Gospel Gimmicks: Ice Cream Bus Ministry

Want to get more kids to come to your Sunday School? Looking for a way to get more names and addresses of potential targets? Welcome to the exciting world of the Ice Cream Bus Ministry.

Listen to this Ice Cream Bus Ministry success story!

As an example, the first time a group of four women took one of our ice cream trucks into a neighborhood, they took 17 new names down and had 7 of those kids come to Sunday School and church the next Sunday. A week later, they received 13 new names. One week later, they received 23 new names. That is 53 new names in three weeks! In all my years of calling, I never have been that successful in getting new names for any bus route I did in such a short period of time…The only draw back I could see in this ministry is the workers getting overweight!

Gospel Baptist Church

And surely no parent would object to complete strangers handing out sugary foods in an attempt to get personal information and proselytize their children. Strangers with ice cream — what could be creepy about that?

66 thoughts on “Gospel Gimmicks: Ice Cream Bus Ministry”

  1. This sentence really bothers me;

    “We use only women outside the bus, for obvious reasons, and take the names of the kids who will give them to us.”

    Are they in complete denial that women can be pedophiles too? That there are women who like little boys or girls?

    Why do protestants give such a hard time to other denominations about abuse but give women in their church no accountability or oversight when it comes to kids?


  2. If I was a parent of a child approached in this way, I would be furious. This is simply taking advantage of young children. What if the next guy coming by driving an ice cream truck really is a pedophile and the children have been conditioned to tell the nice ice cream truck driver their names, ages, and where they live?

    This is such a bad idea on so many levels.

  3. Epic. Lulz. I was down at this exact church three weeks ago and parked next to that van. Something didn’t sit right when I saw it but obviously being a guest there are certain rules and protocols to follow. As a plus, they are registered with the Lee County Sheriff’s Department but certainly the concept is a precedent you might want to stay away from.

    I will say, though, that the folks at that church would put most other evangelicals to shame when it comes to giving out the Gospel. Say what you will about methods and motivations, but there are folks at that church who are committed to getting the gospel out to the greater Naples area. Any given Sunday, there’s usually a dozen or so first-time visitors from town who heard about the church from a friend or neighbor, or who simply found one of the several hundred tracts that the members leave around town. They’ve got John and Romans books printed out for people to give out, and they’ve got at least three (might be four) different languages available.

    So…yeah. I wouldn’t have an Ice Cream Bus Ministry but the church itself is a good church with people who are genuinely concerned that their neighbors and coworkers be saved. They may use misguided methods in some cases, but at the risk of sounding like the ends justify the means, their motives are straight on.

  4. I mean, let’s say that we know for sure that these people aren’t pedophiles, regardless it would piss me off that these people are trying to bribe my children into going to church with ice cream.

  5. It’s also kind of misleading that they painted the “ice cream bus” to look exactly like the normal one, and have the same music. So, they had to trick the kids? I’m sure if it were a different color and played different music, the kids would still come, and there would be no confusion. What happens when a parent who is upset, accosts the regular ice cream truck driver? I just don’t think it’s a great idea to only approach the children. It’s safer to involve the parents from the start…

  6. It’s a poor god who has to entice children with ice cream in order to get the attendence numbers up. Pragmatic Christianity is a man centered Religion, and it is all about what man does for god.
    This whole approach is not biblical, now where does the Scripture tell us, go out and invite people into the “church” assembly in order to get them under the “sound of the Godpel” preached by the “Professional hired gun” in order to get thme saved. It says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” The pragmatic approach is more interested in the numbers that can be put up. It takes away from the personal responsibility that every believer has to be able to “give a reason for the Hope that is within them.”
    Gags, gimmicks, bate-n-swiotch, god-marketing, easy believism all man centered pragm,atic religion…

  7. Actually, I did mean to mention the numbers game in my first post. I noticed that they talked up the numbers of the kid’s names they had written down, but only once did they mention the actual amount that came to Sunday School (7 out of 17), and it was less than half. After that detail, from then on, they only mentioned how many names they had recieved. So, out of the 106 names they got, other than the original 7, I wonder how many actually came to church and stayed there? It’s sad that it’s all about the numbers.

  8. Oh, oops, I see I counted their “53” as extra, LOL! That was their tally of the 3 weeks on the Ice Cream route. Ok, fine, but I still wonder what the retention rate was, of if the tally sheets are good enough for them to say, “see, it works!”.

  9. Hey, you should do a post on those silly twenty-dollar bill tracts! I’m sure those have been *really* useful in converting folks.

  10. I have read all the “fear” based insults to the Ice Cream Ministry and please think about this. The Bible says …. (Titus 1:15) Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. Anybody can take almost anything and imagine something evil that can be done with it. This ministry is pure and simple, with accountability, and absolute honesty in it’s approach. We are giving away ice cream to whoever walks over to our van and asks us for it. In vast majority, the parents lead the way to the bus before the kids get anything. They get to know us and realize we are real and legitimate. We are registered with all the local authorities and our phone # is on the side of the van along with the local Sheriff’s phone #. These people who are obscessed with pedophiles need to get off their lazy posteriors and get out on the streets with the Gospel with their “better” ideas. (Luke 14:23) And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. (Jesus’ words) Fear and criticism are easy and cheap, and I find most “spiritual couch potatoes” are obese with both. See you at the Judgment seat.

