We have a slightly morbid checks and balances litmus test that we ask in our family ministry team meetings. It’s called the Bus Test.
Initially, the Bus Test started out as a joke between friends. It’s now a question that we ask before every event, large or small, to make sure that no one person is placing the full responsibility of an event on their shoulders. But, to understand the Bus Test, you have to understand our team dynamic.
As a family staff, we all have primary and secondary responsibilities.
We have a fairly traditional org chart. Our family ministry director (myself) has multiple part-time assistant directors who’s primary responsibilities are defined by the age group that they minister best to. Our team has an assistant director for Early Childhood (Delfa Matic), Elementary (Staci Travisano), Jr. High (Scott Boss) and a ministry intern coordinating High School (Johnny Lambert).
Our secondary responsibilities help define our rolls in the day to day planning and execution of events and programs. Our EC director is amazing when it comes to volunteer recruitment and support – so, she’s my go-to when it comes to all things volunteer related. Our Elem director throws an amazing party – so she coordinates and executes our large events and parties. Our Jr. High guy is an amazing idea guy – when I need to dream, he’s the guy I go to if I want to think out of the box. In fact, I love our secondary rolls so much that I’d almost rather have “Director of Volunteers”, “Director of Special Events” and “Idea Specialist” on their job titles than what they currently have.
Because we have multiple tiers of responsibilities, our staff cross-pollinates when it comes to events and programs. We share the burden of event planning because we all have a say in the lead up and execution of our events and programs. Nobody has their own program or event – our church’s name is on the line every time a team member steps into ministry… so, we all make sure to care deeply about areas outside of our job title.
So… back to the Bus Test.
The Bus Test is simple: A month before an event or program launches, and each week during the lead up, we ask each other this question, “If I got hit by a bus tomorrow, would you know what to do?” The answer isn’t “call 911″… well, it IS that… but it’s also a way for us to consider the fact that an event or program will fail if only one person holds all of the information leading up to that event in their head. Asking this question FORCES us to share information and delegate. It also has forced us to watch out for buses when we’re out and about… but the paranoia is a reasonable side effect from constantly reminding each other of our mortality.
We might not get hit by actual buses while we’re out and about, but life does hit us at some pretty crazy times. Recently, the Bus Test has proven priceless for our team. Last week, as we were gearing up for our church’s annual Halloween Festival, one of our team members was summoned for jury duty (we were able to pull strings and get her dates changed… but it was a close one!). This week, one of our team members (currently working on graduate work at Fuller Seminary) is in the midst of midterms… as if the seminary didn’t even care that one of our largest Student Ministry’s outreach events, Glenkirk’s Great Gorilla Hunt, is this Saturday.
I suffer from frequent migraines (they rarely call ahead and ask if I’m busy before they decide to come around) and our teams, paid and volunteer, have learned to share the load in case I’m not able to see an event through from beginning to end. But, because the Bus Test is part of the culture of our team, we’re able to cover for each other and carry on in the midst of momentary crisis.
I’d encourage you, even if you don’t want to use something as frightening as the Bus Test in your ministry area, to consider asking the team around you if they know enough to execute the programs and ministries you’re a part of in your absence. It’s a good habit to get into… even if it’s a hard one to start.