The Hyles Church Manual
by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 12 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, The Hyles Church Manual)
12. The Bus Ministry
One of the fastest and surest ways to increase Sunday school attendance is through the operation of buses. At this writing, the author’s church has an attendance is Sunday school of approximately 3,500. Nearly 1,500 of these ride on buses. They, of course, stay for the preaching hour an deprived for a large percentage of the attendance in both Sunday school and preaching. Of these 1,500 approximately 200 are bus workers and their families, and about 300 others would attend Sunday school if there were no bus routes but simply ride the buses for convenience or financial savings. this means that approximately 1,000 people attend Sunday school because of the bus ministry. These people, of course, would not attend our Sunday school were it not for are finding the bus ministry a very profitable way to reach people for the Lord Jesus Christ. Following is a list of suggestions and pointers concerning this vital phase of the Lord’s work:
Choosing an Area
This is the first and most important please of the bus ministry.
1. A housing project. All over America there are government housing projects where thousands of people live. Many such projects form a little town located in just one building or perhaps a few buildings. In such a case the bus would have to make only one stop or, at most, a few stops. Then, too, most of the children in such a project know each other and would consider it a privilege and a delight to have a weekly trip their friends. Such a project makes it easy for the worker to contact his absentees and saves time that normally would be spent in the driving of a lengthy route. A church should comb the area for such projects in the beginning of a bus ministry.
2. An apartment house area. This is very similar to the above and offers the same advantages.
3. A trailer court. Once again we have a concentration of population which makes it easy to work the area and easy to pick up the passengers. This also means just a few stops at the beginning of the route followed by a trip straight to the church.
4. An area cut off from the community. It is unbelievable what an expressway can do to a church’s area. The same is true concerning a busy railroad, or an industrial area. Psychologically people may feel they are much farther from a certain church than they really are. In our area there are two states involved. Though the state line is only five blocks from our church, it is considered by some as a geographical barrier which meant we have to work harder across the state line even though it is less than half a mile away. When there is a community isolated for any purpose, it becomes a good area for a bus route, and it certainly needs concentrated attention from the church.
5. A poor area. There are still people in this world, believe it or not, who cannot afford the luxuries of life and to whom a bus trip to the church would seem a big thing. It could well be the highlight of their week. Slum areas, poor areas, and housing developments should be seriously considered in the starting of bus routes.
6. Schools or homes. These are exceptionally good places to start routes. A church may be located within ten or fifteen miles of a college where many of the students, no doubt, would appreciate a free homes for juvenile delinquents, or any other institution which provides dormitories and living quarters for its constituents. These are excellent places to send buses and, once again, we find a concentrated population.
7. Another town. There are churches located within ten or fifteen miles of small towns who have no evangelistic, Bible-preaching work. In many instances these churches send workers to the nearby towns informing the citizens of a bus ministry. In thirty minutes a bus could informing the citizens of a bus ministry. In thirty minutes a bus could cover the little town and bring the interested people to the services.
8. Country roads. Many years ago in a rural pastorate we found this a very beneficial way to reach people. Since people who live in rural areas have no street addresses they are oftentimes overlooked in the church’s evangelistic program. A route beginning approximately fifteen miles from town and covering every rural home into the town can reach many people for Jesus Christ. As I dictate this chapter, I think of scores of people whom we have reached through this method. Many of them are now in the ministry or in full-time service for the Lord.
Once the area has been chosen, we must turn our attention to the securing of buses. Of courses the best way is to purchase them. Presently, an adequate bus would cost approximately $6,500. If a church can afford such an investment, she should begin with new buses. Most churches, however, will find it impossible to purchase new buses. If care is taken in selecting a usable bus, one can be purchased for $1,000 to $1,500. It is always a good idea for a church to purchase at least a few buses. These can be used for youth trips, trips to camp, etc., as well as the regular Sunday morning bus routes.
Perhaps an even better way is to locate a private leaser of buses. Such a company can make a profit by leasing buses at $10 to $15 a trip. The company who owns the buses takes care of all of the upkeep, insurance, etc. The total church outlay is the rental buses.
