I listen to Christian programming on the radio a lot. The programs vary in their usefulness to me, and in their accurate adherence to the Bible, but I've only found a couple of the programs/speakers I just can't get anything from at all.
I was listening this week and heard an interview with author Carol Barnier, a self-styled former prodigal. She was a preacher's daughter, who grew up in a good home in which her parents were loving, practiced their faith, and tried to pass it on to their children. Something went wrong in Carol's youth, though, and she eventually left faith behind and joined the late Madeline Murray O'Hare's organization, American Atheists. She became not just an atheist, but what I call an anti-theist, someone actively trying to destroy others' faith in God.
Well, of course she eventually came back to faith in Christ with the help of a preacher who kindly began the process with simple questions about the historical Jesus. Over time, she rebuilt her faith, or rather built it as her own for the first time by examining the truths of Christianity reasonably.
Her book, Engaging Today's Prodigal: Clear Thinking, New Approaches, and Reasons for Hope offers a look at the various types of prodigal sons and daughters. They're not all smoking, drinking, drugging party-animals who have left their roots to be free from the Bible's "restraints." Some walk away because their questions have not been answered, or have been answered poorly, and they're seeking a worldview that makes sense to them. The church and family can influence (not control) these truth-seeking prodigals by lovingly, patiently, and consistently engaging their questions reasonably and pointing them to the more than ample answers God has to offer.
Over 7 chapters the author exposes a series of myths that will encourage Christian parents struggling with how to understand why their beloved prodigal son or daughter has strayed, and what they can (and can't) do about it. I kindle-highlighted and bookmarked several places where there are truths I want to share with the church when the opportunity presents. In the second section of 12 chapters, Barnier examines "do's and dont's" of dealing with prodigals drawn from her own life experiences in the light of her now better understanding of the truth. Finally, she offers encouragement to those concerned about prodigals in their lives, and ends the book with a bonus section aimed at offering the church some advice, and doesn't close before giving us a section with comments from other prodigals.
For me, there's a lot of basic stuff throughout the book that I speed-read my way through looking for the meaty nuggets, but there are meaty nuggets to be found. Pick up your copy on your e-reader. It's worth a couple of days' reading and will help you look at some of the youth who've left or are leaving the church in a better light, and maybe even give you some tools to help bring them back. James 5:19-20!