The Prodigal Son (Revised)

January 1-29, 2006

Antioch Arcade


Scripture:  Luke 15: 11-32


Memory Verse: “Be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.”  Ephesians 4:32 (CEV)


Offering:  Boys and Girls Club



·        God loves us always, even when we do wrong things.

·        God forgives us when we ask.

·        Making bad choices can hurt you and others.

·        God doesn’t want us to be jealous even when things don’t seem fair.

·        God wants us to be thankful for what we have.



1.      Older children will locate the story of the Prodigal Son in their Bibles. Younger children will learn that the story is in Luke.

2.      The children will play a game to reinforce their knowledge of the story’s details.

3.      The children will be able to define a parable as a story told by Jesus to teach his listeners something.

4.      The children will understand that the Prodigal Son is a parable told by Jesus to teach his listeners about God’s love and forgiveness.



Welcome and Introductions:

1.      Greet the children and introduce yourself.  Wear your name tag. Make sure the children are wearing name tags. If not, ask the shepherd to supply a temporary badge. Remember you are interacting with a different group of students each week who may not know you.


2.      Open with a brief prayer (optional, as they have just prayed in Great Hall).


3.      Explain the purpose of this workshop. Today we’ll play a game to see how well you know the story of the Prodigal Son.


Scripture/Bible Story:

Be sure to call this the story of the Prodigal Son. The kids need to recognize the name when they hear the story referred to elsewhere. Be prepared to define “prodigal” if anyone asks (extravagant, wasteful, and reckless).


1.      Grades 1-2 will not use Bibles, but do open yours to show them where the story is located. For grades 3-5, make sure everybody has a Bible. There are extra Bibles in the room.  Help the students to find the book of Luke. Get the shepherds to go around the room and help with this.


2.      If necessary, review the organization of the Bible: The Bible is divided into two big parts, the Old and New Testaments. Each part is made up of books, which are divided into chapters and verses. Remind them that the first four books of the NT are the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Show them that if they open their Bible in the middle, they’ll usually land in the book of Psalms in the OT. Point out that the book name is at the top of each page. After finding Psalms, if they then take the pages on the right side and divide them in half, they’ll land somewhere in one of the four gospels From that point they can find Luke.


3.      After they’ve found Luke, help them find chapter 15, then verse 11. Some of the children will confuse chapters and verses. Show them that chapter numbers are the big ones, and also are at top of every page.


4.      Emphasize that this is a parable – a story told by Jesus to teach people something about God or about how God wants us to live.


5.      Read the story from the CEV or review it using the summary below as a guide. Either way, be dramatic! Unless this is the first Sunday of the rotation, let the children help you tell the story. This will give you an idea of how much they already know.


6.      If you can draw recognizable pictures, here’s a suggestion for helping first- and second-graders remember the details: While telling the story, hold up single-picture flash cards – a pig when the son feeds the pigs, a ring when the father gives the son a ring, etc.


7.      Ideas for reviewing the story in later weeks:


  • Begin the story and let each person in the circle add one line to the story until it is complete. Variation for older kids: Use the timer in the supply bin (or just a watch with a second hand). First child starts telling the story. After 15 seconds, second student picks up the tale, even if in mid-sentence. Keep going around circle until complete story is told.


  • Tell the story back to them with inaccuracies and let them correct you. (Especially fun for the younger ones -- but don’t do this until the later part of the rotation).


  • Photocopy the passage (remove verse numbers), cut it up and see if they can put it back together correctly.



Story Summary


Tax collectors and other disreputable people were crowding around to listen to Jesus. The Pharisees (devout Jews who followed the law very closely) and teachers of Jewish law started grumbling, "This man is friendly with sinners. He even eats with them." So Jesus told this story:

Once a man had two sons. The younger son said to his father, "Give me my inheritance now.” So the father divided his property between his two sons.

The younger son packed up everything he owned and left for a foreign country, where he wasted all his money in wild living. After he had spent everything, a bad famine spread through that whole land. Soon he had nothing to eat.

He went to work for a man in that country, and the man sent him out to take care of his pigs. (Feeding pigs would be the lowest, most despicable job for a Jew. Pigs were considered unclean under Jewish law.) He would have been glad to eat what the pigs were eating, but no one gave him a thing. Finally, he came to his senses and said, "My father's workers have plenty to eat, and here I am, starving to death! I will go home and say, `Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I am no longer good enough to be called your son. Treat me like one of your workers.' "

The younger son started back to his father. But when he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt sorry for him. He ran to his son and hugged and kissed him.

The son said, "Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I am no longer good enough to be called your son."

But his father said to the servants, "Hurry and bring the best clothes and put them on him. Give him a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. Get the best calf and prepare it, so we can eat and celebrate. This son of mine was dead, but has come back to life. He was lost and has now been found." And they began to celebrate.

