When Jay and Ginny Burns’s son started struggling with academics and drugs growing up, they were blindsided. They realized they had failed to give proper consequences and their behavior was enabling and unhelpful. They also began see clearly that they could not control their son’s actions. When they looked for support in their local church, it was hard to find. It was also clear that many other families were experiencing the same struggles. Now, for over ten years, Jay and Ginny have helped lead The Prodigal, a ministry providing care and support for families with loved ones who are wandering from God.
How did you get involved in The Prodigal?
Jay: “As we continued to walk through our own journey, other members of Watermark walking a similar road were referred to us because of our experience. We met and processed the chaos with many families one-on-one. We laughed and cried together and developed new friendships, but progress was slow as the families needed ongoing community and tools that would help them to be obedient to God’s Word and stay the course to avoid falling back into harmful, enabling behavior. As a result, The Prodigal was created.
"I don't even know what my life would look like if I had the perfect American dream family. We would have never said this from the outset of our journey, but we have seen Psalm 119:71 play out in our lives in the clearest of ways: ‘It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.’”
Ginny: “There is no quick fix to the person in your life who is wandering from God. It is so good to process chaos with a group that is experiencing similar issues. Prodigal ministry provides such community. I had a woman in my group who said she hadn’t told anybody about the prodigal child in her life because she thought no one else could relate in her church. The truth is, you’re not alone. We know that this can significantly affect marriages and families. We want to help others eliminate chaos, gain peace, and live out their main purpose to glorify God.”
J: “We have had the privilege to serve hundreds of families over the years through The Prodigal at Watermark and other churches. We see lives transformed consistently. My passions and idols have provided ‘trophies’ that worldly success provides, but they always fade and tarnish. I’ve never said that about someone who comes to the Lord. Ginny and I and the leaders in The Prodigal keep coming back every single week to see God show up so clearly. Where else would I go? What else would I do?”
What have you learned about God through your experiences and your time in The Prodigal?
J: “You're not in control. God is. He is good. He is loving. He is enough. And if you put your trust in Him, that is where you find your hope. Ginny and I have learned that we may not have the ability to change our circumstances, but we always have the ability to have peace and joy in the midst of our circumstances. We grieve. We cry. But we have peace as we trust in the Lord’s love for us.”
G: “One of the lies I believed is that doing the hard things, like enforcing discipline and consequences, isn’t loving, compassionate, or merciful. But God’s Word shows that He disciplines those who He loves (Hebrews 12:6).”
J: “God loves us enough to teach us important lessons through the hardships we invariably face and are promised in this life (John 16:33). His loving discipline humbly turns us to Him. I believe strongly that if you look at every ministry, it is founded on a challenge or hardship that brings you to your knees and makes you realize that you are not in control, but God is. And fortunately, He knows your pain, He’s good and He loves you. ‘Trust in Him’ is the answer and the source of confident hope.”
How would you encourage someone who has a loved one wandering from God?
Jay: “Hebrews 12:3 says, ‘Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.’ He died for us so that we could be saved forever, but He also died for us, so we have hope now. Satan has never changed his method of attack. He isolates us, just like he isolated Eve in the garden, and he whispers in our ear that God can’t be trusted and isn’t for us. When you have things in life that make you question God, you have to go back to Scripture to see His promises, and you have to process these in wise community. The critical question we ask in The Prodigal and that can be asked during any hardship is, ‘What if this journey is about you? What if God has allowed your suffering to draw you to Him? What if He needs you to grow in intimacy and trust in Him because He has even greater things planned for you?’ We wouldn’t wish hardship on anyone, but our journey has allowed us to know and love the Lord in unimaginable ways.”
If you have a child or loved one who is wandering from God, you’re invited to The Prodigal on Tuesdays at 6:30 PM.