Engaging Today's Prodigal - Focus on the Family

23 downloads 232 Views 2MB Size Report
Read: Do Create a Support System (Pages 97-100) ... Starting a support group will naturally be of help to others. .... A

Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide


Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

Keep your eyes on the Father— Read the Prodigal Son passage in Luke 15:11-32. As you work your way through the study guide, every so often add to your lists here of things that the father was, wasn’t, did, and didn’t.





Approachable Generous Demonstrably loving

Clingy Revengeful

Release the son Kept working Kept watch

follow him

Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

Getting Started Read: Getting Started (Pages 11-16) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

The word “prodigal” is often used in a variety of ways. It is sometimes used to describe a child who simply ____________________________________________ authority.

Of two children who’ve left the faith on page 14, “prodigal” is used only for the ______________________________ and __________________________________________ child, while the _____________________________________ and __________________________________________ is just said to be “finding himself.”

The word “prodigal” actually has a surprising, and actually beautiful meaning. Instead of rebellious, it actually means ____________________________________ and ______________________________________________________, even to the point of recklessly _______________________________________________.

What does the author feel are some of your primary jobs at this point? _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

Questions for discussion: •

What are some of the tender faith-based memories from your prodigal’s childhood?

Are there truly more dangers for the prodigals of today? Or is this just the fear of today’s parents?

Why does the author think you may care very little about the current statistics on just how many young adults are leaving the faith? Is this true?


Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

Part ONE: Myths Debunked Read: Myth 1: Perfect Parenting Makes for Perfect Children (Pages 17-29) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

Adam and Eve were in an environment far superior to our own. List some of the benefits they had that we do not. _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

As parents, we are able (and even called) to have ________________________________________________________ over our children, but this should never be confused with ________________________________________________.

Up until hearing that Josh McDowell recording, the author had believed that good parenting was _______________________________________________________. (page 26)

Questions for discussion: •

Was there a time when you thought you had this parenting thing all figured out? Were you ever judgmental of the parenting of others in ways that you now feel were unfair? Is it too late to reconnect with them and provide some encouragement?

When brothers and sisters in Christ come to you sharing reasons why your child’s bad choices must be your fault, what good thing might they be trying to do? In other words, assume the best for a moment and try to find possibly honorable and kind intentions. What might they be?

Have you taken on blame for your adult child’s decisions? What areas of your life or your prodigal’s life might change if you let go of false blame?

Read: Myth 2: It’s My Fault (Pages 30-34) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

God always keeps His _______________________________________________________. That truth is not up for grabs.


Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

Proverbs 22:6 is the verse often used to seemingly give the promise that if you only raise your children well, they are guaranteed to be faithful.

Exploring a new way of looking at Proverbs— •

Look up the following verses, write down the implied promise and then write an example that would negate it.

Example: Proverbs 16:31 implies gray hair comes from righteous living. If Proverbs were always promises, I should never know anyone who spent their lives living recklessly who has gray hair. •

Proverbs 10:4 implies… _________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________ •

If Proverbs were always promises, I should never know anyone who…___________________________________ __________ _______________________________________________________________________________

Proverbs 12:21 implies… ________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________ •

If Proverbs were always promises, I should never know anyone who…___________________________________ __________ _______________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________

Proverbs 23:20-21 implies… _____________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________

If Proverbs were always promises, I should never know anyone who…______________________________________ _______ ______________________________________________________________________________________

If you’ve raised your child well, you’ve done what you should. But you must also accept that your actions, while good, are not ______________________________________________________. (page 34)

Questions for discussion: •

Do you find it hard to let go of Proverbs 22:6 as a rule with a promise? What do you lose by letting go? What do you gain?

What would be a kind, gracious but also helpful response to someone who uses this verse against you in a judgmental way?

Read: Myth 3: I Can Rescue Him (Pages 35-39) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

You cannot __________________________ people who don’t want to be ____________________________________.



Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

When our children are young, a huge part of our job is ______________________________ them __________________________.

Our influence, when our kids are young, is almost _______________________________________________________. It can feel like we have absolute control.

Some parents, even when faced with the truth that they have no control over this child, continue doing the same pointless things over and over again. To do less is would somehow indicate that they’ve ________________________ ______________________. ____________________________________ and _________________________________ keep them repeating the same useless steps.

