By Tim Massengale
Bus ministry works! It is a highly effective tool for seeing the parents of your bus riders saved. Last month I explained that it’s the job of the bus workers to build a relationship with these parents, to witness to them, and to then encourage them to attend church and / or take a home Bible study. This approach is commonly called ‘Parentreach’ and has been used successfully in churches all over country. Churches using Parentreach can point to several families each year that have been saved by their bus ministry.
However, a second focus of bus ministry must be to see the bus ministry children themselves come to full Bible salvation. We must not be content to simply provide transportation to and from Sunday school, but we must also provide the chance for these bus riders to become, not just members of our Sunday school, but members of the family of God.
Too often our junior-age Sunday school classes follow a predictable pattern. We start with a pre-session time which is followed by a time of worship and song. We then have our lesson. This is followed by a craft. After this, a quick snack before the closing prayer. Finally, it’s back to the bus for the ride home. There is nothing wrong with this schedule, except that rarely does it provide a time for these children to seek God. “But we do that during regular services,” you reply. True, but bus children do not attend regular services. Their only opportunity to receive the Holy Ghost is during the normal Sunday school hour. We must make a conscious effort to make this time available.
Consider the children who ride our buses. Most of them fall into two or three class levels: Primary, Junior and perhaps a few in Junior High. Occasionally we will get a few beginner and high school riders, but not many. Most are between the ages of six and twelve. Once into their teens, bus children often drop out of bus ministry. In the minds of many older children, Sunday school is only for kids.
As previously mentioned, one important job of the Bus Ministry is to reach the parents. But it is the responsibility of the Sunday school to reach the children. The only chance that we have of reaching the souls of our children whose parents do not come to church is during the Sunday school hour. What will happen if we don’t? It should be obvious. Look around and see how many children continue to come to Sunday school on our buses beyond thirteen years of age. Within most of our churches, you could count them on one hand.
When a child reaches their teenage years and they still have still not made a decision to live for the Lord, it becomes increasingly difficult to reach them. It is no longer “cool” to go to Sunday school or ride the bus. Now they are “grown-up” and “grown-ups” don’t go to Sunday school – “just look at mom and dad,” they say. The opportunity to give their heart to the Lord and receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost needs to be made available on a regular basis while they are still young. There are several ways this can be done.
Monthly Children’s Church
Many churches, once a month, will have a special service just for the children. Some have this in the church fellowship hall. Others will utilize the main sanctuary and involve the entire church. However works best for your situation, the service needs to be focused on providing an opportunity for children to pray for the Holy Ghost.
During children’s church an extended worship time is usually held. Children’s choir is also a popular feature, especially if the song has been practiced in the individual classrooms in the weeks prior to this service. Puppets, chalk talks, dramatized lessons and other specialized ministries are often utilized as well. But the heart of the children’s church service is the preaching by someone that can connect with the heart of the child and then give an altar call. Of course, adults need to be on hand to pray with the children.
Super church has grown in popularity in recent years. More than a few churches have gone to an all super church program for their primary and junior-aged class levels. Super church utilizes a highly structured format. It also requires a highly committed staff, each of whom plays particular role in the session each week. The emphasis is upon wacky and innovative methods and role playing to make the Sunday school hour a time that children will never forget. It requires a weekly practice time for the super church staff. But for those committed to the program, the results have been excellent. Altar call times are a regular occurrence. For a generation of children raised on Saturday children’s TV programs, super church provides the equally fast-paced, exciting atmosphere that bus children have grown used to.
Monthly Holy Ghost Sunday
Monthly Holy Ghost Sunday is similar to a monthly children’s church, except it is held in each classroom. The idea of a monthly Holy Ghost Sunday came as the result of one teacher’s frustration at the traditional method of having a Sunday School class: pre-session time, followed by worship, followed by the lesson, followed by the craft, followed by the snack, followed by going home. Hopefully the lesson was a good one and touched their heart. But something was lost during “craft” time, and after the “snack” the feeling totally died. The children went home with the knowledge in their head, but no real touch in their heart.
So this teacher decided to switch things around a bit. He put his lesson quarterly aside. He prayed and fasted that week for a Bible lesson from God. He felt the Lord impress a simple Bible story to his heart. That next Sunday, he skipped his pre-session time and had a quick craft. Then he went directly into an extended time of worship and singing. After this, he taught his lesson under a burden of the Holy Ghost. It was a short lesson and at the end he gave a simple altar call. Several received the Holy Ghost that Sunday morning. He followed the same pattern the next week and several more received the Holy Ghost. This went on for several weeks. All told, over fifty children received the Holy Ghost in that one Sunday school (it spread to other classes too). They had, in essence, a Sunday school revival – but without an evangelist.
Of course, this could not go on indefinitely. After a while the altar call becomes “old hat.” But it could be done very effectively once a month. The concept is simple, the results are consistent. A unique feature of the monthly Holy Ghost Sunday is that, in many churches, it is done in every Sunday school class room – primary through Adult. Rarely a month goes by without someone receiving the Holy Ghost in one or more of the classes.
Other Evangelism Opportunities
There are several other opportunities that will help put evangelism back into your Sunday school. Doing each will bring in a steady harvest of souls from your bus riders.
First, be sure to incorporate your teen bus riders into your church youth group. This works well. But you will need to run a bus on youth service night and insure transportation to all youth activities. If only a few are coming often rides can be given by church members.
Second, consider scheduling a children’s revival each year with a good children’s evangelist. There are dozens of proven evangelists available. These individuals have a unique call to reach children with salvation. Schedule a week or more of services and run your buses each evening. It’s a wonderful time for the children as well as adults.
Third, encourage your bus children to attend your districts summer youth camps. Many churches take up special offerings so scholarships can be offered, allowing everyone who wants to go to youth camp to attend. It is common for many, if not most, of those attending to receive the Holy Ghost at youth camp.
A well known Christian educator states, “Evangelism is the chief work of the Sunday School. In fact, Christian Education cannot be Christian unless it is evangelistic.” How true!
Often we are prone to teach the Word of God and forget the purpose for which we are teaching it: to bring the students to full Bible salvation, and then to train them in spiritual growth. If we are not careful, we can bring children to Sunday school in our buses and vans and teach them a Bible story each week and forget that a soul sits before us without God. Let’s bring the altar back into our classrooms by providing ample opportunities for our bus children to receive the Holy Ghost. Their very eternity depends upon it.