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Lost & Found: The Prodigal Son

Photography Workshop

Summary of Lesson Activities:

Hear the story of the Prodigal Son and create a tableau (a still picture) of each portion of the story. 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.


  • Easel with appropriate marker
  • Bibles (for 3rd grade and up)
  • One purple Adventure Bible with tabs (Law, History, etc.)
  • Bible tab writing kit: tabs, fine-line Sharpie pen (for 3rd grade)
  • A paraphrase for Luke 15:25-32 (See the paraphrase at the bottom of the Art Workshop)
  • A copy of the Read with Me Bible
  • Digital camera (provided by photographer)
  • Tripod (optional)
  • Popsicle sticks (at least 20)
  • A pen
  • Costumes
  • Props (optional): baskets, traveling sacks, money bag with coins, broom, low table, fabric to cover, dishes, cups, play food, towel, play food (corn), pods from a locust tree, a wooden box to use as a pig trough, pig noses (bought from a costume place)

Before Start of Class:

  • Write the key Bible verse on the easel.
  • Place the paraphrase inside the purple Adventure Bible with tabs, to bookmark the story.
  • Label the Popsicle sticks: Father, Younger Son, Older Son, Servant – write 3x, Party-attendee – write 3x, Restaurant owner, Pig – write 4x.
  • Decide where in the room to photograph each event. Place the appropriate props near each event:
    Leaving home – traveling sacks, money bag with coins, baskets, broom
    Wasting his money at a restaurant– low table, fabric to cover, dishes, cups, play food, towel
    Feeding pigs – play food (corn), pods from locust tree, wooden box as a pig trough, pig noses
    Returning home – traveling sacks
    Welcoming feast – same as restaurant scene


Opening - Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
Have the students sit in the tent area. Greet your students warmly, welcoming them to the Photography Workshop. Introduce yourself and any other adults. Remind everyone to be on the watch for the Giving Tree.

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

Say: This is the photography workshop and that means that our photographer will be taking some pictures. The photos will be all of you acting out our Bible story. We are going to take pictures of important things that happened so that we could make a sort of a scrapbook. The pictures won’t be printed today but you will have access to them on-line.
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: Thank you God for your gift of forgiveness and love. Thank you for sending us Jesus and for the wonderful parables that he told, that help us to understand your love for us. Join with me now as we say the Lord’s Prayer (say the Lord’s prayer). Amen.”

Dig - Main Content and Reflection:
Say: Today we’ll be learning about a parable Jesus told, which is called “the Parable of the Prodigal Son.” [From the 2nd week on, ask the class what story we are studying.]


  • Who can tell me what a parable is? (a story that teaches something)
  • Does anyone know what this parable teaches? (In the 1st week the kids aren’t likely to know; that’s ok, ask anyway as an introduction to what it does teach.)
  • Who can tell me what the word “prodigal” means?

Say: The word “prodigal” means wasteful. In our story there is a father and two sons. The youngest son does not make good choices when it comes to money. He ends up wasting his money. This parable is called the “Parable of the Prodigal Son” – a story about a wasteful son. It is also sometimes called “The Parable of the Loving Father.” That refers to how the father in our story treats his wasteful son. He loves him in spite of his bad choices! Since a parable is a story that teaches something, this parable teaches us that God loves us, even when we make mistakes.

For 1st and 2nd graders:


  • Since Jesus told this parable, where in the Bible would we read about it, in the New Testament or the Old Testament? (new testament)
  • What do we call the first four books of the New Testament? (the Gospels)

Say: The word gospel means “good news”. These first four books of the New Testament tell the story of the good news that Jesus told us about God’s love. The four Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are named after their authors. Our story can be found in the Gospel of Luke. Listen while I tell our Bible story. As I read, think about how the characters are feeling.

For 3rd grade and up:


  • Where in the Bible would we read about Jesus telling a parable? (in NT)
  • 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”. In telling parables Jesus was teaching us good news. The good news is that God loves us. 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 a Gospel tab for students who bring their Bibles. Use the classroom Bible with tabs as an example.]


  • In what Gospel do we find our story? (Luke)

Distribute Bibles. Have everyone find Luke, chapter 15, verse 11.
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.
Point out that this is where our story starts.
Say: I am going to read to you this story from this Bible storybook. Pay attention to how people may be feeling in this story.

