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Lesson Prep

Background Scripture (read 2-3 times during the week)

Luke 15:11-32

Story Summary

This is the third of the "Lost" trilogy in Luke 15. The first two were the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. This parable is a "gospel parable." The Good News is wrapped up in this little story in a beautiful and powerful way.

What are Parables?

Take this opportunity to teach your children what parables are. They are little stories Jesus told that teach us about the Kingdom of God. They are similar to fables in that they are stories with a deeper meaning. But fables give moral or ethical lessons. For example, the Tortoise and the Hare teaches us not to give up (if you are the tortoise) and not to be too full of yourself (if you are the hare). The Boy Who Cried Wolf teaches us that if we lie repeatedly, people won't believe us even when we are telling the truth. Parables teach us about life in the Kingdom of God, or life as a Christian.

Parable Summary

In this parable, Jesus tells a story of a man with two sons. The son asked for his inheritance early, left home and squandered all his money on wild living. Essentially, the son tells the father, "I wish you were dead already. I don't care about you, I just want your money." But the son ran out of money very quickly. Give a fool money, and he is still a fool.

He ends up working for a farmer, feeding his pigs and finally comes to his senses when he finds himself really wanting to eat the slop he is feeding the pigs. He realizes that the servants working for his father's house are probably living far better than he is, so he decides to go back to his father and beg to be allowed to be a servant in his household. His father, however, sees him coming from a distance off, has compassion on him and goes running to meet him. The father throws a big party in honor of his son returning.

An oft-forgotten part of the story is about the older brother. He never treated his father that way. He didn't squander his money. He never left home. When he saw his father giving special treatment to the son who returned home, he became angry and jealous. He refused to go to the party. His father, however, tells him that it is appropriate to celebrate "because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." (Luke 15:32)

This is a great story to talk about the concept of repentance. Repentance is admitting that what you have done is wrong, asking for forgiveness, and changing your behavior. Repentance is a key concept for children to learn. Concepts are difficult for children to learn at this age, which is why teaching it using this story works so well!

The Kingdom lesson in this parable: All of us are like the lost son. We have sinned against God the Father. But he loves us and welcomes us back to him, no matter what we've done. All we have to do is ask him to forgive our sins and believe in his death on the cross and his resurrection as the payment for our sins!

What You Will Need

Resource Sheet

Parable of the Lost Son

This coloring sheet depicts the Parable of the Lost Son, when the father runs to greet his son who is returning to him to ask for forgiveness

Lesson

1. Warm Up

get your kids talking and engaged

What is the most disgusting thing you've ever eaten? 

Today, we're going to learn about a parable (or story) that Jesus told about a son who left home and actually wanted to eat pig slop!

2. Teach the Story

teach a holistic story

Teach the children what a parable is (see the Story Summary above)

Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children.

For older children, read the story from an age-appropriate Children's storybook Bible or read directly from the Bible.

3. Bible Mastery

give them basic Bible skills

Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud: Luke 15:11-32

4. Comprehension Questions

make sure they understand the story

First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?

  • What is a parable? (a little story Jesus told that teaches us what life is like as a Christian, in the Kingdom of God)
  • What did the son do to his father that was mean? (he demanded that the father give him his inheritance early, and he left home)
  • What did the son do with his money? (he squandered it on wild living)
  • What did he do after he ran out of money? (he went to work for a farmer, feeding the pigs)
  • What made him come to his senses? (he found himself actually wanting to eat the pigs' food)
  • What was his next plan? (he decided to go home and ask his father if he could work as a servant in his household)
  • How did his father respond to him coming home? (he ran out to meet him, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Then he threw him a big party!)
  • How did his brother respond to him coming home? (he was angry that he got special treatment, since his brother was the one who wasted all his money, and he never left home)
  • What was the kingdom lesson in this parable? (God loves us and wants to forgive us, no matter what we've done)

5. Faith Questions

help them apply the story to their lives and open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer
  • In this story, we learn that God is like the father of the lost son, who is just waiting for us to return to him, and he will forgive us.
  • Have you asked God to forgive you of your sins?

6. Memory Verse

hide God's Word in their heart
Be kind and tender to one another. Forgive each other, just as God forgave you because of what Christ has done. Ephesians 4:32

Reinforcement Activities

Open Arms Craft

Scripture So he got up and went to his father. “While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him. He was filled with tender love for his son. He ran to him. He threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20

Supplies construction paper, scissors, crayons

  • Trace hands and cut out.
  • Glue hands to the ends of a paper strip.
  • Fold the strip to make the hands open and close.
  • Glue a copy of Luke 15:20 to the inside of the paper strip.

Father Son Craft

Scripture So he got up and went to his father. “While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him. He was filled with tender love for his son. He ran to him. He threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20

Supplies Father and Son Cutouts (below), card stock, popsicle sticks, crayons, glue

  • Cut a slit in the middle of the cardstock.
  • Decorate the top half to look like the sky, with clouds, birds and a sun.
  • The bottom half can be made to look like the ground.
  • Color and cut out the father and son.
  • Glue them both popsicle sticks and stick through the slit.
  • They can move across the paper to meet in the middle.

Fear Factor

Heads up! This activity should not be mandatory, rather for volunteers that want to participate.

Scripture The son wanted to fill his stomach with the food the pigs were eating. But no one gave him anything. Luke 15:16

  • Play a game of Fear Factor where students have to eat foods that look like they came from a pigsty.
  • Examples:
  • Applesauce, baby food carrots and cut up hot dogs.
  • Chocolate pudding and green beans.
  • A milder option would be baby food by itself.
  • Base your choices on the age of your students and what you think they can handle.

Repentance and Forgiveness

Scripture “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattest calf and kill it. Let’s have a big dinner and celebrate. This son of mine was dead. And now he is alive again. He was lost. And now he is found.’ Luke 15:21-24

Supplies 6 beads (black, red, white, blue, green, yellow or gold), leather cord, scissors

  • Confession is the act of agreeing with God that what you are doing is sin.
  • Repentance is the activity of reviewing one's actions, feeling regret for past wrongs and changing your behavior.
  • Make salvation bracelets that provide a visual of the salvation message.
  • Put the beads in the following order-
  • BLACK is for sin "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23
  • RED is for the blood Jesus shed for us on the cross. "But God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Roman 5:8
  • White is for our cleansing. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Isaiah 1:18
  • BLUE is for our baptism. When you were baptized, you were buried together with him. You were raised to life together with him by believing in God’s power. God raised Jesus from the dead. Colossians 2:12
  • GREEN is for our growth as believers. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. 2 Peter 3:18
  • Yellow or Gold is for our eternal home in heaven. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:3

Lost Son Relay

Scripture So he got up and went to his father. “While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him. He was filled with tender love for his son. He ran to him. He threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20

Supplies 2 robes, 2 chairs

  • Divide class into two groups.
  • The first person on each team puts on a robe, runs around a chair or some other object and comes back to the starting point.
  • Optional: that person must hug the next person in line.
  • Then pass the robe to begin the next leg of the relay.

Celebration Time!

Scripture “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattest calf and kill it. Let’s have a big dinner and celebrate. 24 This son of mine was dead. And now he is alive again. He was lost. And now he is found.’ Luke 15:22

Supplies snacks and food for a celebration, lively music, plates, cups, robe, pipe cleaner ring

  • Invite someone from your church to come into your class.
  • Act excited when they arrive. Tell the students it has been so long since you have seen him.
  • Put a robe on him and a ring on his finger.
  • Bring out the snacks and allow students to help serve the guest.
  • Listen to music during your celebration.