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Lost & Found: The Prodigal Son

Drama Workshop

Summary of Lesson Activities:

Enact the story while learning story details. Note: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd 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:

  • Easel with appropriate marker
  • For 3rd graders: Bibles; One purple Adventure Bible with tabs (Law, History, etc.), Bible tab writing kit: tabs, fine-line Sharpie pen
  • Storybook for 1st & 2nd graders: A Child’s Book of Parables
  • Story backdrop (will be hanging in the room)
  • Costumes (optional)
  • Scene clapper

Before Start of Class:
On the easel draw six stick figures with faces that express the following emotions: standing & sad, standing & happy, standing & angry, on knees & unhappy, standing & sorry, standing & happy & arms out to hug.


Opening - Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
Greet your students warmly, welcoming them to the Drama Workshop. Introduce yourself and any other adults. Remind everyone to be on the watch for the Giving Tree.
[Note: The Shepherd will quietly take attendance, etc. while you are starting your lesson.]
Say: We are learning (continuing to learn) about the parable of the prodigal son – it’s a story with lots of potential for drama. There’s living wildly while spending money, and there’s forgiveness; we’ll get to act out what happens. First, 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: 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:

  • Who can tell me what that line means in the Lord’s Prayer: “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” What does that mean?

Say: It is asking God to “forgive my sins, and help me forgive anyone whom I need to forgive.”


  • Is asking for forgiveness easy?
  • Is forgiving someone easy?

Say: Jesus once told a story about a farmer with two sons. The younger son made some choices that got him in trouble. He needed to apologize to his father; he needed forgiveness from his father. Let’s read the story in the Bible and see what happened.

Hold a Bible and review its organization:
Say: The Bible is divided into two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is stories that Jesus learned as a child. They are old, old stories. The New Testament tells us the story of Jesus’ life and about the start of the church after Jesus’ death and resurrection.


  • So in which part of the Bible would we find a story about Jesus? (NT)

Say: Besides being divided into two testaments, the Bible is further divided into books. There are 66 books in the Bible. Our Bible story today is one of the many parables that Jesus used in his teaching.
Ask: What is a parable? (a story told by Jesus to teach his listeners something)

For 1st and 2nd grade:
Say: Our Bible story today is found in the book of Luke. Luke is one of the Gospels. The Gospels are what we call the first four books of the New Testament. The word “gospel” means good news. Jesus teaches us the good news about God’s love for us.
Ask: Can anyone tell me the names of the first four books of the New Testament?
Read pages 17 - 19 in A Child’s Book of Parables. Show pictures as you read.

For 3rd grade:
Distribute Bibles. Help them find Luke chapter 15, verse 11.
[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.]
Say: The first four books of the New Testament are called “the Gospels.”


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

Say: If you have your own Bible today, you may receive a tab for the Gospels section of your Bible.
[Show the classroom Bible with tabs. Have the Shepherd do tabs for students who bring their Bibles. Use the classroom Bible with tabs as an example.]


  • Are there words in your Bible right above verse 11, sort of like a title?

Say: That title can give us a clue about what the story is about.


  • What does the word “prodigal” mean? (describes someone who is wasteful)

Say: This is where our story starts.
Point out verse 32. Tell them this is where the story ends. Encourage everyone to read this story at home. Have them close the Bibles and listen as you read the story.
Read pages 17 - 19 in A Child’s Book of Parables. Show pictures as you read.

For all students:
Say: Let’s act out our story. To act out our story we are going to use a technique called “Freezing-Feeling Bible story.”

Enact the story
Break the class into two groups. One group will start off as the actors who will “freeze” in place when you say, “freeze.” The other group will be the feelings group. They will be the audience and will explain the characters feelings at the point of freezing. Have the actors quickly choose costumes (optional).

Say: If we have time we’ll do this twice so that you can switch places so that the “freeze folks” will be “feeling folks” and the “feeling folks” will be the “freeze folks.” I want all the “freeze folks” to come up onto the “stage” (in front of the backdrop). I want the “feeling folks” to move chairs over facing the stage.

[While the feeling folks are moving chairs. Quickly choose students to be each of the following roles: Father, Younger Son, and Older Son. The rest of the students can be servants in this first scene. Explain that they can take other parts in later scenes. Move the easel so that everyone can see it.]

Say: I will read the Bible story of the Prodigal Son. The “freeze folks” on the stage will act out what is happening in the story. Make sure you pay special attention to how the Bible characters are feeling and show those feelings REALLY BIG on your faces. During the story, if I say, “Freeze” the “freeze folks” must freeze in place and not move again until I tell you to “Thaw.” While you are frozen, I will ask the “feeling folks” to tell me how they think the different characters are feeling at that time in the story.

[Leader’s note: You may consider planning the following freeze points so that half of them are accomplished with one group on stage and half are when the other group is on stage. Or just plan on doing the freezing points very quickly with the second group on stage.]

