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Energizing Your Bus Ministry Programs
By: Matthew B. Gage

I had always been nominally involved in the bus ministry before I went to college; however, most of my experience had been in the visiting and not in the program. My first experiences at leading a program on a bus were very rough, and the kids had more control of things than I did. However, they did give me valuable experience into running an effective and entertaining bus program.

The bus program started slowly to grow until it was running around 40 riders each week. The one thing that I did learn to do very well was lead a program heading into the church.

Here are some of the tips and tricks that I learned by observing some of the greatest bus captains I have ever seen and those I had to be taught in the school of hard knocks.

Why Lead a Bus Program?
If you don't run the show, then the kids will. Believe me, you don't want a 12-year-old boy spouting off adult jokes that he just learned from an older brother. I've been there. You want to control the environment for many reasons.

First, you do it to maintain discipline. If you don't have a program, the kids will. Keeping them distracted with songs and games does not give them much time to fight, talk, or otherwise cause problems.

Next, you do it to teach and train the riders. You have a captive audience from the first rider you pick up to the last rider you drop off. Use this time to teach them something good like Bible songs or verses. Don't just leave it up to the Sunday school teachers to make an impact in those young kids' lives.

Also, you run a program to build and maintain excitement. If you want your route to grow, build a fire under it by pumping it up with enthusiasm. Make it fun, and the kids will be much more excited about coming.

What Do You Need to Run a Bus Program?
Not much. In fact, you can do it completely by yourself with no props, candy, etc. However, there are some things that will help you run an effective bus program.

Start off by getting some candy. Don't just throw it out indiscriminately, but use it as a reward or a bribe. Kids like candy, and they like "grown ups" who pass it out. There's one very important rule to follow with candy. Do not pass out gum on the way to church! It will end up on top of pews, under chairs, in hair, and hundreds of other places. This is avoided by simply not passing it out.

Next to candy, have a song list until you get comfortable. You want to avoid "dead time" in your program at all costs, and trying to think of a song will lead to way too much free time for young wandering minds and hands. You don't necessarily need to have a new list each week, just a list to glance at when you draw a blank on a song to sing.

A good idea is to rate these songs by tempo and spirit. In our recent VBS, I was leading the "early show" for buses that dropped off kids early. I had a list of 15 or 20 songs that I was very familiar with. I then put stars by them: one for slow songs, two for moderate songs, three for wild and crazy songs. It really helps when you are trying to think of a slow song to be able to immediately spot an appropriate song.

It is also a good idea to have some items for playing games. It doesn't take much, such as a small ball and a bucket to shoot baskets into. You can keep it simple and inexpensive. I've used disc shooters, footballs and hula hoops, and chocolate pudding cups, to name a few.

Finally, you may want props and posters for your songs. I personally do not use posters, but they can be great to teach new songs. Don't fall into the trap of only singing songs you for which you have a poster. You and the kids need variety.

The Plan of a Program
Believe it or not, there is an art to managing a bus program. You have to keep the kids' attention with a purpose. Here are a few ideas to help.

Start with fast, upbeat songs. You want to get their attention quick.

End with slow songs. You want to slowly and purposely slow things down before you get to the church, so that your kids don't go running into the church like a high school football team at homecoming.

Use consistency. I usually start with and end with the same songs because I want the kids to know that it is time to get started or to slow down. Routine is big with small children, and it will do wonders after they catch on that it is time to settle down because of the songs that are being sung.

Don't give big speeches. You'll lose a kid's attention on a noisy bus if you try to talk too much. Split up announcements and things so that you are not yelling to children who aren't listening.

Don't get bogged down with questions from kids. Let workers deal with raised hands and talkative kids. You need to stay focused on the group, or you will lose them.

Be proactive and not reactive. You'll do better to prevent talking kids than to scold them when they do talk. Keep them distracted with a good program, and you will cut into your discipline problems. Also, be on the watch to see if you are starting to lose the kids. If you are, go into a favorite, lively song to pull them back.

Above all, keep it fun. You are there for the kids. You need to get on their level. Don't fall into a boring rut where it's the same monotonous songs at the same time. I honestly have more fun that the kids do when I'm leading a program. Check your dignity and have some fun.

