Menu Close

Bus Ministry Promotion: Bicycles, Money, and Hamburgers

somerset baptist church mt perry ohio 1987
I put the evangelism training I received at Midwestern Baptist College to work at Somerset Baptist Church, Mt Perry, Ohio, circa 1987. We had four bus routes that fanned out over a four-county area to bring children to church

I was privileged to pastor the fine people of Somerset Baptist Church, Mount Perry, Ohio for eleven years. During my tenure — thanks to our bus ministry — scores of people heard me preach. Using the methodology I was taught at Midwestern Baptist College, I became a modern-day Apostle Paul —  becoming all things to all men that I might by all means save some. Desiring to use any legal means possible to attract bus riders, I turned the church into a carnival sideshow. We would offer riders all sorts of incentives to ride on our church’s four busses and invite their friends, families, and neighbors to ride with them.

Several times a year, we would have what we called Hamburger Sunday. Most of the children and adults were poor — I mean dirt poor. Most church members and bus riders were on some form of public assistance. Eating at McDonald’s was a special occasion for them, so we used our knowledge of this to our advantage.

On Hamburger Sunday, every bus rider received a hamburger and a small drink at the McDonald’s in New Lexington. I warned the restaurant that we would be bringing a hundred or so children to their store; that we would need a hundred hamburgers and small drinks. We arrived at the restaurant around the Sunday lunch rush, so I can only imagine the chaos that ensued when we put in our order. (I was a general manager for several fast-food companies. I personally loved big orders, especially when buses showed up. My assistants were not as motivated as I was. All I saw was $$$. All they saw was “work.”) Hamburger Sunday was a lot of fun. I like to think that the bus children had an opportunity to experience something that was normally unavailable to them.

Some Sundays we would run the Mystery Seat promotion. Prior to leaving for their routes, I would have the route captains take money — $1, $5, and $10 bills) and tape them underneath a few of the seats. Whoever sat in that particular seat won the money.

One of the favorite promotions we ran was Bicycle Sunday. This was a multi-week contest we used to entice children to invite new people to church. The goal was always the same: increased attendance and salvation decisions. We bought a new ten-speed bike for every bus route. Over the course of the contest, the bus worker would keep track of who brought visitors. On the appointed Sunday, we would call the winner before the church body, thank them for their hard work, and award them a brand-spanking new bicycle. This was a big deal for these children. Most of them, if they had a bike at all, had junkers. I know my children did. Getting a new bike was a special moment for them. I only wish, in retrospect, that we could have purchased a new bike for every child.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Series Navigation<< Bus Ministry Promotion: Gobble, Gobble, Gobble


  1. Avatar

    The worst promotion I saw was when we (at LBT) had the feeding of the 5000 Sunday. We thought we would duplicate Jesus’s feet of feeding the 5000 with fish and bread. We were a little short in miracle-working power, so our plan was to buy fish sandwiches for everybody who came to church that day. And thus it was advertised. But then, somebody figured out we were a little short on money also. So they changed to giving people a coupon to buy one fish sandwich and get one free from McDonalds or Burger King, coupons that were given to us for free. That Sunday, hundreds of people rode the buses, expecting food on the way home, only to receive a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for fish sandwiches. 🙁

  2. Avatar

    It’s nice that the kids had a bit of joy. I wonder how well the bus ministry did? Are any of the kids still in the IFB? Does the Midwestern Baptist methodology work? I think winning the bike would be a great memory for a kid. I remember pulling out a Susan B. Anthony dollar in a sawdust coin search (the rest were pennies). I’m not sure if it the one in my coin collection or not though.

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away! If You Are a First Time Commenter, Please Read the Comment Policy Located at the Top of the Page.

Bruce Gerencser