Church Bus Ministry

I just walked out to plug in our old diesel church bus for its weekly mission trip around our town. Big Blue is beautiful but starting to show her age. This church has been running a bus ministry longer than I’ve been alive. We all know that longevity is not the test of a ministry’s value, so it’s good to re-think the pros and cons every so often.

For more help in this vital ministry, read our 6 steps for improving your bus ministry or how to start a bus ministry.

Positives of Church Bus Ministry

  • Kids come to our programs that otherwise would not. Bottom line, more children are coming to hear the gospel. About 30% of our Wednesday night kids come from the bus ministry.
  • Our church is visible in neighborhoods where we have no members. Like many churches, most of our people come from the stable long-term neighborhoods of our city. The apartments and trailer parks, with their more transient populations, house almost none of our church members.
  • It keeps our people outreach minded. Our volunteers get to know un-churched kids up close through this outreach ministry. We are constantly seeing new faces that remind us of the many children who are not active in church.
  • It doesn’t cost much since we already own the bus and use volunteer maintenance.
  • It opens new ways for people to serve. The bus ministry volunteers are pure gold.

Negatives of Church Bus Ministry

  • Reaching parents is a problem. Very few churches, ours included, have really figured out how to get the families of our bus kids involved in our church.
  • Bus discipline is a constant struggle.  There are some frantic moments for the bus monitors; it takes special people to keep 25 excited kids safely in their seats. You might enjoy our sample discipline plan for the church bus. Having a good list of bus games is essential.
  • We reinforce poor parenting habits. We preach parental responsibility, but contradict it by picking up these kids while their parents stay home.
  • The kids from the bus route are often our most disruptive.
  • We see very few conversions. Bus kids are often very open to the Gospel, but we don’t see much long-term fruit. This may be because they move away or because the home environment counteracts what we teach.
  • There are safety risks. Any child waiting for the bus after dark makes me nervous.

So what about you? Does your church run a bus ministry? Are the pros and cons I listed here a fair assessment?


  1. Kathy says

    Interestingly, I googled church bus ministry out of interest to see how prominent it is these days. I notice the comment about few converts. I would have never stepped foot in a church without a bus ministry. My family was not poor, but we lived among a very mixed demographic, and a few streets away was a girl I knew who rode the bus. She invited me and I attended regularly for maybe a year or so as a 10 or 11 year old. I was saved after weeks of hearing the pastor invite people to the alter and the holy spirit came to me at that time. Years passed and without the religious piece at home it all “fell apart” but I have re-visited the faith of that time and have committed my life again to Christ. I take four children on the journey with me this time. The fruits of conversation are not always visible at the time of performing Christ’s work.

  2. says

    God just gave us a bus, we have been taking 3 trips on a 15 passenger van. The bus ministry works, take it from someone who knows, my entire family was reached by the bus ministry before I was born. My sister rode as a 5 year old little girl and then later my older brother. Finally one Sunday my mom and dad woke up and went to church because of the prayers of my sister, both my parents got saved and I was born into a Christian family all because of two faithful bus workers and a church that didn’t give up on the bus ministry because of the cons. I am now the Associate Pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Pine Bluff AR. we have seen over 200 first time visitors this year and over 100 people saved. We have seen God do a wonderful work.

  3. Christa says

    Gina, I am pretty sure we go to the same church. I think the outreach ministry to these kids is thriving but is the entire children’s ministry thriving? I don’t think we can say the children’s ministry as a whole is thriving when we can’t get enough adult leaders for Sunday school, after-school programs, or VBS. There are a lot of kids but we are not serving them well. Bussed or “members”. I love these kids. And I wish mine could/would participate more. Lack of adequate supervision and dis-organization breeds and has bread chaos, bullying and many other unsafe situations. The bus ministry is vital to the children it serves. We have to find a way to be able to bring these children Christ and keep everyone safe, organized and learning about who God is and what he has done for all of us; children, adults, poor, rich.

  4. Christa says

    Do you separate the churched/”fertile” kids from the HYPE kids? How do you manage these 2 separate ministry needs without segregating the students?

