The Parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the most memorable stories in the Bible. In it Jesus teach us the meaning of God’s mercy and forgiveness. In this Prodigal Son lesson plan your students will learn the story and be able to make personal connections between the parable and their lives.
This lesson plan has similar elements to the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation Lesson Plan, which you can find here.
Prodigal Son Lesson Objectives
- Students will be able to summarize the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
- Students will be able to express contrition for a sin they have committed.
- Students will feel the mercy of God.
Prodigal Son Lesson Activities
I. Lesson Hook
Show the students a picture of the famous painting by Rembrandt: Return of the Prodigal Son.
Do not tell the students what the painting shows. Instead, ask them to make predications about what is going on in the story. Who do they think the people are and what are they doing in the painting?
Announce that today they will be learning about the story that inspired the painting: the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
II. Prodigal Son Presentation
Read Luke 15:11-32 as a class. Pause and ask why your students think each character in the story acted they way that he did.
To solidify their memories of the story, you may want to show a video summary of the events:
I created this video commentary to summarize the meaning of the parable for your students as well:
III. Prodigal Son Worksheet
Help your students imagine times in which they have been like each one of the characters in the parable using this printable:
This worksheet is one of the hundreds of downloadable worksheets available to members of The Religion Teacher. Learn more about becoming a member here.
The Younger Son
- When have you been like the younger son?
- What sin have you committed and are you prepared to echo the words of the son in your own prayer: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I am no longer worthy to be called your [son/daughter].”
- When have you been like the Father?
- Who is the prodigal in your life? Are you ready to welcome him/her back with open arms?
The Older Son
- When have you been like the older son, who was always faithful to the Father yet unable to forgive his brother?
- Who do you need to forgive in your life?
IV. An Examination of Conscience & Act of Contrition
Help your students reflect on their sins using the parable as a guide. Have them reflect on these questions then conclude with the Prodigal Son’s Prayer, which is a wonderful model for an Act of Contrition.
Prodigal Son Examination of Conscience Questions:
- What physical gifts has God given to you that you have wasted?
- What things do you buy (or have your parents buy) that are not essential in your life?
- What mistakes have you tried to keep hidden from God or your parents?
V. The Prayer of the Prodigal Son
After the students complete their examination of conscience, lead them in the prayer of the Prodigal Son:
I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your child;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.
If your students can pray this prayer and mean it, then they can rest assured that God will be there running towards them in loving compassion.
VI. The Prodigal Son Challenge
At the end of the parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus challenges us to reflect on whether we have been like the older son in the story:
Who do you need to forgive?
As an ungraded homework assignment, challenge your students to search for opportunities to forgive others throughout the day. Replace any angry reaction with forgiveness instead.
This might mean forgiving a sibling who said something hurtful. It might mean forgiving a classmate who talked or played wither another friend instead of them. It might mean forgiving a parent for making a dinner they didn’t like.
Ultimately the hope is that your students will apply what they have learned about this parable to their everyday lives by seeking God’s forgiveness as they forgive others.
After reading some ideas for my class for over 18 years; I am so excited with a renewed inspiration and excitement to share with my classes now and in the future.