New Growth Press, 2015. 228 pages.

Bottom Line: What’s Up? offers an excellent presentation of the gospel that encourages middle-schoolers to explore their own need for Christ.

Fans of Jack Klumpenhower’s Show Them Jesus appreciatwhat's upe how he connects the gospel to every stage of a child’s life. For parents and teachers who still have Yes-but-how? questions, here’s a curriculum that will help middle-schoolers grapple with the gospel for themselves. We don’t usually review curriculum, but the content of What’s Up? outlines an effective way to communicate the most important message kids will ever hear.  Further, it aims to encourage true disciples who will continue to grow in Christ through their teen years and early adulthood—as opposed to little imitation Christians who will fall away as soon as they’re out from under parental control.

The program is intended for group study as this is the age where peers are more important than they ever were before (or possibly will be again). The material is arranged under three headings—”The Gospel,” “Your Heart,” and “A Changed Life”—consisting of five lessons each. Each lesson highlights a big idea, with key Bible passages, class activities (workbook pages, discussion, and prayer), and application (assignments to follow up during the week and bring to the next class). The authors obviously have church in mind, but a group of like-minded families that meets during the week is also a possibility. It might work as a family study but would need to be adapted. And that might defeat the purpose anyway since this is the age at which kids start looking outside the family for affirmation and support.

The approach is excellent. Discussing sin, for instance, the authors begin with the tongue—very smart, because kids aren’t in a position to do much heavy-duty sinning, but they can sure speak it. The lessons on “Idolatry” (identifying what you love, trust, and fear), “False” and “True Repentance” (being sorry for the right reasons) and “Sharks” (hidden sins) are also outstanding. Two aspects that might be a little off-putting are the repetitive illustrations, which are meant to appeal but might instead distract, and some of the discussion topics, which reserved kids might not feel comfortable talking about. They may not have to talk about everything, but they should be thinking, and this book will give them lots to think about.

Cautions: none

Overall Rating: 5

  • Worldview Rating: 5
  • Artistic Rating: 4

Categories: Nonfiction, Middle Grades, Starred Review, Education, Christian, Discussion Starter, Life Issues
Cover image from Amazon

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Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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