Category Archives: Curriculum Review

Michelangelo for Kids by Simonetta Carr

Carr, Simonetta. Michelangelo for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2016. 132 pp. $18.99. Purchase for less at Amazon.

Introduction

Simonetta is definitely no stranger to Christian Book Notes. I have reviewed a number of her books, most of which are for children, and have been fortunate enough to interview her as well. This is her first book in this series which includes resources on Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, a Van Gogh to name a few.

Summary

Part biography, part introduction to art, part art lab, there is something for every student of art in this resource.

From the back of the book:
Michelangelo Buonarroti – known simply as Michelangelo – has been called the greatest artist who has ever lived. His enormous masterpieces astonished his contemporaries and remain some of today’s most famous artworks. Michelangelo for Kids offers and in-depth look at his life, ideas, and accomplishments, while providing a fascinating view of the Italian Renaissance and how it shaped and affected his work.

Young readers will come to know Michelangelo the man as well as the artistic giant, following his life from his childhood in rural Italy to his emergence as a rather egotistical teenager to a humble and caring old man. They’ll learn that he did exhausting, back-breaking labor to create his art yet worked well, even with humor, with others in the stone quarry and in his workshop. Budding artists will come to appreciate the artist’s techniques and to understand exactly what made his work so great.

Review

Too be honest, I am not much into art or art history. I mostly know Michelangelo as the orange-bandanna wearing turtle who loves pizza. That is, until I flipped through this book. I did know he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel having grown up Roman Catholic. This book was extremely informational. Also, with all of the activities, my kids thoroughly enjoyed it.

I would like to point out, however, that this is not a Christian book per se. Simonetta explains in a blog post why she decided to write this particular book. Personally, I am grateful she took on the responsibility to write it. Having known her through email conversations and becoming familiar with her writing style and faithfulness to historic fact, she has proven herself to be a trustworthy biographer. Also, she was able to intertwine the Reformation and its influence on the artist even though he remained Roman Catholic.

I am fairly certain this resource become a staple in children’s art classes for years to come.

Recommendation

If you homeschool your children and you teach them art or art history, you will want to use Michelangelo for Kids as one of your resources. It is full of 21 different activities that will engage the children (and the teachers!) all the while teaching them about one of the greatest artists of all time, if not the greatest.

I highly recommend this resource to anyone interested in an introduction to the life of Michelangelo.

What’s Up? by Deborah Harrell & Jack Klumpenhower

What up SGHarrell, Deborah and Jack Klumpenhower. What’s Up? Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You Really Are. Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2015. 152 pp. Student Guide – $15.99. Teacher’s Guide – $19.99.

Introduction

Jack Klumpenhower is the author of Show Them Jesus – Teaching the Gospel to Kids also by New Growth Press. Deborah Harrell is the Overseas Educational Advisor for Serge. She has also written a children’s novel, Pinto’s Hope.

Summary

This is a study designed for middle school students (5th-8th grade) to encourage them to believe the good news of Jesus and to also live it out in their lives. There is an accompanying teacher’s guide.

The workbook is divided into three parts with fifteen different lessons. The curriculum guides middle-school age students in discovering Jesus through fifteen 90-minute lessons that can be expanded to cover twenty-seven weeks.

Review

This is a practical, down to earth, Bible study designed to “hit the children where they are.” Deborah and Jack masterfully teach doctrinal truths of Christian character in a way that most every child can understand. What sets this curriculum apart, however, is that it is not moralistic as most. Rather, this study on Christian character traits is gospel-centered and points to the necessity of Jesus Christ every day in the life of a child and an adult.

Perhaps the best aspect of this particular study is that it shows the middle-school child that faith in Christ is not a church only deal. It must, of necessity encompass one’s entire life. Unit one lays this foundation with an intensive look at the gospel while unit two shows how the gospel alone changes your heart. The third unit shows how the gospel changes your life.

Each week, the youth will be challenged by the gospel. They will see that there is no gray. You are either a Christian or you are not.

