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Susan Ciancio reviews a new course hosted by Mark Hart, designed to help our children feel the light of Christ and shine it back to others.

When I was asked to review Ascension’s new middle school program called Encounter: The Bible Timeline for Middle School, hosted by Mark Hart — affectionately known as the Bible Geek — I jumped at the chance. I have read parts of his books and talked with Mark, so I knew that this would be a phenomenal program. And after watching it, I was blown away. 


Encounter is designed to provide an easy-to-understand overview of salvation history from Genesis through Revelation for your middle school students. In this adaptation of The Great Adventure Bible Timeline®, presenter Mark Hart unpacks God’s Word in a dynamic way that makes Scripture come alive. (Ascension Press) 


And come alive it does!  

Mark Hart wrote the program with Colin and Aimee MacIver. Presenters include Chika Anyanwu, Father Frankie Cicero, Ashley Hinojosa, and Tanner Kalina. Through exciting videos, viewers are able to see and read the Bible in a whole new way.  

Mark’s explanations are straightforward, easy to understand, humorous, and poignant. He speaks to kids at their level but never dumbs down his language. Mark has such a fluid and easy way of engaging the viewer and making them want to read and listen to more. His tone, his mannerisms, and his love of God are so contagious and positive that the viewer can’t help but feel his joy. Mark and the other presenters make the Bible stories relatable and then teach students ways to apply the lessons to their own lives. 

Over the course of eight life-changing lessons, students will learn about the history of God’s people and how they fit into His plan of salvation. 

The first six lessons told the story of God’s Chosen People, the Israelites. The seventh lesson covered the coming of God’s Son, Jesus, and the mystery of his life, his death, and the Resurrection. This final lesson describes the early Church as Christians began to live out the New Covenant. (Ascension Press)


Encounter gives students confidence in God’s love and in His plan for us, and it makes them want to learn more. 

The program also contains a beautiful Bible Timeline chart and a colorful map so that students can visualize where the events of the Bible took place. Each lesson then focuses on “facilitating students’ engagement with the people, places, and events of specific biblical periods.”  

In addition to Mark’s videos, each day offers discussion questions, group activities, writing prompts, and another video by one of the presenters mentioned above. Through these materials, the Bible comes alive, helping students feel God’s love for them as He attempts to draw them closer and soften hearts.   

Mark’s personality, his characteristic humor, and his deep love and devotion to God are evident in each video, and students will be immediately drawn to his words. At one point, he explained to students, “You were created to be a saint.” And as he said these encouraging words, you could see that he was becoming choked up. Mark’s passion, his drive, and his pure love of God and our faith are sure to ignite a fire in our children. 

Encounter is an essential tool for any home or classroom. Families can watch it together, as there is something for everyone, not just the middle school students. Religious education teachers can use it in their classrooms. And even youth groups can benefit from this amazing program. Everyone is bound to learn something new and to come away energized in our faith. 

We know that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, yet many people — kids especially — often find the stories confusing or difficult to relate to. But through the discussions and the videos of Encounter, students will come to know the characters, will see their love and devotion to God, will become immersed in the life of Christ, and will realize just how much God loves us. 

In one of the videos, Mark explains to the students, “God wants you to be so close to Him that when people see you, they see Him.” 

Isn’t that what we all want for our children? With tools like Encounter, we can help our children not only feel the light of Christ, but shine it back to others.


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Copyright 2024 Susan Ciancio
Images: Canva