York Town Square

Part of the USAToday Network

York County’s Top 10 religion stories give behind-the-scenes look at what’s happening around here

This is the  main auditorium of LCBC York in Springettsbury Township in June. The Lancaster County megachurch opened a satellite in the the old Saturn dealership on North Hills Road and Route 30, one of the top religion stories of 2012. This was the last time the meeting room was this empty. Large numbers of folks have been attending. Also of interest: York Gospel Center paved way for megachurch LCBC, other big York County suburban churches.

I learned about York Daily Record/Sunday News’ John Hilton’s top 10 religion story picks via the following tweet:

RT @Buffyandrews: YDr’s @jhilton32 picks top #YorkPA religion stories of #2012 bit.ly/TxbwRf @ydrcom #ILYC @JamesMcClure.

I like these lists because they give insight into what’s happening in York County, often behind the scenes.

For example, at least two of the Top 10 dealt with megachurches – LBMC’s presence in York County and Grace Fellowship Church buying a whole shopping center – the old Kmart center – in Shrewsbury. (See list: 2012 Top 10.)

Another story in the Top 10 ties into the megachurches, declining church attendance:

“A June survey by the Association of Religion Data Archives comparing religious affiliations in 2010 with those in 2000 confirmed a striking decline in church attendance. The number of York County residents who report belonging to a church dropped from 45 percent to just under 39 percent,” John wrote.

So the megachurches and very large independent churches – Grace Fellowship (different than Grace Fellowship Church), Church of the Open Door, Living Word Community Church – might be gaining but are not winning congregants as fast as people are falling away from membership.

Another piece of all this is that the large city churches – and many mainline churches in small towns in York County – are struggling with big buildings and dwindling attendees. The story of Trinity United Methodist Church – also on the top 10 list – is an example of this.

Here’s one takeaway: The megachurches should consider planting smaller churches in York city and in more heavily populated areas of York County. They should do this because those are fertile mission fields, but also to add resources in neighborhood suffering from poverty. The Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene has shown such insight, investing heavily in the Chestnut Street area near the old prison.

And the large suburban churches should take note that all our large institutions – shopping malls and department stores –  are being challenged by the Internet age and a consumer culture where people can pinpoint  exactly what they want online. They don’t have to leave their home.

Distance learning is hot.

Distance worship in our futures?

Maybe sermons tweeted 140 characters at a time?

Our text for today comes from John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him sh… (Next tweet)

Heaven forbid.

This from John Hilton’s story:

By the numbers

Here are the 10 largest religious groups in York County, followed with 2000 figures in parentheses.

  • The Catholic Church: 35,605 members (37,745)
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: 30,170 (38,924)
  • United Methodist Church: 28,904 (31,709)
  • Nondenominational churches: 20,122 (unavailable)
  • United Church of Christ: 14,750 (19,944)
  • Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): 3,940 (6,339)
  • Assemblies of God: 3,368 (3,127)
  • Church of the Brethren: 3,189 (4,031)
  • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: 2,677 (1,816)
  • Southern Baptist Convention: 2,505 (3,179)

 Also of interest:

All God and York County posts from the start