Skip to main content

Reply to "Prodigal Son Complete Lesson Set - FUMC Ann Arbor, MI"

Lost & Found: The Prodigal Son

Games Workshop

Summary of Lesson Activities:

Play a game of Bible bowling to learn the story of the Prodigal Son. 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:

  • A variety of Bibles: NRSV, CEV, NIV, TEV, and The Message
  • Story paraphrase (attached)
  • Game questions (see attached)
  • Whiteboard and appropriate marker
  • Ten plastic 2-liter bottles (empty & clean) or a set of bowling pins
  • Two Balls
  • Masking tape
  • Index cards; Marker; Pocket chart

Before Start of Class:

  • Create a short masking tape line on the carpet at least six feet from where bottles will be. Set up bottles in the manner of a “ten-pin” game of bowling.
  • With a marker, write the key Bible verse on index cards; load in the pocket chart.
  • Write on the white board the scoring guidelines, the words “Paraphrase” and “Translation” and “Parable of the Prodigal Son.”


Opening - Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
Greet your students warmly, welcoming them to the Games Workshop. Introduce yourself and any other adults. Remind everyone to be on the lookout for the Giving Tree.

[Note: The Shepherd will be taking care of attendance while you are starting your lesson.]

Say: Let’s start with prayer.
Ask for any prayer requests. Ask if anyone would like to lead the group in prayer. Use the Lord’s Prayer as the ending. A suggestion: God, thank you for your love and forgiveness. Help us to live, as you would want us to live, and to recognize our mistakes when we stray, and to return to your loving arms. (End with the Lord’s Prayer) Amen.”

Dig - Main Content and Reflection:
Say: Today we’ll be testing our knowledge of the parable of the Prodigal Son by playing a game called Bible bowling. Let’s start by reviewing our story from the Bible.

Distribute Bibles. [Make sure that students have different versions of Bibles – at least one person with a CEV, one with an NIV, etc. These letters are usually found on the spine and indicate different versions or translations of the Bible.]

Review the organization of the Bible:
Say: The Bible is divided into two parts, the Old and New Testaments. Each part is made up of books, which are divided into chapters and verses.

Have them figure out whether Luke is in the Old or the New Testament (about Jesus so it’s NT).
Show them that if they open their Bible in the middle, they’ll usually land in the book of Psalms in the OT. Point out that the book name is at the top of each page. After finding Psalms, if they then take the pages on the right side and divide them in half, they’ll land somewhere in one of the four Gospels.


  • What books of the Bible make up the Gospels? (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)

Say: The Gospels are the first four books of the New Testament.

Help them find Luke chapter 15, verse 11.
Say: Our Bible story today is most often called the “Parable of the Prodigal Son”. It is one of the many parables that Jesus used in his teaching.


  • What is a parable? (a story told by Jesus to teach his listeners something)
  • Are there words in your Bible right above verse 11, sort of like a title?

(TEV: The Lost Son; NRSV: The Parable of the Prodigal & his brother; The Message: The Story of the Lost Son; NIV & NLT: Parable of the Lost Son; CEV: Two Sons.)
Say: On purpose, I have passed out Bibles that are different versions. I did this so that you could discover that there are different versions of the Bible.

Point out how they can tell what version they have – by looking for the letters on the spine. (They can also read it inside on the title page.)

Say: Some versions of the Bible (like NRSV & NIV) are translations written to stick as closely as possible to the original Hebrew and Greek words. (Those are the languages that the Bible was originally written in.) Other translations (like TEV & CEV) stay close to the ideas expressed but don’t always follow the exact original wording or word order. Paraphrases (like the Message) reword scripture into everyday language with a goal of ease of understanding. To avoid any confusion I will read you the story from a paraphrase.

Read the story from the attached paraphrase. [Note: After the second week of the Rotation, ask the students to tell you the story. Fill in any missing details.]

Divide the kids into teams of 3 to 5 players (you might call them the Prodigals, the Older Brothers, the Oinkers, etc.) Each team answers a question (team members may collaborate). If they get it right (from memory), one person from that team gets two chances to knock down the pins. If they get it right with help of a Bible, they get one chance to knock down the pins. If they get it wrong - no chances. If it is a “strike” and they have two chances to knock down the pins, set up all 10 pins again for their second chance. If they knock down 9 or less, the second attempt is with the remaining pins. Use all chances to add discussion to these questions! To save time have team member reset the pins while the next team answers their question.

Leave time for closing (4 minutes).

Scoring: (Ask the Shepherd to keep score on the white board.) Remind students that the point is not who has the biggest score but how much fun everyone has learning the story.
10 points for each correct answer without a reference (from memory).
5 points for correct answers with a reference.
One point for every bowling pin knocked down.

Using the key verse written on the pocket chart, have everyone read the key verse. Then ask a student to remove one card. Then have everyone read the verse filling in the missing word(s). Have students take turns removing cards each time reading the verse aloud as a group. You may consider that each time you read the verse you say it in a different way – whispering, while standing on one foot, slowly, quickly, etc.

Say: Celebrate every time you ask God for forgiveness because you know that he will grant it. Be ready to learn from our parable. Be ready to act as God wants us to act. Be willing to ask for forgiveness this week, whether from God or from a friend or family member. In turn, be ready to act as the father did in our story and forgive someone else this week.

Paraphrase for the Prodigal Son

Jesus told this story: A man had two sons. The older son worked on his father’s farm but the younger son had other plans. He said to his father, “I want my share of your inheritance now, before you die.”

