The prodigal son

This is a way to tell the story of the prodigal son, using ribbons.
HEALTH WARNING: I’ve done this exercise with both with children and with adults, and it is quite powerful – essentially it’s psychodrama, and you should only do it if you’re confident about facilitating this kind of process. It’s always worth having people on standby for participants to talk to if it stirs up difficult emotions.
Begin with three people (representing the three characters in the story) standing in a triangle, each of them holding the end of a ribbon in their hands, so that the ribbons connect them to each other – ie the people are the corners of the triangle and the ribbons are the edges of the triangle.  I use really nice ribbon, and talk up how a loving relationship is something really precious and beautiful.
When we get to the bit about the younger son running off, I use a blunt pair of scissors to cut the ribbons connecting the younger son from the other two characters. I invite everyone to look at how the ends are raw and ragged, and how the father and the older son are left with the loose ends (and so is the younger son, though he is too busy having run to realise it!). When we get to the part about the younger son returning to his father, we hold up the two ends of the ribbon between those two characters, and look again at their frayed ends. We wonder about what it would take for them to be joined together, and how it looks like the ribbon will never be whole again – the ends are just too frayed. Then I point out that the son had walked home, and the father had run to meet him, and get the two people to take a step closer to each other – close enough that there is enough slack in the ribbon to tie the ends in a knot and then a bow. The ribbon is joined again, and it is more beautiful than before – and the father and son are closer than they had ever been. The son now knows the difference between being his father’s servant and being his father’s child.
Meanwhile, the older son is out in the fields. The ribbon between him and his brother is still in tatters. And when he refuses to come in, he is cutting himself off from them both – here, I cut the remaining ribbon, between the father and the older son. Now it’s the older one who is out on his own.  This is where Jesus ends the story, so that we can decide how to finish it. 
So we wonder together about how we want the story to end. We look at the sad, ragged ends of the ribbon, and the relationships that are still broken, and ask ourselves what it would take to mend all this in real life, not just in an illustration. We reflect that the older son still thinks of himself as a servant, and needs to realise, like his little brother eventually did, that he is his father’s child, and is loved beyond all measure.
Participants are usually desperate to tie up the remining ribbons, so we do that, in the same way, with the three people having to step closer to each other, so that there is enough ribbon for a nice bow on each side of the triangle. We see how the three characters are closer than ever, and we wonder whether that’s what happens with forgiveness – we each have to step towards each other, and the relationship at the end is truer and more beautiful than at the start. We tie the bows slowly to give us time to think about how we go about mending broken relationships in real life.
I end by giving everyone a small length of ribbon to take home – a reminder that sometimes we all have ‘loose ends’ and that forgiveness isn’t easy, but that they could trust God to help them hold the ragged ends, and help us find ways of mending things, but in ourselves and between ourselves and others.  We hold our ribbons as we pray in silence for a while, holding before God the things that are unresolved in our lives. We name silently the people we need to reconcile with, and the people who, for whatever reason, we can’t reconcile with, trusting God to hold their loose ends, too. 

School Rules Song remix / midrash

I really admire the work of the Johnsons (Out of the Ark Music) – their creativity is incredible!  So, no offence, copyright infringement, or anything otherwise wrong or negative is intended by the following re-write of their very popular ‘School Rules Song’.  It will also make no sense unless you know the original.

This is an important mission
We all have a part to play
Sharing in the love of Jesus every day.

Love the Lord with all your heart,
Love your neighbour, do your part
in building…. God’s kingdom.
Love yourself, and you will see
how to live communally,
we’re building…. God’s kingdom.

This is an important mission
We all have a part to play
Living out the great commission:
to share the love of God today.

Share the good things you’ve been giv’n
Making this world more like heav’n
we’re building…. God’s kingdom.
Work or play, just do your best,
Trust that God will do the rest
in building… the kingdom.

la la la la la…  

New Year – collective worship idea

to reflect on the idea of a new start

You will need:
An exercise book that’s full from last term
A brand new exercise book that’s empty

If you do the optional extension, you will also need:
A laminated sheet of light-coloured paper
A sharpie pen
A normal felt tip pen
A paper tissue.

Show the brand new exercise book, and ask how it makes people feel: they may talk about the excitement of a new, fresh book, with no mistakes in it, and how we might be scared to write in it, in case we spoil it. Some people may mention the ‘fresh exercise book’ smell.

Show the old exercise book – how does this one make us feel?  People may say it’s ‘old’ or ‘dirty’ or ‘finished with’, or ‘dog-eared’.
It’s full of a combination of mistakes and good things, and you can trace through the pages the things that are being learned and improved. By Easter, the new book will look just like the old one – full of mistakes and good things, but mostly full of learning.

New starts are a wonderful chance to try and do things right, but we never truly start from scratch: without all our past mistakes and what we learned from them, we would be beginning all over again, and make all the same mistakes we made before.  We build on our past, and our mistakes are part of that.

Optional extension:

Enjoy this new page, this new chapter, this new book – and think about what things you’d like to take with you, as well as the things you want to leave behind.  As for suggestions, and write ‘habits to keep’ in sharpie pen, and ‘habits to say goodbye to’ in normal felt tip, then wipe it with a cloth – the habits to keep will stay, and the others will disappear.


Dear God,
We give you our past – our mistakes and our triumphs.
Help us learn from all that we have done,
and from all that has happened to us.
We give you our future – our hopes and our fears.
Help us to make the most of each new opportunity,
and to remember that each day can be a new start.