We want so badly to save our children, but we must accept that the role of ___________________________________ has already been filled.

Questions for discussion: •

Do you struggle with a continuing desire to rescue your child? Does this ever lead you to actions that are useless, or worse, that distance your child further from you?

Do you fear your child would think you no longer loved them if you ceased your saving efforts?

Read: Myth 4: This Child Just Wants to Push My Buttons (Pages 40-43) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

You are not a _____________________________________.

You don’t have to take the ___________________________________. In fact, you can just let it __________________ __________________ on by.

Expectations can become _______________________________________________


Questions for discussion: •

Does it feel as though your child is just trying to aggravate you? Some are, so you may be right. But is there any chance that they may just be spilling out all over? How would you know the difference?

Read: Myth 5: If I Can Say the Perfect Thing (Pages 44-48) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

Once the ball has been ______________________________________________ the time for suggesting a change


Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

has passed. •

The pitcher doesn’t want __________________________ about his choice while the ball is still traveling.

Trying to find the magic phrase or perfect wording to get through to our child turns them into a sort of ____________________________________________________________________.

Questions for discussion: •

Pitchers want to see how their pitch goes before they will consider advice. What is the analogy to your prodigal and her choices? Can you relate to wanting to see your decision through before entertaining criticisms from those around you?

What is the philosophy or “pitched ball” that your prodigal is presently trying out? How will you know when that pitch has failed? How will he know?

What are some Rumplestiltskin phrases you’ve been known to use? (My mother’s oft used one was “Don’t you know your body’s a temple of the Lord?” thinking that it would magically open my mind and change my ways.)

Did you think once or twice before that “rock bottom” had been reached for your prodigal, only to discover he picked up and just continued on?

Read: Myth 6: If I Can Let Her Know How Badly She’s Hurting Us … (Pages 49-53) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

The young adult years are often a very _____________________-______________________________________ time, even for the best of kids.

So we must accept that we will ______________________________________ through this process, and our child won’t have even the slightest possibility of sensing how their journey impacted us, until they become __________________ themselves.

This child isn’t going to grasp what s/he’s doing to you. Save your energy for _________________________________ _________________



We might find more grace for our own child if we remember _______________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________.

Questions for discussion: •

Do you have in your memory a vivid moment of realization when your own parenting bond was created?

Have you ever had a difficult time in your own life when you had a hard time thinking of anything else but your

Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

challenging circumstances? When you found you needed to say “no” to service opportunities because you didn’t have the mental margin to do anything else? Can you give your child the grace to explore and address their pain without adding guilt to the mix? •

Do you think you may have missed some of God’s gifts to you, leaving them unopened while you focused on the negatives in your circumstances?

Read: Myth 7: My Mistakes Will Scar Her Forever (Pages 54-60) From the Author: This chapter may step into areas that are incredibly personal and painful. You may not want to share some things within this group. And that may be wise. But I do believe you must share them somewhere. Accountability and confession are still the required steps. So while this may not be your accountability group…find one, and begin the process.

Notes and thoughts as you read: •

Much of the book has been addressing parents who were basically __________________________ parents.

This chapter is for others, for those who brought something truly __________________________________________ into the family.

What is the bad news? _____________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

What is the good news? ____________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

Any one of us is capable of ___________________________________________ _____________________________.

Why does the author commend the courage of the parent who has brought evil into their home? ________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

Look up I John 1:9. At what point does forgiveness occur? _________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________

Restitution does not guarantee you will have a _________________________________________________________



Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

with those you’ve hurt. •

Why doesn’t restitution naturally follow? ______________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

What is the really good news? _______________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________ ___

Look up Jeremiah 18:1-7 What does God have planned for your broken family members? _______________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

At times, in our efforts to deny our own wrong doing, we can even tell ourselves that we did our families a __________________________________________________________ by providing these scars, as they will make them stronger.

The final act for the offending parent is to accept _________________


Questions for discussion: •

When the prodigal son returned home, restoration was automatic. The father instantly returned him into heart and home. But it’s important to note that the restoration was not anticipated, expected or even considered by the son. He came back wearing his repentance on his sleeve. His best hope was to become a servant in his father’s house. He had no expectations that the father he’d wronged owed him anything. The restoration was the father’s gift to the son, and the son knew it. The son was fully ready for a very different response—the one he actually deserved. If the father had needed time to process the pain caused by the son, the son was completely ready, even expecting this. Why do many of us who have faced our sins now believe others owe us instant forgiveness? How can we best overcome this inclination?