Ask: Do you know what an inheritance is? (money or property that would be passed on to the sons upon the father’s death)

So his father agreed to divide his wealth. A few days later this younger son packed up and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.

About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and soon, he had nothing to eat. He was so hungry that he took the only work he could find - a job feeding pigs! He wished he could eat some of the pods the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything to eat. He was very, very hungry and all alone.

Then one day he said to himself, “Here I am starving and yet my father’s hired help has food to eat. I want to go back to my father. I will tell him that I have made poor choices. I will offer to be his servant. Maybe my father will just let me work on his farm and have some food to eat.” And so this son started home.

When he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. He ran out, hugged his son, and kissed him. The son started speaking, “Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned against you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.”

But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling his servants. “Bring a clean set of clothes; put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Get the best calf and prepare it. We’re going to feast! This son of mine was lost but is now found!

Now the older son had been out in the fields. When he returned from working, he heard the noise of partying. The servants told him his brother was home and everyone was celebrating. The older brother was upset and would not go in to the party, so the father came outside to talk to him.

The older brother told his father that he was upset because he had worked hard all these years and never had his father even given him a little party. Now this son who had squandered away his money got a huge celebration.

The father told him, “You are with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

Questions for game
Poster's note: These questions are repeats from the material posted on this site under Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian. They have been repeated here becuase these questions include Biblical references.

Note: if you are short on time, skip the easy questions. Mixing up the order of the questions makes the game harder and is suggested for later weeks of the Rotation.
* Question to use as a tiebreaker.

  • Is the story of the prodigal son in the Old or the New Testament? (New)
  • In the parable, how many sons did the man have? (two; Luke 15:11)
  • Which son (older or younger) went away? (younger; Luke 15:13)
  • Before he went away, what did the son ask his father to do? (Give him his inheritance; Luke 15:12)
  • After the son got his share of his father’s property, where did he go? (To a faraway or distant or foreign country; Luke 15:13)
  • How did the father feel when his son went away? (accept any reasonable answer; ask if anyone else has ever felt that way)
  • What did the son do with his inheritance money? (wasted it; Luke 15:13; the word “prodigal” means spending recklessly)
  • How did the son feel after he’d spent all his money? (accept any reasonable answer; ask if anyone else has ever felt that way)
  • What happened to make food scarce where the younger son was? (a famine; Luke 15:14)
  • After he ran out of money, what job did the younger son take? (feeding pigs; Luke 15:15)
  • What was the pigs’ food? (pods; Luke 15:16) [Note that the CEV Bible has this info in a footnote; The Message says that he would have “eaten the corncobs in the pig slop.” If someone looks up the answer in this Bible use this as an example of how this paraphrase was written – to make it easy to understand not necessarily following the original language.]
  • Why did the son decide to return home? (he was starving, came to a realization about his situation; Luke 15:17)
  • What did the son plan to say to his father when he returned home? (“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.” Luke 15:18b-19; accept anything reasonably close)
  • When the father saw the son coming home, what did he do? (ran to meet him, hugged and kissed him, Luke 15:20b)
  • True or false: the son asked his father if he could be hired as his servant. (False)
  • Name something that the father gave the youngest son to wear when he returned home. (a robe or clothes, a ring, sandals; Luke 15:22) [Could ask this question three times; require a different answer each time.]
  • What animal was killed to prepare a feast for the returning son? (a calf; Luke 15:23)
  • Where was the older son when his younger brother came home? (in the fields; Luke 15:25)
  • How did the older son react to the return of his brother? (angry, jealous, pouted – accept any reasonable answer; Luke 15:28; ask if anyone else has ever felt that way)
  • What was the older son angry about? (he was angry at his father’s kindness; Luke 15:29)
  • What did the father do when he saw that the older son refused to come inside? (went out to talk to him; Luke 15:28)
  • What did the older son say he had been doing these years while his brother was away? (serving his father, never disobeying his father; Luke 15:29)
  • hat did the father say ABOUT the older brother? (You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” Luke 15:31)
  • What did the father say ABOUT the younger brother? (“But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15:32) [Point this out as the key Bible verse.]
  • Do you think the older brother felt better after hearing his father? (accept any reasonable answer; we don’t know whether he ever decided to join the feast)
  • Who told this story? (Jesus)
  • What is a parable? (a story told by Jesus to teach his listeners something)
  • What book of the Bible tells the story of the Prodigal Son? (Luke)
  • How is God like the father in the story? (accept any reasonable answer)
  • Who are we in the parable? (one of the sons, perhaps?)
  • Why did Jesus tell this story? (accept any reasonable answer)
  • Why does God forgive us? (because God loves us; Point out that this is what the father has done for his son, forgiven his actions)

* Use this question as a tiebreaker: What was so terrible about a young Jewish boy tending pigs? (they were considered unclean; eating them was forbidden under Jewish law)


A lesson written by 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

A representative of reformatted this post to improve readability. 

Last edited by Luanne Payne Inc. is a volunteer-run, 100% member supported, 501(c)3 non-profit Sunday School lesson ministry. You are welcome to borrow and adapt content for non-commercial teaching purposes --as long as both the site and author are referenced. Inc reserves the right to manage, move, condense, delete, and otherwise improve all content posted to the site. Read our Terms of Service. is rated5 stars on Google based on 51 reviews. Serving a global community including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, S. Africa, and more!