Parables of Jesus lesson plan

Jesus told many simple stories, now known as the parables of Jesus, which had hidden spiritual truths within them.

But how much time have teachers got to organise a complete lesson on teaching the parables?

Here is a ready-to-use lesson plan to help busy KS1 teachers present two well-known parables, the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan.

The children will learn what these parables are about.

This teacher’s copy of the Parables of Jesus lesson plan is printer-friendly.

Hopefully, this lesson plan makes teaching parables to the children easy!

1. Resources for the parables of Jesus lesson plan:

Optional: 2 maps.

2. Starter for the parables of Jesus lesson plan:

Q. Have you ever got lost?

Describe it.
(Teacher’s note: It could be getting separated from a parent in a busy shopping centre when very young, or travelling in a car and not being able to find the bed and breakfast, etc.)

One way of getting ourselves out of this situation is to ask someone who knows the area to direct you, or you can find a landmark on a map.

For a Christian, the ‘Person who knows the area’ is God, and ‘the map’ is the Bible.
So when someone is struggling in their life and they don’t know which way to turn, they can trust that God will guide them through it.

So by looking at the Bible, their ‘map’, they can learn more about life, find solutions to problems, and discover what God expects, so that they can have confidence in the route that they decide to take.

For example, a Christian could be struggling to do what is right, but all around are people who are doing bad things and yet they are all prospering.
Then when he, or she, reads the Bible, they see:

Don’t envy those who do wrong,
but always realise that you live your life in front of God.
Remember that there is a great reward for you,
and that it won’t be taken from you.”

Proverbs 23:17-18 NIV

Q. Do you see any truth in those verses?

In reading this a Christian will be encouraged to carry on doing good and to please God.

3. Main teaching for the parables of Jesus lesson plan:

Sometimes people may not know that they are lost, because they think that they are at a certain place and they are not!

For example, walking from one village to another you think that you know where you are, but you have strayed off course and you suddenly find that you have walked onto an army firing range!
Live shells are exploding around you! That’s not good!

a) An illustration of what the Bible means by being lost:

Imagine you are going on a charity walk starting from the number [1] on the map and finishing at number [4].

Walkers start on a cartoon map to go with the Parables of Jesus lesson plan.
Map of start for Parables of Jesus lesson plan By Peter Reason licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

(Teacher’s note: Display the map above).

We are going to have 3 groups of children and we will see how they get on.
(Teachers note: Get some volunteers to be these three different groups):

  • The Antelopes group
  • The Buffalo group
  • The Meercats group

The three groups set off in different directions around the classroom.

Stop walking groups! Let’s see how close you’ve got to the finishing line:

  • 1) The Antelopes group, you’ve nearly finished. You have been heading in the correct direction.
  • 2) The Meercats group, you are in totally the wrong place! You have been walking aimlessly.
  • 3) The Buffalo group, you’ve still got some distance still to go.

Let’s see where the three groups are on the map:

Where walkers finish their walk - for the Parables of Jesus lesson plan
Map of the finish for Parables of Jesus lesson plan By Peter Reason licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
  • 1) The Antelopes group, you are near number [4] so you’ve nearly finished. You have been heading in the correct direction. So this group know where they are and they know where the finish line is.
  • 2) The Meercats group, you are near number [2] so you are in totally the wrong place! You have been walking aimlessly. So this group knew a little bit about the charity walk and they wanted to take part. But they did not know any other details, and they did not know where the finish line was.
  • 3) The Buffalo group, you are near number [3] and you have some distance still to go. So this group are heading in the correct direction, they know where they are, and they know where the finish line is.

Two of the groups knew where they were going, where they had come from and what roads they needed to travel on to get to the finishing line.

But one group were walking aimlessly, they hadn’t got a destination in mind, they were just filling in a bit of time by going out for a stroll.
They wanted to go on the charity walk, but they didn’t find out the details.
Therefore, as far as the charity walk organisers are concerned they were ‘lost’.

