Save on Gas and Grow in Fellowship: Three Steps to Carpooling to Church

[Ed. note: This article is part of our weekly series of church activities, called Cultivating Community, published on Thursdays.]

If you read the comics in your local paper, you’re probably familiar with the antics and mishaps of the Bumstead family in the strip “Blondie” by Dean Young. And you know that some of the comic strip’s funniest sequences occur

Traffic jam in the rain.

Avoid traffic jams and car pollution by taking more cars off the road: carpool! (cc image courtesy nicpic via flickr)

around Dagwood Bumstead’s work carpool—an eclectic gathering of coworkers who put up with Dagwood’s routine tardiness getting out of the door in the morning.

“Blondie’s” carpool setting seems quaint in today’s multi-car-family society. And it’s true that carpooling has declined in popularity—from 19.1 million workers carpooling to the office in 1980 to 15.4 million doing the same in 1990. Still, the economic recession, high gas process, a growing awareness of automobile pollution’s effects on the environment, increasingly available ride-share and car-share systems, and pop-culture references to carpooling might bring it back into style.

Fashionable or not, carpooling deserves at least a second look from Christian stewards. Carpooling even once a week can cut down on our travel costs and air pollution. The weekly trip to church gives us the perfect opportunity to get to know one another better, reduce harm to the atmosphere we rely on, and attest to God’s sovereignty over creation with a witness of good stewardship and community building.

Here are three steps to setting up a carpooling system that can be tailored to your church’s needs and capacities:

1. Sign Up
Through an informational meeting or via literature passed out to your congregation, ask members who are interested in carpooling to sign up on a sheet you make available after services for several weeks. On the sign-up sheet include columns for folks’ contact information, street address, which church service they attend, how many open seats they have in their vehicle, how many household members will need a ride each week, and whether they would be willing to be a neighborhood’s carpool organizer.

2. Map it Out
According to the information you collect from the sign-up sheets, and using a mapping resource such as MapQuest or Google Maps, map out “carpool clusters” in the neighborhoods or street grids where church members live. Then contact the folks who indicated their willingness to be neighborhood carpool organizers and explain to them the locations and capacities (vehicle availability, number of drivers, etc.) of their cluster. They will then be able to organize their carpool cluster into actual routes, times, and volunteer schedules.

3. Make it Worth it

Carpool street sign.

Carpools get perks all the time. Make sure they get some at church, too! (cc image courtesy Richard Drdul via flickr)

Of course carpooling church will be an adjustment and even an inconvenience by some standards. It won’t always work perfectly, either. But it will build community among your church family as folks steward creation (and their own financial resources) together.

Still, it will help to motivate carpooling church members (and encourage even more folks to drive together) by creating some incentives for carpooling and ways to show appreciation for those who participate. Here are some ideas:

  • Reserved Parking – Consult with the person or team in charge of maintaining, directing, or regulating traffic and parking on the church property to negotiate reserved spots for carpool vehicles. The guarantee of a parking spot each week (especially one close to the church’s entrance) helps out carpools that might be running later than other folks on a Sunday morning.
  • Gas Cards – Gift each carpool cluster—or even each vehicle in each cluster, if funds are available—with a gift card to a local gas station. If a carpooling group’s first run is free for the drivers, the task will be that much easier and more appealing.
  • Car Wash – If your church sponsors a car wash to raise money for missions or youth group projects, give carpooling vehicles vouchers for a free wash.
  • Free Stuff – Travel mugs, key chains, totes, and other travel-related gifts printed with your church’s logo help carpoolers feel appreciated and affirmed in their service to your church community.
  • Thanks and Recognition – From thanking carpools from the pulpit and praying publicly for their safety each week to sending them thank-you cards every now and then, tangibly recognizing and appreciating carpool participants will encourage them to keep up the good work.

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  1. I’ve been suggesting carpooling to my church, but like many things at church, no one wants to devote their time to this. Most people would join a carpool, but they are not willing to do the work to make it happen. At the church I am at the staff gives little in the way of thanks. Everyone seems to think that if you are volunteering for God, so that is thanks enough.

  2. Anthony,
    Thanks for reading! My advice would be to keep on suggesting carpooling to your church, or, better yet, organize one yourself. Gather a group of friends together and start carpooling. Sometimes having something tangible that people can see working is a great way to encourage change. Other than that, be patient with your church. Every church is made up of fallen people whom God is slowly saving. I’d suggest graciously bringing up your concerns with your church’s staff. I know when I was on staff with a church I appreciated it when people helped me see my church’s weaknesses and were willing to be a part of turning those weaknesses into strengths. Thanks for the comment. -Andy

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