Time Out: What to do with that “thorn in the flesh” parent

Topic / Time Out

Time Out (by Jerry Schmoyer)

We all have them, or at least one of them: a parent who just seems to make ministry harder it should be. Instead of appreciating and supporting what we do, they seem to find something wrong with everything. It could also be someone in the church who doesn’t even have a son or daughter in your group. Even worse is when they criticize or condemn our mate instead of us. Jesus knows what that is like – He certainly faced criticism, even from his own family members.

First, see if there is anything you can learn from this nit-picky person. Often hidden in some very poor packaging can be kernels of truth and wisdom, if we’d only search them out and use them. Remember, always respond in gentleness and love. It is legitimate to try to guard our time from lengthy conversations that produce little fruit, since defending ourselves and explaining our actions sometimes waste time. Second, perhaps you can go to someone this nit-picky person will listen to and enlist their aid in speaking to this person. And third, Pray for this person and for the root cause which may be producing this type of critical behavior. Do not get caught in a power struggle with them. Do not gossip about them. Do not criticize or put them down in retaliation. Never stoop to their level. Pray and ask God to help you see them through His eyes and to love them with His unconditional love. Pray to God with sincerity. You’ll be surprised at what a difference it makes!

2 Timothy 2:24, “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

2 Corinthians 12:7-10, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”


  • Which parent(s) do you find yourself avoiding? Who do you dread to hear from?
  • Why might they be treating you in this way?
  • What truth or wisdom can be gleaned from them that can help you minister in a better way?
  • Do you find yourself doing or not doing certain things to please them (or to annoy them)?
  • What would Jesus do if He were in your position?


Jerry Schmoyer has been a minister in Pennsylvania for over 25 years and has worked with teenagers for 14 years, ever since I became one myself. He authors the weekly Time Out series here at Life in Student Ministry in hopes to spiritually refresh your soul as you continually pour so much of yourself into students. God bless!

Posted on March 2, 2008

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