The Prodigal Son (Revised)

January 1-29, 2006

Praising Puppets


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


Offering:  Boys and Girls Club



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

·          God forgives us when we ask.                                



1.      This workshop will focus on forgiveness and having the right attitude about other people, even when we think the situation is unfair.

2.      Children will think about the three characters in the parable and each one’s attitude. 

3.      They will see a puppet skit with a contemporary version of the parable to consider how these characters responded. 



Welcome and Introductions:

1.      Greet the children and introduce yourself.  Remember you are interacting with a different group of students each week that may not know you. Wear you name tag.

2.      Tell the children that today they will use the puppets to explore the feeling of jealousy and to learn more about the parable of The Prodigal Son. 


Bible Story:

1.      Begin with the parable of The Prodigal Son.  In the early weeks of the rotation, you will need to read the whole story.  As the rotation progresses, you may just review the story by asking the discussion questions which follow the Bible passage.

2.      Ask the children to find Luke 15:11 in their Bibles and follow along or just listen as you read the story.

3.      Here is the whole story from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

   11Jesus also told them another story:

   Once a man had two sons. 12The younger son said to his father, "Give me my share of the property." So the father divided his property between his two sons.

    13Not long after that, the younger son packed up everything he owned and left for a foreign country, where he wasted all his money in wild living. 14He had spent everything, when a bad famine spread through that whole land. Soon he had nothing to eat.

    15He went to work for a man in that country, and the man sent him out to take care of his pigs.16He would have been glad to eat what the pigs were eating, but no one gave him a thing. 17Finally, he came to his senses and said, "My father's workers have plenty to eat, and here I am, starving to death! 18I will go to my father and say to him, `Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. 19I am no longer good enough to be called your son. Treat me like one of your workers.' "

    20The younger son got up and 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.

    21The son said, "Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I am no longer good enough to be called your son."

    22But 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. 23Get the best calf and prepare it, so we can eat and celebrate. 24This son of mine was dead, but has now come back to life. He was lost and has now been found." And they began to celebrate. 25The older son had been out in the field. But when he came near the house, he heard the music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants over and asked, "What's going on here?"

    27The servant answered, "Your brother has come home safe and sound, and your father ordered us to kill the best calf." 28The older brother got so angry that he would not even go into the house.

   His father came out and begged him to go in. 29But he said to his father, "For years I have worked for you like a slave and have always obeyed you. But you have never even given me a little goat, so that I could give a dinner for my friends. 30This 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."

    31His father replied, "My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we should be glad and celebrate! Your brother was dead, but he is now alive. He was lost and has now been found."

4.      After reading the story, discuss it with the children.  You can use the following question sets or write you own. You might also limit this discussion by age groups, covering only the most basic questions and answers with the youngest children (1st and 2nd grade), and working up to including all with the older children (3rd-5th grade).  

5.      Let’s think about the son who went away.  What happened to him during his time away from home?  Things didn’t go well—he spent all of his money, then became hungry.  Do you think the lost son realized he did something wrong by going away and wasting all his money on wild things? Yes, he plans to tell his father that he sinned—or did something wrong—against God and against his father.  This is called confession of sin—admitting you have done something wrong.  Do you think the lost son thought that he should be able to come home and be forgiven for what he did?  No, he tells his father he is no longer good enough to be called his son.  He wants to be treated like one of his father’s workers.  Do you think we can say that the lost or prodigal son has learned his lesson?  Yes!  By the way, prodigal means someone who spends money in a wasteful way.  It has also come to mean someone who returns home after going away—this meaning is a result of this parable.  

6.      Let’s think about the father.  How did the father act when his lost son returned?  He appeared happy and joyful.  He hugged and kissed him.  He asked his servants to provide nice clothes, a special ring, sandals and special food for him.  Why do you think the father acts this way?  He loves his son and is glad to have him home.  Do you think the father loves this son more than the other one?  No, he told the other son that everything he has was also his older son’s.  Do you think the father forgives his lost son for going away and wasting money?  Yes.  This is just like God.  When we are sorry for what we have done wrong, God forgives us completely!  How does the father tell his older son to act about the younger son coming home.   He tells him to be glad and celebrate because his brother was lost and was found. 

