Picture this: You’re driving the church bus on a major interstate and an engine belt snaps. And you have to pull the bus over to the shoulder from three lanes over. Did I mention you are just one bus in a caravan of buses filled with youth? If this has NEVER happened to you, congratulations! You have essentially scored a 1600 on your Youth Minister/Church Bus SAT.
However, as Murphy’s Law states: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I would add to Murphy’s Law. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, especially when it comes to a church bus. So let me assist you, should YOUR church bus ever break down, on what NOT to do if the bus quits in the middle of the road, and all the snacks are on the other bus.
#1 Don’t Broadcast Your Troubles
When the church bus’ serpentine belt snapped on I-85 in the middle of North Carolina, I pulled the vehicle over, and one of the parents called her AAA card number. We booked a nearby hotel, and the other buses got our kids to that hotel. But as we waited for AAA to arrive with a tow truck, I got bored. So I began using Vine and Instagram to share our predicament with the world! I quickly realized that our parents, who were not yet aware of the situation, did not enjoy finding out over social media. Who knew?
If your church bus ever breaks down, take care of the kids first. Then, communicate to the parents in a calm and informative way, letting them know that all kids are safe and the situation is being handled. Don’t Vine or Instagram. (If you do it anyway, I’d love to see a good church bus breakdown video. Email me: andrew.chappell [at] dunwoodyumc.org).
#2 Don’t Let the Kids Sit On The Tarmac
As we waited for AAA on the side of the road, it took me a little time to figure out what should happen next. We were in conversation with our pastors and administrators at the church, all the while the students sat in the bus on the side of the road. One student spoke up, “This happens every time I fly,” and I realized that we were essentially making the kids sit on the tarmac. Remember, your number one priority is your kids. It might be best to get your youth off the busy interstate sooner rather than later. You aren’t Delta. Just a thought.
#3 Don’t Assume AAA Is Omniscient
When we got the kids off to the hotel, another adult and I sat in the bus, waiting on AAA. It took a total of 3 hours for a tow truck to meet us. This is because interstates are big. And exit 40 is in North Carolina. But there is also an exit 40 in Georgia. Always specify your state. After all, it only took the tow truck thirty minutes to find nothing by exit 40 in Georgia.
#4 Don’t Trust Joe, The Tow Truck Guy
Joe, the man who towed our bus seemed to think that he could fix the belt easily. “I do a little maintenance on the side,” he told us. As we were in a hurry the next morning, we trusted this man to fix it. The next morning he let us know. “I don’t think I can fix it.” Thanks Joe.
We left the bus at a shop in NC, and rented another bus. But we could have saved ourselves some time if we had not attempted the “easy fix.” You may already know all this, but my 25 year old self knew none of this. Don’t trust Joe, the guy who does car maintenance “on the side.” After all, you wouldn’t trust your friend Karen to fix your cavity because she dabbles in dentistry, would you?
#5 Don’t Lose Your Cool
The night of the church bus breakdown ended up being one of the best nights of the trip. The kids got to the Hampton Inn and had a pool party with pizza and soft drinks. I was so thankful for each of our adults. We kept smiling, laughing, and joking. The night might’ve looked different if we had presented ourselves in a more anxious light. Instead, we periodically glanced at each other the rest of the trip, chiming in, “Hey. Remember when the church bus broke down?”
So…Take a Picture
There is picture on my desk next to my computer. The picture shows the church bus on the back of a small tow truck. And it reminds me that as bad as some things can get, at least we aren’t on a broken down church bus on I-85 in the middle of Salisbury, NC. But even then, when things seem bad, I look at the picture and remember that we had the best pool party of our ministry that evening. God can always bring good from bad. In fact, I would argue that God is in the business of redeeming a broken world.