Note to the Teacher
The scripture we read is from the Gospel of Luke, the parable of the prodigal son. The opening activity gets students sharing the pros and cons of being an only child versus having siblings. The discussion encourages students to think about the older brother’s actions in the story. The activity and discussion have students writing and performing their own talk show recap of the prodigal son scene. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.
1. Ice Breaker: 'The Good and the Bad' (10 minutes)
In this opening ice breaker, your group will get a chance to write down all those things that do not seem fair about being a younger, older, middle, or an only sibling. This exercise is supposed to be lighthearted and fun for everyone. Note that you may have siblings in your group, so be cautious about how they respond. Additionally, those in blended families or with half- or adopted siblings, or even those in large families where there is no “middle” may react differently to this exercise.
On a whiteboard or posterboard, ask students to write down pros and cons for being each of the following: Youngest, Oldest, Middle, or Only Child.
After students have finished, transition to the scripture by saying, “Today, we are going to look at two brothers who pursue different lifestyles.”
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our scripture reading today is the story of the prodigal son. While I read the scripture, listen for how the older son responds to the brother’s return; ask yourself how you would respond if you were the older brother.
Read Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32.
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
- Before we get into the parable, who were the people coming to listen to Jesus? What were they like? (Tax collectors and sinners, yes; but also, the Pharisees and teachers of the law!)
- What were the religious people doing and saying? (See verse 2.) Why would this have been a big deal for them?
- Have you heard this story before? What did you learn about this parable when you were younger? Do you notice different details about it now that you are older?
- Which brother in the story was the easiest to empathize with?
- Those of you with siblings, do you think that you and your siblings get treated differently? Does that mean your parents are being unfair, or are they being fairer?
- If you’re an only child, how would you feel sharing your parents with someone else?
- We all mess up sometimes. Do you wish that your parents would respond the same way as the father at the end of this parable when you come to them with a mistake or the need for help? Why or why not? What might the father’s response tell us about the nature of God and God’s relationship with people?
- How does the older brother respond to the younger brother’s return? (See verses 25-28.) Does the older brother even acknowledge the younger brother as his brother? [v. 30] The Pharisees and teachers of the law were there listening! Does it seem like Jesus is throwing some shade at them? (The Pharisees had gotten so busy keeping God’s laws that they had forgotten how to show mercy and share God’s love with tax collectors and sinners!)
- Re-read verse 12. What did the father give to both the older and younger son? So, God provides all a share in God’s kingdom. Is this fair?
- The parable stops after the father’s message in verses 31 and 32. Having to guess, what do you think the older brother did or said next? Since you know the “older brother” message was directed toward the Pharisees and teachers of the law, what do you think they did next?
Transition to the closing activity by telling your students that the next portion of today’s lesson is going to require their participation and trust.
4. Activity and Discussion: 'Talk Show Recap' (20 minutes)
Explain to your students that today they are going to retell the story of the prodigal son by writing and performing a short “talk show” script. They’ll need to come up with lines for a host, audience reactions, and characters from the story as they get interviewed. The show could be a series of questions the host asks or maybe even a scene where the older brother comes back and embraces the younger brother. Make this fun; have a student record it with his/her phone for a youth post later.
Depending on the size of your group, you may want to ask students to work in smaller groups. Ask them to spend about five to ten minutes working on a simple script and then another five minutes practicing. Spend the last five minutes inviting groups to share their “talk show” episode with the class live and in person. If you have students joining you digitally, invite them to participate with an in-person group via phone if possible, or use a breakout room for students to gather virtually.
After each group has had the chance to share, wrap-up your time by answering these final questions.
- How can we be more like the father in the parable and less like the Pharisees and teachers of the law?
- How can we help those who are hurting this week?
Close your time together in a manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys and concerns, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.
Total Time: 50 minutes
- Pens or pencils (1 per student)
- Posterboard or whiteboard and markers