  5. Gina says

    I am going to a church meeting tonight that will decide whether I continue to attend there. My husband has gone to this church his entire life and I have with him for many years. It is regarding out bus ministry. They are literally about to fire our children’s minister because she has brought in too many poor kids. They want to dramatically decrease the number of children we pick up. I am beyond words. Who would have thought a thriving children’s ministry could part a church like this. So many of the churches members grew up their entire lives going to this church. They have no idea what it is like to grow up with drug-addicted alcoholic parents. They have no idea what it is like to be made an orphan at a very young age, but I know all of it. I can honestly say that the people who picked me up through God’s direction changed my life. This is definitely the hill I choose. Thanks for this comment. I love it and plan to go in their tonight armed with God’s word and my insight. I have 10 pages of relevant scripture. Thank all of you for helping these children like you do. it does make a difference for some of us. It did for me!!!

  6. Marsha Culbreth says

    Your pros and cons are great. I am one that doesn’t dwell on the cons much because I simply know this is what God wants me doing. But having the cons all listed in one spot has helped me to see a pattern. Many of those things could be eliminated or at least reduced if we could get the whole family under the teaching of God’s Word. I recently met a pastor who has put this into action in his church with success. He strongly recommends talking to the parents each time he visits and they regularly have events geared for the whole family. You can reach him through the church’s website : It also includes audio for some helpful sessions during a recent bus conference under the Bus Conference tab.

  7. Diana says

    I needed to read some of these comments tonight. I received an email from today from a church member who was questioning my handling of a situation with some of our kids. We run a van ministry on Wednesday nights, we feed kids and have a lesson. We are a small church and average around 23 kids a week. Almost all come from unchurched home and we have a lot of discipline issues. I liked how John put it, we need to bind their wounds then sow the seeds. That’s how I feel about our kids.

  8. Cheryl says

    on your van ministry for kids, do you enter the kids drive ways and do door to door service or have parents wait at end of driveway with their child(ren)? to me if you are entering personal property then there is even more liability involved. i can see if you have “a runner” to go to the door and leave two adults in the van at the edge of the driveway. just like to know how everyone else does this to compare to our way of which i believe is risky and has major liability issues.

  9. Jerrold says

    Love this site!!! So many questions I need answered! Most comments here seem directed at bus ministries that primarilly support children.Should children be the focas? And,can you suggest an operating radius? Our riders are mostly adult women who have no cars.Some of the younger women bring children or teens.With few exceptions,all are already members.Suggestions?

  10. brett says

    we use a 3 strike system. 1 strike is a warning. watch out. 2 strikes means you sit out(or skip treasure box). 3 strikes means you go home. or rules “when we speak you listen, when we command you obey, no fighting cussing or stealing and when you come you stay.” it sounds kind of harsh at first but its great. the first time you send a kids home its hard. you want that kid there. But it usually opens a door to a parent conversation. I also always follow up during the week with a kids that is sent home.

  11. brett says

    we saw a church van for sale. we called them and asked for it. they gave it to us. in fact, we have three because of this.

  12. Lisa Hohlfeld says

    Is it necessary for the bus driver of a church to have a CDL with a passenger endorsement?

  13. Frank R. Karr says

    We actually have a worker we call a runner go up to the door and get the kids. This keeps the kids out of danger.

  14. Vikki says

    I have been doing work with children with unchurched parents for a number of years. There are behavior problems to deal with. Parents must sign a permission form with phone number for their children to ride our church bus. When the children become a problem in class or on the bus they are given a warning. When they continue the behavior they are not allowed to ride the bus for 2 weeks and I send home a note or call the parents to let them know. Ocassionally we get a child that is so dissruptive it becomes a safety issue on the bus and the children in the classes cannot learn. I have had to make the difficult decision to tell parents their child cannot come back unless they bring them and are responsible for them. I know many parents see our church classes as babysitting. Even though the parents may want their child out of their hair for awhile I am happy to get the word in them when I can get them. We may be the only way they will be exposed to the Gospel. Our Sunday School numbers are low because the parents do not care to get their child up and ready for the bus on Sunday mornings. We must continue on. As adults these children will have church memories to remind them of God’s love for them. Some may even accept him as their Savior.

