I want to thank Grace and Truth Books for providing me with a copy of Engaging Today’s Prodigal in return for my honest opinion. Grace and Truth Books is a wonderful online resource for Christian books on parenting and for Christian children’s books. I appreciate their quick shipping, great prices, and fantastic selection.
“Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.”….
Luke 15:11-16 NIV
And then the prodigal came home.
At least, the prodigal in Jesus’ parable came home in Luke 15:11-32. There are so many excellent lessons to be learned from Jesus’ story. The father welcomes his son with open arms. He throws a party, rejoicing that his lost son is now found.
What about the prodigal child who doesn’t come home? What about the child who comes home physically–dragging himself out of the pig pit–but never utters the words, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.”? (Luke 5:18) What if the prodigal kid never “comes to his senses”? (vs 17) What then?
For those without prodigal kids, the whole situation can look like one of those diseases you know you’ll never catch. That only happens to other people. For those with a prodigal child, it can be an unspeakable pain. It can also be confusing. We know we need to pray for our prodigal kids. But, how do we interact with them? How do we respond to the kids we love when they don’t love our Lord? How do we engage them when they are making appalling choices? How do we come alongside them without enabling them?
Carol Barnier, a pastor’s kid turned atheist turned Christ-follower, addresses the painful subject of still-prodigal kids in her new book Engaging Today’s Prodigal: Clear Thinking, New Approaches, and Reasons for Hope (Moody Publishers, 2012). Ms. Barnier begins by giving us just a little bit of hope. She tells us the frightening stories of former prodigals… and fills us in on what they’re doing now.
Then, in Part One, she sets about debunking seven myths we tell ourselves about prodigal kids. These myths address both the role of the parents, and of the child (or adult child as the case may be). She points out errors in thinking common to sincere Christian parents of prodigal children.
I have to say, I found this section very interesting. As the Lord would have it, I had scheduled this review of Engaging Today’s Prodigal for Grace and Truth Books just five weeks into the return of a prodigal child to our home. There are no mistakes in God’s world–I’m sure He was arranged this review for me long ago. I truly needed to read the truths put forth by Ms. Barnier. I am grateful to have someone external interject themselves into the war in my own head. I know I cannot fix my adult child, nor can I bring that individual to a saving faith in Jesus Christ–that is the job of the Holy Spirit. But how to proceed after acknowledging that fact sometimes gets a little fuzzy for me.
In Part Two, Ms. Barnier gives us a list of twelve specific ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ to keep in mind as we interact with our prodigal child. In one, she urges us to ‘change the dance’ with our child. It can be exhausting to parent a child set on doing exactly the opposite of what we’ve taught in our homes. Heartbreaking, and exhausting. Out of that heartbreak, frustration and exhaustion, we often begin a destructive dance with our child that does nothing to help them overcome the sin and rebellion in their own heart. Ms. Barnier urges us to ‘change the dance’ – and gives us specific advice telling us how to do so.
Part Three addresses Carol Barnier’s personal story, her advice for the Church, excerpts from interviews with other prodigals, additional resources, and related Scripture verses.
There are parts of Engaging Today’s Prodigal that made me bristle just a little. I sometimes didn’t quite like the tone directed at the Church, or the frank emotions expressed toward God. Yet, this isn’t meant to be a neat and tidy, feel-good book. This book is meant to reach into the mess, and grab ahold of a broken child and a hurting parent. This is a book about the child who is still in the pig pit eating wasted corn cobs, or the parent who longs to hear “I have sinned against heaven and against you”–but may be a long, long way from that sign of outward repentance.
Carol Barnier is honest. She gives real, worthwhile advice. It’s advice I’ll be thinking about for a long time.
Purchase Engaging Today’s Prodigal
Other parenting books reviewed on Thinking Kids
- Raising Real Men by Hal & Melanie Young
- Love the Journey: Homeschooling Principles to Practice by Marcia Somerville
- You, Your Family and the Internet by David Clark
- Organic Outreach for Families by Kevin G. and Sherry Harney
- Intentional Parenting by Tad Thompson
- Your Child’s Profession of Faith by Dennis Gundersen
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~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.