Five Things I Have Learned about Van Ministry
One of the most simultaneously frustrating and rewarding ministries I know of is the van ministry. In between planning, pickups, and drop offs, a lot of time and energy can go into a van ministry. However, the van ministry is also a powerful tool to bring people to church who would otherwise have no other way to get there.
I have been involved with van ministry from the start of my experience in Deaf ministry. When I was just learning sign language, I was a “Van Captain.” My responsibilities were to free up the driver so that he could drive by taking care of everything else. After a couple of years of doing that, when I moved to my current area, I became the only person doing the van ministry. So, for the past several years I have helped, plan, and drove for van ministries.
I have also learned a few things which will hopefully help you. Through my mistakes (a lot of mistakes) and a few successes, I hope I can share a few things with you that will help you with your van ministry.
How can you have an effective van ministry?
- Keep people responsible for themselves. This was a hard one for me. I use to call every single rider every single week to see if they wanted a ride. It worked fine when I had one or two pick ups. However, when I started getting into the double digits, it was not sustainable. I would end up spending a lot of time calling people a tracking people down last minute. Finally, I simply told everybody that, if they want a ride, they need to call me by 9:00pm Saturday night. Once I started this, I was afraid our riders would just disappear. However, everyone called at 9:00pm Saturday night! It was amazing! Keep people responsible for themselves. It will make your life easier and most people do not mind.
- Keep boundaries. You need boundaries in your ministry. In my van ministry, I have a distance limit on how far I am willing to go to pick people up. I also have the time boundary which I wrote about above. If someone calls on Sunday morning looking for a ride, I cannot get them. I also refuse to pick up or drop off a lady alone. Those are some examples I have set up in my van ministry that are hard and fast rules by which we operate.
- Be flexible. Sometimes, things go wrong. More than once, I went to pick up people and another ministry thought they had reserved the van! So, I had to call around, find the van, and be late picking up everyone. Sometimes, things go wrong, and the best you can do is remain flexible.
- Be evangelistic. What a great opportunity to witness to people! You are sitting in a van with them for sometimes an hour or more. Take the opportunity to get to know them and ask some of those truly important questions.
- Be direct. This is another one I have learned from my mistakes. I use to struggle a lot with “beating around the bush” whenever there was an issue picking up someone. For example, we had a Deaf/ Blind lady who came for a long time. Sometimes, if an interpreter was out and I know we did not have enough interpreters to cover it, I would wait until the last minute to let her know, hoping that the problem would solve itself. Normally, issues do not solve themselves when we don’t do anything. So, I had to get comfortable telling her directly that we just did not have enough interpreters for that day. Thankfully, she was sweet and understanding about it, but often you just need to come out and say it sooner rather than later.
Van ministry takes quite a lot of time and effort. However, it can also be a rewarding and key to a successful Deaf ministry.
That’s a quick rundown of some of the things I have learned while working in van ministry. Van ministry takes quite a lot of time and effort. However, it can also be a rewarding and key to a successful Deaf ministry. I am not an end all be all when it comes to the van ministry, but I hope you can glean some useful practices from some of my mistakes and experiences.
Anything you would add? Let us know in the comments!