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Lost & Found: The Prodigal Son

Video Workshop

Summary of Lesson Activities:

Watch an animated video of the story, The Prodigal Son from Nest Entertainment. Learn critical viewing skills. Discuss whom the characters represent. Note: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders visited this workshop.

[Poster's note: lots of lessons on this site make use of this video. This lesson is slightly different than others in that it has different pause points. There is a new Veggie Tales video out (in October 2007) but I didn't have time to review it. It's called "The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's.]

Video Reference:

The Prodigal Son, The Animated Stories from the New Testament, distributed by Nest Family Entertainment. Viewing time about 21½ minutes. (the total viewing time of this video is longer.)

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:

  • The video listed above.
  • TV/VCR
  • Snack items: goldfish crackers, paper cups, napkins, water pitcher
  • Easel and appropriate marker
  • Bibles (for 3rd graders)
  • Story Bible for 1st and 2nd grade – The Young Reader’s Bible
  • Activity Book (also from Nest Entertainment)
  • Masking tape
  • Movie tickets to pass out (have scripture reference printed on them)

Before Start of Class:

  • Copy from the Activity Book (that came with the video from Nest Entertainment) pages 9, 11, 15, 25, 28, and 36. Make these into six sequencing cards. Copy (and enlarge) pages 5 and 7. Make them into pictures of Jesus, the father, the older brother and the younger brother.
  • On the easel write the words: “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” Also make a “Things to watch for” list. Include these items: Jesus, the father, the older brother, and the younger brother. Next to each of these items, put up the appropriate pictures with masking tape.
  • Prepare snack.
  • Make sure you know how to use the TV/VCR. Cue the Video to start at the beginning where Jesus is teaching (just after the credits with music ends).


Opening - Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
Greet your students warmly, welcoming them to the video 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: 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:
Say: Today’s video depicts our story from the New Testament. [Starting with the 2nd week of the Rotation, ask students where we would find our story.] Our story from the Bible is about a story told by Jesus. Jesus often told stories called parables.


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

Say: We will be watching a video about the “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” [Refer to easel]


  • Who can tell me what the word “prodigal” means? (wasteful, someone who doesn’t make good choices when it comes to money)

Say: Let’s read from the Bible to see what Jesus is trying to teach us.

For 1st and 2nd graders:
Say: We find our story in the Gospel of Luke.
Read them the story on pages 328– 332 of The Young Reader’s Bible. Show the pictures as you read the story.

For 3rd grade: (who visit the last week in this Rotation)
Distribute Bibles.


  • What are the first four books of the New Testament called? (the Gospels)

Say: The word Gospel means “good news”. These first four books of the New Testament tell the story of the good news about Jesus. We have learned about God’s covenants with Noah and with Abraham and Sarah. Jesus brought us a new covenant.


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

Have everyone find Luke, chapter 15, verse 11 in the Bible.
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.
Ask the students to tell you the story. For fun (if they seem to know the story well) tell the story back to them with inaccuracies and let them correct you. For example: the younger son spent his money wisely…

For all students:
Have the Shepherd distribute the snack.

Say: Let’s take a look at what we are going to see in our video.
Refer to the “Things to watch for” poster. Introduce the characters in the video.

Say: Jesus was telling stories to a crowd of people. There was also what we would call “church leaders” listening in. These leaders did not like that Jesus was so popular with the crowds. Jesus tells these leaders that they would be wise to learn from his stories. We would all be wise to learn from Jesus’ stories!

Show the Video:
START the video at the designated place.
POINT OUT Jesus. [Don’t stop the action, just point out the character.]
VIEW scene of about 2 minutes 15 seconds.

PAUSE after the younger son says, “By then it will be too late.”
[The PAUSE button is one of the most powerful tools in your workshop. Don’t be afraid to use it!]


