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  • Writer's pictureKrista Bontrager

Hope for Parents of Prodigals

Interview with Shirley Elliott Johns, author of From Heartbroken to Hopeful

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Interview with Shirley

We receive many letters from heartbroken parents whose children have left their Christian faith or who have gone down a path of Progressive Christianity. Shirley's personal journey, Biblical wisdom, and words of encouragement helped shed some light and hope on this difficult topic.

If you are a parent whose teen/adult children have fallen into woke theology or deconstructed away from the faith, be sure to get connected with our Parent Support Group on Facebook: -->

We are launching a special book group with Shirley's book, "From Heartbroken to Hopeful" for anyone involved in our Parent Support Group. Check out the links below for all the details. The book group starts on April 8th! -->

While you're on Facebook, be sure to check out the various support groups we offer through the Center for Biblical Unity: -->

At the time Shirley wrote this book, she wanted to help herself process and respond in a godly way to her own daughter's abandonment of her Christian faith. Through her book, she wants people to know that no matter what happens in our lives, God is faithful. He truly does cause the worst and most heartbreaking things to work together for our good and His glory. Her book can also serve as a wake-up call for parents who live with their children as the center of their lives (or who have become an idol).

What does it mean for parents to have their children as an idol?

When parents succumb to everything that their children want and they are actually loving their kids and loving the pleasure of their kids MORE than they're loving the Lord Jesus Christ, that's idolatry.

Can you explain the term "prodigal"?

Typically, "prodigal" or "wayward" is used for someone who has walked away from the faith; it gives an indication that these children have taken a turn and are not walking with Jesus like they had been.

What is the Biblical response for a parent whose child has walked away from the faith?

  • Prayer!

  • Listen!

  • Speak to them in humility

  • No point in arguing or debating with an adult child

  • Speak gently and kindly to let Christ be seen in us; from 2 Timothy 2: 24-26: "And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will."

How do we continue in relationship with our children who have left the faith?

  • Although there may no longer be a spiritual connection, it is important to connect in other ways/mutual enjoyment of activities (ie cooking, gardening, etc).

  • The parent's own relationship with Christ must be solid; the parent's spiritual walk must not falter just because the child has walked away; from 1 Peter 3:15-16: "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."

  • Asking questions can prick the heart (especially at the beginning of the child's questioning/deconstruction)

  • Allow your life to shine as a testimony for Jesus!

What are some influencers in young people's deconstruction?

  • Social media (idolizing celebrities, popularity, trends)

  • Curiosity/wanting to experiment

  • Schools

  • Family/parents, especially those who say they are Christians, but don't live it out

How can churches/ministries (youth leaders, pastors, those in leadership) support parents of children who have walked away from their faith?

  • Pray for them!! (ie Specific events to pray for prodigals/wayward children)

  • Not being afraid to ask about the child (hurts more when the church/leaders/friends avoid the issue and don't ask)

  • Teach good theology! Don't blame the parents! It's not what parents do or don't do--it's all God's grace!

Segment #1 Resources

Pick up a copy of Shirley's book!

Wrap-up and Annoucements

We just returned from the MAVEN Conference in Southern California!

MAVEN is a para-church ministry that seeks to come alongside parents, grandparents, youth leaders, and pastors to help equip them to disciple their young people well. Check out the important work MAVEN is doing here:

Monique spoke alongside our friend, author, and Academic Advisory Council member, Thaddeus Williams. Check out Dr. Williams' influential book here (Monique is a contributor to the book and, yes, those are her arms on the cover!):

Check out our lineup of book groups starting in April! We have some important book selections and phenomenal ministry partners/volunteers who will be leading the book discussions! You don't want to miss this:

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