Say: This is the Parable of the Prodigal Son, from Luke 15. (Adapted from the Little Kids Adventure Bible.)
Jesus told this parable: There was a man who had two sons. The younger son spoke to his father. He said, “Father, give me my share of the family property.” So the father divided his property between his two sons. Not long after that, the younger son packed up all he had and left for a country far away.

Allow the actors to enact this portion of the story as they see fit. Then…

Ask: (the Feeling folks) –

  • Which picture would tell me how the father is feeling when his son moves away? How do you think the younger son feels when he moves away?

[Instruct the actors that the people who were servants may now play new parts; maybe they’d like to be the farmer or pigs in this next scene. Encourage ad-libbing.]

Say: THAW. There, in this far away country, the younger son wasted his money on wild living. He spent everything he had. Then the whole country ran low on food. So the son didn’t have what he needed. He went to work for someone who lived in that country, who sent him to the fields to feed the pigs.

Allow the actors to enact this portion of the story as they see fit. Then…

Ask: (the Feeling folks) –

  • Which picture would tell me how the son felt when he had to feed pigs?

Say: THAW. The son wanted to fill his stomach with the food the pigs were eating. But no one gave him anything. Then he began to think clearly. He said to himself, “How many of my father’s hired workers have plenty of food! But here I am dying from hunger! I will go back to my father. I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned. I am no longer fit to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.” So he got up and started back home.

Allow the actors to enact this portion of the story as they see fit. Then…

Ask: (the Feeling folks) –

  • Which picture would tell me how the son felt when he decided to say, “I’m sorry?” How do you suppose the son thought his father would feel when he came home? 

Say: THAW. While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him. He was filled with love for his son. He ran to him. He threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Allow the actors to enact this portion of the story as they see fit. Then

Ask: (the Feeling folks) –

  • Which picture would tell me how the father felt when he hugged and kissed his son?

[Make sure that students are prepared to be servants in this next scene.]

Say: THAW. 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 me 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. So they began to celebrate.

Allow the actors to enact this portion of the story as they see fit. Then…

Ask: (the Feeling folks) –

  • Which picture would tell me how the son felt when he expected his father to be angry with him, but instead his father forgave him and threw a party?

If time allows add this part…
Say: THAW. The older brother has a part in this next scene. The older son was in the fields. When he came near the house that night, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants. He asked him what was going on. “Your brother has come home,” the servant replied. Your father is having a party because your brother is back safe and sound.”

Allow the actors to enact this portion of the story as they see fit. Then…

Ask: (the Feeling folks) –

  • Which picture would tell me how the brother who stayed at home felt when he heard his brother was home?

Say: THAW. The older brother became angry. He refused to go in. So his father went out and begged him. But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I have always obeyed your orders. You never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But this son of yours wasted your money! Now he comes home. And for him you kill the fattest calf!” “My son,” the father said, “you are always with me. Everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad. This brother of yours was dead. And now he is alive again. He was lost. And now he is found.”

Allow the actors to enact this portion of the story as they see fit. Then…

Ask: (the Feeling folks) –

  • Which picture would tell me how your parents would feel if you ran away from home for a long, long time and then came back again?

[Repeat the acting/feeling a second time freezing at different points or just quickly reiterating the feelings or just run through the drama without freezing… May wish to have Discussion before repeating the drama the second time.]


  • Do you suppose the father had to stop and think about whether or not to be mad at his son when he saw him coming home?
  • Do you suppose that God has to stop and think about whether or not to forgive us when we go to him and tell him we are sorry and that we have learned from our mistake? (no)
  • How is the father in this story like God? (God readily forgive us when we ask)

Say: The youngest son came to his senses and returned to his father, asking for forgiveness. We can do likewise with God.


  • 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, and we wander away from God) 

Say: We all mess up sometimes. When we are truly sorry we can ask God for forgiveness and receive it. Then there can be celebration: we have returned to God!
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.

Close in prayer. A suggestion: Dear Holy God, we thank you for the wonderful stories you put in the Bible to help us to think about what you are teaching us. We are sorry for the times we act selfish like the younger brother, or jealous like the older brother. We are so glad that when we decide to obey you, you greet us with wide-open arms and a big hug. Help us to live the way you want us to live so that we may be an example to others. In Jesus name, Amen.


  • G.R.E.A.T. Adventure Dream Team at State Street United Methodist Church, Bristol, VA. “The Prodigal Son: Drama Workshop.”
  • Moroney, Trace. A Child’s Book of Parables. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing, 2003.
  • Richards, Lawrence O. Little Kids Adventure Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2000.
  • Scripture quoted is taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.


A lesson written by Carol Hulbert for First United Methodist Church with the vast assistance of Jaymie Derden of State Street United Methodist Church

Bristol, VA.

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.


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