5 Things to Discover about the Parable of the Pencil

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to go to Quantico along with our team to learn more about leadership. On this trip our lessons were from a retired Colonel Joseph Shusko in the United States Marine Corps. He was instrumental in changing the training for marines and martial arts at Raider Hall and around the world as he included training in body, mind and spirit. I was expecting discipline, toughness and responsibility as part of the training, but was surprised by his idea of mentorship and helping others. Part of the training includes what he calls “tie ins” which are moral parables to help these men and women build character.

Thankfully one of our colleagues bought each of us a copy of his book: Tie-Ins For Life: Stories that Teach Great Values and Inspire Moral Action.


The Pencil Maker took the pencil aside, just before putting him into the box.

“There are 5 things you need to know,” he told the pencil, “Before I send you out into the world. Always remember them and never forget, and you will become the best pencil you can be.”

“One: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in Someone’s hand.”

“Two: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you’ll need it to become a better pencil.”

“Three: You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make.”

“Four: The most important part of you will always be what’s inside.”

“And Five: On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition, you must continue to write.”

The pencil understood and promised to remember, and went into the box with purpose in its heart.

Now replacing the place of the pencil with you.  Always remember them and never forget, and you will become the best person you can be.

One: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in God’s hand. And allow other human beings to access you for the many gifts you possess.

Two: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, by going through various problems in life, but you’ll need it to become a stronger person.

Three: You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make.

Four: The most important part of you will always be what’s on the inside.

And Five: On every surface you walk through, you must leave your mark. No matter what the situation, you must continue to do your duties.

As a teacher, allow this parable on the pencil to encourage you to know that you are a special person and only you can fulfill the purpose to which you were born to accomplish.

Never allow yourself to get discouraged and think that your life is insignificant and cannot make a change.

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Four Ways to Insure Sunday School is a Safe Place for Preschoolers, Children and Youth

One of the increasing concerns in church and any service organization, focused on children and youth, are safety & liability issues. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Providing a Safe Environment

We need to make sure furniture, toys and learning tools for preschool & children are up to date and sterile. Furniture (like tables and chairs) and toys/learning tools should be age appropriate and kept clean. (Please do not allow stuffed animals into the classroom. Stuffed animals breed germs and are hard to keep clean.) Small toys should not be in the preschool area, because they can be a choking hazard. Build wooden cubby holes for children rather than using eye level coat hangers that could cause serious injury to a child.

You need a First Aid Kit in the cabinet & properly trained persons in CPR. Keep a list of known allergies of children for healthy snacks. Phones are needed in nursery/preschool areas in case of emergencies along with a list of phone numbers of parents. Have an adult making security checks in the preschool/children’s area during Sunday School, worship and other church wide events for intruders.


  1. Preparations for workers of preschool, children and youth

Have background checks on all workers. The process through your local sheriff’s department is simple and cost effective. Don’t wait until there is an issue! I know in smaller churches we know everyone, but what happens when a new member wants to be working with children or youth.  You can’t single out new people without everyone having a background check. (If your workers are teaching in a public school system, they already have background checks at their school, and it isn’t necessary to do another one.)

Have a system for parents to drop off and pick up their child. There are many horror stories of an estranged spouse/parent picking up their child without the other parent knowing and leaving the state with the child. A simple way for checking in and out is to print some animal pictures and have them laminated. The parent gets a duplicate to take with them and one is kept with the child’s name and belongings. The parent must have the matching animal to pick up their child.

You need two adults to be present at all times with preschoolers, children and youth. In a day when one wrong move can deeply affect a child and one accusation can destroy an adult’s reputation, this is necessary! No adult should be left alone with children.


  1. You need special written permission to take minors on trips.

Get parental consent forms for special trips and avoid issues later. On a different note, I had a situation one time where a 17 year old youth left a youth event an hour early to go home and do homework, and I quickly called the parents to let them know. I was responsible and would be held liable if this youth got in an accident or was doing something inappropriately. The parents were very thankful I called, because the teen was not going home!


  1. Set policies and procedures for all workers as a covenant to sign about appropriateness of contact, and policies and procedures about safety precautions.

If there is an issue, you don’t want an adult to claim they didn’t know. The bottom line is we want a safe learning environment for our children and youth. We have the responsibility of making sure precautions are taken for this reason.


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4 Ways to Care now: Come Before Winter

21 Do your best to get here before winter. (II Timothy 4:21 NIV)

This passage has been preached by many pastors. For Sunday School/Small Groups, it is imperative that we reach out when persons are missing and beyond. Paul knew that winter may be too late to console him before he died. We never know when someone will no longer be with us. Here are some thoughts:

Set up care groups. Every class/Small group should set up care groups. This is where a person has five to seven persons on their list to contact. (Contact me at tony.brooks@bgav.org for the beginning stages.)

Pray for your care group daily. Spend time each day praying for your people. About once a month call/e-mail them to discover their needs. You may be surprised at their responses as they see you care.

