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Transportation Ministry
By: Martin Cook

The bus ministry can be one of the most exciting ministries of the church. The purpose is to reach lost souls by using buses to bring folks to church. The key to the successful route is the Bus Captain or Bus Pastor. These people are responsible for the spiritual care of the families that live in their designated area.

Start with picking up people closest to the church, and then work your way out. 

Building a bus route will include many things.  It will take time, money, sacrifice and love.

It starts with a burden. You can build your bus route on love. If you don’t have a burden, it will not grow. Halfhearted service won’t get the job done. You must have a genuine burden to reach lost souls in the area where the Lord has put you. Pray that God will tenderize your heart so you will see the need to reach the lost in that particular area.

It is sustained with work. If you are not willing to work at it, you will not accomplish much. Here are some visitation ideas that will help you to be more involved in the personal contact with the families on your bus route. 

* Build a relationship with the parents and kids.
* Memorize the names; folks love to hear their own name.
* Act like they are your best friend (they could be!).
* Let them know their attendance is important. It hurts when you are not there.
* Be interested in the children's projects (baseball team, etc.).
* Be concerned with the family problems. Listening is the key!!

Ten Ways to Increase You Bus Attendance and Get New Riders
1. Visit your route backwards. No, don't put your car in reverse or walk backwards! Visit your last stop that you normally visit first and your first stop last. You will be surprised (if you have regular visitation habits) how the people will react. You may also meet people that you don't normally see because you always miss them.

2.  Visit your route on a different day. I especially like to do this during the summertime. Visit on Friday in the evening. You will meet new families that you never see. You can concentrate on only new riders on Friday and regulars on Saturday.

3. Visit your route at a different time. Instead of going in the morning (if that is when you normally go), try going later in the day. You will run into people you don't normally see because you are visiting later in the day.                                                                                                                           
4. If you are somewhat limited in the time that you can visit (maybe you have to work on Saturday), visit only those that have slacked off, and spend the rest of the time looking for new riders.

5.  Call every family that you don't see on Saturday. I use an online service. I have all of my route on the system and can call those that I don't personally see. I always leave a flyer or a note, but still call on Saturday night if I don't see them.

6.  Keep a list of homes for sale or empty apartments on your route. The route I was on for many years was less than a square mile. I got more new riders by doing this than anything else.  I could tell by being in the apartment complexes a lot which ones had become vacant.

Also, if someone that rode the bus moved out, I made a note of that. I would check them as I visited, and if I found one, I would go up to the door and saying something like, "I noticed that you just moved in and would like for you to ride the bus to church."  They would be surprised and happy that someone would welcome them to the new neighborhood. 

I would also get the families in the complex to watch for new folks. I called them my 007 spies, and they would let me know who moved in and how many kids. I would try to get the kids to meet them also, and then I would take the kids (with the parents’ permission) up with me to the new people's apartment. This works great.

7. Ask your regulars to look for new riders. I get more visitors now this way. Most of my riders were brought or introduced to me by someone already on my route. I always give away a special prize for the person that brings the visitor and the visitor, too. So my kids are always working. 
8. Stop at yard sales on your route. I would usually stop anyway, but then I would notice kids at the houses, so I would strike up a conversation and say that I was out visiting for my bus route. This is just an open door I have used many times to get new riders and get the ability to meet new people.

9. Follow the school bus. This is a great idea, especially if you are starting a route in a new area, and you want to know where a good number of kids live. If you are off work in the afternoon, just spend some time noticing where school buses go. Concentrate your visitation in these areas to produce good results. 

Sometimes after getting established on a route for awhile, I would go out to an apartment complex on Friday afternoon and wait for the bus to get there. In our state, the buses cannot go into the complex; they let the kids out at the curb. There would be some parents there that I would know that were waiting on their children. I would wait with them, and talk with the parents for awhile. I would ask the parents if it would be all right if I talk to the kids when they get off the bus. When the kids would get off, they would introduce me to their friends. Of course, the new kids would be comfortable with me being there because the other parents were there also. Sometimes the parents of the regular riders would introduce me to the other parents and say, "You need to let your kids ride the bus to Bro. Marty's church."  Wow, this would always be a great opportunity.

10. Pray that God will open doors for you and give you new riders to reach new families. All of the work and ideas will come to nothing without the power of prayer.

Using Promotions
Why do we use promotions and give things to the kids? What does this accomplish? There are many reasons we do this. 

    1.  It adds excitement to the route.
    2.  It is part of the program on the bus.
    3.  It is a tool for the bus captain.
    4.  It gets new riders for the bus.
    5.  It shows that you really care and love the kids.
    6.  It is a ministry to those who don’t have much.
    7.  It rewards faithfulness.
    8.  It keeps the workers excited.
    9.  It keeps the kids busy.

Matthew 16:27 says, “For the son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with his angels, and then he shall REWARD every man according to his works.”

Some people who don’t understand what we are doing are critical of using promotions. Some say it is bribing kids to come to church. Dr. Jim Vineyard used to say that a bribe is when you try to get someone to do something wrong. It is not wrong to go to church.

Why is it all right for everyone else and every other organization to give things away, but it is not all right for the church and bus ministry? It is simply and incentive for doing what is right. 
If your church is normal, money for bus ministry is tight. With the costs of gas, tires, parts, maintenance and insurance, there is not much left for promotion. Some good places to shop for deals for your bus route are:

  • Salvage stores
  • Warehouse stores
  • Grocery stores
  • Day Old bread stores
  • Bakeries
  • Fast food chains

Always be on the lookout for a good deal.  If you have to, it is better to buy it and store it for awhile and you will save money in the long run.

I always use a flyer when I visit a bus route. It may not be a special day, but just something to leave with the riders to remind them about Sunday is fine. It is good advertising for your church and bus route.

Your flyer should include a phone number where the bus captain can be reached or the bus director can be contacted. I have found it best just to put my cell phone number on all the flyers so folks can get in touch with me at any time.  Make sure the lines of communication are always open. This way, it is almost impossible that I can't be reached.

When you make flyers, use big pictures. Smaller kids can relate better. And, don’t make the flyer too "wordy."

I never use anything that would be considered not right for church use.  For example, I would not give away rock music tapes or CDs or promote anything that would be contrary to the Bible.  Basically, I have divided all my promotions into 4 categories:

1.  Food promotions  
Actually, this seems to be the best type of promotions. Kids love to eat! We usually have something to eat almost every Sunday. Sometimes this is not really a promotion, but a ministry, because the kids don't eat before they get on the bus and then they are late getting back home for lunch.

2.  Activities promotions
These would include the kids participating in some activity. We have had horseback riding, carnival type days, foot races, basketball games, etc.

3.  Trip promotions 
These would include actually going somewhere. Some of the things we have done on our bus route include: the zoo and a picnic at the park. These require extra effort and communication with the parents to let them know you are going to be late getting home.

4. Item giveaways
We have given away toys, pencils, books, Bibles…you name it.  I would not give anything away that would be "worldly" like move star or rock star posters.

Martin Cook has been a bus captain for 27 years and a full-time associate pastor for 24 years.

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