7.      Let’s think about the older brother.  He is so angry, he would not even go into the house.  Why do you think he was he angry?  Whatever they say is fine.  If you have a brother or sister or cousin or other family member who was lost for some time, how would you feel when they came home? Hopefully happy!  Maybe this older brother just did not have enough love in him.  Maybe he was too self-centered about wanting ALL of his father’s love and praise.  Is it possible to love more than one person at a time?  Think about yourself—do you love more than one person?  So do you think it was possible for this father to love both sons?  Yes. 

8.      Suggest to the children that the father is God’s example to us of how we should think about other people.  God made everyone and loves everyone.  God doesn’t always love everything that everyone does.  God doesn’t love it when people choose to go away from him, but when they come BACK—that’s a celebration.  When people realize they are wrong and say they’re sorry, we should forgive them, just as God and the father did.  We should be glad and celebrate.  Sometimes this is not an easy thing to do, especially if we feel that we have tried to do the right thing from the beginning and the other person seems to have had a good time instead.  This is not only a problem for children.  Even as adults we often have a problem forgiving others.



Older Children:  (3rd-5th grades)

1.      Ask the children to divide into two groups—those who want to operate a puppet and those who want to watch.  There does not have to be any particularly number in either group—this exercise is merely to assure that children have a positive experience in the Praising Puppets rotation.  Some children absolutely want to operate a puppet and some absolutely do not want to.

2.      You can perform the puppet warm up exercises at this point, if you feel they are needed or would be fun.

3.      In the group that wants to perform, divide the children into those that want speaking parts, and those that just want to operate a puppet.  There will be four speaking parts in the play.  If more than four want to speak, you can perform the play multiple times.  If less than four want to speak, an adult can take a part.  Or adults can perform the whole thing, and just let the students be students.  NOTE:  The numbers may not work out exactly.  Just be creative and flexible. Pass out puppets to the performing group and pass out enough scripts so that speakers have one.  It is helpful for the puppeteers to have a script so they know what action they are to demonstrate.   You might highlight the scripts so that it is easier for a reader to find their parts. 

4.      Practice the skit outside the stage.  You can change performers with each practice.  Perform using puppet stage after you have practiced.

5.      If you have time, you can perform the skit again. 

6.      You can either discuss the various characters actions and thoughts after each reading of the skit or at the very end.  Here are some potential questions (which are similar to the Prodigal Son questions.)  Think about Mary.  Was she right to not do her work?  Does she seem to have learned a lesson?  What about the teacher?  Should she have helped Mary?  What about Joe?  Does he have the right to be angry with Mary getting help before the test?  Should he try to be happy that Mary might be changing her attitude about school?  Is it hard to be happy for other people doing OK when you think they haven’t done their share of the work?  Do you think you should encourage people who aren’t working hard or doing the right thing to be better? 


Younger Children (1st and 2nd grades) 

1.      To begin this part of the lesson, have all the children sit as an audience while the workshop leader, shepherd(s), and/or workshop assistant perform the play below. 

2.      Have a brief discussion of the play to assure that the children understood most of the story and what happened in the classroom.  If they really seem confused, continue the discussion or perform it again, although they will hear it two more times before the end of the workshop. 

3.      Ask the children to divide into two groups—those who want to operate a puppet and those who want to continue to watch.  There does not have to be any particularly number in either group—this exercise is merely to assure that children have a positive experience in the Praising Puppets rotation.  Some children absolutely want to operate a puppet and some absolutely do not want to.

4.      In the group that wants to perform, pass out puppets and let them choose which character to be.  Have them sit together in groups of teachers, Joes and Marys.   As the adults again read the skit, have them act it out with their puppets.

5.      You may be out of time by now, but if not, ask the children to answer some of these discussion questions:   Should the teacher have helped Mary?  Why?  Should Joe be happy that Mary is getting help?  Why or why not?  Do you think Mary will work hard next time?


Reflection Time:

1.      If you have time, ask the shepherds to pass out the journal pages and pencils/markers. 

2.      At 10:40 ask the students to put away their pencils/markers and sit quietly for prayer.



Prayer (suggestion):  God help us forgive people who do the wrong thing and then ask for forgiveness.   Help us to make the right choices even when it is difficult.  Amen.