It is our conviction that when the church really gets into the bus business and reaches hundreds of People for Christ, God intervenes and supplies their needs. We have had many miraculous answers to prayer in our bus ministry. It is unbelievable how God has provided. When God looks down and sees a church interested in reaching sinners. He desires to help them do so.
Recruiting the Workers
In the operation of a successful bus ministry many workers are needed.
1. The director. Someone should oversee the entire bus program. This can be the pastor, another staff member, or an energetic, creative layman. This person should be a real “live wire.”
2. Bus captains. These are the key people. They are responsible for house-to-house visitation to obtain new riders and to reclaim absentees. Normally such a captain would spend from two to four hours a week just going from house to house lining up people to come to Sunday school on buses.
3. The bus driver. In some cases the bus captain drives his own bus, but usually there is a driver in addition to the captain. The driver, of course, drives the bus, is properly licensed, and sees that the route begins on time. He must be faithful to his work. The captain rides the bus but oftentimes must go to the door to get the riders, etc.
4. The parkers. As a bus ministry grows so does the need for space to park the buses. Each bus should have a designated place to be parked on or near the church property. It should be met by a person specifically chosen to park the buses. This person should have a clipboard with a list of the buses. He should write down the number of people on the bus, the number of the bus, and the arrival time of the bus. Below is such a form:
Then as the buses depart after the services he should see that everything is done decently and in order so as to avoid chaos and danger as the buses depart.
How then are these workers recruited? The pastor and the director of the bus ministry should be on the lookout for those in the church who make many trips with their cars to bring people. These people should be contacted and offered a bus.
Many fine bus captains develop from people who live a great distance from the church. These people could save money by starting a bus route in their neighborhood. Such people oftentimes find it difficult to visit for the church since they are strangers to the community. Using a bus, however, provides them with the opportunity to visit in their own neighborhood, to provide transportation for their own family, and to help tremendously in the evangelistic ministry of the church.
Doubtless, the best way to enlist workers is through the preaching from the pulpit. Periodically the pastor should preach on the importance of the evangelistic outreach of the church. He should stress very strongly the bus ministry and ask for people who want to dedicate themselves to this ministry to come to the altar. Immediately their names and addresses should be secured and a meeting should be held to organize them into bus workers.
Just recently I was asked to go to a distant state to preach one night on the bus ministry. At the conclusion of the service I gave an invitation for those willing to work with the buses. Over forty people volunteered to do so. We asked them to meet with us in a departmental assembly room after the service, where we explained the bus ministry thoroughly and organized a new bus ministry. The first Sunday 332 people rode their buses to Sunday school. We should never forget that the inspiration of the pulpit is the important thing about building any phase of a church program.
It should be made clear that any person in the church who desires a bus route may be provided with a bus.
Financing the Work
A bus ministry may or may not become self-supporting. Usually if forty or fifty people ride a bus their offering will amount to at least $15 or $20, which will finance the bus. We have found that $900 per bus per year is a fair estimate. In fact, we allocate this amount in our budget. Presently we operate forty-five bus routes and soon we plan to have fifty. This means out bus budget for the year is $45,000. This, of course, does not include the purchasing of buses. This is only the expense of maintenance and operation.
This money may be put in the church budget or it may be raised over and above the church budget. Many churches have found it helpful to use the Wednesday offering for the bus ministry. This is an exceptionally good idea. Other churches allocate one Sunday evening offering a month for the bus ministry. This is also a wise suggestion.
Training the Workers
It is a good idea for the director to train the first few workers. A series of classes could be taught and then the director could go with each worker to his area and help him get started. After the first group of workers get the idea and become well trained, it is not difficult for them to reproduce themselves. Then the director may recruit untrained but usable personnel to work with the trained captains and thereby provide a steady flow of trained people. This is simply a revision of the buddy system. After the new worker is adequately trained the team should divide and choose other untrained people to work with each of them.
