BUS, VAN or CAR MINISTRY
The BEST way to get more kids to your classrooms is to begin a bus ministry. If you have a smaller church and perhaps a bus is out of reach at the moment due to finances or lack of certified drivers, you can at least begin a van ministry or at the bare minimum a car ministry.
But why do we need to do this? Why can’t we just make Sunday School such an exciting place that they want to come so badly that they just flock in on their own?
This is quite easy to answer because, not to put it too simply… kids cannot drive and it is probably too far to walk. Their parents for the most part are very likely NOT going to be willing to get up early and take them either. Their options then are to not go or to RELY ON YOU!
Bus ministry is a HUGE imposition on you and your current lifestyle. If you are used to enjoying long, leisurely Saturday and Sunday mornings then think long and hard before jumping into this because it WILL mess that up completely! Nothing will be the same after getting fully involved… and that is a very good thing.
My Personal Testimony
I have been in church my entire life and have attended more church outreaches than I can count. I have passed out THOUSANDS of fliers and have probably invited that many people personally to church. As a child, teenager and then young adult I participated in every witnessing program the church had to offer and as far I can remember I had only ever had ONE person come to church because of my efforts. Now I am not proud of this but that is just the way it was. Despite my best efforts, it seemed that no one I invited wanted to come to church! But one day, all of that changed.
I hadn’t been involved in bus ministry before and scarcely knew that it existed until someone asked me to take their place for one Sunday morning while they were out of town. I did so (with grave reservations) and found that I enjoyed it quite a lot; in fact, I liked it so much that I began riding the bus regularly and soon we organized an outreach.
I will never forget that Sunday morning when someone I had personally invited (a grandmother with no children, strangely enough) came out to ride the bus! I was so excited!
6 months after I started working on the bus, I went through our attendance and found that of the people on our roles that I HAD PERSONALLY INVITED OVER 75 KIDS AND ADULTS THAT HAD COME TO CHURCH!
BUS MINISTRY WORKS!
This is NOT to downplay other methods of outreach, it is just to illustrate how effective bus ministry can be.
WHAT YOU NEED:
YOU need to be MORE committed than ANYONE else.
You have to care more than everyone else that is involved. You have to care enough to put up with a LOT of problems, a LOT of headaches, a LOT of bickering and STILL have a passion and a burden for what you do!
Where there are no oxen the stalls are clean and where they are no kids there are no problems. The more kids you get, the more problems you will have. DON’T DWELL ON THEM… what you focus on tends to multiply! Focus on the successes not the problems.
You have to be patience, organized, creative, outgoing and a people person to make this work.
Vehicle(s) and driver(s)
You need to find a reliable driver or drivers (preferably more than one so a vacation doesn’t disable your ministry). You will also need at least one person over 18 besides the driver in each vehicle for safety and for protection against allegations. As far as the vehicle(s) go, you will have to work this out yourselves with fear and trembling. A van is a great place to start.
You MUST have several committed and passionate bus workers. They must sincerely care about what they are doing and about the kids they bring. You will find that initially it will be like pulling teeth to get people involved but as your bus ministry grows and becomes more and more exciting, they will begin to become more and more attracted to it. Just remember that your bus workers will likely be young people for the most part and as such, by definition ARE NOT YET MATURE! They can be flaky and at times unreliable… expect this and don’t let it get you down! It is part of it. Remember that a big part of the bus ministry is ALSO the formation of the young people that are involved. Bus ministry can change bus WORKERS for the better as much as it can the bus KIDS that are picked up.
Bus ministry without consistent outreach is worthless. You MUST have WEEKLY outreach in order to maintain let alone grow your attendance. Each Saturday we meet at the church at 10:00am for prayer and at 10:20am we get into our teams, get organized, hand out the fliers and head out at 10:30am. We aim for about 1 to 1.5 hours of outreach because any less than this is probably just going through the motions and a waste of everyone’s time.
We had bus workers assigned to every street and they are supposed to make sure that their entire street is covered. They talk to all of the regular kids that come and then make a special effort to reach for new kids.
A System for Sunday Morning
Every church is different and will have a different routine so I will just give you ours that you can perhaps use as a jumping off point.
On Sunday mornings we have a wake-up teams that is dropped off at each street to wake up the kids about 15 minutes before the bus arrives to have them ready. If you do not do this you will find yourselves waiting many times for 10 or more minutes on a single child to get ready.
We currently have 2 big buses and a shuttle bus that we run each Sunday morning. One of them runs two times and the other only once. The first bus leaves at 8:30am and arrives at the church with a load of kids around 9:10am and then pulls back out along with the other bus and shuttle bus around 9:15am. They all try to return at 9:50am in time to get everyone to their classes by 5 minutes till.
