In addition to providing transportation to church, bus ministries are also being used for community outreach.
By Raj Dayal
Bus ministries are vital outreach extensions for today’s churches. These ministries provide a way for children and adults to attend Sunday school and services that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend. Today’s church leaders are using these ministries for more than just transportation.
At First Southern Baptist Church of Del City, OK, the bus ministry was established with just three buses in 1990. Today, its fleet consists of 11 buses (two 15-passenger buses and nine 43-63-passenger buses) and averages about 250 children each week.
The bus ministry at the church has been transformed into a Saturday bus church. “It’s everything that Sunday school and church is, and more,” says Don Laughlin, bus minster at FSBC Del City. “We have two different worship services, preschool through third grade and fourth through 12th. We also have parents who come and enjoy the services.”
Aggressive outreach ministry
The bus ministry at Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL, began in 1945 as transportation for the elderly but it has evolved into an aggressive outreach ministry for the church. Paul Scott, children’s pastor of Trinity Baptist, began as a bus volunteer in 1989 and has been in charge of the ministry since 2000.
Trinity Baptist uses 11 buses and three other buses for its rescue mission. The church only owns five of the buses and they are used; additional buses are new and are leased by the church from the county.
“We do not use vans because of the liability risks — we use two mini-buses and the rest are full-size school buses,” Scott says. All of the drivers undergo background screening, are CDL certified and are included on the church’s insurance policy.
Clays Mill Road Baptist Church in Lexington, KY, began its bus ministry in 1975 when the church vans became too full and more transportation was needed. “In all, we average about 150 bus workers a week and about 60 of them are college students,” says Stephen Johnson, bus director, Clays Mill Road Baptist. “While I am the director, I have been blessed to do so as a layman.”
The ministry at Clays Mill Road Baptist reaches more than 700 children, teens and adults on any given Sunday, with a high last year of more than 1,200 people.
Meeting a need
The bus ministry at FSBC Del City began because its leadership felt that there was a need in their community that wasn’t being met. “I was not aware that there were so few buses running in the areas we targeted when we got started. The areas we target have children who are from low-income families,” Laughlin says. According to Laughlin, about 75 percent of the kids the bus ministry serves are from broken homes.
The Saturday bus church concept is also being used or considered at other churches. At Trinity Baptist, the leadership plans to incorporate additional outreach through the ministry. “We are presently attempting to do more social work in low-income communities, such as Saturday kids clubs, and after-school tutoring,” Scott says.
The ministry team at Clays Mill Road Baptist also plans to provide additional opportunities. “We want to get more active in the schools the children attend through Bible studies,” Johnson says. “This summer we are planning on holding tent revival meetings in our bus areas to further spread the Gospel.”
Johnson says that they treat each bus route as their mission field. At times the ministry purchases food and clothing for people on the routes.
The bus ministry at First Southern Baptist runs 11 different routes and includes certified drivers for all of them. The drivers are also subjected to random drug-testing. There are about 60 (only four full-time staff) workers who contribute to the Saturday bus church. “Having a bus ministry isn’t cheap,” says Laughlin. “We also have a group of men called B.O.L.T.S. (Brotherhood of Lug Twisters) that go through each vehicle once a month to make sure they are mechanically sound.”
Fuel costs are a challenge
The church also has a full-time mechanic on staff. With the price of gasoline constantly on the rise and the cost of maintenance, the bus ministry is a large expense; however, the leadership of First Southern believe in the value of the ministry and continues to support it.
The bus ministry at Trinity Baptist is also made possible through the work of volunteers. “We have about 40 volunteers serving on bus routes and another 70 people serve in tin our Bible fellowship classes they attend at church,” Scott says. The ministry brings in about 300 children each week. “We have successfully reached many people for Christ through the ministry,” says Scott.
At Clays Mill Road Baptist the bus ministry uses five 12-passenger vans and 15 buses to accommodate 25 different routes in and around Lexington, KY. The leaders also make sure that drivers are qualified.
“All of our drivers are licensed by the state of Kentucky or a surrounding state,” Johnson says. “All workers must complete a screening form along with their application before becoming active in the bus ministry at our church.” Churches that include bus ministries face the challenges of maintaining safe vehicles, certified drivers and the safety of children.
“Parents are often challenged by the positive changes they observe in their children and start attending church as well,” Johnson says. “This helps to establish a better home environment for the child.” The goal of the ministry is to reach its entire community.
Clays Mill Road Baptist also hosts The National Bus Convention each fall (Oct. 6-8 in Lexington, KY) to teach and train workers from across the nation practical concepts that enable their own bus and Sunday school ministries to grow numerically and spiritually.
“Our Senior Pastor Dr. Jeffrey J. Fugate is also the editor-in-chief of Church Bus News, an informative resource that provides encouragement, challenges and ideas to thousands of bus and Sunday school workers,” says Kevin Spears, managing editor. The bi-monthly publication is a ministry of the church.
First Southern Baptist also desires to impact the lives of people in its community through its bus ministry. “Last year we brought in more than 12,000 on buses,” Laughlin says. “Our services are quite unique because we have our own choir made up of the bus kids.” The leadership of First Southern Baptist embraces those that others might turn away. “When parents come we make them feel welcome.
We encourage them to come back on Sunday — many of them do,” Laughlin says. “We don’t judge people by their size, race, or looks. We just extend our love to them and teach them about God’s plan for their lives.”
These ministries fill a transportation need but also provide volunteers the opportunity to minister to families in new and creative ways. Church leaders are using bus ministries to extend outreach efforts in the communities they serve.