What's Up - Student Guide

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Authors: Deborah Harrell & Jack Klumpenhower


Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You Really Are

Teacher Guide also available.

The Gospel Is Good News…Even in Middle School!

Have you ever asked a middle-school kid you know what’s up with “the gospel”? Can they explain what it is and why it matters to a kid? Or do they suspect that being good, listening to parents, and obeying rules is ultimately what God expects?

What’s Up is a flexible middle-school curriculum workbook using illustrations, stories, and interactive activities to help kids understand why the gospel really is good news. A practical application of Klumpenhower’s best-selling Show Them Jesus, What’s Up answers the real questions of identity and purpose that begin to unfold in middle-school hearts and minds.Revealing God’s love, forgiveness, and power to change, What’s Up helps fourth through eighth-grade students understand that the gospel is all about God making us into who he meant us to be all along. As they learn how to lean wholly (and happily) on Jesus through these formative years, their lives are changed from the inside out.

The curriculum guides middle-school age students in discovering Jesus through fifteen 90-minute lessons that can be expanded to cover twenty-seven weeks. The student guide offers age-appropriate activities, fun illustrations, questions to think about, and personal application activities for home. Teachers will find easy-to understand instructions and notes, helps and directions to make teaching the gospel to children clear and simple in the corresponding teacher guide. What’s Up is easily adapted to a wide variety of group settings, including Sunday school, youth group, Christian school, and homeschool.

  • Practically applies the gospel-centered teaching philosophy outlined in Klumpenhower’s best-selling Show Them Jesus to a middle school context.
  • Intentionally flexible, What’s Up can be used with middle-school kids in small groups, Sunday school, or even one-on-one discipleship settings at home or church. Provides 15 90-minute lessons or 26 45-minute lessons.
  • Middle schoolers learn by engaging, so What’s Up keeps kids interacting with the Bible and with one another. 
  • What’s Up is for churched and unchurched kids alike since it allows them to read the stories before guiding them deeper, providing new insights, and driving biblical truth home in personal ways.
  • This curriculum gets personal. What’s Up is about sharing lives and watching Christ change people from the inside out.
  • Student Guide is filled with age-appropriate activities, fun illustrations, questions to think about, and personal application activities for home.
  • Teacher Guide offers easy-to-understand instructions and notes, helps, and directions to make teaching the gospel to children clear and simple. Requires little work outside of the classroom or teaching setting.

About the authors:

Deborah Harrell is the Overseas Educational Advisor for World Harvest Mission. She graduated with a BS degree in Child Development and Family Relations from the University of Arizona. Deborah is the author of the award-wining children's novel, Pinto’s Hope, and contributing author of numerous articles in professional journals. 

She lives in North Carolina with her husband, Jason and daughter, Sarah. 

Jack Klumpenhower is a Bible teacher and a children’s ministry curriculum writer with more than thirty years of experience. He has created Bible lessons and taught children about Jesus at churches, camps, clubs, conferences, and Christian schools all over the world, including Serge conferences. Currently he is working on a middle-school gospel curriculum in conjunction with Serge staff. He lives with his wife and two children in Durango, Colorado.


“Words can’t express how thankful I am for this curriculum. As a former middle school Bible teacher, I know how impossible it is to find truly gospel-centered material presented in a format that young people can process . . . and will find interesting at the same time. In a church youth culture awash with moralistic messages and frilly silliness, What’s Up? sets the standard of good news written for young minds. Seriously . . . I can’t recommend it too highly.”  ~Elyse Fitzpatrick, Author of Good News for Weary Womenand coauthor of Give Them Grace

“What an amazing gift, What’s Up? is going to be for middle-school and junior-high ministry, and parents of fifth through eighth-graders. Debbie Harrell and Jack Klumpenhower have done an outstanding job of contextualizing the gospel of God’s grace for kids in one of the most vulnerable for formative seasons of life. I get excited just thinking about how this curriculum, in the hands of grace-loving leaders, will help disciple a new generation of gospel-equipped, Jesus-loving students. And let me add, the teachers are going to benefit just as much as the students. Great job, Debbie and Jack. More, more, more!”  ~Dr. Scotty Ward Smith, Founding Pastor of Christ Community Church; Teacher in Residence at West End Community Church; author of Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith  

“Have you ever wondered how you could explain the great truths of the gospel to your children? What’s Up? takes you step by step with solid teaching, thoughtful questions, insights, and practical application—always leading you to Christ. It is a must-read for parents, teachers, young and old.”  ~Rose Marie Miller, Author of From Fear to Freedom andNothing Is Impossible with God

“If you read Jack Klumpenhower’s book, Show Them Jesus, but didn’t think you could teach as well as Jack does—don’t worry. The What’s Up? curriculum and teacher’s guide give you everything you need to teach your middle school students the same amazing gospel lessons Jack presented in his book. You’ll have parents thanking you for the amazing way their kids are learning deep gospel truths like justification, adoption, how to recognize false repentance, and how to offer true forgiveness. It doesn’t matter what curriculum you are currently using with your middle school, put it on hold and get your kids through this material—that is what I am going to do at my church.”  ~Marty Machowski, Family Life Pastor and author of Long Story Short and Old Story NewThe Gospel Story Bible, theGospel Story for Kids curriculum and Prepare Him Room

“Preteens can be critics. It’s just part of how we grow at that age. Deborah and Jack know the best way to fight a critical spirit—a clear vision of Jesus, an honest assessment of our hearts, and a faithful commitment to working out the implications of the gospel in our relationships. What’s Up? is a clear and engaging tool for applying these truths to middle school kids.”  ~Jared Kennedy, Pastor of Families, Sojourn Community Church, Louisville, KY

“I love this study! Deborah Harrell and Jack Klumpenhower have done a fine job at communicating gospel-saturated truth for students and have given teachers a reliable and easy-to-use guide. What’s Up? is a helpful tool to faithfully plant and water the gospel of Jesus Christ in the hearts of students. If you are looking for a biblical, Christ-centered, and holistic study for teenagers, look no further!”  ~Brian H. Cosby, Author of Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture and Rebels Rescued: A Student’s Guide to Reformed Theology; pastor and visiting professor at Reformed Theological Seminary

“Congratulations to Deborah and Jack for taking on the most challenging group of all—our kids. In What’s Up? they attempt to teach young people both the gospel and how to live out of the gospel. Why wait until we get locked into a pattern of performing or pretending? Why not be discipled in the gospel from the beginning? That is what these creative and engaging lessons do and do well.”  ~Stephen Smallman, Assistant Pastor, New Life Presbyterian Church, Glenside, PA; author of The Walk-Steps for New and Renewed Followers of Jesus

“Harrell and Klumpenhower’s What’s Up? middle school curriculum beautifully lives up to its subtitle: Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You REALLY Are. I love its thoroughness, flexibility, and teaching style.  More importantly, its model of student discipleship (believe—don’t just try harder) coupled with the practical ‘make-it-stick’ section packs a powerful gospel-driven one-two punch. It should be required curriculum for all youth ministries!”  ~John C. Kwasny, PhD, Director, One Story Ministries

What’s Up? is a curriculum that will challenge both students and teachers to delve deep into the definition, meaning, and significance of Christianity. It encourages students to look squarely into their hearts and discover whether or not they are truly living for themselves or for their Creator.”  ~Susan Wall, Children’s Ministry Curriculum Coordinator, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC