What is the Bus Ministry?

By Mike Willis

In recent years, the liberals have mimicked the denominations in their involvement in the bus ministry. Whereas I had grown rather accustomed to seeing the parking lots of the denominations filled with buses, I have been shocked to see the Lord’s churches become involved in such nonsense. Yet, they have buried themselves in all of the promotional tactics used by the denominations.

Perhaps we should begin this article with a definition of a “bus ministry.” Like the youth ministry, campaign ministry, campus ministry, and youth camp ministry, the bus ministry is not mentioned in the Bible. Hence, to define what a bus ministry is, requires us to consult the materials published by those involved in them. Contrary to the impressions which some leave, the bus ministry is not just a method of providing transportation to those who would like to attend worship but have no way.

When most people start a bus program they think about a large number of small busses going out and bringing in people to the services who are already interested in coming to the church services and they will come because of free transportation. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Basically, the bus ministry is not a matter of transportation. It is a matter of personal interest.

Please erase from your mind that the bus ministry is simply transportation for people that have no other way to get to church. In many of the homes contacted, you will find two automobiles in the front yard but would never drive on to church services (Russell L. Sample, Reaching The Common Man With The Gospel of Christ Through The Bus Ministry, pp. 5-6).

We must approach the Bus Ministry with the realization that it IS NOT a transportation system. Greyhound and Trailways busses operate in most towns, and they are fine transportation systems, but they don’t bring very many people to church services. Many people have the idea that the church should buy a bus or two, and go out and bring in all the poor people who do not have a way. This could not be farther from the truth. An effective Bus Evangelism program is built on people, bus workers who love the Lord and who love souls (Toby Quinn, Bring Them In With Buses!, pp. 5-6).

Hence, the bus ministry is not just providing transportation to the underprivileged who have no way to attend services. It is a means used to help a congregation to grow. Hence, we need to find out whether or not it is a scriptural means. To do so, one will have to learn more about the bus ministry as it is presently being operated. No one, to my knowledge, is opposed to the church making arrangements to provide transportation to those who have no transportation to and from services. A better understanding of the bus ministry will clarify the opposition to it.

Class Evangelism

The bus ministry is a pure example of class evangelism. It was never intended to reach all men. It is designed to reach the children-persons generally to young to be obedient to the gospel of Christ. Notice the following quotations as evidence of this fact:

Look for children playing or play equipment and toys. Go after the children first but do not neglect the opportunity to bring any and all of the family. Consider every person with whom you talk a prospective rider! The bulk of the children who ride will be between the ages of four years and twelve years old. The largest percentage of these will probably be five years old through nine years old. However, many teens and adults will also ride (Carl W. Wade, Joy Bus Evangelism, p. 27).

Look for children! In order to establish a new route, some of the workers, along with the captain of the bus that will run the route, need to ride through certain areas and look for signs of a good route. Usually, housing projects, college or university dorms, trailer parks, military installations, subdivisions, etc., in the cities are likely places for finding many children. Look for a concentrated population. Watch for tricycles, bicycles, swing sets, toys, etc., in the yard. Remember your appeal is to and for children. Rural routes can be very profitable (Albert Hill, On the Move With Bus Evangelism, p. 49).

Keep in mind that your main appeal is for children — children that are not going anywhere regularly to Sunday School (Ibid., p. 52).

Don’t ask the parents to ride. If you do, most of them take it as an insult. They may have three cars sitting in the yard. Go after the children. Forget about the parents for the time being. You will reach them later, after a number of visits to their home on Saturdays by the bus captain (Ibid., p. 53).

The bus ministry is aimed at bringing large numbers of children to worship services. As a matter of fact, bus workers are told not to waste their time trying to convert adults.

The Devil is extremely shrewd. As you visit your bus route, you may run into a Jewish Rabbi, a Roman Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, or a person of another religious sect. You might think — well, if I could convert just one of these fellows the Church would really sit up and take notice of me Sunday, and this could be possible but not likely.

The thing that will happen is this. The first thing you will notice is that you haven’t converted anyone of these fellows, and you have lost most of your time (Russell L. Sample, Reaching the Common Man With the Gospel of Christ Through the Bus Ministry, p. 15).

Inasmuch, as the bus ministry is aimed at children, all kinds of gimmicks are used to persuade the children to ride the bus. Here are the instructions given for soliciting riders:

The Captain is responsible for all visitation. It must be planned and supervised by the bus captain. All bus routes must be visited three hours or more each Saturday. Always visit when you can talk to Mother, Dad and Children. This way you can get a “Yes, my children can ride the bus Sunday.” We always work for a yes, not a no.

When we knock on the door and Mother answers we always start a conversation with her and Dad. When you see two or three children peek around behind Mother’s skirt, reach in your pocket and get a piece of candy or gum and give it to the children. Mother is thinking by now this man likes my child. She says, “I think I will let the children go with you Sunday!” On we go to the next call (Ibid., p.. 13).

If they have children, ask to see the children. Show interest in the children. Ask them about their interests, etc. For example, if they come up with a ball glove, take time to talk to them about ball. Give them some bubble gum or candy (Albert Hill, op. cit., pp. 52-63).

EQUIPMENT-You will need whatever flyer, booklet, ad, or handbill which the church is using to advertise your bussing program. Also, have on a name tag, pencil, enrollment cards (3×5 plain cards will suffice in the beginning), other tracts which might introduce the church to strangers and your “treats” for the bus riders. Candy (1, 2 pieces), bubble gum, balloons, suckers, etc. are appropriate to be given to regular bus riders and prospective riders. Carry these in a pocket or purse. Do not carry a gob of such “goodies” to the door with you.

Always gain permission from the parent or guardian to give the child the treat. Some children are cautioned against receiving treats from strangers. Be careful to not be offensive or show offense if they refuse. It is good to have on a Joy Bus pin or a name tag identifying you as being from the church. This will help to make people more receptive. Use the treats to gain the attention of the prospective rider. Carry one of two pieces of the treats in your hand ready for use. Never, never take back a treat if a child declines to ride the bus! These should be given generously and freely. Your partner should be carrying the enrollment cards and be ready to take down any and all pertinent information as you conduct the conversation with child and parent, or with the child alone (Carl W. Wade, op. cit., p. 27).

“Hello, I’m your Joy Bus worker! (Smile) Johnny and Suzie ride our Joy Bus to church. Are they home? Fine, I have a piece of bubble -gum for them and I want to tell them about our picnic tomorrow after services!” Many children are shy until they see the “treat”! Extend it quickly and be friendly! Close with, “We’ll see you in the morning at o’clock.” Be sure to talk with the parents if they are readily available! Children forget quickly. Leave a doorknob hanger where they are not at home. Call back. Telephone later that evening if they are still not at home. If a special award or “treat” is being given away the next day, then take along a sample to each stop and show the children what they’ll receive if they ride. Listen to the child also! Be a friend. Remember to be “Christ-like”! (Ibid., p. 30).

This touches only the tip of a great iceberg. The bus ministry thrives on reward motivation, usually called promotion.

Promotional Tactics

To show you that I have not misrepresented the bus ministry, I want to quote the blatant advice given concerning reward motivation.

The children begin to consider you somewhere between an uncle or an aunt and a grandma or grandpa! We give our children a token of our love each week in a form of a piece of bubble gum or a sucker. One little girl who had just been riding the bus for about three weeks answered my Saturday morning knock at her door. Seeing me standing there she threw open the door, went running back through the house shouting, “Mama, mama, it’s the bubble gum man!” At least I’ve left a sweeter taste in her mouth than some church members have in the attitude the community has of them (Ibid., pp. 15-16).

Before the first run of the bus, plans should have been made and formulated for the first month’s promotions. Gum, candy, balloons, fellowship, picnic, etc., whatever you determine to use should be prepared for, the member workers informed and drilled on how they will be used, such promotions purchased and available on the proper day (Ibid., p. 35).

Bible Award

A nice award Bible, with flexible binding is given to each new rider who rides several weeks in a row (4, 6, 8 or 10 weeks. Allowances are made for sickness and families being out of town. Bibles in differing colors are available. It is a good idea to carry one with you to show prospective riders ….

Kite Sunday

One Sunday in the early spring, have “kite ” Sunday. Every child attending Sunday School or riding the bus receives an inexpensive kit. Kites should be ordered in wholesale quantities from a supply house or get a local merchant to give you a discount on large quantity orders.

In presenting kites you can teach: “As you fly this kite, the wind blows it. You cannot see the wind, but it is there. You cannot see God, but He is always with us. As you look up in the sky and see the clouds, remember Christ is in heaven and wants you to be there with Him one day. And, we give you this kite because we love you.” (Also, teach safety in flying the kite.) We try to teach some type of lesson with each award!

Birthday Sunday

Pick one Sunday each month (the same one each time) for “Birthday” Sunday. (You may have a Birthday Wednesday the same week also.) Every child who has a birthday that month receives a cupcake with a candle and some little inexpensive gift. Sing “Happy Birthday” to each one with a birthday that month. The secretary may want to send out birthday cards in the mail! All riders love to receive mail addressed personally to them. Teach about Christ’s birth.

Freedom Sunday

The Sunday before the Fourth of July have “Freedom” Sunday. Do not give firecrackers! But give little flags or something along this line. Teach how Jesus has “set us free” from our sins!

