The lesson objective is two-fold. First to teach children that God loves them more than anyone else ever could. Second, to remind them that, even when they fail to do the things God wants, he is always willing to forgive if they ask.
How many of you have lost something? Were you able to find it by yourself? Or did you have to ask someone to help you? Have you ever lost something that you were unable to find? How did that make you feel?
Today we’re going to read a story about a father who lost one of his sons. No one kidnapped the son; he chose to leave home on his own.
Let’s say our memory verse together. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39 paraphrased).
As you tell the story, designate children to act out the different characters and animals and how they may have looked or sounded. Such as the father having a sad face, one son grabbing everything and being greedy, one son begging his father for his inheritance, one son spending a lot of money, one son acting hungry, one son returning, and snorting pigs.
Tell children the Parable of the Lost Son:
Once there was a man who had two sons. He loved them both very much, but one of the sons didn’t want to live at home anymore. He wanted to be on his own. The problem was he didn’t have any money to move out. He decided he would ask his father if he could have the money that he wasn’t supposed to get until his father died. While it was unusual for a parent to give a child their inheritance before they died, the father agreed to give his son the share he requested. He probably didn’t think it was a good idea. He may have even wondered what his son would do with it, yet he loved his son so much he agreed to the request.
Reflection: What are some things you have asked for that your parents have given you? Were all of those things good for you? Have they temporarily taken some of those things away from you as punishment for something you did wrong? Have you ever gotten tired of those things after you played with them for awhile? What are some things we might want that are really not good for us in the long run?
When the father gave him the money, the younger son was excited. Finally, he would be on his own. He wouldn’t have to listen to his father telling him what to do any longer. He decided to leave where he currently lived. He found some friends in the place he decided to live, but they weren’t really true friends. They only liked him because he had money and could afford to give them a good time. It wasn’t long before he had spent all of his money on things he shouldn’t have. When his money ran out so did his friends. He was all alone. He had to get a job feeding hogs so he could pay his bills. The younger son had it all but now he had lost everything. No one cared about him.
Reflection: What do you think a true friend is? Will a true friend stick by you in the good and bad times? Have you ever had someone want to stop being your friend? What are some reasons someone might want to stop being friends with their friends? What are some ways you can be a good friend to your friends?
While the younger son was wallowing around in the hog pen, he began to think how good he had had it back home. His father had given him everything he needed. He had a place to sleep, plenty of food to eat, and all the nice clothes his heart desired. Now he had nothing. He had lost it all. Thoughts of returning home entered his mind. He wondered if his father would take him back as a hired hand. He was too afraid to ask him to take him back as a son after what he had done. Saying he was sorry was going to be terribly hard.
Reflection: Is it hard for you to say “I’m sorry” when you do something that makes your parents sad? Why or why not? Why is it important to apologize to people when we hurt them? Why do you think it’s so difficult to say “I’m sorry”?
The younger son finally got up the nerve to go home. While on the way, he continually practiced in his mind what he would say to his father. He imagined how mad or upset his father would be . . . how he might not even let him come home. Then what would he do? Surprisingly, none of his worries happened. As soon as he neared his home, he saw his father waiting in the middle of the road. He didn’t know it at the time, but every day his father stood in the road and looked for his son to return. Finally, on this day, he saw him. Sad, ragged clothes, and dirty feet.
Reflection: How do you think the father felt when he saw his son?
The son didn’t have to run to his father. His father ran to him, hugged him, and told the servants to prepare a feast. His son had returned home. The son tried to apologize, but it was as if his father didn’t even hear it. The father had forgiven his son long ago. He was just glad he was home.
When the father told the older brother that his brother had returned, he wasn’t as excited. In fact, he was mad over the way his father was acting toward this son who had wasted his father’s hard earned money. He didn’t want anything to do with his brother. He was jealous that his father would treat him so well after he had done so many bad things.
Reflection: Have your parents ever done something for your brother or sister that made you mad? What was it, and why did you get angry?
Jesus told this story as an illustration of God’s love. No matter what we do or say that upsets God, he is always willing to forgive. He’s like the father in the story who welcomed his son home even though he had wasted his money and did things he shouldn’t have done.
Reflection: How does it make you feel to know God will always forgive you regardless of what you’ve done? Do you ever act like the older brother by not wanting to forgive someone? Have you ever felt as if your parents loved your brother or sister more than they did you? Why is hard sometimes for you to forgive?
Play this game like Hide-n-Seek. Hide items related to the story (shoes, rings, money, shirt, etc.). Tell the children what items they will be looking for. When they find them, instruct them to shout, “Lost but Found.”
Martin Wiles is an author, teacher, and freelance editor currently residing in Greenwood, South Carolina. He and his wife Michelle are founders and editors of Love Lines from God (www.lovelinesfromgod.com). Wiles has authored Grits & Grace & God and Grits, Gumbo, and Going to Church (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas), Morning By Morning,Morning Serenity, Grace Greater Than Sin (America Star Books), Authentic Christianity (Smashwords) and is a contributing author in Penned from the Heart (Son-Rise Publications), and Rise (Chaplain Publishing). He has served as Regional Correspondent and Sunday school lesson writer for the Baptist Courier and also written for LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life curriculum. He has also been published in Open Windows, Proclaim, The Secret Place, Upper Room, Light from the Word, Reach Out Columbia, Mustard Seed Ministries, Journey Christian Newspaper,Common Ground Herald, The Quiet Hour, and Power for Living. He is a regular contributor to Christian Devotions, and PCC Daily Devotions, and is a regular contributor for the Dorchester County Eagle Record, the Orangeburg County Times and Democrat, and the Greenwood County Index Journal. Wiles also serves as the Managing Editor for Christian Devotions and as an assistant Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolina. You can follow him @linesfromgod.