Even more than Sunday school, the bus ministry has been attacked as being an expensive, nonproductive ministry. Unfortunately it has been described by some as a “glorified baby-sitting program.” It is not, nor should it be!
Many churches have sold their buses and given up their routes. How sad! They have succumbed to the proverbial problem of “throwing out the baby with the bath water.” Perhaps the problem lay not with bus ministry, but with how they were using it. When bus ministry becomes only a “numbers game” to increase attendance, it is destined to fail.
The reason why some have seen poor results from their bus routes is two fold:
1) They failed to evangelize the bus children in the Sunday school classroom.
2) They failed to evangelize the bus parents in the home.
Bus ministry is not just a way to reach children with salvation – it’s also a way to see the parents saved. But to do so, the approach must be focused and direct. Souls must be the primary objective from start to finish.
The “Parentreach” concept is a method to evangelize the parents of your bus children. The “Monthly Holy Ghost Sunday” or “Super Church Ministry” are methods to evangelize the bus children in the class room. Both approaches are highly effective. This month we will look at the first program and next month we will consider the second.
The ‘Parentreach’ Concept of Bus Ministry
Parentreach has been around a long time. The term and concept was first used by Andy Jackson, a early promoter of Sunday school growth and bus ministry within the Southern Baptist Convention back in the 1970’s. It attempts to address some of the shortcomings that churches often find when operating a bus ministry. It has been successfully adapted and used in Apostolic churches as well. In it’s classic form (and there are many variations) it works like this:
If you have existing bus routes, these routes should be divided into about ten homes per bus captain. More bus captains may need to be appointed. A large capacity bus can often carry fifty children. One bus may stop at 30 – 40 homes. Assign a captain to every ten or twelve homes. The reason is so that personalized attention can be given to each home and friendship can be established with the parents.
With this approach, three to four bus captains can share one large bus on Sunday Morning. Each will ride the bus (which provides adequate staff on the bus) and instruct the driver to pick up from their ten or twelve homes. Or, if you prefer vans, each route captain could have their own van.
Successful bus ministry requires Saturday visitation. On Saturday each bus captain should drive his or her route and stop at each home to insure that the child will be attending. It is this visit that reaches out to the parents. After knocking on the door, if the bus captain sees the child, wonderful! But an equally important purpose is to visit and talk with the mother and/or father.
The bus captain should attempt to gather as much information as possible about each family he or she is visiting. A ‘Family Record Form’ is often used for this purpose. On this form the captain should record ages, birthdays, interests, hobbies, occupations, religious background, anything that will help him or her get to know them better, talk with them, and become their friend. Most of this information can be gathered from the child. Otherwise all this information can be gathered over a period of several months my casual conversation with the parents.
In the beginning, the purpose of the visit each Saturday is to simply build a friendship with the parents. This is a low-key type of visit. The captain should get to know the families as much as possible. You must win their friendship before you can win their soul! Talk to them about what they enjoy: gardening, hunting, fishing, job, hobby, whatever they like. Get to know them!
During this initial period of making a friend, a captain should do as much for the family as possible. Take some fresh fruit by, do small favors, anything to let them know you are sincerely interested in them – and you are – in making a friend and saving their soul!
It is good if the church will occasionally provide various small gifts for the captains to take to the bus parents – fruit, vegetables, a devotional book, a calendar, a few flowering plants, etc. The bus families should feel that the captain is the greatest person around, which they are!
This time of fellowship and gift giving should not be done insincerely. Pray for the parents daily. Ask the Lord to give you a burden for each one. Pause to pray before knocking on each door. Ask God to give you favor in the home. Smile! Show concern for their needs and problems. If someone is sick, pray for them. Make hospital visits if needed. The Spirit of Christ should be strongly upon you. Be a good ambassador of Christ!
Once a bus captain reaches a certain point in the friendship building process, he or she will begin to reach for the parent’s soul. This is done primarily by offering a personal witness or testimony, asking them for a home Bible Study, and encouraging them to attend church for special events. Look for every opportunity. Be persistent! The mark of true friendship is true concern for their soul.
A captain should always keep the number of homes that he or she is visiting at around ten or twelve. As children drop out of attendance, move away, or leave for other reasons, these homes will need to be replaced. Occasional contests and promotions can be held to give you new riders and homes from which to pick up children.
Occasionally you will find parents that no longer wish to talk to you. They are just not interested – turn you down cold and want nothing to do with the church. You should honor their wishes. You should continue to pick up the children for as long as they will come (and you should strongly encourage them to come) but the parents that ask you to stop your Saturday visit will need to be replaced with others who are interested.
It is a good idea to keep all past homes on the church mailing list, even if they are no longer being visited. As long as the children are coming, you should send occasional church bulletins, special announcements, and revival flyers to the home. Perhaps God will change their heart. You never know when all the seed you have sown will produce fruit. Continue to reach for each and every family who’s children ride on your buses.
The Parentreach bus ministry concept has been used successfully by Apostolic churches all over the nation. While no church does it exactly the same, the core principles remain the same:
- The focus is not on numbers, but upon saving souls.
- The number of homes visited is limited, allowing more time to work with the family and see the parents saved.
- A fundamental principle of successful soul winning is strongly embraced – you must win a friend before you can win a soul.
- As homes drop out the bus route they are continually being replenished with new families to witness to and reach.
- The ministry pushes the most effective tool of winning families – the home Bible study ministry.
In many churches bus ministry has been a highly successful ministry for wining families to God. If your church does not have a bus ministry, consider starting one! There are many souls in your city that will one day thank you for the love you will have shown.