The older son had been out in the field. But when he came near the house, he heard the music and dancing. So he asked one of the servants, "What's going on here?"

The servant answered, "Your brother has come home safe and sound, and your father ordered us to kill the best calf." The older brother got so angry that he would not even go into the house.

His father came out and begged him to go in. But the older son said to his father, "For years I have worked for you like a slave and I have always obeyed you. But you have never even given me a little goat, so that I could give a dinner for my friends. This other son of yours wasted your money. And now that he has come home, you ordered the best calf to be killed for a feast."

His father replied, "My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we should be glad and celebrate! Your brother was dead, but he is now alive. He was lost and has now been found."



1.      Divide the class into several teams of three to five players (you might call them the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Prodigals, the Older Brothers, etc.). The teams will take turns spinning the game wheel and answering questions about the scripture. Have the shepherd keep score on the white board.

2.      Line the teams up and let the first person in line for the team spin and answer a question. Let him consult his team if needed, but he is the only one who can give the answer. If he answers correctly, award his team the number of points he spun for. No points for a wrong answer. 

See end of lesson plan for questions. Feel free to improve the questions or add some of your own.

Grades 1-2: Use the multiple-choice answers provided with the questions. A few questions, especially those near the end of the list, are fairly difficult or involve interpretation. You might decide not to include them for the younger children.

Grades 3-5: Give the team a chance to answer the question, but offer multiple choices if they’re stumped. If the class seems to already know the story well, you can mix up the order of the questions. You might add some open-ended questions that don’t have a right or wrong answer: What better decision could the younger son have made? Who in the story is your favorite character and why? Etc. Award points for any reasonable answer.


3.      After his turn, the player goes to the end of his team’s line. Go to the next team and continue until everyone has had a turn.

4.      Alternatives:

  • If the player answers the question alone, his team gets the number of points he spun for. If the team helps him, they get half the points.
  • Let the rest of the team, but not the spinner, use their Bibles. (Make them close their Bibles between questions so they have 1 minute to find the story and the answer.
  • Consider covering over the “bankrupt” and “lose a turn” sections of the wheel. They deprive the spinner of the chance to answer and make scoring seem more important than the story.
  • If a team is taking too long to answer, give them a 1-minute time limit and get the shepherd to time the game using the timer in the supply bin. Adjust the time limit if it turns out to be too short/too long.


Reflection Time: (10:30)


Gather the children in a circle and discuss:


Remember that the Prodigal Son is a parable, a story that Jesus told to teach his listeners something. Who do you think the father in the story is like? God


I wonder how the father is like God. He loves his son even when the son does wrong things. God also loves us always, even when we do wrong things.


The younger son in the story thought he didn’t need his father, and went his own way. I wonder if we ever act that way toward God. What are some things we do when we wander away from God? Accept all reasonable answers but include making bad choices, treating other people badly, being ungrateful for the things we have. Making bad choices can hurt you and others.


When the younger son realized how wrong he had been, what did he do? He told his father how wrong he had been and how sorry he was. What does this tell us that we should do when we are in the wrong? Ask God for forgiveness. God forgives us when we ask.


Why was the older brother upset? He had done everything right, and thought he deserved the fine treatment that his brother was getting. Do you ever feel that things aren’t fair, because somebody else is getting something that you deserve more? Suppose you know somebody you think has been living a very bad life, and they feel sorry and ask God for forgiveness. I wonder how God wants us to treat that person? Accept all reasonable answers but include, God doesn’t want us to be jealous even when things don’t seem fair, and God wants us to be thankful for what we have. We should forgive others the way God forgives us.


Recite the Bible memory verse learned in the Great Hall. “Be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.” Ephesians 4:32


Journals (10:35): Pass out the journal pages and ask the shepherds to pass out pencils/markers. Optional: Give the children a sticker or some other memento to paste in their journal as a reminder of the workshop. Read the prompt out loud and offer suggestions if needed. Grades 1-2: Make sure they know the meaning of the words such as repentance. Grades 3-5: There are no wrong answers to the questions; the purpose is to think about the point of view and emotions of each character. If you are short of time, encourage them to answer the last questions (about themselves) first.


Those who finish early can turn the page over and do the activity on the back.


At 10:45 ask the students put away their pencils/markers and sit quietly.


Closing: (10:45)

Encourage the children to bring an offering next week. Remind them that the offering from this rotation will go to the Boys and Girls Club.


Prayer (suggestion):  Thank you, God, for your constant love and forgiveness. Help us to love others the way you do. Amen.


Tidy and Dismissal: Ask the children to help collect Bibles, pencils, etc. When the room is tidy, dismiss the class.


