THE PRODIGAL SON
That is the best definition we have for the “prodigal” son.
Prodigal is not a commonly used word today, but the story is all too familiar… an individual decides to live life however they want, without regard to the consequences, but when they stand face-to-face with results of their actions, they don’t know what to do.
The story of the Prodigal Son reminds us that it is never too late to turn back to our Father who will, without exception, welcome us back with open arms.
Use this lesson to teach teens that no matter how far we may run away, God will always love us.
– Nick Diliberto, Ministry to Youth
YOUTH GROUP LESSON ON THE PRODIGAL SON
Written by: Tiffany Hollums
Bible: Luke 15:11-32
Bottom Line: No matter how far we may run away, God will always love us.
- Chocolate pudding or SpaghettiOs (a very messy food)
- Paper towels
OPENING GAME: EAT LIKE A PIG
Set up a long table in the front of your space.
Ask for 4-5 ‘brave’ volunteers to come to the front and stand behind the table.
Say: Today, we are going to hear a story in which the main character becomes so desperate for food that he had to eat what pigs eat.
So, today our challenge is to eat like pigs… which just means it will be messy!
We will set a bowl of messy food in front of you and you will have to eat it without a fork or spoon… and without using your hands.
We’re going to see who can clear their bowl the fastest – Ready? Go!
Once the first group has participated, see if there are others who would like to take the challenge and even change up the foods if you like.
Be sure to take photos!
That’s probably not the way that most of you eat… but it was hilarious to watch!
Today, we are going to divide into groups and tell the story of this guy that I mentioned earlier that ate with pigs.
This is the story of the “prodigal son” found in Luke 15:11-32.
Often, the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day, would complain that Jesus would associate with sinners – notorious criminals and tax collectors.
Jesus was telling this story of the prodigal son to those people.
Divide the students into groups of 6-8 people and give each group a Bible.
Say: Each group is going to read the story found in Luke 15:11-32.
Read the Scripture and come up with a creative way to share the story.
Make sure and involve every person in your group because once you are done, we will have a chance for each group to share their retelling of story.
Also, try to tell us what you think Jesus was trying to get across through this story.
Give the groups 10-15 minutes depending on how involved and creative they get.
Then, give each group a chance to share their retelling.
Jesus chose to share deep things about God, the Kingdom, and faith through stories called “parables.”
These stories were real and easy to relate to.
Are any of you the youngest child in your family?
How would you describe the younger son in this story?
What do you think about him asking his father for his inheritance?
Raise your hand if you are the oldest child in your family.
How would you have felt if you were the oldest son in this story?
See, there are heavy emotions and drama in this story because let’s face it… families can get really messy, right?
If you have a funny story, with some good drama, share a story about your siblings.
In this parable, the younger son basically goes to his father, and says: “Hey, old man… you know how when you die I will get your money and stuff… yeah, I want it now”.
In a super selfish way, it is like he is acting like his dad has already died.
And then, the son leaves and goes crazy, wild doing all kinds of things that he shouldn’t do and blows all of the money.
He ends up wishing that he could eat what the pigs are eating and decides to go back and beg his dad to just let him have even a scrap of mercy.
And here is where we get to the real amazing part of the story.
If you were his father, what would you have done if your son came back after all of those things had happened?
But no, this father (who is supposed to represent God, by the way…) has been waiting and looking for his son to return.
And not just that, when he sees him, he runs to him, hugs him, and showers him with blessings.
This father is radical and does exactly the opposite of what you think he would do: He welcomes his son home with open arms.
And even so much that it really makes the older son super mad and jealous.
Maybe some of you can relate to the oldest son: He had stayed with the father and had done what he thought he was supposed to do.
But, here is where you can see a bit more into the hearts of the characters…
Yes, the older son seemed to follow the rules, but in his own way, he was rebelling because he didn’t trust his father.
And also, he was just kind of whiny!
Maybe he thought that he was the favorite son now that his younger brother was gone.
Whatever it was that the older son thought, one thing he didn’t about think was how relieved he was to see that his younger brother was home and safe, which kind of shows what was in his heart.
But, like the father tells the older son – this son was dead and is now alive.
See, Jesus told this story to each one of us.
In our own individual way, we have gone to God and insulted him… we have taken the love and gifts that He has given us and just thrown them away.
And all the while, you know what God wants for us?
For us to be home and to know that we are loved by him.
As hard as it must have been for the father to let his son go, it’s almost like he knew that he needed to go and try it his way.
But you know what, the father probably knew that it would end badly for his son.
So, he was waiting for him to return home and no telling how long the father had just been there waiting and watching for his son on the road.
And I think that Jesus wants those of us who think that we have gone so far away that God would never want to take us back to really stop and hear these words.
Feel the arms of God around us when we return home ashamed and broken.
No matter what you have done.
No matter how far you have tried to run away.
No matter how bad you have failed.
God loves you and will always be standing there waiting to see you return home.
And when he sees you, it’s like he runs to hug you and welcome you home.
That is the kind of love that God has for you.
You are his child and nothing will ever change that.
SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
- Which son in the story do you relate to the most and why?
- How do you think the father felt in the story?
- How did you expect the father to react when the prodigal son returned?
- How does it make you feel to know that God loves you no matter what you do?
- Think of someone you know who may be running from God (don’t say any names, but think of them to yourself). Take a moment to pray that they would turn back to God.
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Tiffany has been in youth ministry for over 20 years and is currently serving as the Pastor of Student Ministries at Bee Creek UMC in Spicewood, TX.