While there is quite a bit of prep time for the teacher as well as quite a bit of “homework” for the student, this is a comprehensive approach to student ministry that, Lord willing, will have lasting impact on the child, the teacher, and the local church.

Recommendation

I am always looking for solid study materials for children…especially as a father of 5! What’s Up?  is gospel saturated, Christocentric and will prove to be a wake-up call to both the youth and the instructor. I highly recommend this resource to anyone with children or looking to instruct children.

We Choose Virtues

WCV

Note: This is not a typical book review per se. Rather, this is a curriculum review for We Choose Virtues.

Introduction

Heather McMillan started We Choose Virtues out of her love for children and her desire to see them reach their personal potential. As a preschool teacher and a children’s pastor, it concerned her how often she came across children whose lack of self-control, honesty and perseverance was almost debilitating. How could they succeed in life without the skills that come from good character?

Many grade school teachers she knew admitted that it sometimes takes from September to winter break for their students to follow even the simplest classroom instructions. This crisis in personal character seemed to be obstructing the learning process for their entire classrooms.

As her passion continued to grow, she realized that she wanted to teach children how to change. Not just a momentary change of actions, but a more lasting change in their attitudes as well. Her observation is that children needed to be inspired by simple, positive and consistent instructions, and parents and teachers needed an effective language with which to communicate these instructions.

It was out of this necessity that Heather created the original list of virtues and their unforgettable catchphrases. She used them at home with our four children, taught them in her own Preschool classroom, and introduced them to fellow teachers, parents, and professional counselors. They were enthusiastically received and the results were outstanding.

Summary

Our system uses 5 effective teaching methods to help you Introduce, Inspire and Integrate virtue into the lives of the children you teach.

  • Clear Explaination
  • Memorization
  • Demonstration
  • Conversation
  • Personal Application

The 12 Virtues covered in this system are: I am Diligent, I am Kind, I am Helpful, I am Obedient, I am Forgiving, I am Perseverant, I am Gentle, I am Patient, I am Self-Controlled, I am Content, I am Honest, I am Attentive

Our product line includes teaching cards, flash cards, posters, awards and sticker charts and printable hand-outs.

Review

Note: I am reviewing the Christian pack. They also have a “secular” pack that does not include the Scripture verses but everything else remains the same.

As a parent of five children, my wife and I have invested in numerous virtue teaching systems. We have used a number to decent success and still use many of the principles we have learned from these various resources.

My question now, is why didn’t I know of We Choose Virtues before now?!

To understand and be able to see what I am referring to, check out this link that shows one of the cards.

Clearly stated on the card is the particular virtue being taught. “I am __________” followed by another positive statement like “I can do it even when it is tough.” Below that in a slightly smaller font is what you are NOT. For example, on the card for helpful, it reads, “I am Not…selfish, lazy, or unwilling to serve, and I don’t have to be asked!” On the Christian cards there is a text of Scripture from the NIrV.

These are extremely colorful and work well with children of all ages. Furthermore, they have corresponding coloring pages that help the children to remain attentive to the teaching.

On the back of the card is a plethora of advice for teachable moments. Furthermore, the teacher’s handbook is so well written that anyone and everyone can be prepared and equipped to teach their children the important (and yes, Biblical) core values that lead to boys and girls becoming not only thriving and flourishing citizens, but, will ultimately point the entire family to the Lord Jesus who alone lived a perfect virtuous and sinless life.

There is much more information I could share with you, but if you perused the website, We Choose Virtues, for any length of time, you will quickly discover how well crafted this program truly is.

Recommendation

The caveat for me personally, is that we have not been using this very long as we just discovered this program. The truth is, the potential is profound and the foundation is built on the Word of God (even if I am going to have my kids still memorize out of the ESV!).

To that end, I heartily endorse We Choose Virtues and highly recommend it to anyone who is a parent, a teacher, or has influence over children and want to see them grow up into well-rounded, responsible citizens here on earth, and, Lord willing, citizens of heaven.

