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The Bus Test

03 Nov

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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.

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9 Comments

Posted by on November 3, 2010 in Kidmin

 

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9 responses to “The Bus Test

  1. Tim Miller

    November 6, 2010 at 10:36 am

    SO…do we make sure our church plants are all located near a bus stop? I really like the Bus Test. It keeps everyone in the loop. We have another way todeal with real life and the fact that people get sick or otherwise have emergencies, although I will add the Bus Test. For “events” Like VBS of Holiday events we over-recruit. Lots of assistants. It sometimes seems top-heavy, but it eliminates one person being responsible for everything. It means a lot more thank-you notes, but it takes pressure off everyone and gives many more people a piece of the pie for when we hand out the kudos.
    Oh, yea. And every leaders can more easily recruit their replacement because no one person ends up with an impossible job.

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    • Anthony Prince

      November 8, 2010 at 1:14 pm

      Tim – you’re totally right! We often work ourselves into pulling off jobs and rolls that would be impossible for anyone else to accomplish.
      By sharing the load, you make recruiting replacements a task that’s actually achievable!

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  2. Cheryl

    November 6, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    I love the bus test! I’m the one in charge of almost every program involving kids so I also feel the prseeure to get everyone up to speed daily…just in case! But the others that help out are never the ones coming to me with questions, just me always tring to fill them in. How should I approach them as far as stepping up to help lead, rather than just following me? I have the only ‘paid’ position and therefore the ‘leading’ always lands on me.

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    • Anthony Prince

      November 8, 2010 at 1:21 pm

      I’ve been in positions much like yours – where I was the only paid position running a full ministry (weekend, midweek and large events) for 100+ children… and, the idea behind the bus test is still important!

      I always start with the people who God has already placed around me who love the ministry we’re a part of. Don’t be afraid to plan a weekend off in a few months and ask those leaders to fill the gaps in your absence. When you return, there will be things that they loved and things they hated – begin giving the rolls that they loved filling over to them on a more constant rotation… even when you’re around.

      That’s where I’d start. I’d love to connect more to talk about the practical applications of the Bus Test – if you’re up for it, find me on facebook (www.facebook.com/anthonyprince) and we’ll continue the conversation!

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  3. Ellie Ferguson

    November 8, 2010 at 7:56 am

    I’ve never called it the “Bus Test” but I try to keep this in my mind always. My father-in-law is a funeral director so we talk about death a LOT! Ever since I was a manager of a video store I kept in mind that I could die between the time I left and the time I was to come back. I always wanted to make sure that things kept running. This is always in my mind too because we never know when God is going to call us somewhere else – we need to make sure that we have people trained so that His ministry doesn’t stop just because we might move on.

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    • Anthony Prince

      November 8, 2010 at 1:23 pm

      Ellie – sustainability is huge! I feel like one of the true tests of leadership is the legacy we leave behind when we’re gone – if a ministry fails because the leader has left, I think that’s often a good measure of how effective that leaders was.

      I love this line, “we need to make sure that we have people trained so that His ministry doesn’t stop just because we might move on.”

      Well said!

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  4. Hal Hunter

    November 8, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Year ago I worked for a man who constantly reminded me that I wasn’t all that important to the organization, but that the job I did was. If I left work and got run over by a garbage truck, someone else would be in my job the next day, and they needed to find my desk, my files, and my employees in such a condition that no one would miss me. This advice was both humbling and valuable.

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    • Anthony Prince

      November 8, 2010 at 1:26 pm

      That advice may have been humbling and valuable – but it’s also a little harsh!

      We jokingly call our process The Bus Test – but we rarely mention its name outside of close leadership circles because it can sound like we want our leaders to feel like they’re replaceable. Every person in your ministry should know that they’re valued and that the world is being changed because THEY are involved… not just because a warm body is wearing a nametag.

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