Upon starting a bus ministry, or anything else in the church for that matter, a weekly meeting of the workers should be held. Our meeting is conducted for about fifteen minutes immediately following the Wednesday evening service. This is a period of training and promotion for the bus ministry.
Promoting the Attendance
1. The pulpit should be promoting the bus ministry constantly.
There is no way to have a hot bus ministry and a cold pulpit. Inspiration must come constantly from the pulpit if there is to be a successful bus program.
2. The pastor should share the blessings of the bus ministry with the church family regularly. To be sure, there will be opponents to the bus ministry. Some people will say it is too expensive. Others will not like the class of people brought in. Others will not like the irreverence it causes in the public services. Then there are those who just do not like anything different. The pastor should constantly refute this opposition by sharing the blessings of the bus ministry with the church family.
3. Contests among the buses can be a tremendous thing. Since seventy-five percent of our bus riders are children, we find it very easy to excite them over contests with the other buses. Prizes can be awarded to the top one-third or one-fourth of the bus fleet. In some cases, where fewer buses are operated, the winning bus can receive a prize. At this writing we re in a bus contest. The top ten buses and the workers of these ten buses receive a special prize. Sometimes the prizes may go to the bus workers, and at other times they may go to the entire bus. On one occasion the winning buses were taken to a small airport where each child was taken for a five-minute plane ride. This was not as expensive as it may seem. The children who were waiting on the ground were served refreshments and played games.
4. Gifts may be given periodically to all who ride buses. For example, if the Sunday school lesson is on “The Loaves and Fishes” each child may be given a goldfish in a sealed plastic container filled with water. There are any number of little novel ideas that could be applied to God’s Word or a specific Sunday school lesson which would delight the average child.
5. Each captain should also plan his own promotional ideas. If the director is working to promote the bus attendance, and if the pastor is joining him in such an endeavor, then each captain should also be seeking ways of promoting attendance on his bus. The more people seeking ways of promoting attendance on his bus. The more people thinking up ideas and working at attendance campaigns, the better it is.
6. The captains should keep a roll and contact all absentees. Each captain should consider his bus much like a Sunday school class. Not only should he seek new riders but he should be contacting those who are absent so as to have a minimum turnover on the buses.
Using the Buses for Publicity
The buses should be attractively painted and properly lettered as pictured below:
When the buses are attractive they may be tremendous instruments of publicity for the church. When not in use they can be parked on main thoroughfares. Each bus becomes a signboard or a billboard advertising the church. The bus should be driven around town periodically. Everywhere the bus goes it is either good publicity or bad publicity for the church. If the driver is courteous and obeys the law, and if the bus is attractive, it becomes a traveling billboard.
A Typical Day on a Bus Route
The driver should start the route in time to pick up the riders and unload them on the church property at least ten minutes before Sunday school begins. The captains then take their riders to their classes directly from the buses. This is very important. The children should not be allowed to go to their classes alone. They should be taken by the captains or an adult appointed by the captain for this specific duty.
After the service is over the captain reclaims his riders at the door of the church or department where the rider is located. The children should never be left to shift for themselves. They should be taken tot he door and then, at the door, taken in orderly form back to the bus.
Each child is returned to the front of his home, which is exactly where he was picked up. The captain should then see that the child goes immediately to the door and into the house. He should not leave until the child is safely inside the door.
Starting a Route
After an area is chosen, buses are secured, workers are enlisted and trained, and necessary preparations are made, we come to the actual starting of the route. Many times it has been my privilege to start a bus route. Oftentimes I have gone to the assigned area, found a group of children playing, gathered them around, and asked them how they would like a thirty-mile bus trip with all expenses paid on which Bozo the clown or some other famous character would entertain them. After I got them excited about it, then I went to their home and inquired if their parents would mind the child participating in such an endeavor. The parents are told about the careful planning of the bus ministry. Many of the things already mentioned in this chapter are mentioned in this initial conversation. They should be set at ease concerning the safety of the bus, licensing of the driver, choosing of the workers and captains, etc.