 

 

 

The Way of the Master Intermediate Training Course

Intermediate Course

Introduction

Back in 2012, I reviewed The Way of the Master Basic Training Course and have used this method of evangelism regularly ever since. Today, I am fortunate to be able to review the Intermediate Course.

I have reviewed a number of Ray’s books and movies and courses and have always found them to be extremely helpful. Of special interest may be my interview with Ray back in 2012.

Summary

For $49.95, you will receive the DVD’s, a student book (extras are available separate) and some ice breaker gospel tracts to get you started.

From the back of the DVD Case:

This eight-session DVD course adds critical framework to your foundation. It will teach you how to avoid the devastating pitfalls of producing false conversions. You will learn how to prove the existence of hell, both through the Scriptures and through reason, and what to do when things go wrong. Discover how to witness to a family member or to someone who is gay, how to recognize subtle satanic doctrines, how to refute the theory of evolution (join Kirk and Ray as they take an orangutan to lunch), and how to prove the existence of God.

Using a captivating teaching style, Kirk and Ray not only tell you how to witness, they show you, through fascinating on-the-street conversations with atheists, intellectuals, evolutionists, homosexuals — and perhaps the most intimidating — family members.

Once you’ve experienced the exhilaration of sharing the gospel, weekly homework assignments will help you put this life-changing teaching into practice as you discover additional creative ways to reach the lost.

Like countless others, you will be amazed at how using this biblical method will transform your life — and the eternal lives of others.

Review

In the Basic Training Course, there is a session that is dedicated to the ten most common objections by those who are lost. I felt as though this intermediate course was a deeper explanation of many of those objections but with specific cultural application for today.

For example, lesson five discusses how to lovingly give hope to those who are gay (a very necessary conversation today) while the first lesson really begins to build on the foundation of poured in the Basic Training Course of true and false conversions. Here, Ray and Kirk, help the student to understand true and false conversions. Who knows, you may come to understand that you are not a Christian and need to genuinely repent of your own sins! (Yes, it has happened.)

Lesson four may be the most helpful as it encourages the student to continue in obedience even when everything goes wrong during an evangelism encounter.

It is important that the student understand that this is an intermediate training course and must only be studied after the basic training. Personally, I would recommend that you practice what was taught for a while before moving on to this course since your experience as an evangelist will greatly aid in your understanding of the intricacies of evangelizing a world blinded by Satan to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Recommendation

As I stated above, this is my preferred method of evangelism. It typically cuts to the chase and circumvents much discussion meant to derail the sharing of the gospel. That being said, this intermediate course will aid the timid Christian to confidently engage in further evangelism as well as equip him or her for many different intimidating scenarios. I highly recommend this resource to all Christians.

Gospel Centered Life at Work by Robert Alexander

Gospel Centered Life at WorkAlexander, Robert. Gospel Centered Life at Work – 10 Week Study.  Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2014.  Leader’s Guide – $14.99 Participant’s Guide – $9.99.  Purchase both for less from Amazon of Westminster Books.

Introduction

Robert Alexander, MBA, is the Operations Officer of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Winston-Salem, NC and its network of sister churches. He is the author of Professionals: Men and Women Partnering with the Trinity in Everyday Life. Rob and his wife Rebecca also teach a multi-campus Graduate Student Fellowship focused on faith and life integration.

Summary

From the back of the book:

Tired of the Daily Grind?

If you asked a dozen Christians why their work matters, you’d probably get a dozen different answers. Whether paid or unpaid, skilled or menial—each of us longs to find meaning in what we do from day to day. Can the gospel really help us in our quest?

The Gospel-Centered Life at Work invites CEOs and homeschooling parents, doctors and plumbers, white, blue and pink collar-workers to sit down and discuss our work as a common call to follow Jesus in all of life. Whether we struggle with complaining at work, defensiveness, fearing the future, frustration, or troubling ethical decisions—work brings challenges to each of us that we cannot handle apart from Christ. The Gospel-Centered Life at Work shows us how to turn to Jesus in repentance and faith and to both work and rest in Him.