    1. I am offended by this method; I think this appears evil. You are to avoid all appearances of evil. This is in your bible. Or do you actually interpret the verse the way it should be in this case?

      I wonder what god did before PR gimmicks.

  11. Oh, in answer for the “retention rate”, let me say this: As many of them that out of a pure heart trusted in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord were birthed into His family(Born Again is from John 3, Jesus’ words). I just love the folks who argue about retention… through the years in vast majorityover 40 years of ministry, these were people who were looking for excuses not to “go into all the world, and preach the Gospel”. They were not really concerned with “retention” but “defeating someone else who was obeying the “Great Commission”. It is a “cheap shot” to say the least. If they knew the Bible, they would know that “God saves” people, we just “tell them the Gospel… it is the power…(Rom 1:16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

  12. Mr. Lytell,

    Thanks for stopping by; I was glad to see that some parents get to meet your people at the van. My question – do you collect a child’s contact information without a parent’s consent? As a parent, I’d be upset if my kid were trading their info for a cold treat. Just curious. Thanks.

  13. Dear Marsh, We usually see the parents in majority, and if not, we ask the child to see the parents. Without the parents the kids could not come to church with us. We really want to see the parents get “Saved” or take their own children to church, not us. The sad fact is that many, many parents do not take their kids to any church, and will not, but instead give them to us to bus to church. That always has seemed strange to me, but it is the facts of life. We are averaging on a Sunday some 200+ kids, who we carefully and thoroughly give the Gospel from the KJBible. Some parents have been Saved through the years… and yes… were retained!!! They head up ministries and the like. I hope every Gospel preaching church starts an Ice Cream Ministry it’s delicious!

  14. Bill, have you ever used any other version than the KJB to give the gospel? Just wondering. Do you make use of “altar calls” with the kids? Again just wondering?

  15. Don, obviously no one needs to speak for Bill but, I too was just wondering, have you ever used the KJV to present the Gospel? Have you read the KJV? Do you know why Bill or even I do? Not sure some versions can be used in the same sentence with Gospel. Check out E-Sword on-line and compare versions in I John chapter 5..curious what gets omitted in some?

  16. Dear Don, Through about 10 years of Bible College and Graduate School, and 30 years of practice in the Ministry as Assistant Pastor and Senior Pastor, having been a serious student of the Bible… of course… I have read many other versions from Gen-Rev. I believe after looking at the whole picture and many hours of reading other people’s arguments for other versions, that the KJV is the best: period. The Received Text has been preserved by God, and the KJV has been preserved and given to the English speaking people worldwide. No great revival in English speaking peoples has come through any other version. All of the men, that God obviously blessed as Fundamentalists and soul-winners who had not compromised the word in the last 100 years have made it their Bible. The some 235 other versions of the N.T. alone just confuse and make memorization and repeatability impossible in many churches. Division and confusion on which version to use is devastating not progressive. I used to be an strong advocate of the NASV for years, but saw the real issue and went back to the Bible I got saved with… the KJV. Use it, and she will be a Mother to your soul.

  17. Correlation does not imply causation. Just thought you’d like to know*.

    *Just because the great revivals happened many years ago when the KJV was the only mainstream choice, does not imply that the lack of true revivals now (at least from our western perception) is caused by the lack of KJV-only preference by many.

  18. Retention rate is also a fallacy. At most it is a cause to reconsider your efforts. The real question is, “Are our methods biblical?” The New Testament records the spread of the Gospel through straight forward presentation. Children were not used as a means of entry to adults.

    We don’t get revivals based on Bible translation; we get them when God is ready to give them. The idea that the KJV is best because of the results it produces does not survive when dealing with other languages, the bulk of the world. It is still the post hoc fallacy. Should we translate the Bible into stilted, obsolete Spanish? What is your doctrine of perspicuity? The KJV we commonly use today is not written in 1611 English. If it was, the Bible would be almost opaque.

    God did preserve the TR, along with every other text.

  19. i’m not entirely sure what a mother of a soul is. if i had to guess, the mother of my soul would be the mother of my body. (unless your into the whole nestorian thing.)

  20. Where’s the relationship here? Children come to God because someone cares about them enough to share Christ with them. Quite frankly, this looks like a bait-and-switch.

  21. “Quite frankly, this looks like a bait-and-switch.”

    Indeed. Which might even be a bit hypocritical considering the aversion of most fundies toward pragmatic approaches to ministry.

    Bring people in with a rock concert and give them the gospel? Blasphemy!
    Bring people in with ice cream and give them the gospel? Hallelujah!

  22. We are Hypocrites we are from this church that has the ic cream truck. We go door to door just looking for those that are unsaved as the Bible commands as the “GREAT COMISSION.” If we find kids we invite them to come and get ice cream and also check our chuch out on one of our wseveral busses that are registered with the local Sherriff

  23. @Wendy

    I don’t think anyone is questioning your intentions. If anything, we’re considering the ethicality of your methods.

