(Let’s lead with the obligatory disclaimer: I was editor for this book. What of it? 🙂 Especially since….)
It’s more than a little interesting that, more than a year after working on this, I’d be transitioning from being Adult/Small-Group Boy to assuming responsibility for a PreK-12 character curriculum based squarely on our identity in Christ. And thus, I needed to read this book all over, as a reader/leader—because Jack Klumpenhower is all over this idea. And now you can be, too.
Jack Klumpenhower. Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids. 224p., $17.99, Serge/New Growth Press.
The concepts here shouldn’t be revolutionary, but unfortunately they are. As Jack puts it (and made me laugh as I read it, as I recalled a former life):
If I can’t get little ones excited about Sunday school without pretending we’re jungle explorers or astronauts, or if I need carnival games to keep the youth group together, I’ve already lost. The subtle message of those gimmicks is that jungles and space stations and carnivals are more exciting than Jesus. If Jesus were more exciting, wouldn’t he be the selling point?
To flesh this out even further, here are just a few of the general concepts that guide this book:
• Our lessons—and really, not just for kids but for adults as well—should be out of what God does for us, not what we do for Him. We can certainly explore the latter, just not put the cart before the horse. After all, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
• “The cross of Christ applies to the entire Christian.” We don’t get to compartmentalize, and neither do our kids.
• Faith in the message comes from God, not us. Our job is to stay faithful to that message.
• In short, our goal is not to “teach the Bible”—it’s to teach the good news of Jesus. (And we will need the Bible to teach that well, after all.)
The first half of the book, therefore, explores the above “whys” (and more) of teaching to the good news. The second half moves us into the hows, as well as the difference between true heart change and behavior modification (which we, as the church, all too often fall victim to). Instead of simply addressing “bad behavior,” Jack pushes us to examine the “sharks” the lurk underneath our (and our kids’) surface sins—i.e., the fears/desires/idols that are really driving us to turn our backs on God’s desires for us. Several dozen simple but effective Bible lessons are also scattered throughout the book (and indexed in the back for easy reference).
Each chapter contains a section of “Questions You Might Be Asking,” which addresses queries/concerns teachers might have as they begin to apply this paradigm shift to their own teaching/instruction. Likewise, each chapter closes with a “Show Them Jesus Right Away” section, containing plenty of practical takeaways that teachers, parents, and others can use to show Jesus to their kids… well, right away.
To again quote Jack, “To Jesus, the work of proclaiming God’s kingdom is dangerous. It takes courage. It demands earnest prayer. It isn’t about giftedness as much as faith, and it requires no resources except those God will provide. It’s a high-stakes, spiritual battle with supernatural weapons. Anyone willing to engage the fight on this level is needed for the cause. Such an adventurer will reap a rare mix of power, humility, and wide-eyed joy.”
And after all, isn’t that what we want for our kids?