Tidy and Dismissal: Ask children to help clean up.  Put pillows behind stage area. Put away boom box, workshop bin, etc.


Teacher preparation in advance:

1.      Pray:  Ask God to give you clarity of this scripture and words to teach His children this lesson. 

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

3.      Make copies of the script.  

4.      Prepare a closing prayer or use suggestion.

5.      Check out the room before your first Sunday workshop so that you know where everything is located. You can bring a CD or taped music for background music while you are gathering, along with meditative music for reflection time.


Puppet warm-up exercises (optional):

You may begin the puppet work in your lesson with some of these warm-up exercises:

1.      Tell the children that they will each receive a puppet and will practice moving their puppet in ways that help the audience understand what the puppet is doing.  You will give them guidance on what to do with their puppets. 

2.      Ask the children to divide into pairs. If there is an odd number, a group of three will be fine. 

3.      Pass out the puppets to one child in each pair.  It does not matter which puppet goes to which child.

4.      Have one of the pair do the action or emotion that you suggest and the other person watch.  Instruct the “watchers” to make any needed suggestions such as, “make bigger movements with the puppet” “do not turn the puppet’s head so much” etc. Examples of things you can practice with the puppets are:                                              

·          “Show how your puppet looks when it is speaking quietly.”                        

·          “Show how your puppet looks when it is speaking loudly”                          

·          “Show what your puppet does when it is listening.”                                     

·          “Show your puppet praying.”

·          “Show your puppet looking surprised.”

·          “Show your puppet looking afraid.”





(Depending on children participating, many student puppets can be included at the beginning.)


NARRATOR:  This is a story about a boy named Joe, his classmate, Mary and their teacher.  We’ll join them at the end of the school day.  Let’s listen to what happens. 


TEACHER:  “Boys and girls, don’t forget the test tomorrow.  It’s going to cover everything we’ve studied this year, so make sure you review all the things we’ve done.  See you tomorrow.”


(Other puppets leave the acting area.)


NARRATOR:  “After the bell rings, the teacher notices that two students have stayed behind, Joe and Mary.


TEACHER:  “Why are you two staying after class today?”


JOE:  “I wanted to make sure that you think I’m ready for the test.  Is there anything you think I could work on?”


TEACHER:   “Joe, you always pay attention in class, and you’ve worked really hard on every assignment.  I am sure you’ll do well tomorrow.  Why don’t you go outside and play, then get a good night sleep.  That’s probably all that you need to do.  Oh, and don’t forget to eat a good breakfast before school.”


MARY:  “Teacher, I don’t think I’m ready for the test at all.  I haven’t paid attention in school.  I didn’t do all the homework.  I didn’t even try very hard on the homework I did do.  I’m sorry now that I didn’t.  I’m afraid I’m going to fail the test tomorrow.”


TEACHER:  “Mary, I’m so glad to hear you say that you want to do well.  I will certainly try to do what I can.  I can spend about 30 minutes with you.  I can make sure you know which chapters were covered and give you some strategies for studying.  Hopefully, you’ve learned more than you think you have.”


JOE:  “That doesn’t seem fair.  I did everything you asked me to and worked really hard on it.  Mary daydreamed and played all year, and now, you’re going to help her catch up to me?” 


TEACHER:  “Joe, I’m not going to discuss Mary with you, but I will tell you that I want everyone to do well on the test.  When a student asks for my help, that student is going to get it.  Even at the last minute.”


JOE:  “You’ll probably give her the answers.  That’s about the only way she could do well at this point.”


TEACHER:  “Joe, please watch what you are saying.  You are going to get in trouble.  There is no way I would ever give out the answers to a test.  That WOULD be unfair.  You are welcome to stay and be part of our review session, but I don’t think you need it.  Why don’t you go play now?  Now is the time when you can enjoy yourself and goof off.  The students that haven’t worked as hard really cannot enjoy themselves tonight, can they?”


JOE:  “I’ll just go.”   (leaving)


MARY:  “Thanks for doing this.  I thought you’d say no.  I am so happy that you’re helping me.”


TEACHER:  “I am so glad that you care about the test.  This could be a new start for you.  This could be the last test you ever have to worry about if you start to work harder at school!  Let’s get started.”