Have you ever struggled with wanting forgiveness on a different timetable than the person you’ve wronged?

Can you share any examples of hope?—people whose lives were clearly damaged but who rose up in a new life that glorified both them and God?

Pray for each other over this chapter. There is no need to even know the details that occurred within the individual families. But lift each other up, pray for courage to face personal sins, clarity to see the wrongs done, wisdom on how to proceed, and for a heart like God’s own in seeing and comforting the pain we’ve brought into the lives of others. Help us all to wear the garment of humbleness.

Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

Part TWO: Dos and Don’ts Read: Do Advise, Don’t Badger (Pages 61-67) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

We mistakenly assume that the truth that is so clear and apparent to us must be ______________________________ apparent to our child.

Advising requires the sharing of a ______________________________ idea or previously unknown information.

Badgering is simply _____________________________________ the same information, over and over again.

When a piece of shared truth doesn’t bring about change, we must accept that _______________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________.

If you tell your child you won’t repeat your thoughts about their actions, and that you will nonetheless, always love them, what three things happen with such an approach? _________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________

Questions for discussion: •

What are some of the comments you find yourself saying over and over again?

One of our fears is that if we discontinue our disapproving comments, our prodigal will come to think, that by our silence, we now actually approve. Is it likely that your child would make that leap?

What do you think would happen if you told your child you would no longer badger them by repeating things they already know? What will you lose by this action?

What is one way that you intend to change the dance?

Read: Do Focus on Boundaries, Not on Behaviors (Pages 68-73) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

What exactly did the father hope for in that exchange with his son? ________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________


Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

_________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ •

What did he mostly likely accomplish? _________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

What are the risks in focusing on behaviors? ____________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

You aren’t responsible for the behavior of other adults in your world. But you are responsible for how you let their behaviors _______________________________________________________ your family.

In addressing issues with your adult child, keep your __________________________, your __________________________________ and your __________________________________________ all about boundaries.

Questions for discussion: •

Have you had any of those interactions where you vented at your child, but accomplished nothing more than creating more distance between you?

Do you still find yourself attempting to direct the behaviors of your adult child? What would you need to do differently to shift into addressing the behavior’s boundaries, instead of changing the behavior itself?

Read: Do Create a Connecting Place (Pages74-77) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

Your child is testing out a ______________________________________________________. And unless it is propelled and sustained by a perpetual source of energy, ______________________________________, it will eventually give out.

Try relating to this child as a ______________________________________________ who interests you, just as you would any other person you might meet at work, church or elsewhere.

No one wants to be known only by their __________________________________________ in judgment. Try to see your child, once again, as a _____________________________________________ person.

Questions for discussion: •

Reread the C.S.Lewis quote. Have you been able to say Have it your way to your child? Have you been able to do it



Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

without requiring that they now step away from your life? Why is it so hard to do these two things in tandem? If you could hand them over to their own ways and yet maintain a workable relationship with them, what would this look like? •

What would your prodigal say that you think of them? ____________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

List 10 things about your child that are still good, and worthy of your interest and affirmation.

What are some activities that might be possible connecting places for you and your prodigal?

Read: Don’t Start a Sentence with “The Bible Says…” (Pages 78-83) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

The author’s mother frequently used Bible quotes as her fallback mechanism. And this would have been a useful tactic if… _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

Biblical ______________________________________________ is no longer a given in our society.

Worse, many of our kids have simply ________________________________________________________ the Bible as a man-made creation of people needing a crutch.

Just because your prodigal is no longer open to words from scripture, the Bible is still 1.







Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

But if sharing Bible truths as direct quotes is like casting your pearls before swing (my apologies, fellow prodigals), what is the alternative? _____________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

A sobering truth is that very often ____________ are now the only Bible our prodigal is reading. We’d better make it a good read.