The 10 lessons in this small group study help participants to build a bridge from personal faith to the difficulties and drudgeries of the daily grind. Each lesson in The Gospel-Centered Life at Work is self-contained, featuring clear teaching from Scripture, and requires no extra work outside of the group setting. The self-explanatory Leader’s Guide helps small group leaders with discussion questions and background material that clearly explain and apply the gospel truths from each lesson.

Review

These 10 lessons offer a paradigm shift for every person who claims to be a Christian.  In our compartmentalized world, Robert offers us a biblical reason for living out our faith each and every day in the work place.  Often, we bring the work place home with us whether good or bad.  This resource will help us to bring our church service so to speak with us to work.

Through reading and studying this resource, the reader will be challenged with his or her sinfulness and consequent need for the gospel in their life every day.  The leader’s guide takes minimal preparation except reading the chapter while the participant’s guide does not demand a ton of work beforehand.  In other words, this is a ready-made study resource that will challenge the Christian to live life in light of the gospel.

While there may not be much “work” to be done as we think of Bible studies, I can honestly say that the lasting impact will be more than profound.

Recommendation

I recommend this work for all Christians in any size study group.  The impact that the Christian can have in the workplace may be more profound than the impact most have with their friends.

New Testament Essentials by Robbie Fox Castleman

NT EssentialsCastleman, Robbie Fox. New Testament Essentials: Father, Son, Spirit, and Kingdom. IVP Essentials Series. Downers Grove, 2014. 151 pp. $17.00. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Robbie Castleman is professor of Biblical Studies and Theology at John Brown University. She previously served on the staff of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship with an emphasis in graduate students. The IVP Essentials Set is a series of in-depth workbooks that can help spiritual growth. Books include topics such as discipleship, leadership, and evangelism with more on the way.
This particular edition “introduces the New Testament in three parts: 1) The Revelation of God in Jesus, 2)The indwelling of God in the church by the Holy Spirit, and 3)The present and coming Kingdom of God.

Summary

Designed as a 12-week study divided into three parts the first part focuses on Jesus Christ as the rull revelation of God. The five chapters include Jesus as the Messiah, as Lord of Heaven and Earth, and looks to His work and His teaching culminating in Christ as the Incarnate and Risen Savior.

The second part is a 3-week study of the church and the importance of understanding the Holy Spirit as indwelling her and giving her the power and ability to change the world. The third part spends 4-weeks looking at the present kingdom of God and a general understanding of the His coming kingdom.

Each week there is a memory verse (always good) rooted in a Bible study. The Bible study is an in-depth look at a particular passage that will take an evening to accomplish. Further, there is a reading that acts as a teacher explaining the passage with particular application. Following the reading, there are more questions designed to implement and establish the lesson being taught.

Finally, the author helps the reader connect the New Testament to the Old and applies it our personal lives today. There is a “Going Deeper” section that recommends yet another book to read.

Review

This work is not for the faint of heart. It is, however, designed to draw the reader into the Word of God in a deep and meaningful way. This is not a study you can finish in 10-minutes and feel as though you accomplished something. Rather, this is a 12-week study that will take you a full 12 weeks to finish.

This study is well written, and in my estimation, a very thorough work meant to put your faith and mind to work. It is biblically centered with a premise that God’s word is sufficient for life and unchanging. The various sections of the study can be done one per evening throughout the week and discussed together as a group.

As part of a larger series, this work can and does stand alone. It will, however, cause you to want to investigate the rest of the series.

Recommendation

For the new believer, this study can be considered indispensable. For the mature believer, this study can be a refresher. For all believers, this study will enhance and deepen your understanding of these four subjects. If you are looking for a solid Bible study for yourself or small group, you will find what you are looking for here in New Testament Essentials.

Freedom Begins Here Church Tool Kit

FBH CTKFreedom Begins Here – Church Tool Kit. Purchase at FreedomBeginsHere.org for $40.00.

Introduction

As I stated in the Personal Tool Kit review, pornography is one of the greatest cancers in the church today.  The same men who taught the personal tool kit also teach the church tool kit.

