By Dr. James Rasbeary
Luke 14:21-23 So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. (22) And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. (23) 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.
I love the bus ministry. I thank God for the bus ministry. When my wife was a teenager in a broken home, some bus workers invited her to church. Her parents would not have brought her to church. She could not drive herself at that time. Thank God, there was a Sunday School bus to take her. The bus driver’s family also picked her up for the evening services. Her soul was saved and OUR lives were changed, as well as the lives of our children, because of the bus ministry. (By the way, an informal census among my preacher brethren tells me that bus kids make great preacher’s wives!)
The bus ministry was one of the first ministries I was able to serve in. As a teenager, I drove a van route (not sure how the insurance company allowed that, but I did). Later, I was a bus worker and then a bus captain. For much of the last 11 years, I have been either a substitute, part-time, or full-time bus driver. I have been in the bus ministry for 21 years now. I love the bus ministry!
For many years, the bus ministry was a staple in many independent Baptist churches. Now, many church buses have either been scrapped or parked in the tall grass behind the church. I even hear pastors disparaging the bus ministry. Some mock the attendance in some churches because “half of them ride the buses,” as though that church is somehow cheating in some unofficial attendance competition by going through the extra work and expense of bringing children to church on buses. I say that if the bus ministry is such an easy way to increase attendance, by all means, do so – but you will find that it is neither easy or cheap.
Perhaps many ran buses for the wrong reasons; perhaps we have forgotten the real purpose of running buses. The bus ministry is certainly a complicated and difficult one requiring CDL drivers, captains, helpers, insurance, expensive fuel, and maintenance. It is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Hours of work are needed. The children also require extra attention and work by those in the children’s ministries, and some of the kids are nearly parent-less and thus undisciplined. Strict guidelines and protections must be put in place for their protection. But is it worth it? Why have a bus ministry at all? Allow me to suggest 7 reasons:
To win souls. Statistics tell us that the vast majority of people who get saved do so before age 18, and the majority of those get saved before age 12. Jesus did not say for children to become like adults to get saved, but for adults to become as little children (Mark 10:15). The bus ministry has proven itself as one of the greatest soulwinning tools the church has at its disposal.
To fill God’s house. God wants His house to be filled. Go after everyone you can find – and out into the highways and hedges. Compel them to come in. God gets no glory from an empty pew, an empty chair, an empty classroom, an empty baptistery, or an empty bus.
To provide an opportunity for church members to serve. The bus ministry itself is an area of service; but it also involves teachers and other people in the work of the ministry. Even children can serve in the bus ministry (my kids have been in buses and vans all their lives, and have learned to serve and love the kids who ride the buses).
To reach new families. Yes, bus kids have parents, grandparents, siblings, etc that can be reached with the gospel through their children and often become faithful, serving families in the church.
To practice pure religion. Jas 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
To exercise compassion (Jude 22), ministering to those who can do nothing in return. Luke 14:13-14 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: (14) And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
To influence children for Christ and good. In our society, many children will have no Christian influence at all unless we can either reach them with their parents – or reach them without their parents. Those who ride our bus will be cared about by dedicated, kind, Christian people; they will hear the Ten Commandments quoted each week; they will hear prayer; they will hear the gospel; they will hear Bible lessons and messages. In my wife’s case, as in countless others, the bus ministry influenced her with not only salvation, but also with Bible principles, ethics, standards, and morals that she would never have received away from church. This influence kept her from making tragic mistakes in her teen years.
These are some reasons why Lighthouse Baptist Church runs buses and will continue to do so in the future. I do not judge churches without bus ministries, but I would encourage you to consider the opportunity still available in America. And if you are considering parking your bus in the tall grass because of the cost of diesel, insurance, or tires, or the difficulty in finding dedicated workers, I hope that these points will cause you to at least reconsider.
Thank you for reading.