*** I’m often astounded when I watch Ravi Zacharius debating philosophy chairs and other atheists from around the globe. He is certainly rock solid in his debating skills and understanding of the mulit-layered issues being discussed. But what is always more compelling to me is that his love for Jesus always reaches across the stage to encompass the person he is debating. It is so clear that he cares for the heart and soul of this person who would happily ridicule him. In the end, of all the things Ravi says in these debates, what I believe to be far more powerful, is actually found in what he doesn’t say. His action, tone and caring style is the face of Jesus to this debater, and to a watching crowd. The “points” he makes don’t have near the eternal value as the heart with which he makes them. The watching audience has just “read” the Bible, even if they didn’t know it.

Questions for discussion: •

Do you ever throw out a “But the Bible says…” to a person who believes the book holds no credibility?

What issues often have you tossing out a quote from the Bible to your prodigal who promptly dismisses it? Is there another approach to share the truth found in that Bible verse by another means?

Read: Do Sit Down and Listen (Pages 84-88) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

Winston Churchill believes it takes ______________________________________________________ to stand up and speak, but also to sit down and listen.

Read James 1:19

We should be ___________________________________________ to listen, __________________________________ to speak, and _________________________________________________________ to become angry.

The following method draws heavily on the first portion of that scripture, with a very strong emphasis on listening, and not just plain old listening, but active, interactive, and intense listening.

Using the acronym L-I-T-E, fill in the meaning for each letter as it applies to a method of listening


Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

__________________________________________ all the way to the end. Just as a computer download has a moment when it is finally done, so will your prodigal finally download their whole thought or feeling on a subject. You can almost see that computer percentage bar sliding to the completion mark. Wait till they get there before starting to speak.

__________________________________________ their words. You also start with an “I” word in the sentence you use. “IF I understand you correctly, you’re saying…” You reflect their words back to them, using your own, but doing so without _______________________________________________________ or __________________________________________________________.


_____________ . You also start this with a “T” word in the sentence you use. “That

must be…” You insert an emotion word here. The purpose is to let them know that you not only heard their words, you ________________________ some of what they are ____________________________________. •

__________________________________________. Before you begin here though, you respectfully ask permission. If you don’t feel he is truly done downloading, you can insert a question that prompts him to continue (putting you back at the “L” stage again. You don’t go to explaining until you are certain he has fully shared his thoughts on this issue, whatever it may be.

Almost all of us are more likely to listen when we believe we’ve be listened to. No one wants to come to the table for a ______________________________________________ only to learn we’ve actually been invited to a ________________________________________________________.

Questions for discussion: •

Can you think of someone who seems to have much to say to you, but almost never has any interest in hearing from you? Such a person seems more often to hold court rather than to hold conversations. Verbal interactions tend to be very one sided. How does it make you feel? Are you typically encouraged by their mini-sermons? Now contrast it with someone who is truly a good friend, who actually converses. How does this change the dynamic of the interaction?

If your group is open to it, this would be a really good skill to actually role play. Someone could suggest a topic that almost always devolves into an intense yelling match in their house, and have someone take on the role of the prodigal sharing this starting view. If the “prodigal” isn’t forthcoming enough, practice question prompts that help them to continue the download process.

Read: Don’t Miss the Courage in Your Prodigal (Pages 89-92) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

We have no problems seeing, recognizing, and applauding the courage in the polygamist sect child bride because…



Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

_________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________. •

But it’s harder, if not almost impossible, to see courage in our child’s actions when it takes them away from our ______________________________________________________ _________________________________________.

What are some things a prodigal loses when they step away from the church/faith community? __________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________

Many kids aren’t given the tools to answer world view questions. In fact, they often weren’t even told that there would _________ ________________________________________________________.

Questions for discussion: •

What is meant by living in a Christian ghetto? There is certainly a protective element to this type of insulation that is a good thing, particularly in younger years. But how do we transition to raising kids who can face and defend their faith when they step into an unbelieving world?

Was there ever a time when your child took it upon themselves to step away from comfortable faith-based familiarity to new and unfamiliar places? What age were they? Do you think it was a little daunting the first time? What seemed to prompt them to take the step?

It may not be the right call to acknowledge courage in the actions of each and every prodigal. But is your prodigal’s situation one where it might be a healing conversation, even a starting point for a better connection?

Read: Do Love When Your Prodigal is Most Unlovable (Pages 93-96) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

Just to be sure I’m not responsible for putting the wrong (and frankly ridiculous) version of scripture in your heads, let’s be clear on what actually happened in these Biblical accounts.