Summary

From the website:

The Church Toolkit equips churches with the resources needed to recognize and confront pornography and sexual addiction, as well as beginning the journey of recovery for those in need of help.

If you are a pastor or church leader wanting to start this conversation with your congregation, we encourage you to order the Freedom Begins Here Church Toolkit as soon as possible.

We have prayerfully labored over this Church Toolkit over the last four years and provided the seasoned perspective of relationship expert Dr. Gary Smalley and his pastor Ted Cunningham to lead you and your leadership team forward in the battle. With the clinical expertise of Dr. Mark Laaser and the help of pastors and church leaders from across the country, this resource will be catalytic to your ministry – offering practical suggestions toward creating a safe place for secret sin to be secret no more.

The Church ToolKit includes:

Leaders Only DVD: Dr. Mark Laaser’s Testimony, Self Evaluation, Leadership Accountability, Call to Personal Purity, The Challenge,

Assessment DVD: Characteristics of Sexual Addiction, Types of Sexual Addiction, Sexual Addiction Cycle, Family & Trauma Origins, Sexual Addiction Screening Test, The BIG Question

Solutions DVD: Solutions Overview, Corporate Help, ToolKit Components, Individual Help, When People Respond, “Undo” Music Video, Reflections of the Journey, A Spouse’s Perspective

Resource ToolKit CD: Icebreakers, Video clips for use in PowerPoint, “LoveSong” Sermon Transcripts (Seven-Week Series), PowerPoint Templates, Sexual Addiction Screening Test (Copy master)

Review

Again, as I stated in the review of the personal tool kit, the drive behind this is the journal.  The difference between the two, however, is that there is much more accountability in doing this as a group.  The benefit here is realizing 1) that you are not alone in this war and 2) you can confide in others who will hold you accountable and lift you up in prayer and support.

More often than not, churches have been reactive to this problem rather than proactive.  Often times this is due to embarrassment or simply an unwillingness to deal with a sin issue that the leadership struggles with as well.  Not dealing with it, however, is dealing with it.  Using the Freedom Begins Here Church Tool Kit will equip the men (and women!) of your congregation to either deal with the sin in their lives or to be prepared when this particular sin rears its ugly head in your personal or congregational life.

Recommendation

FreedomBeginsHere.org is full of free information and resources that will equip you to fight this battle.  You can order all your resources (sometimes for free) if you would like to explore their courses.  Personally, I highly recommend their resources as they are saturated with Scripture and contain genuine methods of overcoming sin in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Do yourself a favor and peruse the website knowing that Satan does not want you to.

Boy’s Passage, Man’s Journey DVD & Book

Boy's Passage - Man's JourneyCameron, Kirk and Brian D. Molitor.  Boy’s Passage, Man’s Journey.  Lynnwood: Emerald Books, 2004.  240 pp.  $13.99.  Purchase the book for less.  Also, purchase the DVD study.

Introduction

Brian Molitor is the founder of the Malachi Global Foundation, an organization that seeks to turn the hearts of fathers to their children.  Kirk Cameron is an actor (Growing Pains, Left Behind Series, FireProof) who has partnered with Ray Comfort to teach The Way of the Master evangelism curriculum.  Together, these two men have developed a curriculum based on Brian’s book, Boy’s Passage – Man’s Journey.

Summary

Over 16 chapters, Brian shares how to lead your son into manhood be design instead of by default.  He teaches how to counteract the hurts and disappointments every boy will experience.  Furthermore, he explains that it is a lifelong mentoring process and being intentional about blessing your children that can help to prevent teen rebellion and help to define your son’s identity in Christ.  If, however, you have picked up this book with a child already in rebellion, he offers hope and guidance on how to handle that child.

The meat of the book (and the DVD series) is the intentional planning of a rite of passage ceremony for your son.  He offers detailed steps to equip fathers to escort his son into adulthood rather than his growing into it without any affirmation.  The DVD series is Kirk Cameron, as a father not an actor, engaging Brian in conversation on the importance of the principles found in his book.  There are 5 DVDs that last approximately 20-30 minutes each.

Included in the DVD package is a study guide based upon the five conversations in the DVD series.