  15. Osh says

    Can anyone please help me find resources on how to attain a “donated” van or bus. My church would desperately like to start a bus ministry, however we do not have the funds to purchase a vehicle. We are two 1/2 years old, but growing by the minute. Our community is in need, as I have not seen anyone in our community reaching out in this way. Please Help!!! Arlington, Texas

  16. John Edmondson says

    I read your comments on the blog concerning bus ministry kids. Please go and read my comments and I think that you will find that we have plowed the same ministry frustrated field. I will tell you each Sunday I want to be no where but with my at risk students. But, it is difficult to serve in a church that does not respond with assistance which they know is needed with funds and teachers. Let me encourage you that God knows you work and He will take your faithfulness and multiply your works beyond what you can even imagine. I was in the Marines and one of the things they taught us was to make sure to know which hill you would be willing to die on. Not all hills are worthy of total sacrifice and you fight on that hill those as long as you can but eventually you move on to fight another day. However, there are those hills that loom large and are very important to hold. On these hills we gear up and make a stand because it is profoundly important. My perspective is that our at risk students are worthy of the sacrifice even when they have no clue of the battle being waged for them. We are the hook in our shepherds staff that He uses to retrieve those everyone else has given up on. These kids are a worthy hill. Gear up and Hold the line!

  17. John Edmondson says

    We run about 250 at risk students each Sunday in our Bus Ministry and most churches would be thrilled with the numbers. However, we are losing the support of our staff and church and it is so dishearting. We’ve had the ministry for at least 25 years but have changed Pastors and as he left so has the passion to serve these kids. I have worked in the middle school and high school part of the ministry for eight years and we call it HYPE (Helping Young People Excel) . The church has taken away our budget and has informed us that as the buses break they will not be repaired. I have been a lay leader in youth ministry for 25 years and I think that this is such a vital ministry. Our ministry has grown from about 35 students to between 90 and 120 students each Sunday. I have heard from the pulpit to “Go Where God Is” but as we have grown the church has backed away financially and they do not provide a sufficient amount of teachers to properly support the ministry. The members who serve in this ministry do so because we know we are the lone representative of the body of Christ to these students. I have seen broken kids that have been transformed because of the faithfulness of this ministry to share the Gospel of Christ. I was asked one time the difference between serving a normal youth ministry and working with our HYPE at risk students. I made the observation that with normal kids we have an opportunity to sow seeds of the gospel on fertile soil but with at risk students you have to start by binding their wounds. Most of our kids are walking wounded caused from poverty, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse or a combination of these issues. There is a profound difference between the two student ministry bodies. When we serve the normal student ministry they have a deep spiritual foundation that we can build on. The at risk student ministry is spent tearing out a dangerous foundation that cannot support life and is focused on the redeeming aspect of Christ and the profound spiritual impact that he has on our lives. Our HYPE students are the ones you would see on TV during news time as they lie on a gurney after being shot, or in hand cuffs being led off for some crime. They are the anger issues in public schools that you hear so much about. These are the kids that you refuse to truly look at in the eye. They are shadows residing on the edge of the one way street that the body of Christ will not go down.

  18. Chris Miletich says

    We do our main Bus Ministry on Friday night. Our ladies spend time with the teen girls doing crafts and cooking after preaching. For the teen boys we have gym time after preaching. As we work with them we identify the more serious ones and challenge them to come on Sunday and try to disciple. While the teens are being preached at the juniors are in the gym. When we finish preaching to the teens the juniors head to class and then a puppet show. We also have crafts from time to time. We follow the same process for discipleship. I know that some would call me a heretic for doing something out of the box. Others might not like it because they can’t brag about their Sunday numbers. It has worked well for our church. It also leaves Saturday as a free day for the families of bus workers. We visit the faithful riders before church on Wednesday and new riders and prospects on Sunday. I am in no way saying that this is how everyone should do it or that the way that someone else does it is wrong. Again it works for us. As far as them taking over well discipline is always a problem with bus kids. My answer is two-fold 1) Pray more! 2) If they can’t behave take them home and tell them they can’t ride for a few weeks. If they come back with the same attitude then they will have to find another church (Again not good for numbers but good for the ones that want to grow).