Other Holidays

Use other Holidays in a similar manner. HALLOWEEN-Teach the truth about witches, goblins, etc. THANKSGIVING-Teach about being thankful for all of God’s blessings. Give some appropriate treat. Have the parents and children to come for a fellowship dinner prepared by the church. CHRISTMAS-Have a special party for the children of the Sunday School and see that each receives a special gift. Teach sharing and Acts 20:35. Our ladies have spent the entire year in preparing for this season in making gifts: stuffed animals, scarves, “paperclip” necklaces, etc., for the children. These are inexpensive and many get involved in this project. FATHER’S DAY and MOTHER’S DAY. Some inexpensive gift can be given to the child so he may give it to his father/or mother. Teach appreciation and obedience to parents.

Religious Holidays

As with Christmas and other religious holidays, we make it a point to teach the truth about such. We do not approach it in a negative but rather in a positive manner.

That is, we should teach the facts about Christ’s birth, but do it early, and teach that we do not know the date and that we are commanded to observe the Lord’s Supper, but not his birth.

Fellowship Sunday

To the children we announce a party perhaps two or three weeks ahead. They enjoy such, as do adults, in coming together to eat. Caution: in bus programs with 150-200 or more in attendance, it is difficult to have an orderly fellowship with cramped conditions. It may be advisable to have the fellowship with one or two busses at a time. PICNIC-Reserve a city park and encourage the congregation to commit themselves to preparing a picnic for the children of the Sunday School and the visiting parents.

It is easier also to have the children to bring a sandwich lunch for such occasions with their name on the sack. The church furnishes the drinks and desserts. The adults should eat the same type of lunch as the children!

Zoo Sunday

Take the children to the local zoo. A good time to teach about the Creation or Noah and the Ark with real, living, visual aids!

Sweetest Sunday

For all who ride the bus, give a gift bag or basket of candy, gum, suckers, etc. Teach about love and how it makes everyone “sweet”!

Dairy Queen

Take all bus riders to Dairy Queen on a particular Sunday or Wednesday after services! For ones bringing visitors give bigger treat: 1 visitor, double-dip; 2 visitors, sundae; 3 or more, banana split.

Pie Face

Children like “fun” things! Just for fun the bus captain could set a goal for the bus to reach in riders (high but realistic. If they reach the goal, then the captain gets a pie in the face! The one who brings the most visitors will be permitted to do the honors.

Fishing For Men

An award of a fishing outfit (s) is presented to the rider who brings the most visitors during the month. Each Sunday one brings a visitor he or she gets to “fish” in a large box for an award. (A fish pond of gifts could be constructed and each one bringing a visitor gets to “fish” for his award with a pole.)

Auction Sunday

Play money is awarded to the child during the month for special achievement. $15.00, perfect attendance; $2.00 each Sunday attends; $10.00 first time visitor; $5.00 each next visit; $20.00 each parent or adult (over 18) brought. Bus secretary keeps an accurate record of money awarded. Play money is given each week on return home trip. The last Sunday of the month an auction is held. Gifts of all types and price ranges are available for the children to “buy”: balloons, pens, books, puzzles, Bibles, radios, etc. (Ibid., pp. 48-51 ).

You may want to use promotion for the total program. The boy or girl who brings the most for a certain period of time will be given a Bible, the New Testament on records, a radio, a watch, a special trip, etc.

You may want to encourage promotion from a competition standpoint. As competition between busses or captains. A picnic or special outing will be given to the bus that wins. The captain and his family might be sent on a trip to another city for a weekend to observe a successful bus program.

Then there is specific promotion used on the individual busses. The captain and his workers should come up with a good promotion for their bus. They may give away prizes to hard working individuals or reward the whole group for their effort, by stopping at a hamburger place, after the Sunday night service, and buy them all a hamburger and a coke, etc. Use your imagination and you can come up with all types of legitimate promotion.

We stress to the children in our bus work that they do not come to church to play or be entertained, but they are coming to worship God and learn more about Jesus. This will pay off in the long run. If you seek to be sensational, it will last momentarily — soon it will cease to be interesting to the children. We emphasize that there will be occasions when we will have picnics, parties, entertainment, etc., but not during the services at church.

We give every child that rides the bus a treat when they get off the bus at home. It may be penny or nickle candy, bubble gum, a little toy, a Bible marker or a pencil with the name of the church on it. Do not give them anything before church and you better wait until they get off the bus to reward them for their faithfulness (Albert Hill, op cit., p. 74).

These quotations are sufficient to establish the fact that reward motivation is a vital part of the bus ministry. As a matter of fact, as go the promotions so goes the bus ministry. When the gimmicks cease, the riders will quit showing up. Reward motivation has probably been one of the most obvious things which has stirred up opposition to the bus ministry.

Truth Magazine XXII: 19, pp. 307-310
May 11, 1978