Usually the parents will make some excuse like, “We just don’t want to get up that early and prepare breakfast for the children.” The answer to this is a very simple one. Explain to them that in the starting of the route you are providing hot chocolate and doughnuts for the children so they can have breakfast on the bus. Much care should be taken to be friendly, courteous and understanding. Remember, you must sell them on yourself first. The only representative of the church is you and they must be sold on you, the worker. Once two or three families have been enlisted, they can help in enlisting other friends. On the initial bus route a planned activity should be presented. Fun, recreation, breakfast, and other activities are provided to insure a good time for all.
Considering the Liabilities
1. Lack of finances. It should be stressed over and over again that the bus ministry is a missionary project. In many churches it is the largest single evangelistic arm, and in some cases, the bus ministry of the church reaches more people for Christ than all of the missionaries supported by the church. This is not to discredit a foreign mission program but simply to place the bus ministry on a par with other missionary activities of the church, and it should be looked upon as such. If it is a financial liability, the church should accept it as such as she considers the blessings derived and the souls reached through he bus ministry.
2. Delinquent children. This can be a problem but it need not be. In some cases children ride the buses to church, get off the buses, run around the neighborhood until time to reload and never enter into the Sunday school class or the church service. This can be eliminated by the proper use of stamps and stamp pads. Each Sunday school class or department can be equipped with a stamp pad and a stamp with the initials of the church. This stamp should be about the size of a nickel as shown below:
Each teacher or superintendent stamps the back of each child’s hand. When the child boards the bus he shows his hand to the driver with the proof that he was in Sunday school. A child who skips Sunday school will not have the stamp on his hand and can be disciplined accordingly.
3. Lost children. As a bus ministry grows it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid children becoming lost. This problem can also be solved with the use of a stamp. Each bus captain stamps the hand of each child with the number of the bus as he boards the bus. For example, the captain of bus #1 places a stamp on the back of each passenger’s hand as shown below:
Then each department is provided with a list of buses, bus number, and bus captain. If a child loses his bus, any adult can check the back of his hand for the bus number. The adult can then go to any department and check this list. He then learns the names of the captains and drivers associated with this particular bus number.
4. Misbehavior in the services. Oftentimes people complain about a bus ministry because of the children’s misbehavior in the public services. This problem can be solved in several different ways.
A portion of the church can be reserved for the bus children and volunteer workers can sit with them during the preaching service. One worker for each five to ten children can help discipline them and keep them quiet during the service.
In some churches the bus ministry has grown to such proportions that the church must provide a special preaching service or services for the bus children. In such a case an assistant pastor should preach to them. If the church has no assistant pastor, some God-called preacher or preacher boy could go and preach to these bus children. Of course this would not occupy all of the time during the preaching service. hence, well-trained workers can be provided to care for them during the church service time. This should not be just a time of coloring and having amusements and entertainment. It should not even be a time limited to a Sunday school type service. There should definitely be preaching. We find it wise to have a choir, special music, offering, sermon, etc. In addition to this church type service, a well-trained worker may have some time of entertainment and inspiration for them. This has proven very helpful in many churches in the reaching of bus children.
5. Criticism by members. Probably in every church there are people who will rise in opposition against a bus ministry. These, thank the Lord, are usually in a minority and because they are, they should not be allowed to dictate the policies of the church. They should be dealt with very kindly and yet firmly.
I recall when I first came to the First Baptist Church and started our bus ministry, a well-to-do member came to me and said, “Pastor, what are we going to do with all of these little bus kids?”
I said, “I don’t know what you are going to do with them but I am going to love them.”
Then the member said, “If they stay, I leave.”
Thank the Lord, that is exactly what happened. The bus children stayed and he left. We felt we got the best of the deal. No minority born in the “objective case” and the “kickative mood” should be allowed to stop the progress of God’s work and the reaching of hundreds of people for Jesus Christ.
Used properly and organized effectively, a bus ministry can be a tremendous asset to a church, and more important, a church can be a tremendous blessing to thousands of people by the proper use of a bus ministry.
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