By Robert Carnes
Ride sharing drivers fall into one of two categories—either they don’t say a word, or they won’t stop talking. Once while getting a ride to the airport, I had a driver who was firmly in the latter category. But I didn’t mind because of what he had to say.
During the ride, the driver told me he was driving with Lyft to earn money in between jobs. He’d lost his last job because he was too busy getting chemotherapy to treat his second bout with cancer.
Despite his situation, the driver was upbeat and positive. He said God had put him in this situation for a reason—to use ride sharing as his mission field. He shared several stories of how he’d witnessed to riders and prayed for a few more. He even claimed he’d talked one young man he drove out of committing suicide.
I thanked the driver for the ride, the conversation, and the work he was doing to share Jesus with people who needed it. Here was a guy who had every reason to give up or complain, but he was using his circumstances to its fullest potential.
Get Into Your Community
On the flight home following my memorable Lyft trip, I had a lot of time to think about how the church could learn from this humble driver. With the right attitude in the right environment, he was personally ministering to people in his community.
He was first and foremost providing a service (transportation) people needed. But he went above and beyond by having real conversations with people. He could relate to their struggles because he had experienced plenty of struggles himself.
And so I started thinking: what would it look like if local churches started a ride sharing ministry?
The local church has all kinds of opportunities to serve people, address real issues, and build meaningful relationships in their community. Maybe ride sharing is just another tool in the ministry toolbox.
It might take thinking outside of the box, but it also might be well worth the effort.
Start a Ride Sharing Ministry
I have a radical suggestion—your church should start a ride sharing ministry.Ride sharing creates an opportunity to engage and invite.Recruit a few willing volunteers with valid driver’s licenses and working cars. Have them register to drive for a ride sharing service—Uber and/or Lyft. They’ll have to pass a background check, but they should already be doing that to volunteer at your church.
Gather these volunteers. Thank them for what they’re doing. And explain the importance of reaching the community. Give them some guidance on how to listen to people and have gospel conversations.
Your volunteers might actually find this makes it easier to share about their faith. It’s outside of a church, so people are less guarded. Over time, they’ll learn how to turn small talk into meaningful conversations. And they’ll get multiple chances each time they drive.
What This Can Accomplish
The key is to provide opportunities for conversations with people who might never come to your church. The drivers can certainly invite riders in search of a church home to visit your campus (you might even equip each car with a church bumper sticker).
But, remember, you’re trying to reach people where they are. Ride sharing creates an opportunity to engage and invite.
Encourage your volunteers to start with a conversation that relates to the rider. Give them a positive first impression that opens the door to a faith conversation.
Ride sharing is part of the gig economy, so your drivers will be making money through the ride sharing service. You’ll want to decide up front with your volunteers how to handle the income.A ride sharing ministry is a great way for your church to assess the real issues and needs of the community.Will the volunteers keep it to help cover wear and tear on their cars? Or will the money be donated to missions or perhaps a local charity.
If you decide to donate the money, consider placing a sign in the back seat of the car where the riders will notice it. Hopefully, they’ll appreciate your church’s generosity.
Perhaps best of all, a ride sharing ministry is a great way for your church to assess the real issues and needs of the community. Plan on regrouping with the volunteers regularly to ask them what they heard.
What are people’s concerns? Did they have hesitations about discussing church?
This is a pretty radical idea. Then again, so was Uber when it first launched. Now, it’s a service used by millions of people daily. This is a huge, untapped opportunity to spread the gospel.
And yes, there’s a chance it could go poorly. People might hate it, especially if they have a negative experience with your volunteer drivers.
If a rider has a bad experience it can affect the driver’s rating. That’s why it’s important to pick the right people and teach them how to gauge a person’s interest and be sensitive to the community’s needs.
There’s nothing in the Uber or Lyft legal guidelines that restrict you from having a religious conversation with people. But keep in mind you can’t discriminate who you pick up based on race or religion.
But isn’t all of this worth the risk to help uplift your community and show them your church genuinely cares about them?
How can your church use ride sharing apps for outreach?
ROBERT CARNES (@jamrobcar) is a writer and storyteller who writes for a number of church marketing and communications blogs. He is the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. Carnes works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta, where he lives with his wife, Victoria.