Teacher preparation in advance:

1.      Read the scripture passages and attend the Faith Quest Leaders Bible Study.

2.      Prepare opening and closing prayers.

3.      Room set-up (must wait until after Total Life Center closes on Friday).

4.      Optional: Bring a CD or taped music for background music while you are gathering, meditative music for Reflection time. A boom box is located in the Puppet workshop cabinet.

5.      Display the memory verse in the room.


Supply List

Extra Bibles

Dry-erase marker (in supply bin)

Timer (in supply bin)

Pencils (in supply bin; the shepherds also have pencils)

Journal pages



Desoto Presbyterian Church, Dallas. “The Prodigal Son.”


Storytelling ideas:

Questions for game


In the parable, how many sons did the man have? (2)


Which son (older or younger) went away? (younger)


Before he went away, what did the son ask his father to do?

A. Give him a ring and a robe.

B. Give him his inheritance.

C. Throw him a party.


After the son got his share of his father’s property, where did he go?

A. To a faraway country.

B. To Jerusalem.

C. To Babylon.


What did the son do with his inheritance money?

A. Bought himself a farm.

B. Gave it all to the poor.

C. Wasted it.


What happened to make food scarce where the younger son was?

A. There was a shortage of pigs.

B. There was a famine.

C. The king took all the food for himself.


After he ran out of money, what job did the younger son take?

A. feeding pigs.

B. working in the fields.

C. cooking calves.


What was so terrible about a young Jewish man tending pigs?

A. Jews thought pigs were too ugly to touch.

B. Jews thought pigs were too tacky to talk about.

C. Jews considered pigs to be unclean; eating them was forbidden under Jewish law.


Why did the son decide to return home?

A. He was homesick and missed his brother.

B. He was starving.

C. He wanted to be there for his father’s birthday party.


What did the son plan to say to his father when he returned home?

A. I am not worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your servants.

B. I am not worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your fatted calves.

C. I am not worthy to be called your son; treat me like my older brother.


When the father saw the son coming home, what did he do?

A. got on his horse and rode to meet him.

B. ran to meet him, hugged and kissed him.

C. called the boy’s mother to come and see him.


Which of these things did the father give the son when he returned home?

A. a clean shirt.

B. a gold watch.

C. a robe.


Which of these things did the father give the son when he returned home?

A. a medallion to hang around his neck.

B. a ring.

C. a silk scarf.


Which of these things did the father give the son when he returned home?

A. sandals.

B. money to replace what the son had wasted.

C. a gold cross necklace.


What animal was killed to prepare a feast for the returning son?

A. a pig.

B. a calf.

C. a kid.


Where was the older son when his brother came home?

A. in the house.

B. at his friend’s house.

C. out in the field.


What was the first clue the older son had that his brother had come home?

A. he heard his father yelling.

B. he heard music and dancing.

C. he saw his father running to meet his brother.


What did the older brother do when he heard music and dancing?

A. asked a servant what was going on.

B. went in the house to find out what was going on.

C. asked his father what was going on.


How did the older son react to the return of his brother?

A. he was happy and wanted to celebrate.

B. he was angry and jealous.

C. he didn’t care.


How did the older son react to the celebration feast?

A. he ran to help cook the calf.

B. he ran to join the party.

C. he refused to go inside.


What did the father do when he saw that the older son refused to come inside?

A. Shrugged and said, “Too bad.”

B. Went out to talk to him.

C. Told him to come inside or else.


What did the older son say he had been doing the years while his brother was away?

A. serving and obeying his father.

B. spending his own inheritance wisely.

C. taking good care of his mother.


What animal did the elder son wish he had been given to share with his friends?

A. a pig.

B. a goat.

C. a lamb.


What did the father say ABOUT the older brother?

A. I love your brother the most.

 B. I love you the most.

C. You are always with me, and all that I have is yours.


What did the father say ABOUT the younger brother?

A. Your problems are your own fault.

B. My son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.

C. I love you more than your brother.


Who told this story?

A. Jesus.

B. A Pharisee.

C. The older brother.


To whom was Jesus talking when he told this story?

A. his disciples.

B. some scribes and Pharisees.

C. the two brothers.


What is a parable?

A. a story that teaches something about God.

B. a story with a happy ending.

C. a story with a surprise ending.


Which person in the story is like God?

A. The older brother.

B. The father.

C. The servant.


What was a Pharisee?

A.     a government official.

B.     a Jewish police officer.

C.     a devout Jew who followed the law very carefully.


Jesus told this story to a group of Pharisees. Who in the story was most like the Pharisees?

A. The father.

B. The younger brother.

C. The older brother.


What book of the Bible tells the story of the Prodigal Son?

A. Matthew

B. Mark

C. Luke


Is the story of the prodigal son in the Old or the New Testament? (New)


What is the Bible memory verse you learned in the Great Hall?

A. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want".

B. “Be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.”

C. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son...”