Engaging Today's Prodigal

Engaging Today's Prodigal

Clear Thinking, New Approaches, and Reasons for Hope

by Carol Barnier
Publisher: Moody Press
New Edition, ©2012, ISBN: 9780802405579
Trade Paperback, 176 pages
Price: $12.99

Modern life is shifting our views, but throughout most of history the idea ofleaving has been negative. It's a kind of death—when people part, a once flourishing ecology becomes non-existent. Surely this is no clearer anywhere than in the home where a child or children leave the Christian faith of their parents as prodigals.

This phenomenon has reached epidemic proportions in recent years. Churches are emptying not only because people are dying, but because the young people once assumed to re-fill the pews are leaving out the back door in record numbers. This is worrisome for churches and pastors, but it's more personal and often more difficult for the parents of those children.

But while we may wring our hands and wish our kids wouldn't leave, are we really doing what we can to help them? Carol Barnier, herself a former prodigal and atheist, suggests a new approach for parents of struggling teens that takes the focus off of setting unobtainable standards and puts it on offering love, truth, and grace to our kids.

Part One debunks many common myths about parenting that are based on faulty assumptions. These myths include "perfect parenting makes for perfect children," "it's my fault," and "my mistakes will scar him/her forever." Barnier uses both Scripture and logic to reveal the truth these myths obscure.

The next section is less theoretical and more practical, and deals with dos and don'ts. Most of these have to do with handling angry or troubled teens with care, though some relate to others affected by the turmoil—Barnier encourages parents not to lose their self-identity, to spare time for their non-prodigal children, and even to reach out to prodigals in other families.

Part Three includes two chapters on Barnier's own story, and a new Bonus Section which addresses church leaders directly, some insight from prodigals, more resources, and helpful Scripture. Barnier writes very personally throughout, using lots of stories and personal examples, and her autobiography in Part Three provides a unique perspective.

Unfortunately, it also has poor and unnecessary theology. She says that God doesn't need to create bad situations in order to extend grace to us. Rather, we create those situations ourselves, and God "keeps his radar up" looking for opportunities through which to connect with us. Her reason for this belief is that she's "not comfortable" with God causing suffering.

What we want and what we are comfortable with are hardly sound gauges for Christian doctrine. We only learn the right way to think about God from his Word, and the Bible clearly says that God is sovereign over all things, including suffering. It's unclear why Barnier includes this disclaimer, because it lends nothing to the rest of her book or thesis.

Other than that, however, this is a good and helpful book. Barnier eschews for the most part modern psychological ideas, and relies instead on the Bible and its implications for our lives. If you have a prodigal in your own home, or know anyone who does, and you want to do what you can to bring them back, this is a vital book for you.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Exodus Rating
FLAWS: Poor theological assumptions
Summary: Helpful investigation into why children leave the church, and what can be done to help them.

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