My School Bus Youth Ministry

I will never forget the day I decided I would drive school bus.  It was never something I had thought about, but a friend of mine really wanted to.  It was my freshmen year of college and I was not thinking about getting a job.  I was thinking about figuring out how this college thing worked.  But, it wasn’t long until I had been hired and licensed as a school bus driver.  As it turns out, driving school bus was a key part of shaping me for ministry and life beyond college.  I just wasn’t aware of it yet.

I started on a bus that was cleverly named “the bus from hell” because it was the bus no one wanted.  In fact, it had seen a cycle of drivers come and go because of this reputation.  These kids were not very trusting of the drivers they had.   I was excited for the challenge!  To make matters even more interesting, the bus was full.  It was not uncommon to have 65 middle and high school students in an 85 passenger bus.  I know that doesn’t seem full, but when you consider the capacity is based on three in a seat, you know it is full.

As I went through my youth ministry classes in college, while driving bus,  I came to realize that much of what I was facing on the bus was a picture of youth ministry.  Many of the same issues I faced then I later faced in the local church setting.  Some of the dynamics of families, conflicts and counseling I also saw in both places.  Even the amount of time it really takes to build trust and relationships was remarkably similar.   I even had a few overbearing parents for good measure.  (Do you remember the story of Charlie?)  People are people no matter where they are and I found that the bus drivers who had the most success were also the drivers who had respect for their students.

For the next Sunday Series, I am going to unpack some of what I learned driving school bus.  It provides a nice story to revisit, but it also provides some conversation about student ministry.  In many ways I miss my bus because the time was so authentic, fun, energetic and exciting.  There were days I had to drive a little faster to get the kids off faster and there were days I had some very meaningful conversations on the bus.  Like I said, much like a typical youth ministry.

This series will begin next week.  I hope you find it to be interesting and encouraging.  Have a great Sunday!

Leadership Lessons from Deuteronomy 32

Today I thought I would do something completely different.  Over the last few years, I have developed a “spiritual formation” activity for my student leadership team.  I thought maybe I would share this year’s here, with the hope that it might be of use to others.  I have taken out youth group specific items to make it more useful to a wider audience.


Leadership Lessons from Deuteronomy 32
For Leadership Teams
Rev. Derek Mansker

What is this?

Leadership is about more than just showing up and having an up front presence.  Leadership is actually about having a heart that loves Jesus Christ and wants to lead others to do the same.  This activity is shorter than years past, but still will help you look inward at God’s specific work in your life.  Our example for what it means to be a leader comes from Jesus Christ.

How do I do this?

Your assignment is simply to read the verses indicated and interact with them in the context of your life.  Please do not just fill in the blanks to get it done.  Take some time with it, think about it and write down things that truly meant something to you.

“You will never become a servant leader until you become a servant to the Leader”  – Gene Wilkes

This activity is about getting closer to our leader, Jesus Christ.

Leadership – Starting right – “Am I spiritually healthy?”

Deuteronomy 32:2-6, 46-47

This section is about looking inward.  To be spiritually healthy is to love God and love others.  Jesus said, “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me.  He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him.”  – John 14:21

The things you say and do indicate what is going on in your life.  Jesus also said, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34

In fact, there is a progression to sin.  Read James 1:13-15 – What is the progression?

Read: Deuteronomy 32:2-6, 46-47

V2 – What does this verse say about the affects of this teaching?

V3-4- What do these verses say about God?

V5-6- What has happened?

V46-47 –  What does this tell us about God’s Word and obedience toward it?

If you are not spiritually healthy, you will not be obeying God’s Word.  The longer you stay there, the worse things become.  The people Moses are talking to here are no different than you are.  They had times when they were excited about God’s work in their midst and they had times when they forgot.  They even went so far as to create their own gods to worship instead of God.

How are you doing spiritually?  Why do you say that?

What has happened to direct you to the place you are at?  (i.e. hardship, questions, doubts, family problems, indifference to God etc.)

“If all you have to offer are words, few people will follow you.  Your example will give them a picture of what you are talking about.” Gene Wilkes — What picture are you giving?

Leadership – Seeing Other Believers- “Am I loving people here?”

Deuteronomy 32:8-14

This section is about looking inward and also outward.  In the context of this youth ministry, it is essential to love God and love others.  That starts right here with people who show up each week.  Jesus said, ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

We need to be aware of the people around us.  That means walking away from situations that are comfortable and walking into more awkward scenarios.  It means putting yourself in someone else’s place and trying to meet them where they are at.

Read: Deuteronomy 32:8-14

V8-9 – How does the Lord view His people?

V10-11- What do these verses say about God’s work on behalf of His people?

V12- What is significant about this verse?

God has cared for his people during some difficult times in the desert.  He had set them free from their captivity and had led them to the place they were in.  He had provided for them, listened to their needs, and showed patience with them.  This is very similar to what we are called to do as ministry leaders.

What are you doing to meet the needs of people around you?

How do you view people?  (i.e. are you a people person, do people annoy you etc.)

When someone irritates you, how do you treat them?  Is it right? Why?

Leadership – Seeing the Lost – “Am I loving people out there?

Deuteronomy 32:15-18, 36-38

This section is about looking at how you are ministering to people you know who are not followers of Jesus Christ.  We need to care about those people who do not know Jesus.  This is something that needs to be a part of your daily life wherever you are.  Jesus said, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. – Luke 15:9

Read: Deuteronomy 32:15-18, 36-38

V15-18 – What happened to the people?

V 15-18 – How is this similar to what people who don’t know Jesus are doing today?

V 36-38-   What is at stake when people choose to worship other things and reject God?

In a world where people are afraid to offend others, are we willing to take the risk and share the Gospel with people who need to hear?  In other words, if your friends don’t follow Jesus does it concern you?  Why?


I pray this encourages you and challenges you wherever you have influence.  God’s Word provides us with so much for daily life.  I hope that sharing this unique post will be useful to you.


Referenced Book: Gene Wilkes, Jesus on Leadership (Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1998)