By Raymond E. Harris
During the past couple years we have heard a great out pouring of pros and cons concerning the “Bus Ministries.” It seems to be a subject most church members feel rather strongly about. They are either strongly in favour or utterly against the church bussing programs. ‘This has caused no little stir within churches all across the country.
However, until now we were uncertain as to public reaction. Now we are beginning to learn that the general public is not nearly as excited about church bussing programs as the bus promoters would have us believe.
Recently negative reaction caught on in Bloomington, Indiana, where a number of letters came in to the newspaper editor. That was followed by newspaper articles revealing various problems with “candy giving bus drivers.” In an article entitled “Evangelists Sour Tulip Tree Parents on Sweet Religion,” Alan Kinney of the Bloomington Herald Telephone, reports the following:
Parents for years have instructed their children never to accept a ride or candy from strangers. But some parents at the Tulip Tree Apartments (I.U. married housing) complain they have a harder job because of the methods some area churches employ to get children to ride their buses on Sunday mornings.
“Just last Saturday morning I heard a man tell one of the kids to he sure to come to church tomorrow and check out an the free gum and candy. I’m trying to teach my daughter not to take anything from strangers, but they’re not malting my job easier,” said a mother at Tulip Tree.
Another mother said that she had seen a bus parked in the circle drive at Tulip Tree every Saturday morning all summer.
“They waited for children to walk past the bus, and then one of the men jumped out of the bus, shook hands with all of the kids, and gave them candy and gum. My kids are cavity prone, and this man isn’t helping my husband or myself with the dentist bills. Why should he be allowed to give my children candy in the first place?”
The Reverend Oliver Rogers, minister of the North Central Church of Christ, 2121 N. Dunn, said his church has an active bus program at the Tulip Tree Apartments. He said he saw nothing wrong with giving the children “little gifts as a reward for coming to church.” This practice was never meant to entice the children to ride the bus, he said.
“We place brochures under the doors at the Tulip Tree Apartments inviting children to come to the free puppet show in our bus,” Rogers said, “When the show is over, we always try to have a little gift for the children.”
“We are having a contest on our buses where the bus director, Joe Bernhardt, is offering the child that brings the most visitors a small radio. This is merely for incentive purposes, the same incentive a business man would receive to do a better job,” Rogers said.
“I took my children to the puppet show that had Bruce and the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. We were notified of this by a note under the door and the note said nothing to the effect that this was church-oriented. I think it is deceitful to use something a child loves to push religion down their throats,” another mother said.
The Reverend Herbert Buff, minister of the First Assembly of God, 801 Mattock Road, said area churches compete for children, but the children also compete to ride on certain buses.
“We have what we call a McDonalds Sunday, where we take the children to McDonalds for a treat after church. Many times we’ve heard of children riding our bus rather than a different bus because we were going to McDonalds, and the other churches were only giving out bubble gum,” he said.
From the foregoing interviews it is obvious that many of the parents up and down church bus routes resent the bus ministries intrusion into their family affairs. Little children are gullible enough to want to accept candy and gum anywhere they can get it. However, older children and adults are perceptive enough to spot the religious con of reward motivation. It would be interesting to know the average age of the bus riders, how many are baptized and what percentage stick. If all those facts could be viewed 10 years from now in the light of bussing costs for 10 years, it would be interesting to know how many will still call bussing an “Expedient.”
Truth Magazine, XX:24, p. 6
June 10, 1976