Q. So what is the difference between those that have nearly finished and those that are ‘lost’?

It’s basically what they are aiming for.
One group, as far as the charity walk is concerned, weren’t aiming for that finishing line.
The other two groups WERE aiming for the finishing line.

The Bible tells us that the finishing line is heaven.
And everyone needs to have that as their aim, otherwise, according to the Bible, they are lost.

b) Parable of the Lost Son

Jesus told a story of someone who wasn’t aiming for the right finishing line in his life: (Luke 15:11) This story is known as the ‘Prodigal Son’:

There was a man who had two sons and the youngest one, whose aim in life was to have a good time, cheekily asked his father for his share of his father’s wealth now – rather than wait for it.
Amazingly his father gave him a huge bundle of money!

So within a few days, this younger son had set off to explore the world and to find fun and excitement.
He got to a distant country which was away from his boring father, and he began to live very wildly.

He made lots of ‘friends’ because of all the money he was throwing around and whatever he wanted he got.
But then his money ran out and suddenly he found that he had got no real friends, and everyone left him.

At that time the country he was in, experienced massive crop failures and so there was no food and the shops were empty.
He was desperate, so he got a job looking after pigs which was a very smelly and dirty job.
He had such a low wage that he had no money left to pay for food after he had paid his bills.

He became so hungry he ended up eating the same horrible food that was given to the pigs!
After a while, he thought:
“This is madness, none of the people who work for my father is ever hungry and here I am dying of hunger!

This is what I will do, I’ll go and ask my father to forgive me and I will work for him because I am not worthy to be called his son anymore!”
So he set off on the long journey back.

As usual, his father was looking down the road, to see if his youngest son would return, and suddenly he saw him right off in the distance.
The father’s heart went out to him and he started to run towards his son.

When they met each other, the father embraced him in a giant hug!
The son was feeling very guilty and so he said:
“Father, I have behaved terribly towards you and I have offended God. I am no longer worthy to be called your son!”

But the father said,
“No, you are my son, you have returned home to me! You could have been dead, but you are alive! You were lost but now you are found!”

Q. What had this youngest son been aiming for in his life?

Living a life that is focused on getting pleasure for oneself at the expense of other people is destructive, it’s selfish, and it is wrong.
Some people choose to put themselves first and they trample on others so that they can pamper themselves.
They think that by doing this they are totally ‘free’.
But the Bible says when someone is like that they are actually a slave to their pleasures and desires. (Titus 3:3)

Q. Why can someone become a slave to their pleasures and desires?

The urge to please themselves becomes stronger than what their real needs are.
For example, a ‘shopaholic’ has such a powerful urge to buy more things, it overrules their sensible mind.
They think ‘I don’t need anything else’, but the urge pushes them into buying more stuff.

James in the Bible tells us:

You must love and help your neighbours just as much as you love and take care of yourself.”

James 2:8 The Living Bible

We take care of ourselves by trying to protect our feelings and our bodies from any harm.
But the Bible is saying here: Don’t stop at that, have those sorts of thoughts for other people as well.
“You must love and help your neighbours just as much as you love and take care of yourself.”

Q. What do you think loving your neighbour means?

The word ‘love’ in the English language means lots of different things.
Whereas in the Bible (and in some other languages) love has a different word for each of its different meanings. For example, there is a different word for:

  • A friendship sort of love. You love your best friend because of their qualities, and you can trust them.
  • A romantic attraction to someone else.
  • God’s love continues to love, regardless of whether that person deserves to be loved or not.

Q. So which sort of love do you think it means in the Bible verse:

You must love and help your neighbours”?

James 2:8 The Living Bible

Love them with God’s love, even though they may be unlovely.

