Guidelines for Discipline in Christian Bus Ministry

church bus ministry

If your picture of Christian bus ministry is full of positive attitudes and well-behaved children–you must be new! Don’t feel bad; bus ministry, while vital and exciting, is challenging for many, even the experienced volunteer. Prepare for explosive growth in your ministry by establishing discipline guidelines. When parents, teachers and children know what to expect, there’s less chance for confusion and frustration. Create a safe environment for kids with simple, structural rules.

Also, do expect to troubleshoot problems but temper everything you do with kindness. Pray regularly for the bus ministry and your personal involvement. Ask God to help you be patient, but firm in a manner that pleases Him. The key is to spend more time discipling and less time disciplining, right? Remember to avoid making complicated rules that won’t easily be remembered.

Basic Guidelines

  1. Head, shoulders, knees and toes: Remember that old song? Use it! Introduce it to your bus families and explain that heads should face forward and shoulders rest back on the seat. We should keep our knees and toes on the ground and not kicking others. Explain that heads and hands that hang out the window can get injured.
  2. No standing or squatting on the seats or in the aisles. Everyone must be seated throughout the trip.
  3. Swearing and shouting are not tolerated on the bus.
  4. Everyone must participate in the bus service. No bad attitudes are allowed.
  5. No drinks, food or backpacks are to be brought on to the bus—Bibles only.

How to Enforce the Rules

  • Don’t scold or reprimand children in front of their peers unless the situation calls for immediate action.
  • Speak in low tones when you want to bring the volume down. Speak loudly to get attention but use this “power” sparingly.
  • Stoop down to eye level to speak to children. Never stand over them in a manner that could be interpreted as intimidating.
  • Involve supportive parents when their child misbehaves.
  • Don’t argue with bus riders. Move the rider your seat on one by you and discuss the matter once you’ve arrived at your destination.
  • Provide children with the opportunity to do the right thing. Don’t back kids into a corner.
  • Don’t make threats about discipline unless you are prepared to follow through.

Don’t Forget These Details

  • Give every bus rider a copy of the bus rules when they first attend. Review it with them and don’t assume that they’ve read it independently.
  • Go over the rules regularly.
  • Have a bus ministry program prepared. As bus ministry pioneer Bill Wilson says, “If you don’t put on a program for kids, they’ll put one on for you.”

Stick to your guidelines and you’ll have a friendly, exciting ministry that everyone will want to be a part of.

Read more from Mimi by visiting her blog, “Encouragement for Christians.


  1. James Smith says

    I have come a long way in my bus ministry compared to when I started for the very first time two years ago this December. I thought it would be a piece of cake but boy was I wrong. I love my kids very much, but they can be a hand full and sometimes I DO lose my PATIENCE with them and they with each other. I have been able to manage my bus and SLOWLY integrated my rules and as I have called it we are a work in progress. If you show them love and work with parents things will work out greatly and things will balance out. One thing I am fixing to have to start is assigned seats due to my Jr. High kids new interests in “lovee dovee” type action. With that being said things will be great and better on the church bus when you have a balanced sense of respect. The kids and I have become quite close and one thing I have learned is that if we find the Christian music we share interests in we have a blast singing to and from church. I just hope I can be half the blessing they have been to me.

  2. Diane says

    Patty , we to have a van ministry on Wednesday nights. We just purchased a second van as we have grown to need one. Our 15 passenger vans each make 2-3 trips picking up children and youth. And we are a very small church. We have been picking up for about 5 years. Yes and Yes behavior problems are very discouraging at times. But we try to remember that God will help us to plant seeds. And for some it maybe longer than others for them to see their need for Jesus in their heart. We have seen many change over the years and grow while others are there and i wonder if they ever hear what we say. We too, have two adults on the van. We also ask the parents to sign a partnership letter outlining the basic guidelines and consequences. Like you say, some of the homes they go back are unsafe and scary sometimes. But if we can show them just a little of the Love God has for each of us, good or bad, then we have done our part. It is discouraging until you see one saved, baptized and growing.

  3. Patty Axcell says

    Although not a “bus ministry” as described, I couldn’t help thinking of our Wednesday night van ministry. It was primarily intended to support our teen outreach ministry, but behavior became so out of hand that our Sr. pastor chose to shut the van program down. The Wednesday program continued under the presumption that those who were serious about attending would find a way to get there. A number of changes were put into place – each van had a second adult to assist the driver (one male & one female on each van), youth must call in each week to be placed on the pick-up list, (church issued) IDs must be presented to board, parents were required to sign participant “contracts”, separate routes for jr./sr. high youth and elementary age were established, but nothing really addressed behavior & discipline.

    As alluded to in your article, when my husband and I agreed to drive for the ministry, HE had visions of well-scrubbed, bright-eyed boys & girls happily singing Christian songs on the way to church. I had worked with youth longer, so I knew better, but even I was unprepared for the reality of it. What we got were fist-fights (boys AND girls, and always in the back of the van), pop cans shaken & sprayed all over, apples chucked past the front seats & exploding on the windshield (despite the no food/drink rule), and best of all, kids getting off the van at church & simply walking in one door and out another – we were simply a taxi service for them to get across town. Afterwards, I would often escort an “offender” to his/her door in order to speak with a parent/guardian only to find no adult home, an adult under the influence of something, or an adult who really didn’t hold any influence or authority over the youth. We even returned to homes in our personal vehicles after the route to try to speak with youth after they’d settled down, but behaviors seldom changed. From time to time the youth pastor would suspend van privileges, but he felt as long as they were present on Wednesdays they could still be reached. Overall, it was really an unfortunate situation. Our approach was to try to befriend each youth & sit with various ones on our route. Individually, most youth were fine, but with 14 youth crowded into a van things escalated out of control fairly quickly. A reward system only worked with the little kids. Occasionally we treated the youth to ice cream or free passes to somewhere, but it simply was not enough to encourage consistent good behavior. Although we were relieved when the program was finally scrapped, I must say we were also discouraged by it. Again, this was a mid-week outreach ministry to unchurched youth. Our Sunday discipline policy seems to be very effective, but you’re comparing apples & oranges.

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