Read Matthew 18:12-14

Instead of saying, “Forget the one lost little lamb,” Jesus actually said…


_________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ •

Read Luke 19: 1-10

Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

Instead of saying “Zacky baby, I can’t really be seen being nice to you. It wouldn’t be good for my image,” Jesus actually said…


_____________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________ •

The model that Jesus clearly presents for us regarding the lost and hurting is _____________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________.

When your child is at her lowest point, when by all cultural standards she is disposable, that is precisely when her need to know that she has value is at its ____________________________________ __________________________.

** I love that Jesus so often physically touches those who wouldn’t even be spoken to by others. Such an action would make him ceremonially unclean by standards of the day. But once again, we see Jesus unconcerned about what others think. His gain or loss of status in their eyes was irrelevant. He was about His father’s business. •

The distance between our goodness and the current moral state of our prodigal is still a tiny, tiny thing when compared to the distance between our goodness and the goodness that is ________________________.

Questions for discussion: •

What are the things people do today that make them the modern day equivalent of lepers?

Have others sort of written off your child? Have you struggled with not writing them off yourself? It would be easier on some days.

Reflect on the actions of the father in the Bible’s Prodigal son. Would you say he wrote off his son? How do you know? What’s the difference between letting go and writing off?

Read: Do Create a Support System (Pages 97-100) From the Author: You run into an old friend at church you haven’t seen in quite some time. You do a bit of catch-up, the chit chat goes on for a while, and then, here it comes—the question you’ve been dreading—“So, how’s that daughter [or son] of yours doing?” Paste on that smile. Take in a quick breath, but inside, die … just a bit. Of course, you know precisely which child she’s talking about—the one who surprised you all by turning her back on God, then the family, then doing a 180 from all that you value, finally stepping solidly into the world and away from faith. Yeah.


Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

That kid. You are now at a crossroads in this conversation. How will you respond? Well, you could choose Path A—tell the truth. My kid is in deep spiritual trouble. Her father and I are heartbroken. It’s been incredibly painful to watch her make so many poor choices. It’s even possible that we will not see the face of our child in heaven. And what’s more, we’re worried it might be our fault. Thanks for asking. Or, you could try Path B and do that little church-speak dance. Well…she’s finding herself, trying to determine what it is God wants of her at this point in her life. We’re still hoping she’ll become a surgeon on the mission field, but that may be more our wishes than God’s. [Insert quick laugh.] We’ll just have to wait and see. [Now insert a quick redirect.] So how’s your little Bobby doing? Is he still sending all his money to that orphanage in the Sudan? [Raise eyebrows, indicating eager anticipation. Wait for listener to launch into the BobbyPraise report.] I completely understand if the truth model makes your palms sweat. Frankly, hesitation is justified. There’s a good chance that if you open your heart and share your pain transparently with this sister in Christ, you may get whacked for it. By that I mean, she may be very quick to let you know that you must have screwed up somehow, or your child would have been faithful to the God of her youth. Let me suggest to you that there is an alternative response you can give—not Plan A: The Naked Truth Plan, Not Plan B: The Church-Speak Dance, but rather a Plan C. Let’s work through this chapter and then we’ll look at this other option at the end.

Notes and thoughts as you read: •

The sentiment that the reserved audience members were exhibiting was ___________________________________.

The author understood the shame felt by the audience attendees. She had also kept much of her journey to herself. She was practicing ______________________________________________ by omission.

People with a prodigal often don’t share because they fear they or their child will be judged, lose _____________________________________, or even lose _________________________________________.

Starting a support group will naturally be of help to others. But what may surprise you, is that it can also heal some of the ______________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________.

We weren’t designed to handle our burdens alone. That’s why Jesus … ______________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________.


Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

Questions for discussion: So let’s revisit the discussion started at the beginning of this study guide chapter. When asked about our kids we can execute Plan A—tell the very painful bald-faced truth, risking rejection. Or take the Plan B route—the little church dance with its confusing and vague terms. But now, let’s consider Plan C. Like Plan A, it involves speaking the truth. But for starters, it accepts the likely outcome that your listener will unfairly judge you. Expect it. Own it. Don’t even hold it against her, because your listener doesn’t know any better. Here’s the plan: share the truth without the expectation of compassion. But here’s the difference. Your sharing wasn’t really for her anyway. Believe it or not, it also wasn’t really for you. It actually is a lifeline to a needy soul. You share on the possibility that this person might … just maybe … could perhaps … be one of the many people who have someone in their own life they are losing. And if they are, they know exactly what you’re going through because they are going through it as well. Put the truth out there, let it get around, because there is someone in exactly the same situation, who believes they are alone. This person needs to hear truth from you. There are so many people in the pews every Sunday who have struggles going on at home who will never breathe a word of it at church—especially if that struggle involves a child questioning the faith. They not only know that many people will judge them as bad parents, they fear that judgment might just be correct. It’s all too much. So they will remain silent. But by you sharing the truth, and also proclaiming the fact that children have the ability to choose poorly often in spite of clearly loving parents, you put a small light at the end of a very big tunnel. You let them know that they’re not alone. You let them know that they can survive. You even let them know that they can have joy in spite of such pain. Support groups for parents of prodigals are popping up all over. Maybe it’s time for one in your area? •

Read II Corinthians 1: 3-7 •

When we share in someone’s ____________________________________________, we also share in their __________________________________________.

Why do our brothers and sisters in the church find it easy to jump on the comfort bandwagon for so many other losses but then struggle at being caring and supportive over the loss of a child’s faith?

Are you able to forgive the person who judges you unfairly?

Read: Do Save Something for Your Non-Prodigals (Pages 101-105) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

Yes, you must make time for you non-demanding child. But, you don’t have to give yourself in ____________________________________ ______________________________________ to your children.


Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

Quality time with your other children must incorporate what things? _______________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

What are some of the good things the siblings in this chapter obtained as a result of being in a family with such a demanding brother? _______________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

***There is an additional truth I have learned about this dynamic. It’s not enough to simply recognize all the good that has come of this family arrangement. Yes, it will change your own perspective. But it’s essential that you also share this good with the siblings. Seeing the good will encourage understanding, contentment, possibly even gratitude. The path of least resistance for most people is to notice the negative, to dwell on it, to whine about it, to even let it define them. If you don’t point out the good, your other children just might miss them. And in missing them, they may not develop these gifts into the useful qualities and character strengths that God can use. I’m not saying to dismiss the negative. I’m just saying it needs to be balanced by an honest acceptance and appreciation for the good that may also accompany it.

Questions for discussion: •

What are some things your non-demanders would like to do with you that might give them a window of connection with you on a regular basis?

Read: Do Reach Out to Prodigals Who Aren’t Your Own (Pages 106-109) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

What did the author discover that she now calls “The Big Surprise?” _________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

What made Luann the right one to reach out during this difficult season? She not only provided a counter to the author’s new views, but she did so with … _____________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

When it comes to reaching out to your own prodigal, the startling news may be that you … _____________________


Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

_________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ •

Keep your _______________________________________ - ______________________________________ radar up.

The job of reaching the disenfranchised is huge. But fortunately, you can trust the nudge of the Holy Spirit. He will not call you to reach ______________________ the lost.

Questions for discussion: •

Did you experience this sense of your child being “dropped” by the faith community? We long to be able to reach the heart and mind of our lost child. We want to be the one who says the right thing, does the right thing, and opens their eyes to their situation. But we may not be the right person for the job. Which leads us to another consideration… to watch what you pray for.

Have you ever prayed some version of this prayer? Dear Lord, please bring a solid upstanding Christian into the path of my wayward child. Let him meet up with someone who will show him the way, the truth and the light, just like I taught him when he was younger. THAT could turn out to be the worst prayer you could pray. In fact, it’s possible that the person you’ve just described could be the absolute worst person to influence your son. When we pray a prayer like that, we’re basically praying for a duplicate of ourselves to connect with this child. Which begs the question: Why would we seek someone just like us when we’ve had so little success persuading him in the first place? Another prodigal I was chatting with said that his greatest influence came by way of his contact with folks with wildly varying beliefs. A girl he was dating was a Zen Buddhist. His aunt was a devout Wiccan. He was hearing so many views that diverged from what he’d previously heard, it forced him to confront exactly what he did and did not believe. This was his path back to faith in Christ. We don’t know exactly what our child needs to reopen their heart to the God who loves them. But God does. And our prayers should be for this same God, who knows our child so well that the hairs on his head have a number, would bring before our child exactly what and who he needs to allow his eyes to see truth. To see himself. To see God. … even if that person looks absolutely nothing like us. Pray that God will bring to your child the exact and perfect influence to have him reevaluate his choices. And pray that God will open your ears to hear His voice about the lost around you.