Review

Some may say the book is all fluff because of his “intentional blessing” language (yes, I have been told this before!), but I am here to tell you that there is a gospel pragmatism here that needs to be understood by all Christians.  Brian is a man who has embodied these principles with his sons.  If anyone would call him out on the lack of biblical importance of the principles he lays out in the pages of this book, it would be them.

Brian offers hope to the dad who is lost and struggling to understand how he is to raise boys of his own…especially when he was not raised by a godly father.  Not only did Molitor offer sound, biblical advice with a practicality that is necessary, but he also offered it from a perspective of having experienced this with his children first hand.  This is not to be underrated.

If there is one criticism of the book, it is that there is not as much Scripture as I would have personally liked to see.  That being said, there are plenty of references to Scripture and the main topic of the book is pragmatic and builds on the biblical understanding that we, as fathers, are stewards of our children.  Let us never forget that!

As for the DVD, Kirk Cameron was so enamored with Molitor’s work, that he called him and asked if he could have a few conversations with him as a father seeking to be mentored so that he, in turn, could mentor his sons.  This DVD series is the result of those conversations.  It is almost as if you are a fly on the proverbial wall as these two men discuss fatherhood and the importance of raising up sons to be young godly men.

Recommendation

As a father, I rejoice that this material has been published.  I am grateful to men like Brian Molitor and Kirk Cameron who take an interest in lives of their sons and want to equip fathers to better mentor and train their sons.  I recommend this book and DVD series to anyone wanting to learn biblical principles for fatherhood and raising boys.  I look forward to the day when I am able to develop and preside over each of my three son’s rite of passage into adulthood.

The Gospel-Centered Community by Thune and Walker

GC Comm LGThune, Robert H., Will Walker.  The Gospel-Centered Community.  Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2013.  128 pp.  $12.99.  Purchase at WTS books for less.

Introduction

There are a number of resources available for living a missional lifestyle, the idea of the missional community is catching up.  Robert Thune, lead pastor of Coram Deo, a 2005 church plant in Omaha, NE.  Will Walker is lead pastor of Providence Church in Austin, TX, a church plant started from Coram Deo in 2010.  They have also authored The Gospel-Centered Life.

Summary

I am reviewing the Leader’s Guide as opposed to the participant’s guide.  Though I presume that a review of the leader’s guide will suffice for the participant’s guide as well.

Divided into two sections, the authors begin with a foundation of a Gospel-Centered Community.  With four lessons detailing how we are shaped by the Gospel and how are communities ought to be intentional to that end, the small group will quickly understand the importance of building ministry and community upon the gospel.  The second section looks at five fruit of a gospel-centered community.  These are joy, humility, honesty, grace-filled, and, of course, missional.

Each lesson begins with a big idea that offers the overarching concern of the lesson and then moves into a 10 minute Bible conversation.  After the foundation of Scripture has been laid, there is an article to be read aloud which should take roughly 10 minutes to read it.  The discussion on the article lasts roughly 20 minutes.  Now that the discussion is going well, the leader moves the group into the exercises where the thoughts and intellectual knowledge is unpacked into real action plans to be implemented in one’s life.  The session concludes with a short Q&A, some time for comments, and prayer.

Review

I appreciate most that this study is saturated in Scripture.  I was wary at first when I saw the conversation articles section.  Unlike many studies I have read or been a part of, these articles supplement the passage of Scripture whereas most supplement articles with Scripture.

The leader’s guide will enable anyone to lead a group study and, in the end, leave both the leader and the participant with a better understanding of what it means to live in a gospel-centered community.  The questions are geared to peel away the layers of the mind and get to the heart of the issues being discussed.  Be careful as you participate in this group study as you will be confronted with many hidden sins of your own.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this group study, but I would say to go through the Gospel-Centered Life materials first before you seek to lead study.  Yes, they will dove-tail quite a bit, but you must be willing to live what you are teaching.  That being said, this would make a great resource for a church plant just beginning or even an existing church to revitalize the necessity of the gospel in life.