Ministry Overview

Prodigals International Ministry Overview


Our infinitely-creative God has raised up a broad spectrum of men and women, representing many different ministries, to address the issue of sexual addiction in the church today. Some of these individuals have advanced degrees; some do not. Some focus primarily on research and writing, others on "front lines" ministry to addicts and their families. Some offer brief intensive counseling or workshops; others offer longer-term counseling. Some of these men and women are themselves recovering sexual addicts, or the partners of addicts; others are not. God has called each of these individuals and ministries to play a unique role in healing the wound in the body of Christ called sexual addiction. As Dale Ryan likes to say, "'One size fits all' doesn't apply to recovery."

Recovery Takes Time

Habits that took years, even decades, to develop, will take time to tear down and replace. Trust that was painfully ruptured in a marriage will take time to restore. Addicts in early recovery often think they're "healed" because the shame of discovery of their secret life has driven their sexual impulses underground. But both the habits themselves and the self-centered approach to life that feeds the habit must be exposed and transformed by God over time. Complete honesty is not instantaneous for an addict in early recovery. And honesty over time is required as the mentor helps the addict peal back and deal with one layer of the onion at a time. In fact, the growth and recovery process is life-long. There is an on-going vulnerability to falling back into old habits that needs to be watched over. And the "watching" can't be done effectively by the recovered addict himself. That's the kind of "go it alone" thinking that got the addict trapped in his secret life in the first place. For "our kind" of addict here at Prodigals, we believe an accountability relationship to a mentor, who is himself a recovering addict, is a life-long necessity. And it's also a privilege, because the result is increasing purity and integrity in our actions and our thought life, and an ever-growing relationship with God.

We at Prodigals feel called to offer one particular approach to sexual addiction recovery. For us, this approach has been effective; it has, in fact, changed our lives. But it is not for everyone. Following is a list of the most important distinctives in the Prodigals model:

Christ-Centered and Biblically Based

12 Step Program

Led By Recovering People

Highly-Structured and Intensive

Accountability: Mentor centered

Support for Local Ministries

Christ-Centered and Biblically Based

Jesus Christ is the center of the recovery process for addicts. God alone, working through surrendered members of His body, is the source of healing. Many of the recovery exercises include extensive Bible study. One of the key disciplines acquired by the men in our year-long program is the daily practice of Bible study, prayer and meditation.

12 Step Program

The 12 Step model provides the overall structure to our recovery. Ours is, however, a Christ-centered 12 Step program where Jesus Christ is openly acknowledged as Savior and Lord. The Steps are each placed in their biblical context.

Although we encourage all of the men in our program to also work with a Christian therapist, the 12 Step model is different than the psychological or therapeutic model. The primary difference is that the goal of the 12 Steps is transformation, a "spiritual awakening," as the 12th Step puts it. The heart of that transformation involves dethroning self and surrendering every area of one's life to God.

Although there are many kinds of therapy, we can generally say that therapy focuses on helping a client deal with more specific issues, one at a time, rather than emphasizing the spiritual transformation of the whole person. Also, therapy can help a client deal with underlying issues that might be fueling the addiction (e.g. family of origin issues--abandonment, abuse, etc.). The 12 Step model does not attempt to deal with these underlying issues, but chooses instead to focus on the addict taking full responsibility for his actions as an adult. Both are needed, and cooperative teamwork between the 12 Step mentor and the counselor will accelerate the healing and growth of the man in recovery.

Finally, the 12 Steps emphasize action – immediate behavioral change whether you fully understand all the reasons behind it or not. Therapy often emphasizes understanding the problem. A common saying in 12 Step circles is "Act your way into a new way of thinking; don't try to think your way into a new way of acting." Again, there is a need for both, but the 12 Step approach does not try to be both.

In any case, in our model, the 12 Step program is the primary vehicle for helping a man get sober and stay sober. It provides the kind of constant spiritual reinforcement and daily, wrap-around accountability that the therapist is not intended to provide.

Led by Recovering People

It has been our experience that recovering people are far and away the best equipped individuals to help others recover. The 12 Step model is not a "professional" program, is not led by experts who have never struggled with the same issue. Church-based recovery programs need to be responsible and accountable to the pastoral leadership. But recovering individuals are uniquely equipped to lead those programs.

Highly-Structured and Intensive

One of the participants in our program wryly remarked that Homecoming (our ministry to addicts) is an "Industrial Strength" recovery program. Another said participating in the program is "like jumping into paradise through a plate glass window." It's great to get to the other side, but getting there can be painful.

Paradoxically, the structure and intensity we offer are the primary reasons men try our program. Most of them say they've tried other programs where the sobriety standards were vague, and accountability was optional, and they couldn't attain sobriety. They kept relapsing. For these kinds of addicts we've found that the only program that works is a demanding program with strict accountability and real consequences for relapse. And God has worked powerfully in men's lives. Eighty-five percent of the men completing our mentoring program have found long-term freedom from their addiction for the first time in their lives. But this program is not for everyone. We consider ourselves to be "the last house on the block" and strongly encourage men to first try other less-intensive recovery programs before they come to Homecoming.

Accountability: Mentor-centered

Perhaps the most unique element in the Prodigals Homecoming model is the central role played by the mentor. Mentoring is a strongly "beefed-up" application of the AA 12 Step sponsorship design that itself has been helpful to so many. Men who have successfully completed the 12 Step program under a mentor turn around and help mentor new men through that same process. Thus, the strength of the program does not primarily rest on a set of materials, or on the personality of one central leader, but on that vital dynamic that occurs when one man shares his heart, his life and his "experience, strength and hope" with another man.

Therefore, to establish a successful sexual addiction recovery ministry in a church, the second most important goal is to produce mentors to work with new men. (The most important goal is that the leadership be solid in their own sobriety.)

Support for Local Ministries

It is not our goal to become a large parachurch organization running its own independent recovery groups around the country. Our passion at Prodigals International is to equip churches across North America and around the world to establish their own sexual addiction recovery ministries.