Working with students for nearly 20 years has allowed me to see some new frontiers surface as uncharted territories. For example, I watched the dot-com boom change the way we think about communicating with students. I watched cell phones creep their way into the lives of my students AND into my youth group meetings/trips. I have watched social media create a new era of communication that reminds me of the excitement and the "newness" of the dot-com boom. I'm sure other youth ministry veterans could keep this list going far beyond anyone's desire to read it. But there's another area, typically unseen by "the masses," that has also evolved and is worth mentioning: how we transport children and students.
I think one would be hard-pressed to find an individual even marginally connected to a church who hasn't crammed his or her body into a white 15 passenger van at some point. Or how many times have you seen that rolling-death-trap-of-a-bus transporting your kids away from the church parking lot on its way to what may as well be a little village in South America - knowing that the closet prayers of you, your friends, and Sister Betty on the prayer committee will be the only thing that gets them there safely? And although these descriptions do not fit "every" church in America, they are familiar enough to most of us to know that they are at least , in some part, true for many, many churches. Church transportation, indeed, has needed some overhaul.
If you are experiencing issues like I've mentioned here or your church has grown beyond your current transportation needs, here are some things I considered as a concerned minister at the Glade Church to fit our quickly changing needs for transporting groups of children and students.
1 - Vans or Buses? - 15 passenger vans get a LOT of bad press about how dangerous they are and how churches and universities should not use them. And although my countless trips on one of these has never ended badly - I can certainly understand the position based on some tragic occurrences involving these vans. But that's not the primary reason I don't use them. The biggest reason for me to use buses is because I want as few vehicles on the road as possible. There is less danger of my group getting separated, and I can be more selective about who drives. Fewer vehicles in my convoy increases safety.
2 - Purchase or Rent? - We rent. By renting, we always take a brand new bus right off the lot. It's clean. It's dependable. And most importantly for long trips - it's COMFORTABLE!! We don't have to worry about maintaining a bus or paying for repairs should it break down. Renting offers us a quality product EVERY time we take a trip. "Our" bus NEVER ages - because we always get a new one from the rental company.
3 - What About Charters? - They are certainly less headache in some ways as you don't have to drive, pay for fuel, or worry about insurance. What you do have, though, is an increased cost to pay someone else for those things. What's more than that, though, is you also have to add the cost of a hotel room for your bus driver(s). And about the driver…you don't get to choose who you get. By having drivers from my church, I'm able to select who gets to spend LONG periods of time in front of our children and students. This is a BIG deal to us.
4 - What About Insurance? - Our church already has policies in place to cover most of our rentals…in other words - we are already paying for it for other vehicles/trailers we have in our "rolling stock." But sometimes we rent three buses at a time. Adding a rider to our policy to cover those extra buses for a week or two at a time is MUCH cheaper than paying for insurance year round on a bus that's only used a peak ministry times.
5 - Who Rents These Things, Anyway? - I guess you could say that Carpenter Bus is one of our vendors, but that wouldn't be a complete statement. Carpenter Bus is a partner in ministry with us. Without them, trip costs for our children and students would increase significantly. Yes, it's true that Carpenter Bus is a for-profit business, but they are a Christian business. Since they are believers in Christ, they share our vision of seeing men, women, boys, girls, students, individuals, and families transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. Sure - we pay them money to rent buses. But the fact that they rent buses to us helps us share the gospel with children and students. We are thankful for their partnership and ministry to our church.
If you are looking to make a change in your transportation needs, I would suggest giving the guys at Carpenter Bus a call. We have found it to be dependable, economical, and again - COMFORTABLE!