Megachurches continue to buck the recession — nationally and in York County

According to a new survey, the nation’s megachurches continue to add worshipers and staff, thriving as though the economic tough times never happened.

It’s the same in York County, where the three biggest churches continue to show growth: Lives Changed By Christ (LCBC) in Springettsbury Township, Grace Fellowship in North Codorus Township, and Living Word Community Church in York Township.

The congregation worships during a November service at Grace Fellowship Church in North Codorus Township. (The York Daily Record file photo)

All three nondenominational churches see hundreds of worshipers for its Sunday services. Based in Manheim Township, LCBC opened its York campus last March and quickly added a third 1 p.m. service due to demand.

Just 3 percent of churches with 2,000 or more attendance surveyed by Leadership Network, a Dallas-based church think tank, said they were affected “very negatively” by the economy in recent years. Close to half – 47 percent – said they were affected “somewhat negatively,” but one-third said they were not affected at all.

The vast majority – 83 percent – of large churches expected to meet their budgets in 2012 or their current fiscal year. A majority of large churches also reported that offerings during worship services were higher last year than in 2011.

I think there is likely a lot of different reasons why people are flocking to the megachurches. I had a recent discussion with a Presbyterian church leader who said she would never attend such a church because she would feel like a number.

In the next breath, she mentioned her sister attends LCBC and loves it. Another person in our group said his daughter attends LCBC and enjoys it also. Obviously the attraction is widespread.

Do you attend one of these megachurches? If so, why did you decide to worship there?

Here is the rest of the survey, as reported by the Religion News Service:

Even though some churches have ministries that provide other income, such as schools or wedding chapel rentals, an average of 96 percent of their budget comes from members’ donations.

All of the large churches reported that they receive some of their donations electronically, including online, via bank transfer or through a lobby kiosk. One in five of them receive between 31 and 60 percent of their offerings electronically.

Most megachurches surveyed spend 10 percent or more of their budget beyond their congregation on causes ranging from local soup kitchens to world missions.

Another sign of economic well-being: Most large churches report that they expect to give staff at least a 1 percent raise in the next budget cycle. Most also expect to modestly increase staff, and hardly any – just 6 percent – expect to reduce the number of staffers.

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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