For all students:
Read pages 344 - 347 in the Read with Me Bible. Show the pictures as you read.

  • How do you suppose the father felt when his youngest son left home? (sad)
  • How do you suppose this son felt when he first left home? (happy)
  • How do you suppose he felt when he’d spent all his money? (sad)
  • How do you suppose he felt having to care for pigs? (really sad)

Say: Remember these emotions when we take pictures of these scenes.


  • Who can tell me why a job working with pigs was awful for a Jewish person?

Say: Jesus was Jewish and he was telling this story to other people who were Jewish. Jewish people considered pigs an “unclean” animal, which meant that they could not be eaten. Even touching a pig was bad. Let’s see what happens when the younger son returns home to his father.

Read pages 348 - 349 in the Read with Me Bible. Show the pictures as you read.


  • How did the father react when he saw his son coming home?
  • Do you suppose the younger son was expecting his father to be happy to see him?

Say: He probably expected that his father would say something like, “you’re a bad son. You’ve wasted all your money. You’re not welcome in this family anymore!”


  • What was the father offering his son? (love, forgiveness)
  • Do you suppose it was easy for the son to come back home? (no)
  • Think of a time when you felt like the Prodigal Son – you did something wrong – you needed forgiveness – how did you feel?
  • Has someone ever acted towards you like the father acted?
  • Have you experienced forgiveness? How did it feel?

Create tableaux:

Notes about the process:

  • Start off by picking characters: if necessary, take out or add Popsicle sticks to the written supply so that you have a number equal to the number of students. Take the Popsicle sticks in your hand with the written part hidden in your palm. Have students each draw a stick. If a character is not needed in a scene then that student can watch. Yes, one character gets to be in every shot; it’s the way the popsicle sticks were drawn.
  • As photos are staged remind students to be creative and to think about the emotions in the story – be sure to show those emotions on their faces and with their body expressions.

Say: We will be taking photographs of each scene we re-create from this story – we are going to be Bible-times characters in these events. So let’s start by putting on costumes.
Have them quickly choose costumes. Give them a two-minute time limit.

Say: Now we will take our photos. Each group will create a scene and then “freeze” so the scene can be photographed.

As each scene is created. Ask the students what happened in this part of the story. Get them to re-tell the story. Remind them of the emotions of the characters in the story.

  1. Leaving home with his share of money –
    Characters: Father, Eldest Son, Youngest Son, & Servants.
    Give the servants the baskets & the broom.
  2. Wasting his money –
    Characters: Youngest Son, Party-attendees, & Restaurant owner.
    Ask kids how to show that the son is spending money.
    Give the restaurant owner the towel.
  3. Feeding pigs –
    Characters: Youngest Son & Pigs.
    Have the pigs put on the pig noses.
  4. Returning home –
    Characters: Father, Youngest Son, & Servants.
  5. Final Scene to Photograph: (if time)
    Photograph the Welcoming Feast. Gather everyone in this final scene; use everyone as partygoers/servants with the Younger Son. Show the father off to the side talking to an upset Eldest Son.

[Have the bookmarked copy of the purple Adventure Bible handy.]
Ask: What is the reason that Jesus told this parable? What was his message?

Read to the students Luke 15:20b.

Say: This tells us that this father was waiting and watching for his son. Just like this father, God waits and watches for us when we turn away from him. We can get turned away from God when we get busy with our lives. Yet God offers us forgiveness even when we don’t deserve it.

Say: There is more to this parable. Remember that this father had two sons. There is an older son who has an opinion about what his father does. Listen.
Hold a copy of the paraphrase in an open Bible while you read. [It is suggested that you hold your papers inside a Bible so that kids understand that you are reading the words from the Bible.]


  • How does the older brother feel about his younger brother?
  • Would you be able to accept the younger brother – to offer forgiveness?
  • If a friend does something wrong and asks for your forgiveness, do you suppose you could be forgiving and be friends again?

Have everyone read together the key Bible verse.

Say: God is willing to forgive. All of heaven celebrates when we ask for forgiveness.


  • Read with Me Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993.
  • 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 Carol Hulbert for First United Methodist Church
120 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

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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