When we hear the word “prodigal, ” we usually think about a young person who walked away from their faith and is actively doing wrong things in the world.  But author Jim Putman, once a prodigal himself, says that every son or daughter could be a prodigal of some kind, appearing in varying degrees.

In his book, Hope for the Prodigal, Jim says that the important thing is for parents to know Jesus’ message to the prodigal, and be willing to follow His example of not only welcoming the prodigal home, but of drawing that son or daughter closer to God. This is important not only for the more radical prodigals, but also for the less obvious son or daughter who might be rebelling.

When I talk to parents, they don’t realize that they have a prodigal.  Their kids are successful, they have a job, they are raising kids, they go to church every once in a while.  They could still be prodigals.  Jesus says, ‘Because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth’ (Rev 3:16).

That child that might be just as far from salvation as the kids who’s out there doing crazy stuff. There are a variety of prodigals out there, maybe kids who were brought up to know the Lord but who aren’t committed, who aren’t living for the Lord. What can we do to draw them closer?

Jim has first hand knowledge of what it means to have both an outward prodigal – and one who was inwardly rebellious. It’s important to recognize both and concentrate on showing both the love and mercy of Christ.

I had the older son who was obviously angry and went out and did all the crazy things he did. But as he came back, I found that my middle son was actually angry as well, because so much of our energy had gone to our older son. We were always concerned and always praying, based on the kid who was not there, who was out in the world making trouble.

My younger son felt that he was stolen from. So he actually became a prodigal in a different way.  He wasn’t outwardly sinning but he was angry at me and angry at his brother. There was separation and he didn’t want to celebrate his brother coming home.  So we had both kinds of prodigals in our home. There is hope to draw both kinds of prodigals back.

Jim Putman is the senior pastor of Real Life Ministries in Post Falls, Idaho, one of the most influential churches in America. A pastor’s-kid-turned-prodigal who was won back by his father and mother, Jim also had a prodigal of his own–his oldest son. With God’s help, Jim won him back and he is now a pastor as well. A three-time all-American wrestler in college as well as a successful wrestling coach, Putman holds degrees from Boise State University and Boise Bible College. He is the author of Church Is a Team Sport and The Power of Together, as well as the widely adopted Real-Life Discipleship program.

Bill Putman 
has served in ministry for more than fifty years as a pastor, a church planter, or an executive. He currently serves at Real Life Ministries as a servant leader over Team One and as part of the Legacy Team ministry. He and his wife, Bobbi, have five grown children, including Jim, and fourteen grandchildren. They live in Post Falls, Idaho.

Bringing a prodigal home