Pass out handfuls of fake money to each child. Have them imagine it is real money and they are planning how they are going to spend it. Tell children that they can decide how they want to spend their money - they can pick anything they want.
As kids give their answers, take back the money until they have nothing left.
It was fun to imagine what we could spend our money on - and maybe if you had known that you would have needed money to eat or have shelter you would have spent your money a little differently! Today, we’re going to learn a parable from the Bible that tells us a story about a boy that was pretty reckless and wasteful with his money.
You will be making a fruit salad while telling the story of the prodigal son. Midway through the story children will have an opportunity to make pig slop. After making the pig slop younger children will wash their hands before hearing the rest of the story. Older students will sit with dirty hands to hear the remainder of the story. Their hands will get increasingly sticky and the “slop” will begin drying. This process will help to make an interesting illustration about life without our heavenly father.
Note about jello: this ingredient is used for effect to create a cooler slop making experience and also added to make a very sticky mess on the hands as an illustration for the older students.
Say: This parable about the prodigal son is a parable that Jesus told.
Ask: Who can tell me what a parable is? (a story told by Jesus to teach his listeners something)
- 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)
- The word Gospel means “good news.”
- What is the good news of the Gospels? (accept a few answers)
Say: Today, we find our story in the Gospel of Luke.
The Story from Luke 15:
Feel free to elaborate and paraphrase in your own words with younger children. It may help to even make up conversations of the characters so that children stay engaged.
Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger son said to his father, ‘Give me now the part of your property that I am supposed to receive someday.’ So the father divided his wealth between his two sons.
Younger children explanation (Preschool/K): The son had been taken care of by his dad but now he wanted to live by himself and do what he wanted to do. He asked his dad for some money.
Older children explanation: 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.
A few days later the younger son gathered up all that he had and left. He traveled far away to another country, and there he wasted his money living like a fool. After he spent everything he had, there was a terrible famine throughout the country. He was hungry and needed money. So he went and got a job with one of the people who lived there. The man sent him into the fields to feed pigs. He was so hungry that he wanted to eat the food the pigs were eating. But no one gave him anything.
Say: When the son left his home he thought that life was going to be a ton of fun! But after he ran out of money it didn’t turn out so fun - he ended up needing to work with pigs - and he even wished he could eat pig slop!! Can you imagine what it might be like to eat pig slop?
I think we should try and make some pig slop to see what it might be like!
- Hand out an ice cream pail (with pre-made jello inside) to every 3-4 students
- Have them roll up their sleeves
- Explain that they need to get their hands into the bucket to mix up the pig slop REALLY well - no spoons allowed!
- Bring out the ingredients for the pig slop (scraps from your fruit salad, - all ingredients must be shared but kids can add any combination they would like to their slop
- The only rules are - all food must stay in their slop buckets, they must mix it up really well, the slop can’t overflow and it must be very yummy for a pig!
- Walk around and visit slop making stations and encourage children as they have fun making a gross concoction
Older children explanation/discussion: Pigs were considered unclean under Jewish law, so feeding pigs would be the lowest, most despicable job for a Jew. How clean was the job of making your slop today? What do you think it might have been like to actually work with pigs like the son in the story? Why did he end up having to do such a dirty job? How desperate would you have to be to take a bite of the slop you made? The prodigal son must have been in a very bad spot if he was considering eating pig slop! Let’s find out what happens next.
Back to the Story:
The son realized that he had been very foolish. He thought, ‘All my father’s hired workers have plenty of food. But here I am, almost dead because I have nothing to eat. I will leave and go to my father. I will say to him: Father, I have sinned against God and have done wrong to you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But let me be like one of your hired workers.’ So he left and went to his father.
Younger children explanation (Preschool/K): The son would never have to eat something as yucky as pig slop if he was still at home with his Dad! His Dad takes very good care of Him just like God takes very good care of us!
Older children discussion: The prodigal son is starting to realize that maybe life without his Dad isn’t quite what he thought it would be! He thought that it would be a LOT of fun, but it ended up being a little bit more trouble than he imagined. What did you think when I first told you we were going to make pig slop today? Maybe you thought it would be lots of fun - and it probably was at the beginning!