Just remember that this is not a science and that things WILL go wrong routinely. A bus will break down, a driver will be gone, bus workers will be absent, your wake-up team driver will oversleep and on and on… Work through the problems… it will all work out in the end.
We generally return the kids in the reverse order that they arrived in. The early bus leaves first etc.
When you have a bus route you are playing the percentages. Obviously we can’t stop at every house or even every street in our city so we have to make judgment calls as to which street will produce the most kids. We will target groups of homes such as apartment complexes, townhouses and condominiums which are preferred targets over single family homes. Apartment complexes are more typically populated by people with fewer transportation options and are much easier on outreach to reach large number of people in a short time.
When we are checking into a new street to include in our bus routes we will visit them at various times of day such as mornings and afternoons and on both weekdays and weekends to see how many kids are around. Obviously, if you don’t see kids out playing you are not very likely to pick up very many from that stop for Sunday school.
Each bus route should take no more than 45 minutes from the time it leaves the church to when it comes back. This time restraint makes the wake up teams even more necessary.
As I mentioned before, each bus route consists of several streets and to each of these streets we have assigned at least two and up to four bus workers. It is these bus workers’ job to ensure that their street is completely blanketed on outreach and that we are getting as many kids to Sunday school from there as is possible.
We give a snack to each person that rides the bus and this snack changes from week to week. We advertise the upcoming snack on the fliers that we hand out each Saturday and we have found that there are a few very popular snacks that the kids like see repeated such as hot cheetos, rice krispie treats, blow pops and similar items. Most of these can be purchased for around 25 cents per child if you buy in bulk.
While it is not necessarily vital, it is really neat to have a uniform for your bus workers. In our case it is a blinding bright orange shirt with our logo (Holy Ghost Riders) emblazoned across the back. As ugly as they are you would be shocked at the interest that our church young people show in the shirts. It gives them a sense of belonging to something bigger than they are and an air of important. It doesn’t hurt either that our bus workers can be seen a long way off and are clearly recognized as being part of the staff by both the parents and their children.
Bus & Sunday School Outreach Ideas
With all of the ideas listed below it will help a lot if you have the following:
- Happy, friendly, cheerful and personable people that understand your Sunday school and bus ministry
- Flyers with all necessary information including but not limited to your church name, address, Google voice phone number and all of the activities they can expect (bounce houses, animal balloons, puppets, games, singing, etc)
- People that can make animal balloons
You can also purchase a wearable puppet stage and puppet (Puppet stage is Belmont – amazehealingwings.com – 760 244 8111 – Hesperia)
With each of these outreaches you should attempt to get sign-ups immediately. Don’t count on them calling the number on the flyer. Make sure that you at least try to get a commitment at this time. You will be shocked how quickly they forget all about it.
Have a barbecue at an apartment complex
Talk to the manager first get their permission and approval to set up a barbecue at a central area of their complex. Let them know that it is all free and that it is an extension of your Sunday school and bus ministry. They will typically not have a problem with you doing this.. You will find that this always works out better and you develop great relationships with the management.
Bring a small barbecue, hot dogs and perhaps something to drink. Make it simple, quick and free.
While the hot dogs are cooking have as many people as you can hit all of the surrounding doors and tell them what is going on. As they come to get the free food let them know all about your Sunday school and bus ministry and try to get an immediate commitment from them.
Have a candy rain
This is along the same lines as the barbecue. Choose a central area of a complex after getting the manager’s approval. You have a team of people hit as many doors as possible and let them know that a free candy rain is about to happen at a given spot. Play music as loudly as you can without being an annoyance to help focus the attention and gather people. Before you do the candy rain talk to everyone that is there about Sunday school and your bus ministry and hand out flyers with information. Do the candy rain and then get sign-ups immediately.
Have a Park service
Set up a sound system, at this stage and as many eye-catching props as you can bring in the most populated park, on its most populated day at its most populated time of day. Do research ahead of time to determine that these criteria are met. Set up your sound system, play music as loudly as possible without being annoying and then have as many people as possible talk to everyone in the part to let them know that a free puppet show, candy rain and whatever other entertainment you have prepared will start in five minutes. Once again, make sure that you have flyers and happy people at the gathering spot to talk to everyone that arrives until it begins. Right before it begins, make an announcement explaining what you are doing and how you do something similar to this every single Sunday at your church. As soon as it is over try to get immediate commitments.
Have an activity day
Set up a sound system, at this stage and as many eye-catching props as you can bring in an apartment complex after getting permission to do so from the management. Setup some tables and have coloring books, modeling clay etc. Have contests, games and other activities. Use this as a means of gathering a crowd that you then speak to one-on-one and try to get commitments to come to Sunday School.
Birthday Party for a puppet
Have a birthday party for a puppet at the park and give out cake, have a pinata, sing happy birthday, give gifts to all of the attendees.