  • How much of the share of what the father has, does the father say his son would receive? (one half)

If students didn’t catch it, REWIND to where the father stands up from sheep shearing, and VIEW the scene to pause point above. Re-ask the question.
[Rewinding and re-watching are also powerful tools to learning.]

Say: From what we know about customs in Bible times, what the video said is actually incorrect. In this case the older son would get two-thirds of his father’s property, and the youngest would get one third. Sometimes videos can give incorrect information. It is important to listen carefully and to question what we hear. [Source: Harper’s Bible Commentary.]

VIEW scene of about 1 minute 50 seconds.

PAUSE after the father says, “Oh Lord, just bring him back to me.”


  • Were you surprised that the father gave in to his son’s request?
  • Why do you suppose he gave the son his money?
  • When the youngest son was leaving home, how do you suppose he felt?
  • How about the father, how do you suppose he felt?
  • How about the older brother?

[If necessary REWIND to when they are all outside and VIEW the scene again.]


  • Have you noticed that this video has given the younger son a name?

Say: Sometimes videos are made with extra parts in them that are not from the Bible. Jesus doesn’t tell us the names of the sons. It is good for us to notice when a video adds something to our Bible story. We can still enjoy this video.

VIEW scene of about 3 minutes and 15 seconds.

PAUSE as Jacob leaves the fortuneteller.
Ask: What do you think of the son’s spending, is he spending wisely?
Say: You can see why he is called a prodigal son.
Ask: What did the word “prodigal” mean again? (wasteful)

VIEW scene of about 4 minutes and 50 seconds.

PAUSE as Jacob’s friend says, “This is the life.”
Ask: Does the Bible tell us all of these ways that the son spent his money? (no)
Say: There’s the video adding to our story again. It does help us to understand him as a prodigal son.
Ask: Have you wasted money on foolish things?
How did you feel about that?

Say: I am going to fast-forward through some of this video, so that we have time to watch it all. We’re going to pick up the story at a point a month later, when the son realizes he’s spent all of his money.

FAST FORWARD to where Jacob is walking dejectedly by himself under the archway.

VIEW scene of about 3 minutes and 7 seconds.

PAUSE when Jacob knocks on a door.
Ask: How is the son doing now that he’s out of money? (not very well, he’s really hungry)
Say: There’s one word that’s coming up that I want to be sure you understand…
Ask: What is a famine? (a shortage of food, everyone is hungry)

VIEW scene of about 2 minutes.

PAUSE after Jacob says, “I’ll go to my father and beg him to hire me.”
Ask: What made the son decide to return home?

VIEW scene of about 4 minutes.
POINT OUT the older brother when he is walking towards the house at night.
STOP when the video ends.


  • 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.]


  • What does God want us to do when we do something wrong? (confess, ask for forgiveness)
  • How about forgiveness from people who are hurt by our actions? (we say sorry, we explain why it won’t happen again, we try to correct our mistakes)
  • How do we ask for forgiveness from God? (we pray to God for forgiveness and ask for help in doing better)

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


  • Whom do we know acts just like the father in this story acted? [If they need a hint: who is someone who forgives us no matter what we do?] (the father represents God; God is forgiving just like the father in the story.)
  • How is the father’s forgiveness of his son in the parable an example of God’s forgiveness of us? (the son came to his senses & returned to his father, asking 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, we wander away from God)

Say: God forgives us when we confess and ask for forgiveness.


  • 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.

Mix up the sequencing cards and put them on the table. Ask the students to put them in the correct order. If you have extra time you could form teams and have them take turns timing themselves at putting the cards in the correct order.

Say: I have a movie ticket to give each of you. On this ticket is printed the Bible verse where our story is found. This week, have an adult read you this story from the Bible.
Share with your family what Jesus has taught you.

Distribute the movie tickets.


  • Bruno, Bonnie and Carol Reinsma. The Young Reader’s Bible. Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing, 1998.
  • MacQueen, Neil. "A MANUAL for the "VIDEO ~ A-V" WORKSHOP”
  • 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 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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