Grade 1-3: How much fun would it have been to eat it?! Maybe funny to watch someone try to eat it but probably not too fun once it got into our stomachs. Well - this story can help remind of something very important. Let’s imagine that the activity of making pig slop is like sin in our lives. At the beginning, sin can look pretty harmless - and sometimes even fun. Sort of like the prodigal son when he left his father. Maybe we choose to stay home from church to play a video game, or tell a little white lie to get out of trouble. Maybe we even make fun of someone who is wearing silly clothes or spend our tithe money on a new toy for ourselves instead of giving it to God. Sin in our lives separates us from God, our Heavenly Father. The prodigal son learned that life without his Dad was pretty difficult and life without our Heavenly Dad would be pretty difficult too. God wants to take good care of us and help us stay away from the sloppy consequences of sin!
Grade 4-6: How much fun is pig slop now? How are your hands/arms feeling? Are they getting sticky? Are they smelly or itchy? How might they feel in an hour from now or maybe even a day from now? How fun might that be?!
Well - this story can help remind of something very important. Let’s imagine that the activity of making pig slop is like sin in our lives. At the beginning, sin can look pretty harmless - and sometimes even fun. Sort of like the prodigal son when he left his father. Maybe we choose to stay home from church to play a video game, or tell a little white lie to get out of trouble. Maybe we even make fun of someone who is wearing silly clothes or spend our tithe money on a new toy for ourselves instead of giving it to God. Sin in our lives separates us from God, our Heavenly Father. The prodigal son learned that life without his Dad was pretty difficult and life without our Heavenly Dad would be pretty difficult too. God wants to take good care of us and help us stay away from the sloppy consequences of sin!
Take a look at your hands - you can see the consequences of making slop on them can’t you! Well, life without God would have a ton of consequences too - consequences that would stick to you all the time. God doesn’t want that for us! He wants us to be loved, well cared for and washed clean from sin. (Have students continue to wait before washing their hands. If there are students who are very bothered by the experience allow them to wash their hands.)
While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him coming and felt sorry for him. So he ran to him and hugged and kissed him. The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against God and have done wrong to you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
But the father said to his servants, ‘Hurry! Bring the best clothes and put them on him. Also, put a ring on his finger and good sandals on his feet. And bring our best calf and kill it so that we can celebrate with plenty to eat. My son was dead, but now he is alive again! He was lost, but now he is found!’ So they began to have a party.
Younger children explanation (Preschool/K): The dad was so very excited to see his son again! He loved his son so very much! That’s how much God loves us! When we choose to love God there is a big party in heaven celebrating our decision to follow Him. Even when we do something wrong, God will always forgive us and love us - just like the dad in this story.
Older children discussion: What were the consequences for the son when he returned home? There weren’t any! The Dad completely forgave him and showered love on him! What would that have felt like for the son? (At this time, allow older students to go and wash their hands. Once they have returned ask them how they feel now and how that might relate to the feeling of forgiveness and receiving the love of our Heavenly Father).
A note of interest: 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.
For Younger Students (Preschool/K)
The Dad in the story had a huge celebration and feast when his son came home. He loved his Son so very much. God loves us just the same way. He wants to take care of us. Let’s celebrate God’s good love together with a special feast I prepared!
Enjoy some fruit salad together.
For Older Students
This parable teaches us a lot about the love of God our Father. It teaches us that God wants to care for us and he wants us to enjoy the richness of his blessings. It also teaches us that His love is ALWAYS available to us. Even when we sin, or decide to live for ourselves and not for God - we can ALWAYS come back and he will forgive us and accept us. God can take our sins and toss them far away. He can save us from the pig slop of sin and transform our lives so they are fit for a heavenly feast.
Remember that pig slop we made earlier....well, some of the ingredients for the pig slop came from something much more beautiful and delicious. Fruit! (Pull out your fruit salad). I made this delicious fruit salad for us to eat as way to celebrate the feast the father threw for his son in the story we heard today. Some of the ingredients in here wouldn’t have tasted too good if I hadn’t taken out the seeds or removed the peels. Our life is like that too - without our Heavenly father’s love and forgiveness - we’d have sin in our lives that wouldn’t look to good.
Because of God’s great love for us - we can toss away the sloppy parts of our life. When we ask for God’s forgiveness we get to be part of God’s family - His sons and daughters.
We get to inherit his kingdom and his rich blessings - just like the prodigal son when he returns home. Let’s celebrate!!
End with a prayer.
Enjoy some fruit salad together.
A lesson posted by Andrea Anderst from: Zion Baptist Community Church,
A representative of Rotation.org reformatted this post to improve readability.