Truly gospel-centered curriculum is pretty hard to find to begin with, let alone for middle-schoolers, who are all-too-often overlooked as an audience . Deborah Harrell and Jack Klumpenhower have just made that task, at least, noticeably easier.
Deborah Harrell and Jack Klumpenhower. What’s Up: Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You REALLY Are. Student Guide: 192p., $15.99; Teacher Guide: 236p., $19.99. Serge/New Growth Press.
There are fifteen 90-minute lessons here, although the authors also give recommendations on how to break up the content so it goes twenty-six weeks (and 50 minutes a pop). Topics include understanding the gospel story and our relation to it, justification, forgiveness, dealing with our heart idols and unbelief, and developing a lifestyle of repentance.
If that sounds familiar to readers here, it ought to: Much of the material here is a retailoring of Serge’s (formerly World Harvest Mission’s) Gospel Transformation and Sonship materials to middle-schoolers (not entirely unlike how the Gospel Series reinterpreted Gospel Transformation for small groups). So you know off the bat that the content is far more solid than the “entertainment-based” stuff you’ll find in most far too many Sunday Schools today.
That said, I would have liked to see more active-learning ideas in here, to help a wider variety of students connect with the considerable material here. It is still a bit text-heavy and/or writing-based at times, and doesn’t get any more kinesthetic than a drawing activity (which really is a visual-learner thing anyway). It should work in the promised 90-minute timeframe, though. (There are some object lessons here, though, including the quite effective “report card” idea from co-author Jack Klumpenhower’s book Show Them Jesus. ) And I have to admit, the illustrations here sometimes are more distracting than they are fun/breaking up the text, as they jump styles regularly from very good/age-appropriate to decidedly simplistic/youngish.
Still, bottom line: “It’s the content, stupid.” And the content of What’s Up will give your students the foundation they need to discover, and keep on discovering, who they truly are in Christ, as well as a better understanding of how to live out what they believe. It asks the right questions, and gives middle-schoolers the tools they need to discover those answers for themselves.