In recent years, ridesharing services have filled a needed gap for many people who don’t have a car available when they need one. Uber, perhaps the most well-known ridesharing company, began in March of 2009 in San Francisco. The concept was born when two friends, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, were traveling together in Paris and were unable to secure a ride. From this need, they developed an idea which led to an app in which, with the tap of a button, one can find a driver to take them to their chosen destination. The first Uber ride was given on July 5, 2010. Today, Uber operates in over ten thousand cities around the world with approximately fifteen million Uber rides given each day.

While Uber and other ridesharing services fill a needed void in the world’s largest cities, Bible-believing churches have provided rides for decades through what is commonly known as the bus ministry. 

The bus ministry has been one of the most impactful ministries in the history of the church where I pastor. After more than fifty years of running buses in neighborhoods throughout the west side of Cleveland, to this day, we frequently meet those who at one time rode the church bus as children or teens. Their time in church, during these formidable years of their lives, allowed them to hear the gospel message, and many trusted Christ and were gloriously born again. Today, as a result of the bus ministry of the Cleveland Baptist Church, there are servants of the Lord ministering as pastors, missionaries, deacons, youth directors, and faithful men and women in local churches. Likely, if your church has a bus ministry, it has a similar testimony of the gospel’s impact in your community and beyond. 

In a similar timeframe as Uber was conceived, social media in general was establishing itself as a place where anyone could be heard. In more recent years, this aspect of social media has helped coalesce and organize great acts of service. 

But there has been a downside to the activism on social media. It’s an easy place to speak out without actually doing anything. Everyone on social media has an opinion, and few are shy about sharing it. But many, it seems, are content to post strongly-worded statements with popular hashtags and then do nothing else. 

One of the aspects of the bus ministry that I particularly love is that it is ground zero for actually serving people in need with the love of Christ and the message of the gospel. 

James 1:26–27 reminds us that talk is cheap, and God desires that we actively serve others in need: “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. 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.”

The bus ministry is a practical place for Christians to get involved in serving in ways that go beyond a hashtagged post. Effective church bus ministries serve children and families who live in real need. Church buses are usually best-found in rough neighborhoods where families don’t have transportation or where children don’t have a parent (or foster parent) who will take them to church. Many children who have ridden our buses have been fatherless and in desperate need of love. It has been a privilege to give them a visible demonstration of the love of Christ for them. 

If your church does not already have a bus ministry or if you are not involved in it, consider these practical aspects of this impactful ministry.

The bus ministry thrives where there is creativity.

You don’t actually need a bus to start a transportation ministry from your church. Neither do you need a fully-equipped garage or a full-time dedicated staff. Any vehicle with more than one seat can bring people to church. 

In the Philippines, churches bring people to church in jeepneys. On the continent of Africa, I’ve seen people attend church riding on the back of a church-operated motorcycle taxi. Here in the States, plenty of churches don’t own a bus, but they do own vans that are used to transport people who otherwise would not be able to come.

A “bus ministry” can be found in any church, even churches that don’t own a single vehicle. You simply need church members with a burden, a vehicle, and a heart to help others.

The bus ministry is a place where real-life, ongoing ministry takes place.

A dedicated bus captain or helper has the unique opportunity of functioning in a pastoral role to those who ride his bus route. It is not unusual for bus workers to be asked by their riders to preach funeral services, counsel, make hospital visits, officiate a wedding, or do any number of pastoral tasks. 

A young person who believes that the Lord has called him or her into some form of full-time Christian service would do well to prepare for that calling by serving in the bus ministry. It will give tremendous real-life ministry experience. And lay people who want to invest themselves in the work of the ministry will find multi-faceted opportunities to do just that in the bus ministry.   

The bus ministry mirrors the heart of God.

Christ gave a parable in Luke 14 of a man who made a great feast and invited many of his friends and acquaintances to join him for this special celebration (Luke 14:16–23). As the feast grew near, the invited guests offered many excuses as to why they could not come to this dinner and participate in this celebration. Since the meal had already been prepared, the master of the house encouraged his servant to go into the streets of the city and to bring in the poor and the disabled. These people eagerly came and were blessed by the meal provided by the master. 

Similarly, there are many in our community that won’t come to our churches to hear the gospel and grow in God’s Word. The list of those invited provide many excuses as to why church “just isn’t for me.” 

But what about those who would come but can’t, simply because they don’t have a way? Perhaps they are children whose parents have devalued church and use Sunday morning to sleep in or get projects done around the house. Perhaps they are children whose parents care more about Saturday night partying than their children’s spiritual (or, for that matter, physical) needs. 

What about those who are disabled and cannot drive, or those who are poor and have had to go without a car in order to make ends meet? 

The church has a unique opportunity to mirror the heart of God, to bring in the poor, the disabled, and the spiritually disadvantaged—that God’s house may be filled, His love may be shown, and His gospel invitation may be received.