By Tim Massengale
Question: How can we see our bus ministry grow? We only have about six riders every Sunday. I want to see our bus filled up! Any suggestions?
Answer: Yes! I suggest you plan at least six bus ministry attendance drives per year. Use a variety of methods. Here are some promotional methods to consider.
1. Team-Based Sunday School Attendance Contest
There are two key times this seems to work best: Easter and Pentecost Sunday. This tends to be a very intense contest, so only doing this once a year is recommended. But it will give you more bus kids than any other method I have seen.
Promotion is planned around a special event (for example, a drama on Easter or a Sunday School picnic and service in the park on Pentecost Sunday). Start six weeks before the event. Divide the church into two or three equal teams. Make a list of entire church membership – even occasional attendees. Let the team members select their own team, taking turns picking families. Do not divide families if possible. Let team captains choose families, and then use singles to balance up teams at the end. Divide up the bus riders also.
Each team is given a good team captain. Each team comes up with a name, team color, team logo, slogan, etc. This builds team identity. Team excitement is key. Teams meet in private rooms after Sunday evening service and/or Bible study night. The team plans its strategy on how they will bring the most visitors the coming Sunday. It is strongly recommended that each team be assigned a bus. This may require borrowing or renting one or two extra buses for the duration of the contest. If you use only one bus, each team gets to count the riders they find and are picked up.
The team goal is to bring the most visitors, and fill up the bus(es). The team meeting is absolutely critical to the success of this kind of contest. Saturday door knocking and visitation to get bus kids is pretty standard for each team. Each team plans their own method to get visitors and kids. Prizes and giveaways are done on the buses.
Time is given on Sunday night to announce the winning team. Each team leader testifies and encourages team. At the end of the contest, the team with the most visitors (including bus kids) wins. The winning team is served dinner by losing teams. Steak for winners, hamburgers for losers.
2. Friend Sunday
Utilize the Friend Sunday method developed by Elmer Towns. Purchase Friend Day Resource Packet. Use this classic Friend Day program with a unique twist…bring a child to church. It works best when you follow the classic Friend Day program. Put the emphasis on bus ministry.
3. Classroom Contest
Select your primary and junior age classes and divide the class into two teams. Give each team a good team captain. Each team meets each Sunday morning briefly after SS class to plan their winning strategy.
The emphasis is “friends bringing friends.” Each child selects two or three kids they are going to try and bring the next Sunday. Call them several times during the week to encourage them to follow through. Award prizes for winning team.
4. Bus Saturday Visitation
Take the bus out on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visit neighborhoods with lots of kids. An on-bus PA system is a must to attract kids to bus for giveaway. Give away popsicles or snow-cones or others. Invite all who come to bus to ride the bus the next morning. Should be a good promotion at church; money or candy rain works well. Hot Fudge Sundae Sunday is also good. Get permission from parents to pick up the next morning. Be sure to call 45 minutes before bus arrives to help wake up and encourage riders to get ready.
5. Regular Special Sunday Promotions
At least monthly, have a special Sunday treat or event for your bus kids: Snowcone Sunday, Hot Dog Sunday, Clown Sunday, Balloon Sunday, Treasure Chest Sunday, etc. Use your imagination. This greatly helps keep excitement up. Offer a special prize on this Sunday to all who bring a friend with them.
6. Reach Out to Parents
The key here is to visit parents on Saturday and build a relationship. Then encourage a home Bible study or church attendance. Parents are your best supporter for Bus Ministry. Win their friendship. Then win them to God.
7. Annual Children’s Crusade
Once a year, bring in a good children’s evangelist for a children’s revival. However, rather than just any child evangelist, look specifically for one with good Bus Ministry success and ideas. There are a number of them.
8. Visit a Church with a Growing, Successful Bus Ministry
Call first and ask to be shown the bus ministry in action. Ask questions. Get ideas. Ask about promotions and what has worked for them.
In all the above, good follow-up is essential. Once a child comes on the bus, or is a potential bus rider, getting good follow up information, sending a welcome postcard, meeting parents, and contacting them whenever they are absent are basics of building a good bus ministry.