How to Parent a Prodigal and Not Lose Hope

Posted on Posted in Parenting

100 Million Records

prodigalWith an estimated net worth of $125 million and over 100 million records sold globally throughout her career, Katy Perry seems to have everything that a person could ever want.

Over the past 10 years, her songs have risen to the top of the charts making her one of the best-selling artists of all time.

With so many accomplishments, it’s hard to imagine that there was a day when Katy Perry was a humble teenager writing worship songs and playing the guitar in her church. 

Perry, whose name was Katie Hudson, started out as a gospel singer who quickly changed course after her debut gospel album fell flat with only 200 albums sold.


While on the surface, her story is one of fame and success; you don’t need to dig too deep to find a father and mother whose hearts are broken by their daughter’s choice to turn away from her Christian faith.

Without question, Katy is a prodigal whose story represents the experience of many Christian parents who suffer the same pain of knowing their child is far from God.

You may be a parent of a prodigal or you know of someone who is. My prayer is that this post about Katy’s story will bring you encouragement and you will walk away feeling a greater sense of hope about your situation.

1. God loves prodigals.

prodigalAll you have to do is read the story of the Prodigal Son to see how much God loves prodigals. What an incredible story of forgiveness.

Another story in scripture that isn’t told as much is the Parable of the Lost Sheep. The shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to find the one that has strayed.

For all the parents who often wonder if God has forgotten about their many prayers, they can be sure he remembers their story. Without question God loves prodigals and His desire is to see them return to Him.

2. Focus on helping others.

Katy’s mom, Mary, admits that it is easy for parents of prodigals to wallow in self-pity. To keep her from falling into this trap, she has made it her life purpose to focus on helping others.

Mary says, “You have to take your mind off your own situation and focus on others if you are ever going to see the light of day.

Pouring myself into the Arise conferences (conferences for women) has been a lifeline. Not only have thousands of women been helped, but with every meeting, my faith gets cranked up a notch.”

3. Love the prodigal unconditionally.

prodigalNot surprisingly, the Hudsons talk to Katy regularly. Sometimes her calls come in the middle of the night after a show in another part of the world. No matter when the phone rings, they are there to answer her.

Mary believes unconditional love and support is essential—not judgment, anger or estrangement. “It’s only the love of God that will bring them back,” she says. “Don’t cut them off. You have to rise above your feelings. You must stay in communication.”

Friends, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard of Christian parents who have disowned their son or daughter because they were gay. Each time it breaks my heart. Remember, Jesus was a friend of sinners.

4. Stop blaming yourself.

prodigalAfter 20 years of pastoring and being a part of the Church for all of my life, I can truly say that many times we shoot our wounded. By this, I mean that we judge other Christians unfairly.

When we hear about a story like this, it’s so easy to assume that it is the fault of the parents. For those of you who are in this kind of situation and have been living with guilt for many years, there’s something you need to know.

Stop blaming yourself!

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” But this Scripture was never meant as a guilt trip, nor as a guarantee.

Your children were all born with a will and they made a choice to walk away from God.

5. Deal with your emotions.

Dealing with a prodigal can take its toll on your emotions. Get the help you need. It’s okay to talk with a Christian counselor or one of your spiritual leaders.

Make the choice not to carry this burden on your own. God never meant for you to carry it.

6. Establish boundaries.

prodigalWhile it’s important to stay connected to your son or daughter, it’s crucial that you set up boundaries to protect your home.

Depending on the circumstances, you may need to establish that there will be no alcohol or drugs in your home.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure that your child knows what the boundaries are and what the consequences will be if the rules are broken.

7. Never give up praying.

One of the most memorable modern-day prodigal stories took place in 1991. Chrissy Cymbala, daughter of Pastor Jim Cymbala, had strayed from God and was making one bad decision after another. Jim and his wife Carol were brokenhearted and they weren’t sure where else to turn.

Things came to a head during the church’s Tuesday night prayer meeting.

As the church prayed, someone came to the front and handed a piece of paper to Jim. It said, “Tonight is Chrissy’s night.” After reading it, Jim decided it was time to tell his congregation.

Open Book

He said, “Our daughter Chrissy is really away from God. Everything about her and what she is to be is now upside down. We’ve done everything we can — there’s only one answer. So we need to pray.” The 1,700 people assembled in the building began to cry out to God.

God heard their prayers! By the next morning, Chrissy woke up and called her parents to tell them what had happened.

prodigalThat night, while the church was praying, Chrissy could not sleep. As she laid there, she saw a menacing pitch-black figure appear in the darkened room and says she heard it claim her life and little Susie’s.

As members continued laboring in prayer, a cloud-like entity radiating brilliant light became visible and vanquished the evil one, disappearing along with it, she says. Feeling inexplicable peace, Chrissy fell asleep.

Chrissy woke up the next morning with a strong realization that she was far from God. She quickly went to her parents and told them what had happened.

Chrissy’s Story

Most prodigals don’t have a supernatural experience of this kind. However, God has a way of making each of our stories unique. Chrissy Cymbala recently released a book telling her story called Girl in the Song. I highly recommend it for anyone who has a prodigal child.

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