Also, don't be afraid to sing songs that are just fun. Not every song has to be "Amazing Grace" or "Jesus Loves Me." This makes you more real to your kids and builds excitement. Let's call it the "Mary Poppins Rule," because this is a little "sugar" to help the good and important stuff sink in.

Be animated and move around. Walk up and down the aisle. Wave your hands. Over-exaggerate motions. It works.

Time-Stretching Tactics
Let me give you a few of tricks I use to prolong songs and liven up things if the going gets a little rough.

First, change the speed of the songs. You can overdo this very easily, but it is a very effective and attention-grabbing tool. Sing a song in super, duper slow motion. Then sing it a little faster. Then a little faster. End up singing it so fast you jumble up all the words. This works great on songs that have hand motions.

Second, use quick games for prizes. You can get crazy with it, like giving candy to the kid who can make the best monkey face.

Third, sing songs different ways. This one is really silly, but works absolutely great. Sing it though normally, and then say, "Now let's sing it like..." and let your imagination or kids' requests be your guide. You can over-use this one, but it is quite fun if used right.

Other Activities
Do skits. Have somebody put on a silly costume and have some fun. I've heard of this being done with "Special Guests" who will ride the bus on a certain week. Having a clown show up and perform is also along these lines.

Preach a sermon or teach a lesson. This is one I never really got the hang of. It's hard to yell over the noise of a bus and its riders, but tt can be and is done quite often.

What I Can't Do For You
With all the tips, tricks, books, tapes, and Web sites out there, there is only so much help available; it really depends on you.

First, adapt your program to yourself. If you need structure and stability, make a song list for each week. If you are better off the cuff, then don't use a song list and let her fly. There is not really a right or wrong way to run a bus program. Just keep it scriptural, moral, entertaining, spiritual (to some extent), etc. You have to figure out your own style and stick with it.

Learn some new songs. Break out a new song every now and then. Get out of your rut with some new song from camp or that you picked up off the Internet.

Get excited. Kids can tell if you are a fake. They can also tell if you just don't really care. If you are having fun, they probably will, too.

Leading a successful bus program is an art, which I have had to learn with little help. I learned a lot from watching other bus captains and song leaders in Sunday school classes, but there are just so many things you pick up while doing it yourself. Have fun!

Matthew B. Gage is the founder of Baptist Basics, www.baptistbasics.org , a personal Web ministry that is dedicated to providing solid, yet simple, information and resources to believers everywhere. 

 

Sidebar
Buying a Used Church Bus
By Jaid Chambers

If you are searching for the right type of church bus to transport members of your congregation, you need to know the basic facts and tips on what to look for.

For decades, buses have been used by churches in developing their ministries, serving their community members, and meeting their transportation needs.

There are many ways churches can use both new and used church buses. They can be used for doing outreaches, taking people to campsites, transporting church members to and from the church services, and taking kids to summer camps, for example.

There are several good reasons why you might want to go with a used bus for your congregation needs. First of all, the prices of used buses for churches are quite appealing, and compared to the prices for tour coaches, you may find purchasing used church buses a very good deal.

Nevertheless, certain limitations of used church buses go along with their low prices, and you should be ready to deal with those. In most cases, unlike the coach buses, used church buses do not have any additional luxuries or special features, and they may require significant modification. Also, most used buses do not have specially equipped space for luggage in them. It basically all depends on what you are planning to use a bus for and how willing you are to invest your time and money into modifying it.

In looking for used church buses, a congregation has to come up with a list of transportation ministry needs. This will significantly simplify the task. Moreover, deciding to go with used church buses, you should be aware of certain problems used vehicles may have and stick to some simple rules in purchasing them.

Understand that the low price does not always mean a good deal. So, look carefully at what you are buying and consider future possible investments and maintenance costs you may be forced to have. Even though buses do not have to be too fancy and have too many luxuries, they still need to work well and be clean and nice looking.

Ultimately, understand all of the pros of purchasing used church buses, and be a smart consumer and avoid the cons.

This article is courtesy of www.CRBuses.com.







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