    I wouldn’t take it too personally though. America is a free country; if you’re operating within the bounds of the law, you have the right to do what you’re doing. And likewise, we have the right to poke fun if it seems a little disingenuous.

  24. Brandon, The difference between ice cream and rock music is one is worldly and sensual in nature, while the other is simply frozen milk/cream. Please note the difference. Pragmatism is normally fine unless it leads one off of Biblical principles. All of us use pragmatic thinking in many areas, but when it pushes us to clearly violate the Bible it is evil. An example would be when getting ready to dress for the day, I may choose a white shirt over a dark shirt because it is going to be hot and sunny, and the white shirt is cooler… I pragmatically reasoned through this process and chose what “worked best” for me with no evil outcome. God gives us a lot of room to use many methods to get the Gospel out like this blog. Is that pragmatic… yes… but not evil because it does not violate any Biblical principles. Some thoughts.

  25. And Mormons always wear white shirts and ties. And do they charge for the ice cream? The church ice cream truck in my former home town did.

  26. The Bible says nothing about going door to door for converts. It says to make disciples of all nations. There’s a big difference between a convert and a disciple. Disciples happen in the context of a relationship. Converts happen because of a sales tactic.

  27. The pragmatic approach to religion is all about what man can do to help the poor, weak, anemic god who has to use cheap marketing ploys in order to reach people. That is a man centered religion using a false gospel, promoting a cheap god.
    The command to “go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in”, is to preach the gospel to lost sinners where they are at… not compel them to come into the congregation of saints and market god to them… or have the “hired gun” preach to them… or get them into the building in order to get them under the “sound of the gospel”…that has never been the purpose of the church. We are to compel them to enter the Kingdom of God by delivering the gospel to them where they are at. Using some cheap bait and switch marketing technique in order to attract a crowd is hucksterism. It equates the gospel with mere salesmanship. The same heresy that Charles Finney used to create the “Burnt over District.” Aimed at kids no less, my children were exposed to the CEF easybelievism and it messed them up for years, they are just now able to see the cheap gospel they were taught in the cult of Christian school was a cheap man centered version and a false gospel. In the end these tactis do a much greater harm than they do good.

  28. @Bill,

    Have you considered TV ads on the local stations on saturday morning cartoons? Children love cartoons. Since only non-Fundy parents let their children watch cartoons on saturday morning, you would be reaching children that need your help the most, children that could be convinced that they are sinners. A 30 second spot that would turn the thoughts of the children towards God may also benefit the veiwers. I recognize that you may view this as funding the broadcast of questionable cartoons. Your thoughts please?

  29. @reader moe

    Based on your explanation of taste being a sense, you have used the wrong word in using sensual. The applicable word as per your definition would be SENSORY.

  30. @Jordan M. Poss

    It would be helpful and intellectually honest if you would give a logical explanation of your four statements of contention, point by point. To just declare what you have without supporting reasoning is just running off at the mouth.

  31. Jeff,

    the points should be self-evident to anybody who has even a modicum of familiarity with deductive reasoning and logical fallacies.

    You are merely demonstrating your own ignorance at this point.

  32. @ Jeff said: “Don, obviously no one needs to speak for Bill but, I too was just wondering, have you ever used the KJV to present the Gospel? Have you read the KJV? Do you know why Bill or even I do? Not sure some versions can be used in the same sentence with Gospel. Check out E-Sword on-line and compare versions in I John chapter 5..curious what gets omitted in some?”

    Jeff you do realize what you claim to be ‘omitted’ was actually an ‘addition’ to the (TR)text? Even Erasmus did not add it until his third edition of The Greek New Testament translation. (this is agreed on by textural critics) If you re-read the entire passage you will see that this is God’s testimony of the Son and his testimony is true, and in it we we see the Father , the Son and the Holy Spirit (all in the same passage), just not spelled out as Erasmus added to what became known as the TR.

  33. “the points should be self-evident to anybody who has even a modicum of familiarity with deductive reasoning and logical fallacies.”

    Thank you, Darrell. I decided not to elucidate because I figured THAT would be “running off at the mouth.” The points should be clear–I even arranged the fallacies in the order in which they occur in Bill’s comment.

    And by the way, Jeff–that’s called ad hominem.

  34. I do appreciate that Mr. Lytell explained the ice cream ministry a little better. It’s good to know that the parents are always involved. I’m still not crazy about having to entice them to church with ice cream. I guess the gospel is not powerful enough on it’s own? As for retention rate, I mentioned it only because in the description on the website, the focus seems to be on the numbers, and mostly the names taken down. I’m sure that’s just used to prove how “successful” it is, but it’s like saying you had 500 customers at a store, but only 10 bought anything. The bottom line is you only made money from 10 people, so the 500 didn’t really matter.

  35. I was driving a bus route over 20 years ago, and even then, we asked the parents permission to bring them to church. Also we would ask them first if they went to church anywhere, as not to “Proselyte”. Our desire is to see souls saved, and we continually ask parents to ride with thier kids, and some do come with them. But to say the bible does not talk about bringing people to church is a falicy. You need to look at the rest of the verse; Luke 14:23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

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