Q. Who do you think ‘your neighbour’ is in that verse?

It is more than just the people who live in the houses near you, as we will now see from the next parable.

c) The Parable: The Good Samaritan:

Jesus told a parable called ‘The Good Samaritan’ to explain who our
‘neighbours’ are. (Luke 10:31-37)
See if you can work out who was a good neighbour:

A Jewish man started on a lonely journey from Jerusalem to Jericho.
It was a walk of about 15 to 20 miles through the rough countryside where no one lived.
Suddenly a gang of robbers jumped on him.
They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead!

A Jewish priest happened to be walking along the same track, so when he saw the man lying on the ground bleeding and groaning, he anxiously looked around him to see if the robbers were still around.
Then he quickly stepped round the man and carried on walking hoping that the robbers weren’t still in the area.

Later in the day a spiritual Jewish man also walked along the track, and he saw this pitiful sight of the man lying on the ground.
Perhaps he thought he had better not get involved, and anyway, helping the man would make him late for his appointment.
So he too passed around the injured man.

Later a Samaritan man came along the track and saw the beaten man on the ground.
He took pity on him even though Samaritans and Jews were normally hostile towards each other.
For centuries the two nations had been enemies.
But this Samaritan only wanted to see an injured man that he could help.
So he tore some of the clothes that he was wearing and made bandages out of them.
After he had given this first aid to the man, he lifted him and put him on his own donkey.
Then he went to find an inn where the man could be given a bed so that he could rest and get healed from his injuries.

The next day the Samaritan gave the innkeeper enough money to keep him there for several days, and he said;
“Look after him, and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”

That was the end of Jesus’ story, so He then asked them a question.
What is your answer to this question:

Q. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

Q. How difficult would it have been for a Samaritan to have helped a Jew?

Both their countries were enemies of each other.
After the crowd had given Jesus their answer of “the Samaritan” he said: “Go and do the same.”

Q. If you have got an ‘enemy’ how difficult would it be for you to help them when they got into a difficult situation?

4. Plenary for the parables of Jesus lesson plan:

The Bible contains many ‘messages’ to this world, like loving your neighbour.

Q. If you could write one message to the world, what would it be?

Consider feelings of being lost and found, and talk about the feelings of being accepted.
For example, the youngest son spent all of his money on wild living, and then his father accepted his apology and accepted him back into the family.

Q. How important is it to feel accepted by God?

Either take a short time to discuss this question, or leave it with them.
(Teachers note: There is a worksheet to accompany this lesson plan.
Also see the: Parables of Jesus RE resources)

5. Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

How to teach the parables of Jesus?

Remember that a parable is a short story from everyday life that anybody could relate to, but the most important thing is that a parable has a hidden spiritual truth. The teacher needs to make sure that they have unlocked and understood it.
Here are two parables, the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, that are explained in the Parables of Jesus lesson plan.

How many parables of Jesus are there?

Jesus told more than 40 parables, which were short stories with hidden spiritual truth within them.
Some say that he taught up to 60 parables because it depends on how short a situation can be called a complete story.

What are the 3 main features of a parable?

1) A parable is about everyday life that Jesus’ listeners could easily relate to. (For example; wine, cloth, light, money, servants, crops, builders, shepherds, etc.)
2) It was a very short story that was engaging.
3) Some parables have an obvious moral to them. But many, have a deep spiritual truth hidden in them.

In fact when his disciples asked Jesus; “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered them; “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given… This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, or do they understand.”
A parable is a little treasure chest, those who desire to seek out what God wants are able to unlock the chest and get the treasure. Those who were not willing to seek the hidden meaning would lose out and would go away empty-handed.

What are the seven types of parables?

There are more than 40 parables of Jesus that have been recorded.
They fall into these 7 areas:
1) Builders, fishing, and shepherds: 8 parables.
2) Money and treasure: 6 parables.
3) Work and servants: 10 parables.
4) Trees and crops: 7 parables.
5) Household things: 4 parables.
6) Tough situations: 6 parables.
7) Feasts and banquets: 4 parables.