  19. Rick Schwartz says

    One critical aspect of a bus ministry that many churches are not doing is the mandatory random drug testing of their drivers under the Code of Federal Regulations Title 49 Part 382. This applies to all churches with a bus over 16 seats, and even if all drivers are volunteers. The program must be set up in accordance with D.O.T. rules, and if the church is caught without the program bad things can happen. If you need more info about how to come into compliance with the required testing then email me at businesshealth2 (at) I’ll be happy to send you back the specific govt. regulations and requirements.

  20. Donna says

    Tony…your positives and negatives are right on target. We have had a bus ministry for 18+ years now. It has grown tremendously…tonight alone we had 215 children 5 years old thru 6th grade and 83 youth. We have 5 vans and tonight made 14 runs taking children home. We do encounter many discipline problems and that is why I am searching the web tonight…trying to find some advice or new ways of doing things. I have begged and begged for help but don’t have any one stepping up to help. My teachers are tired and ready to give up. If anyone has any programs or discipline ideas that work…please let me know. I would greatly appreciate it.

  21. Betty McComas says

    I like your comment. I agree a choice of words can bring a label to people not only children but to all ages. we can say things without thinking,not meaning to offend anyone. But I like your comment about the kids that road the bus. That sounds much more respectable. God has been dealing with me since the beginning of the year about God’s wisdom and Knowledge and I must commend you on your wisdom of this situation and this is exciting to me also and you are definately right . Everything about God is contagious to me when it comes to HIS wisdom and Knowledge. God bless you and keep up the good work.

  22. Betty McComas says

    If we are a servant of God He tells us to sow seeds. He also tells us in his word that “The fields are white and ready for harvest, BUT the laborers are few. Yes you are knowledgable on the time spent with a child. Something they enjoy they will remember, and with the love of God shown to a child God gives them good seed and your good seed will be harvested in them thru all eternity. I pray God that you will keep your hand on this sower of your seeds that she wins many to the Kingdom of God the eternity to come. God Bless you and your church.

  23. Betty McComas says

    This excites me when I hear “bus ministry” for I did this also for many years. I had a few children and adults on Sunday morning but on Sunday evening services and our Thursday night miracle services there were more elderly people that were widowed and did not drive sitting in apartments and homes by theirselves wanting to attend church and oh what a time we had on the way to services!!! We had church on old “George” the name of our bus. By the time we got to church they would walk into the building shouting and praiseing God . Most of them are gone to heaven now, but we were able to make their last days on earth a blessing. it was a blessing for us to watch them on special days bring their little gifts and exchange and share with each other. Yes, a bus ministry is worth it all if a person’s heart and soul is in the work and one has the precious love of God and compassion for people to receive what God has for them.God Bless all who has this desire for a bus ministry and may you,God, provide all the nessary needs and finances and volunteers to complete their operations for this great ministry. In Jesus Name. Amen. Please e-mail me and let me know how God worked this out for you. God bless you all.

  24. says

    I have been involved in finding unchurched teens and getting them to church for 25 years. having pastored my first church now for 9 years I am starting to see something new. Can an imbalanced outreach ministry hinder long term growth? What I mean is that just as the article states, the bus kids are the most misbehaved. Over time your teen ministry developes a reputation as the “sweathogs”. Parents who are looking for a church to raise thier kids shy away because of the hardcore kids who create an atmosphere they dont want thier kids in. Im talking fights and honeriness which may be isolated and infrequent but take on a life of thier own. The question Im asking is is it better to keep the group made up of a majority strong church kids and then reach out only by fractional proportion to that population. I love reaching rough kids, but there comes a time when they take over and Jesus isnt Lord of the youth group anymore.

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