Interview with Pastor Ron Hendricks
When did mobile ministry begin at the church you pastor and how did you get started?
We actually began bus ministry somewhere around 1970-1971. I became the pastor of our church in March of 1982. The way this ministry began was through the inspiration of a Sunday school seminar being taught by Billie Lambert about “Center of Interest” Sunday school. I was a Sunday school teacher of a class of thirteen year olds and my wife taught in the class of five year olds. Billie Lambert mentioned the bus ministry and how that people went out each week visiting and bringing children to church each Sunday at First Pentecostal Church in Jackson, Mississippi, pastored by T. L. Craft. She gave us some literature about bus ministry and what their church was doing, including information about the success of the Baptist churches that were running buses and bringing children to Sunday school.
She mentioned a book titled The Church Bus Ministry written by William Powell, a Baptist minister. There was not much material available then on bus ministry and after reading this book, which contained stories of Baptist churches that had amazing success with the bus ministry, I was motivated to try it at our church. This was the first time I had heard of people like Jack Hayes, Wally Beebe, Jim Vineyard, and others who had built large churches by using the bus ministry. The book contained a list of other books and tapes available for sale. It also mentioned available seminars, which I attended. I gave the book to my pastor, who after reading it felt that we could make it work for us. I ordered a tape and a book by Wally Beebe (“Mr. Bus”) and was inspired and amazed at the dedication and work of folks who used this method of reaching people. I also attended their seminars and learned how to organize the bus ministry, where and how to buy buses, and everything else I could learn from them about this ministry. I adapted everything I learned to fit our Sunday school, church and doctrine.
What percentage of the Sunday morning attendance is mobile ministry?
Probably about twenty-five to thirty percent of attendance on Sunday morning is from the bus ministry.
Do you use other forms of mobile ministry besides buses?
We have a van which we use sometimes and there are times when we pick some up in our cars if need be. We also have a Prevost tour bus that we use to take our youth and seniors on trips. Each summer our youth do a Youth on Missions tour to one of our home missions churches in one of our larger cities to help witness, pass out tracts, and have services. They have gone to Miami, Florida (Ryan Crossley), New York (Stephen Smith), and last year to Washington, D.C. (Jerry Staten). They are planning one for this year also.
Was there someone you looked up to who mentored you in mobile ministry?
I have always admired T. L. Craft. He was about the only one that I knew of in Pentecost at that time who was running buses although I know now that there were others. His leadership example and love for God and for truth have inspired many of us to do more for our Savior. Thank you, Brother Craft! I will always be thankful to Billie Lambert for sharing with me the blessings and benefits of the bus ministry and for her passion and burden for Sunday school. She has been an inspiration to my wife and I for many years! Thank you, Sister Lambert!
Has mobile ministry personally affected your life?
The mobile ministry or bus ministry gave me the first opportunity to get involved in “field work.” I was scared when I first started knocking on doors and inviting people to ride the bus and come to church. I was so scared that there were times I would knock hoping no one would come to the door, but I soon got over that.
There is nothing like becoming a soulwinner and seeing people find God. I owe much to the bus ministry and what it has taught me about loving people and bringing them to meet the One who died for them. It taught me to value people who came through our doors knowing that I have no idea how much prayer, hard work, time, money, and investment is actually involved when we see a guest walk through our doors. It taught me about the sacrifice of those involved in bus ministry. It is hot in the summer. Getting on a cold bus in the winter takes some commitment. I teach our church the most valuable people who come through our doors are the lost and hurting. The Good Samaritan put the wounded man on his beast and inconvenienced himself so this hurting man could find help for his wounds and brokenness. The Samaritan was willing to walk so another could ride. I learned in bus ministry that the kingdom of God increases when men are willing to walk so others can ride.
How many volunteers do you have each Sunday morning involved in mobile ministry and how do you keep them motivated?
We have between fifteen and twenty people who are involved each Sunday in the bus ministry. Jesus told us to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers into the harvest. Keeping people motivated to work in this entitlement generation is one of the greatest challenges that we have today! Training is one of the keys to keeping people motivated. Knowing what is expected of us and how to do it helps us to be happy at what we are doing. It is one of the keys to keeping people motivated. We do all kinds of promotions in our Sunday school and bus ministry to help keep it exciting but it is still quite a challenge to keep people motivated!
What are some ideas to close the “back door” to our Sunday schools and keep people coming back instead of coming only once or twice?
The story is told of a young man who fell in love with a beautiful young lady and wanted to marry her. Every day for a year he sat down and wrote her a beautiful love letter or he would send her a wonderful card. And sure enough at the end of that year this beautiful young lady got married. And of course, she married the postman! Because visitation makes a difference! Staying in touch through cards, phone calls, and visitation is one of the most effective ways to show your love to the children and to win the whole family to God. This helps to set up Bible studies and keeps you connected not only with the child but also the whole family and their little friends.
What advice would you give to a pastor or a member of the Sunday school staff who wants to start a mobile ministry in their local assembly?
I would say to go find all the material you can about the bus ministry (books, tapes, DVDs, etc.) and look them over. Go to churches that are already involved in the bus ministry and ask a lot of questions. Get ready to spend money and a lot of it (buses, tires, maintenance, insurance, fuel, etc.). But be aware that God will help you to pay the bills when you love what He loves. Prepare your church to receive folks who will have no idea about what church is all about or how to act. Be prepared to be used as a babysitter and be happy about it because this is sometimes the reason we get children to come (their parents want them out of the house). Get ready to love children who have been forced to experience things they should never have had to experience. But be prepared to experience the love of God in a way that you have never experienced it before.
If you had a chance to speak to those who work with our children every week, what would you tell them?
I would say be encouraged! You have the enviable opportunity to be an influence on our most valuable natural resource – children. Paul asked what advantage Jews have over the Gentiles. He answered, “Much every way” (Romans 3:2). One reason was that they knew the oracles of God or the Bible stories. A child who has been to Sunday school and heard the stories of Joseph the dreamer, Daniel in the lion’s den, David and Goliath, and Jesus feeding 5,000 with the five loaves receives a foundation to build their faith in God.
When we teach home Bible studies we find out most people know very little about the Bible although it is the best selling book in the world. But please remember that although these little ones who ride your buses, sit in your Sunday school classes, and attend super church have escaped the abortionist’s clinic, they must now escape the drug pushers and all the predators who are waiting for them. You are equipping them with the most powerful resources that a person can have – the eternal Word of God. You are placing them in a most advantageous position when they receive the experience of the Holy Ghost, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, and the love of God through your love and kindness.
You can be their hero and influence them instead of some sports figure or Hollywood star they will never meet. Who knows, they may become a great worker for God! And, oh yes, I can promise you they will never forget you or the love you have shown to them. Yes, Jesus loves the little children of the world and yes, they are precious in His sight.
Robbie Knox serves as the general secretary of the Sunday School Division of the United Pentecostal Church International.
This article ‘Mobile Ministry’ by Robbie Knox was excerpted from Pentecostal Herald magazine. November 2010. It may be used for study & research purposes only.