Monday, June 3, 2013

The Parable of the Prodigal (Lost) Son by Martin Wiles

(All material is original to the author with the exception of songs and activities which have been borrowed from various sources. All studies are free for public use.)

Scripture Reference: Luke 15:11-32
Memory Verse: Romans 8:39
(Compiled and written by Martin W. Wiles)

Objectives: The lesson objective is two-fold. First to teach children that God loves them more than anyone else ever could. Second, to remind them that, even when they fail to do the things God wants, he is always willing to forgive if they ask. 

Ask: How many of you have ever lost something? Were you able to find it by yourself? Or did you have to ask someone to help you? Have you ever lost something that you were unable to find? How did that make you feel?

Say: Today we’re going to read a story about a father who lost one of his sons. No one kidnapped the son; he chose to leave home on his own. 

Say: (Display the following verse where the children can easily see it.) Let’s say our memory verse together. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:39 paraphrased)

Activity Time:
As the teacher tells the following story, let the children act out the different characters or animals and how they may have looked or sounded. Such as a father having a sad face, a son grabbing everything and being greedy, son begging father for his inheritance, son spending a lot of money, son acting hungry, snorting pigs, and the son returning.

Bible Story Time: 
Tell children the Parable of the Prodigal (Lost) Son:

Once there was a man who had two sons. He loved both of them very much, but one of the sons didn’t want to live at home anymore. He wanted to be on his own. The problem was he didn’t have any money to move out. He decided he would ask his father if he could have the money that he wasn’t supposed to get until his father died. While it was unusual for a parent to give a child their inheritance before they died, the father agreed to give his son the share he requested. He probably didn’t think it was a good idea. He may have even wondered what his son would do with it, yet he loved his son so much he agreed to the request. 

Reflection: What are some things you have asked for that your parents have given you? Were all of those things good for you? Have they temporarily taken some of those things away from you as punishment for something you did wrong? Have you ever gotten tired of those things after you played with them for awhile? What are some things we might want that are really not good for us in the long run?

When the father gave him the money, the younger son was excited. Finally, he would be on his own. He wouldn’t have to listen to his father telling him what to do any longer. He decided to leave where he currently lived. He found some friends in the place he decided to live, but they weren’t really true friends. They only liked him because he had money and could afford to give them a good time. It wasn’t long before he had spent all his money on things he shouldn’t have. When his money ran out so did his friends. He was all alone. He had to get a job feeding hogs so he could pay his bills. The younger son had it all but now he had lost everything. No one cared about him. 

Reflection: What do you think a true friend is? Will a true friend stick by you in the good and bad times? Have you ever had someone want to stop being your friend? What are some reasons someone might want to stop being friends with their friends? What are some ways you can be a good friend to your friends?

While the younger son was wallowing around in the hog pen, he began to think how good he had had it back home. His father had given him everything he needed. He had a place to sleep, plenty of food to eat, and all the nice clothes his heart desired. Now he had nothing. He had lost it all. Thoughts of returning home entered his mind. He wondered if his father would take him back as a hired hand. He was too afraid to ask him to take him back as a son after what he had done. Saying he was sorry was going to be terribly hard.

Reflection: Is it hard for you to say “I’m sorry” when you do something that makes your parents sad? Why or why not? Why is it important to apologize to people when we hurt them? Why do you think it’s so difficult to say “I’m sorry”?

The younger son finally got up the nerve to go home. While on the way, he continually practiced in his mind what he would say to his father. He imagined how made or upset his father would be…how he might not even let him come home. Then what would he do? Surprisingly, none of his worries materialized. As soon as he neared his home, he saw his father waiting in the middle of the road. He didn’t know it at the time, but every day his father would stand in the road and look for his son to return. Finally, on this day, he saw him. Sad, ragged clothes, and dirty feet. 

Reflection: How do you think the father felt when he saw his son?

The son didn’t have to run to his father. His father ran to him, hugged him, and told the servants to prepare a feast. His son had returned home. The son tried to apologize, but it was as if his father didn’t even hear it. The father had forgiven his son long ago. He was just glad he was home. When the father told the older brother that his brother had returned, he wasn’t as excited. In fact, he was mad over the way his father was acting toward this son who had wasted his father’s hard earned money. He didn’t want anything to do with his brother. He was jealous that his father would treat him so well after he had done so many bad things. 

Reflection: Have your parents ever done something for your brother or sister that made you mad? What was it, and why did you get angry? 

Jesus told this story as an illustration of God’s love. No matter what we do or say that upsets God, he is always willing to forgive. He’s like the father in the story who welcomed his son home even though he had wasted his money and did things he shouldn’t have done. 

Reflection: How does it make you feel to know God will always forgive you regardless of what you’ve done? Do you ever act like the older brother by not wanting to forgive someone? Have you ever felt as if your parents loved your brother or sister more than they did you? Why is hard sometimes for you to forgive?

Activity Break: 
Play this game like Hide n Seek. Hide items related to the story (shoes, rings, money, shirt, etc.). Tell the children what items they will be looking for. When they find them, instruct them to shout: LOST BUT FOUND.

Transition:
Let’s sing a song about loving and serving God.

Song:  
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.


Activity:
Let children complete the cut out and paste sheet for the Prodigal Son. (http://kidsbibledebjackson.blogspot.com) 

Take Away:
Let each child tell one thing they learned from the story of the Prodigal Son. 

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