Being in ministry for over 25 years, I have experienced many amazing “God moments” and personally witnessed countless spiritual victories in the lives of folks in the churches I’ve served and pastored.
I have also survived my share of ministry heartbreaks, major roadblocks and frustrating moments. However, one issue has burdened me more than any other — acknowledging that I am the parent of a prodigal child.
Admitting that I have a child who has grown into adulthood and chosen to walk away from church and live contrary to the faith in which they were raised is not easy to accept.
As one can imagine, the question of “why” has coursed through my mind time and time again. Was it the expectations I placed on them? Was it something I did? Was it the worldly influence of school friends? (I jokingly say that it was probably the deacons’ kids that caused my child to depart.)
Unfortunately, having a prodigal child has hampered my attitude and support of one of the most important and strategic ministries of the local church — family ministry. To be honest, I felt shame, embarrassment, regret and personally disqualified to wholeheartedly support family ministry when I knew that my family was not perfect.
Consequently, true family ministry didn’t exist in the church. If it did, it was left up to other staff members to lead and carry it out. And this only added to feeling like a hypocrite.
While I was working through a personal Bible study one morning, God began strongly reminding me of a spiritual truth that I have taught for many years — it is only God who can take something broken and make it a blessing.
It is only God who can take something broken and make it a blessing.
God used that simple truth to help me get over my fear of what some folks may think or say. More importantly, that truth reminded me that ultimately my child is in God’s hands.
Since that breakthrough, God has used my family’s story to help others who are going through similar struggles. It has also enabled me to be a champion for family ministry.
There are several significant lessons that I have learned through my experience. These lessons have helped me, and I hope they will help you, as well.
Never give up loving, praying for and encouraging your prodigal.
Even though they have walked away from God and the church, the Bible makes it clear that God has never walked away from them. I know God can bring them back into a right relationship with Him.
Remember that almost every family has its share of issues with children.
As a pastor for many years, I have witnessed the fact that almost every family has its share of dysfunction, and many families also have prodigals. Even though some families are great at hiding it or denying it, the reality does exist. Therefore, I know that I am not alone in this issue.
Sharing provides encouragement and opportunity for ministry.
Sharing my personal experiences has enabled me to connect and relate to others on a whole new level. Even though my family is not perfect, God is using our family’s story to minister to other imperfect families.