By Ryan Thompson
It’s a great outreach tool, but it requires leadership, labor and funds.
“And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled (Luke 14:23 KJV).”
The bus ministry may be the greatest evangelistic tool in the history of the local church. In the past 50 years, hundreds of millions of people have come to churches across America, riding in church buses and vans, to hear the Gospel message.
I firmly believe that a bus or van ministry should be an integral part of every church’s outreach program. Like any great endeavor, the bus ministry brings unique challenges to a church.
A few thoughts for those considering this outreach:
Count the cost
Manpower. Before you begin, recruit the necessary volunteers to staff this ministry. Every bus or van route needs a driver and captain. You may also need additional workers, vehicle mechanics and a secretary to take care of the paperwork, insurance and legal needs required by your state.
The bulk of the work for this ministry will be done on the weekends. In our church, an army of workers head out every Saturday morning, canvassing our community and inviting people to ride our buses to church. Then, on Sunday morning, 25 buses travel back to those areas to pick up those who want to come to church.
Money. Set an annual budget for this ministry. You will need to decide if you should purchase or rent the needed vehicles. Our church has been involved in bus ministry for the past 37 years. For most of that time, we have owned and operated our fleet. However, there was a brief time when it became cost prohibitive to do this, and it was advantageous to rent our vehicles each week.
Your bus ministry will incur additional costs in gas, maintenance, insurance, promotions and giveaways for the riders throughout the year. Raise the funds needed and be prepared for these expenses so that your church can stay committed to this ministry for many years.
Lead the laborers
Most likely, you will rely on volunteers to do this ministry – most of whom have never been involved in anything like it. Invest your time and resources to teach them how to serve in this capacity safely, efficiently and effectively. In our church, we have hosted annual bus clinics featuring a guest speaker to help train our workers. In addition, we have a brief meeting every Saturday morning. We cover policies, discuss upcoming campaigns and address issues that arise. This weekly meeting is vital for our volunteers to stay on the same page so that we can keep the ministry running safely and smoothly from week to week.
Reap the rewards
Earthly rewards. There is nothing like seeing the smile on the face of a young child as he or she experiences church for the very first time. Many of our riders come from underprivileged homes. Some live in dysfunctional families and have faced unimaginable hurt in their young lives. To teach them a Bible story, give them some food, or maybe give a toy at Christmas brings a joy that cannot be described. Every week, we have riders tell us that Sunday morning is the highlight of their week.
Eternal rewards. A cumulative total of more than 1.1 million people have attended our church on the buses, hearing the Bible preached for the first time. Thousands of those have trusted Christ as their personal Savior through the years. These people probably would have never come to our church and may have never heard of Christ had there been no bus ministry in their city. There are now pastors, missionaries and faithful followers of Jesus scattered all around the world that were reached for Christ on our buses. We have seen countless eternal rewards by being involved in the bus ministry.
I can tell you from experience that the bus ministry is an invaluable part of our church. Our church would not be what it is today, and our eternal impact would have been significantly reduced, had we not stayed involved in this worthwhile work. If your church is involved in an outreach like this, I encourage you to stay faithful! If you don’t have a bus ministry, I would encourage you to prayerfully consider how your church may increase its outreach into the “highways and hedges to compel them to come in!”
Ryan Thompson is the administrative pastor at North Valley Baptist
Church in Santa Clara, CA. He is the author of Making a Difference, a bus
ministry book available through North Valley Publications.