Read: Don’t Pull Out a List of Expectations (Pages 110-113) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

How long did the author wait to tell parents of her conversion? __________________________________________



Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

Why?____________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

What does the author mean by “kicking the tires” of faith? ________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

We don’t always give new believers _________________________ to walk in the ____________________________ that they currently have.

When the pastor advised former abortion clinic director, Carol Everett, to just “keep seeking Jesus”, he was essentially trusting that God could _____________________________________________ this woman in His own _____________________.

In the end, the advice for the new believer, in fact the advice for us all as we walk our walk is … _________________________



Questions for discussion: •

If we jump in with a set of expectations for a new believer, in essence, we’re trying to rush God’s work in their heart. I believe our intentions are good. So what is the good we’re trying to accomplish? What is the possible harm?

Read: Do Not Lose Yourself During This Trial (Pages 114-120) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

What inside information did the author have that left her untouchable by the angry words of the man on the phone? _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

In what way are our interactions with our prodigal kids sometimes like a game of tennis? _______________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

We long for our children to have a saving relationship with God. So one of the hardest things for Christian parents to accept about their children is that we can’t _______________________


If anything your child does has the power to make you feel __________________________________________, you

Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

are on shaky ground. •

The only thing that should be at your core is the knowledge that you are a … ________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________.

Questions for discussion: •

What have been some of your identities through your life? The athletic kid? The studious kid? The obedient son/ daughter? The achiever? The richest? The church leader? The good wife? The good father? Have they ever been your core? Read John 1:12-13 Read Ephesians 1:13-14

Do you feel personally responsible for your child’s poor choices? Does it have the power to rob your own happiness? Read II Corinthians 4: 8-10 Read Luke 14:26 Clearly, if we lay this piece of scripture over all the rest of scripture, there’s simply no way to assume Jesus wants us to hate our families. It has more to do with what is a part of your life, and what is at your core.

What are some things you could actively do, some ways to regularly reaffirm your core as a precious child of God? Read about one family’s Core Shift — Bob and Jamie had spent years putting out fires caused by Tory, their drug-addicted daughter. They had once reported a robbery only to discover it had been their own child who had sold some of their possessions. They’ve had the questionable pleasure of several courtroom appearances. And now they’ve just learned that Tory has walked out of the rehab program that they’d worked so hard to get her into. She is now “at large” somewhere in the city. So when they heard this news, what did they do next? Believe it or not, they went to dinner. They talked about a movie they hoped to see. They were even able to smile over some unrelated small talk during the meal. In other words, they proceeded with their lives. While they loved Tory with a fierce love, her highs and lows no longer sent them into an emotional spin. But it wasn’t always so, and they’d be the first to tell you. For years they lived moment to moment, in constant grief, guilt and fear over this child. They isolated themselves from others, and even from each other, because this pain was consuming them. Bob even admitted at one point that the idea of being happy again seemed inappropriate, almost like a betrayal of their daughter. It somehow felt like they couldn’t possibly love her during these self-destructive days and be happy in their own lives. Then one day it was too much. On that day, Bob realized that the drugs were not only taking his daughter, they were taking his wife, his other kids, his family, his marriage, his faith and his joy. He also decided it was not a price they had to pay. He determined that he would choose to permit happiness again. He would certainly still care for his daughter,


Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

help her when he could, and be there for her in ways that weren’t enabling. But he would no longer join her in a life of misery. The drugs may indeed one day take her. He had no illusions about that. But they weren’t getting anyone else.

Part THREE: Holding Out Hope Read: The Long Walk Home (Pages 121-133) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

People often are looking for a formula, or a single ______________________________________________ that can be pointed to as the cause of one’s departure from faith.

The notion of a good and loving heavenly father is a struggle for many because … ____________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

It takes much spiritual maturity not to ______________________________________ Jesus for the mistakes and abuses of His ________________________________________________________ .

