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Curriculum Review: Grapple December 10, 2008

Today I want to introduce a new series that I hope to bring to you every so often: curriculum reviews! I take something that we’ve been using and share what I think are the pros and cons of the material.

Today’s first victim…er…I mean participant: Group Publishing’s Grapple for Jr. High.

We’ve been using Grapple for the past 6 months and our teachers seem to really enjoy using it. The format is easy to follow and customizable. The basic premise of the curriculum is to “grapple” with tough questions that come up. What I LOVE about that, is that for Junior Highers especially, they’re in this new stage of starting to question things. When you tell a 7 year old that Jesus walked on water they don’t question it. When you tell a 13-year old the same thing, their logic process starts to work: “Okay, I’ve never walked on water…I know that I’m supposed to believe what the Bible says…but I know that even rocks sink in water…” and it explores questions that they might be thinking about. It allows questions to be asked and answered without feeling guilty.

What it comes with:

  • You can sign up to get the material quarterly and have them sent to you automatically each quarter.
  • You get a booklet with 12 lessons and a DVD with extras including: 3 countdowns, funny videos and videos that go along with some of the lessons.
  • Your own Mygrapple.com site.  This allows you to customize your own group site where you can access clip art, forms, game instructions, supply lists and extra information pertaining to your lessons.  You can also post upcoming events on the calendar and have communication with your students.  They can access the site and play games, do some extra study on the lessons and it’s safe.


  • It’s a good price.  $80.99 per quarter.  That pays for your material and the online access.
  • Online access is optional.  The lessons do not require that you and everyone else use the mygrapple.com site.
  • Lots of material.  You don’t find yourself speaking for 45 minutes at a time.  You have an intentional hang out time, games and clues time, grapple time, grapple team time, team report time and prayer and dare time.  The longest stretch of time is 15 minutes for group time.
  • Bible and discussion based.  You’ll find that your students will spend a lot of time discovering the answers to their questions on their own through searching the scriptures.  Inductive learning at it’s best!


  • Not a good material for a teacher who needs all those boxes telling them what to say.  This is great material for someone who doesn’t require every single minute planned out.
  • Lacks extra options.  Every once in a while when you teach,  you’ll have a time when the lesson finishes 10 minutes before you’re supposed to dismiss and you run on the verge of losing control of your students.  It’s great to have something else to use that goes along with what you’re talking about to use the extra time.
  • This is a small criticism and may be only important to me, but the books are too small.  There isn’t any room to write notes or extra thoughts.

Overall, we’ve been happy with this series.  Group puts out a lot of good material and they have excellent customer service.  If you’re looking for a good curriculum for your jr. highers, Grapple is definitely a good choice.


4 Responses to “Curriculum Review: Grapple”

  1. Tim Schmoyer Says:

    We actually ditched Grapple for jr. high after only 5 weeks of it. My leaders found the topics to be confusing to teach because each lesson tried to address too many different points. The kids felt the same way. The only thing I liked about it was the parent sheets that came with each lesson. Other than that, I rate it 1 star out of 5. Very poor. We quickly ditched it and are using YouthBytes now instead, which is a LOT better. We love it!

    • Dj Says:

      Isn’t it interesting how 2 different groups can respond differently to the same thing? We’re going to try youth bytes here soon since I won your contest a couple of weeks ago. I’m looking forward to trying it out and reviewing it.

  2. I have to respectfully disagree with Tim. I think Group has done a wonderful job of putting this curriculum together! What I love about Grapple is that the responsibility for content is in the student’s hands, but gives adequate tools for the leaders to guide the conversation. Grapple has given me content I could produce through Bible Study- sure, but the time they took to develop it creatively is incredible. My students are loving it! My leaders are exhausted at the end of the day (because it keeps you moving with every moment), but they love the high energy and excitement it produces about the Word. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you Tim! I’m glad you were able to find a more suitable resource though!

  3. John Faleye Says:

    Yeah, I have to also say that I too disagree strongly with Tim. We’ve been using GRAPPLE in my group for about 2 years now, and my teachers are grateful for a resource that isn’t bogged down with multiple “big ideas,” but instead focuses on one. Also, I personally don’t subscribe to the type of teacher who wants to be given talking points for every lesson. At that point, the lesson – from the teacher’s perspective – doesn’t become personal… more like a rehearsed script. That kind of approach might have a place, but its definitely not in jr. high. Part of the process of getting students to grapple with these questions is the feeling we give them that we have thought through the lesson ourselves, and that what we say is not a script, but words that are reflective of our own faith development as well. My teens love it!!! We’re going to keep using it until – hopefully – Jesus returns!

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