Parable of the lost son

Bible base:

Luke 15:11-32

Teaching objectives:

To show that Christians believe that God’s forgiveness is available to anyone who is truly sorry for the wrong things they have done.

You will need:

  • Big storybook visual aid.
  • The following words written in sections on separate large pieces of paper or on acetate: IN TRO DUCT ION; CIR CUM STA NCES; UND ERST AND ING; MUL TIPLI CAT ION; SOR RY.
  • A newspaper.
  • A card with the following words written on it for a pupil to read out: ‘I was wrong to leave you and spend all my money. I don’t deserve to be your son any more. Can I be your servant?’

Optional:

• Simple costumes for characters (two sons and father, eg a baseball cap for younger son, a woolly hat for older son and a flat cap for father).

The story in this outline is an improvised drama of the Bible story involving pupils acting out the parts. It is essential that you are very familiar with the story in advance to enable you to relax and help the pupils in their improvisation. It is great fun, however, and pupils generally enjoy it and perform well!

Introductory activity:

Show the assembly each of the difficult words in a mixed-up order. Can anyone work out what the word is? (If the school you are in has a long name, you could add it to the list.)

IN TRO DUCT ION

CIR CUM STA NCES

UND ERST AND ING

MUL TIPLI CAT ION

SOR RY

The last word was much easier, but actually, while ‘sorry’ is not a hard word to say, it is very hard to really mean it.

Jesus told a story about saying sorry and what happens when we say sorry to God. Open the storybook visual aid if you are using it for this section.

Once upon a time there was a man. (Choose a pupil to be the father and give him his costume.) This man had a farm (ask pupils to make animal noises) and on that farm he also had two sons (choose two other pupils, preferably one older and one younger pupil and give them costumes).

Now, the father loved his sons very much (if they will, get the ‘father’ to put his arm round his ‘sons’ shoulders) and enjoyed having them around the farm with him. The father had worked very hard to build up his farm (mime digging). The older son was a hard worker too (digging) and worked out in the fields from when he woke up in the morning until he went to bed at night. The younger son, however, preferred to stay inside. In fact, not only did he prefer to stay inside, he preferred to stay in bed all day. When he woke up (mime waking up), he liked to go straight back to sleep (snore). Meanwhile, his brother and his dad did all the work (digging).

One day, however, as he lay in bed, avoiding all work, he had an idea (ask the pupil to pretend to have an idea by looking suddenly very alert.) His father, he knew, was a very wealthy man, as he had worked so hard all his life (check that the older son and father are still digging). When he died, his two sons would get all his money. So, why didn’t he go to his father now and ask him for the money? There was no point waiting until his father died – he might be too old to enjoy it by then!

So, off he went to find his dad – who was digging – to ask him for his share of the money. The younger son should go to his dad, put out his hands and ask for his money. What do you think his father said? Ask the pupils what they think.

Perhaps it’s hard to believe, but his father said yes! He gave him the money and so, the next day, the younger son packed his bags and set off on an adventure! He had never had so much money in his life! He was very excited! Ask the pupil to look very excited.

Eventually he came to a country far from home where the weather was good and the people were friendly and life was cheap, so he settled down to some serious spending! Ask the pupil to mime throwing money around.

As you can imagine, the man found it very easy to find friends when he was throwing his money around. Choose some more pupils to come to the front as his friends. All they had to do was put out their hands (mime) and he would give them as much money as they wanted. He was very popular!

Meanwhile, back at home, while his older brother worked in the fields (mime digging) his father would sometimes stop and think about his younger son. He would look out along the road, hoping to see him coming home (ask the pupil to mime shielding his eyes to look out into the distance).

One day, when the younger son was out with all his new friends, not thinking about his old dad at all, he suddenly realised that he had no money left – his pockets were completely empty (mime). And now that he had no money left, his new friends were not so interested in him any more and off they went to find someone else to be their friend. Ask the other pupils to sit at the side for the rest of the story. They had only liked him because he gave them money. The younger son was very sad (mime.)

For the first time in his life he was going to have to do some work! So, he looked in the paper to see what job he could do (give the pupil a newspaper). He didn’t want to do anything too hard or messy, but the only thing that he could find, after much searching, was the most disgusting job he could think of: feeding pigs.

Yuck! It was such a smelly job that he had to hold his nose with one hand while feeding the pigs with the other (mime). He got paid almost nothing and gradually the younger son got weaker and weaker, and more and more hungry, until he sat down and cried (mime).

What was he doing? He started to think of home where, as we all know, his brother and his father were working (mime digging) and felt very sad. Why had he run away and wasted all his money? Even his dad’s servants had a better life than he had now.

But he was scared to go home. What would his dad say? Would he be cross? He didn’t deserve to be taken back by his father.

But then, he had an idea (mime having an idea again). What if he went back and asked his dad to take him on as a servant? Then he would be back at home, near his dad and his brother, and he wouldn’t be as hungry and miserable as he was now.

So, he picked himself up (mime), dusted himself down (mime) and set off on the long journey home (mime).

Meanwhile, back at home, can you guess what was happening? His brother was digging (mime) and his dad was doing some digging (mime) while also looking out along the road (mime), in the hope that his younger son might eventually come back.

The younger son walked and walked and walked (mime) until he thought he could walk no more! Just as he was getting too tired and hungry and weak to go on, he suddenly spotted something on the horizon. It was his home! He was so excited that, even though he was so tired, he jumped for joy (mime)! He was nervous about seeing his dad, but he had his lines ready. He’d been practising it the whole way home! Give the pupil the card to read out. When he saw his dad he would say:

(Pupil reads) ‘I was wrong to leave you and spend all my money. I don’t deserve to be your son any more. Can I be your servant?’

Back at the farm, his dad too had caught sight of something exciting. Father should be shielding his eyes and looking into the distance. As he looked down the road, he thought he saw his son in the distance! And as the person got closer, he knew for sure that it was his son! He too jumped for joy (mime) and ran out to meet his son (mime).

When they met, his father gave him a huge hug! (It is unlikely that the pupils will act this out!) The son told his father what he had been practising all the way home:

Pupil should repeat the words on the card:

‘I was wrong to leave you and spend all my money. I don’t deserve to be your son any more. Can I be your servant?’

But his father loved him so much that he was delighted to have him back as his son! He ordered his servants to prepare a huge party and get the best clothes for his younger son and invited everyone to come and join the celebration. The father and younger son should start pretending to dance!

The older son, meanwhile, was still out in the fields, digging (mime), and when he heard the party, he was very cross. He had worked for his father for years and yet when his little brother came home, having wasted everything, he got a party! He was raging (mime)!

But his father went out to him and asked him to come in and join the party. Father should go over to the older son and invite him to the party.

The man had two sons, and he loved them both. One of them had always been there, and everything the father had was his, but he had to celebrate when the son he had lost came home again!

Thank the pupils for their help and ask them to take their seats again.

The younger son knew that he had been stupid and had given up all that he had at home to go off and do his own thing. He had to be ready to go back and say sorry. But the father loved him so much that he was just pleased to have him back. He didn’t want to punish him – he wanted to celebrate!

In the Bible Jesus said that this story was a picture of what God thinks about us. He said that God is like the father and loves us so much that he wants to forgive us when we come to him to say sorry for the things we do that are wrong.

As we said at the beginning, sorry is a very hard thing to say, both to God and to other people. But Christians believe that we don’t need to be scared of saying sorry to God because he loves us and will forgive us.

Optional prayer time:

Thank God that he will forgive us when we say sorry to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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