The author, like G.K. Chesterton, couldn’t bring herself to make philosophy her major area of study because … _________________________________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________

The author came to feel that atheists were a ____________________________________________________________ bunch because they liked taking juvenile shots at every one, but wanted to do so from a vantage point that stood for ______________________________________________________ .

Questions for discussion: •

Have you, or others you know, struggled with seeing God as good because your vision is filtered through the image of a faulty earthly father?

Many people who leave the church will name hypocrisy as a reason. And while hypocrisy is a serious failing, it’s still another way of blaming Jesus for the behaviors of His followers. How can we better address this when the accusation is made?


Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

Read: God, the Artist (Pages 134-137) Notes and thoughts as you read: •

While taking communion, the author pondered her sense of unworthiness and came to two conclusions.

All are ____________________________________________________. ____________________________________ was worthy.

A direct line of sight from God’s eye to our heart, one by which we are judged by our own merit, would ordinarily spell our ______________________________________________________.

It is only because God’s line of sight is interrupted by ____________________________________, who stands and claims us as His own, that we are seen well, and worthy.

We often lose our chance at Plan A by the poor decisions that we make. Repercussions are real. God, however, of course, always has another plan for us. You might expect that this new plan, Plan B, would be a mere _____________ __________________________________ of the original. But that’s not God’s way.

Questions for discussion: •

Is there anything in particular among God’s works that has ever struck you as particularly creative?

Do you know of anyone whose experiences with pain, loss or even poor decisions, have eventually led to a ministry that glorifies God and draws people to Him? It is amazing—the power of a life turned over to God. Some of my favorites are … •

Chuck Colson (imprisoned during Nixon administration), who founded Prison Ministries, and became arguably the strongest, best known voice of faith during his lifetime.

Nick Vujicic (born without arms and legs), who speaks to people all over the world about loss, and self-worth, turning hundreds of thousands of people toward Jesus.

Gianna Jessen (survived her mother’s abortion attempt) who speaks to the Pro-life issues with a clarity and an experience base that overcomes the rhetoric of typical objections.

Ravi Zacharius (in despair during teen years, attempted suicide) who in grappling with his own doubts, came to become one of the most powerful apologists of our time.

Can you imagine just one or two of the amazing things God might do with your prodigal were they to turn to Him?

Do you so mourn the loss of Plan A for your child that you haven’t yet found hope in God’s ability to create an equally wonderful Plan B?

Read Ephesians 2:10 It says we are God’s ______________________________________________________________.


Engaging Today’s Prodigal Study Guide

Closing Thoughts Can you imagine God running? It’s kind of a hard thing to picture, isn’t it? We are much better at seeing Him sitting on a big throne, or quietly standing, watching over us, waiting. He’s so dignified, so regal. The idea of Him running, fabric rustling about His legs unceremoniously, arms flung skyward in abandon, is a hard one to imagine. But that is exactly the image of a father’s love given to us in the story of the Prodigal Son. This father faced the heartbreak of being asked to share what shouldn’t have been mentioned till after his death—the younger son’s inheritance. We have no record of the father making a scene, or pleading or even being angry. Other than giving the young man what he asked for, the Bible is silent on what he did in response. But we know that once the son left, Dad didn’t fall apart. Life went on. He ran a business. He prospered. How do we know this? Because there was a fatted calf around the place. There was a place itself, lands and goods, such that the oldest son complained that he’d never even had a party with the father’s wealth. And the father motions toward all that he owns and says, “Everything I have has always been yours.” Clearly, the father had continued in the business of life, and evidently, to some degree of success. The father seemed to be calm and even-tempered, exhibiting an easy leadership presence over his family. He doesn’t seem to be the sort who comes unglued by even painful family tensions. But when do we see him drop all propriety and flat out run? When he sees his son … the son who was lost who has now come home. This is so powerful a truth for me personally—that while I explored and exhausted other philosophies, God waited patiently. But when I finally turned toward Him … He ran. I know there are painful struggles when there’s a prodigal in your home. But take heart in the knowledge that when your child reaches a point where they stop … decide it’s time to choose truth … and turn toward God … they’ll see the King of Universe running toward them, legs moving, arms raised, fabric flying, and a voice calling out “He’s home!”