Get other church members involved. You may discover certain needs you can’t handle. Let the Pastor, deacons and others know (if not confidential, always ask.) Often people slip through the cracks and stop coming, because others don’t know.

Send cards on important days. Send a card on death anniversaries. Remember and contact them on birthdays and other anniversaries. You never know what encouraging word might help.

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Dreaming New Dreams for Sunday School/Discipleship: Head, Heart and Hands

“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17 NIV)

I just watched one of my favorite movies, Dead Poets Society. In it we have some who dream dreams and other who are realists. Which one are you? Can we do both as Christians? In this time, God needs us to dream dreams and see visions, as we help others t0 see a new reality!
Is your Sunday School class/Small Group realizing what is necessary…Head, Heart and Hands? Here are some thoughts:

Head: Are you looking at your class and their spiritual needs? Has there been any dramatic change in lifestyles based on spiritual transformation for members in the class? Is it time to change curriculum or start a small group at another time? Sunday School is meant to reach new people. It is not to be the only spiritual growth element for discipleship. If most of your members have been in the same class for years and not involved in other spiritual disciplines, it may be time for a change for them.

Heart: Is your group caring for each other? Does every person in your group feel as though they belong and their needs are being met? If not, it is time to set up care groups. Each person needs to feel that they belong, and they are cared for. (Email me at tony.brooks@bgav.org for suggestions.)

Hands: Persons in your group need to feel they are contributing to the class and the community. I have stated all along that every class (first grade and up) need to have an ongoing service project. You should be serving in some way outside the class. I have ideas if you need them. Just let me know.

In the world we live in we need mature disciples who are making a difference in the group and the community. It is time to allow God to help us dream new dreams and see a better future in the group, church and community.

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Sunday School & Strategic Plans

Like any other ministry, for Sunday School to be strong and effective, it requires planning and implementation. When I meet with Pastors and SS Directors, I begin with a checklist of questions. Per…

Source: Sunday School & Strategic Plans

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Sunday School & Strategic Plans

Like any other ministry, for Sunday School to be strong and effective, it requires planning and implementation. When I meet with Pastors and SS Directors, I begin with a checklist of questions. Perhaps a good way for you to check the health of your Sunday School is to gather your SS leaders and answer the following:

  1. What is your vision for Sunday School? (Remember “Start with Why”.)
  2. Need Balance in Ministry & Programming- Breaking it down:


  1. What leaders do you have to help with vision and training? (It is best to have a representative from the age groups to form a team to assist.)


  1. How creative are your teachers?
  2. How do they follow up lessons from the week before?
  3. What tools do you have to help them?
  4. What training is in place to help them?
  5. Are they mentoring a person in the class to start new classes or take over the class?
  6. Do you have a teacher appreciation?


  1. Do you have care groups?
  2. What visitation program is set up to reach prospects?
  3. Are you using e-mail, facebook and other media sources?
  4. Are you intentionally registering people through special services, worship and other activities/ministries?
  5. Do you have a system of recognition for classes? (Highlight a class a month in your worship bulletin.)


  1. How receptive are current classes to new members? (Language)
  2. How inclusive are they in getting their input for ministry?


  1. Are the classes involved in service projects? (Every class from grade school on should have an ongoing service project.)

Consider these questions as a start for strategic planning and a healthier Sunday School.


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The Great Commission, Sunday School & Small Groups

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 NIV)

I have mentioned on more than one occasion that teachers are missionaries and disciple-makers!  The truth is all Christians are! We can bless others as we disciple. Here are a few thoughts:

Your words of encouragement and challenge matter. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

From preschoolers to senior adults, you have the power to speak life and hope into others’ lives. You can help each person to see they were created for more. You can encourage them, and speak truth to them in love.

Years ago, I had a young man who had left the church. I went to visit him (He had long hair and an earring.) I treated him with respect, love and grace. He had grown up in the church I served but stopped coming after age eighteen. To my surprise, he showed up one Sunday. During our time of greeting, several came by to talk to him. He left after the service before I had a chance to talk with him. I called him that afternoon and asked him what he thought. This was his reply…”Tony, I enjoyed the service, but won’t be back.” I asked him why. His response: “I had several come by that taught me about God’s love as a child. Instead of asking how I am, or telling me that they missed me and loved me, they asked: “Why do you have an earring? It looks like you need a haircut.” Their words said it all.

Let your life speak as loud as your words! You are to set the example in how to live hope/grace filled lives. Be vulnerable, but don’t bleed all over them. What do I mean? They need to see your humanity, but don’t allow negativity from your life to be the main focus. Help them to see the times you struggle, but always bring them around to hope for the future.

Let your actions speak louder than your words! Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (I John 3:18 NIV) It is not enough just to talk to your class members during class. They need to see you care. How are you showing care throughout the week? Email me at tony.brooks@bgav.org and I will share some ideas. Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice as Romans 12 states. Do something for them, instead of just teaching in the classroom. You may discover your actions taught them much more!


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