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Lost & Found: The Prodigal Son

Cooking Workshop:

Summary of Lesson Activities:

Make a fruit salad saving the rinds, etc. as pig slop. Discuss forgiveness. Note: 4th, 5th, and 6th graders visited this workshop.


For scripture, objectives, and background - see above.

Leader Preparation:

  • Read the scripture for this lesson.
  • Read and reflect on the overview material provided for this lesson.
  • Gather the materials.

Supplies List:

  • Items in kitchen: Clean-up supplies, Knifes, cutting boards, spoons, serving spoon, A composting bucket, partly filled with disgusting stuff!
  • Items in pantry closet: Napkins, Bowls, large glass serving bowl
  • Items in refrigerator: Variety of fruit – oranges, bananas, etc.
  • The cooking “cart” with: Aprons, purple Adventure Bibles, 12 packets of ”money” (copied from a board game such as Monopoly), and a chopping device

Before Start of Class:

  • Wash the metal tables.
  • Lay out supplies: fruits, chopper, cutting utensils, and cutting boards, Larger glass serving bowl, spoons and bowls from pantry


Opening - Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
Gather everyone around the tables in the Social Hall. Greet your students warmly, welcoming them to the Cooking Workshop. Introduce yourself and any other adults. Remind everyone to be on the lookout for the Giving Tree.

[Note: The Shepherd will quietly take attendance, etc. while you are starting your lesson.]

Say: Today we’ll be learning about the parable of the Prodigal Son and how God loves us always, no matter what we do. Let’s begin with prayer.
Ask for any prayer requests. Ask if anyone would like to lead the group in prayer. Be prepared to say a prayer yourself, working in prayer requests. Use the Lord’s Prayer as the ending. A suggestion: “Dear Jesus, Thank you for giving us the story about the prodigal son who made bad choices but was forgiven by his father. Help us to see your love for us in this story. Forgive us when we make mistakes. (End with the Lord’s Prayer) Amen.”

Dig - Main Content and Reflection:


  • If your brother or sister received $20,000 from your parents and spent it on wild living, and wanted to come back home, how would your parents act?
  • How would you act when they came back home?

Say: We will be talking today about the Parable of the Prodigal Son, a story where this situation occurs.


  • What if you had $800 to spend on anything you would like, how would you spend it? 

Pass out fake money as you ask this.
As kids give their answers, take back the money until they have nothing left.


  • Now what are you going to do? You have no money and can’t get any more!
  • How will you pay for you food and living?


  • Who can tell me what the word “prodigal” means? (wasteful, or reckless) 

[You might get kids that start to tell you the whole story. This is ok, but get them back on track by telling them the word prodigal describes how the son acted while he had money to spend.]

Distribute Bibles.
Say: This parable about the prodigal son is a parable that Jesus told.



  • Who can tell me what a parable is? (a story told by Jesus to teach his listeners something) 

[If needed, have kids look up the word parable in the back of the purple Adventure Bibles. ]


  • Where in the Bible would we read about our story? (in the New Testament)
  • What are the first four books of the New Testament?
  • What do we call those first four books? (the Gospels)

Say: The word Gospel means “good news.”



  • What is the good news of the Gospels? (accept a few answers)
  • In what Gospel do we find our story? (Luke)

Have everyone find Luke 15:11-32.
Remind them of the quick way to find the New Testament: Opening the Bible in middle lands you usually in Psalms. Taking just the back half and finding middle of that, gets you to beginning of NT.

[Note: After the first week of the Rotation the students will become more familiar with the story. Have them locate the scripture in their Bibles. Then ask them to tell you the story. Fill in any missing details by using their Bibles.]

  • Have someone read verses 11-12. 

Say: Under the Jewish inheritance laws, the younger son would be entitled to 1/3 of his father’s property; the older son would get 2/3. The property would be mostly in the form of land, not money, so the father might have had to split up the family farm in order to give the younger son his share. This might have caused hardship for the family.

  • Have someone read verses 13-16. 

Say: Pigs were considered unclean under Jewish law, so feeding pigs would be the lowest, most despicable job for a Jew.

  • Have someone read verses 17-19.
  • Have someone read verses 20-21.
  • Have someone read verses 22-24.

Say: The robe was symbol of honor. The ring was a symbol of power of attorney. Wearing his father’s ring, the son could act legally in his father’s name.

  • Have someone read verses 25-27.
  • Have someone read verses 28-30.
  • Have someone read verses 31-32.

Cooking Project:
Say: I’ll tell you what – you may earn your keep. I need help making a yummy fruit.

Have everyone put on aprons, wash their hands, and gather around the metal table in the kitchen. Pass out knives, cutters, etc. along with the fruit. Point out the slop bucket to put the scraps in; say that maybe pigs would like to eat this food.


Talk about:

  • How the younger son felt having to spend time with pigs.
  • How hungry he must have been.
  • How the scraps, skins, etc. can be compared to our sins – God forgives us and we can discard our sins.

Prepare fruit salad and place in a pretty glass bowl. Return to the Social Hall.

Offer a prayer before eating: “Dear God, Thank you for sending Jesus to teach us your forgiving spirit. Help us to remember this, as we are tempted make mistakes, want our own way, and wander away from you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Leave some fruit salad to share with Connections Time (coffee hour).




  • What lesson was Jesus teaching in the parable of the Prodigal Son? 

Say: The father in this story loved his son very much. He welcomed him home and forgave him for spending all of his money. Jesus told this story to show us just how much God loves us and how God forgives us.


  • Have you ever been forgiven for something you did wrong?
  • How did that make you feel?

[You may need to offer your own example to get discussion going.]
Ask: What does God want us to do when we do something wrong? (confess, ask for forgiveness)

Say: The father in this story actually has a “secret identity”.



  • Who do you think Jesus meant for the father to be like?
  • How is the father’s forgiveness of the son in the parable an example of God’s forgiveness of us? 

Say: The son came to his senses and returned to his father, asking for forgiveness. God is forgiving just like the father in the story.


  • How about the two sons, who do they represent? (us)
  • In what ways might we be a bit like the Prodigal Son or how might we be like the older brother? (we make mistakes, we want things our way, we wander away from God) 

Say: God forgives us when we confess and ask for forgiveness.
Ask: How did the father feel when the son came home and gave up his wasteful living? How do you think God feels when we admit our mistakes and plan to do better?
Say: Just like the father in the story wanted to have a celebration when his son returned home, God also celebrates when we return to God.


  • MacQueen, Neil. “The Prodigal Son: Computer Workshop.” 2001.

  • Mays, James L. ed. Harper’s Bible Commentary. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.
  • Scripture quoted is taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.


Written by Dianne McLaren-Brighton, Ellen Lewis, and Carol Hulbert for First United Methodist Church
Ann Arbor, MI 

Copyright 2007 First United Methodist Church, Ann Arbor, MI. 
Permission to copy materials granted for non-commercial use provided credit is given and all cited references remain with this material 

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